Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Evening on the River Thames

click photo to enlarge
During the early part of my life the Pool of London was a place of commercial river traffic. Freighters would load and unload into riverside warehouses, barges would to and fro bringing and taking the requirements of a variety of businesses throughout the centre of the capital. The nearby docks at Wapping were bustling centres of activity. But no more. London's "Docklands" is now an area of high-rise offices, high-cost flats, and financial services-derived wealth. The water that once held hard-working commercial craft is now either filled in, remain as scenic ponds, or serve as the base for pleasure craft. Today's freighters are largely restricted to the downstream docks and river around Tilbury, Dartford, Thames Haven etc.

In recent years, when I've stayed in London, my location on the river has allowed me to watch the range of traffic that still uses this essential artery. What I see is mainly tourist craft showing visitors the sights, water taxis ferrying people up and down (and across) the river, and a motley collection of small boats - police launches, small power boats, rowing club sculls etc. The occasional large naval vessel and smaller cruise liner sometimes ventures up as far as Tower Bridge. Commercial traffic in the old sense is largely absent, with one exception: a regular sight is tug boats pulling barges loaded with yellow metal containers. These hold Londoners' domestic waste, and they are essentially river-borne "dustcarts", taking their cargo for disposal. In the past year four new vessels have taken over these duties, and from 2011 they carry sorted refuse to a riverside "energy from waste" electricity generating station at Belvedere, rather than to a landfil site.

Looking out over the river one recent evening a tug and its load came slowly into view on the ebbing tide. Further out into the river a Thames Clipper catamaran ferry roared by. With a bit of quick camera juggling, and bracing myself against the balcony wall, I managed to get this shot of both craft motion-blurred against the backdrop of the Thames, its riverside flats and the distant City.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/2 sec
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On