It was a cold morning in London, but I managed to drag myself out of bed to take this early morning shot of Big Ben from across the Thames.
It’s not easy to take photos from the top of the Shard as it is all enclosed in glass. As a result, I had to try to find a way to position my camera to avoid all the reflections of the people moving around behind me. We had arrived at just the right time though, as golden light bathed London below us.
My arrival in London went as smoothly as is possible. We landed early, my bag arrived quickly and I stepped onto the Gatwick Express to Victoria as the doors closed. Upon reaching my hotel, my room was already available and I was able to be in bed by 8am. That’s pretty good after an overnight flight where I hadn’t slept.
I had plans to meet up with some friends at the Shard and go up to the viewing deck. I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there from London Bridge tube station and my directions were that it’s a huge building, I’d have to try to miss it.
As I came up the escalator I had a thought that I’d probably bump into Amy on the way, who could help me find it. I have no idea why I thought that, or why I thought it’d most likely be Amy.
I walked out and looked up for the building but all I saw was blue sky. Then, I heard someone say my name. I directed my gaze down and found that Amy was stood three feet in front of me. I’d walked out and promptly looked straight over her head. We set off walking and, when we rounded the corner to see this, we knew we were probably heading in the right direction.
This is another shot from my 12 hour layover in London on my way to South Africa. This was actually taken on New Years Eve. I wondered if they’d mark midnight in some way while on the plane. Sure enough, I woke up, parched, to be offered what I thought was water – it was still dark and most people remained asleep. As I took a sip, I was shocked to discover that it was actually champagne.
The architecture around London is really quite fascinating. Old structures are juxtaposed against ultra modern designs all over the place. This photo, comparing the egg-shaped city hall to Tower Bridge helps to get this point across.
I took this photo between overnight flights on my way to Capetown. I managed to get my camera set up on my tripod all set up ready to take bracketed photos when I saw a security guard approaching out of the corner of my eye. As he got closer I hit the shutter button and as I spoke with him my camera worked away getting what I needed. Once I convinced him I was just a tourist he was satisfied and asked me not to take photos of the reception in the building.
I’ve made it to Cape Town with sanity almost intact! I managed about 2 hours sleep on my first overnight flight from London to Bermuda. It was a dreary overcast day in London, just as expected. I summoned up the energy to spend a couple of hours taking photos, despite the rain. Following that I met up with a few friends from London I haven’t seen in a long time, and a couple of friends from Bermuda who I see all the time.
I set out for Heathrow Airport a bit later than I should have. It turns out that the Heathrow Express doesn’t run quite as often as the Gatwick Express. I wasn’t too late for the flight, but didn’t manage to pickup a few bits and pieces I wanted, like extra camera batteries, but I can get on fine without any of it.
The next flight was a long one, 11 hours. I really expected to crash out and sleep through most of it. Unfortunately I woke up about 5 hours before landing feeling refreshed! The last time I did this flight I’d had quite a lot to drink, so did manage to sleep through the whole thing, despite waking up briefly and discovering I was hungover. I spent about 4 hours on this one, watching movies, sat in the darkness, surrounded by sleeping people. I did reach a point where all I could think was please turn on the lights and people start moving around, I’m going insane.
Following that I had one last hop, from Johannesburg to Cape Town. A two hour flight with hardly anyone on the plane. I succeeded in sleeping through that one nicely!
Today’s photo is from my wander around London, I think I’ve got about 5 good pictures out of it, mostly of Tower Bridge. I was trying to find a way to create an image of the bridge that was more interesting than just a photo of the bridge. I fired off a lot of frames, and got lucky with this nicely blurred double-decker bus. In my mind I just wanted to catch the bus on the bridge, I was pleasantly surprised when my +2 exposure came out with the bus looking like this!
I was lucky enough to get to stay in the Ritz in London in January. I was recently asked what I’d been up to lately, beside feeding elephants and searching for vertigo. After checking in I was escorted to my room and shuddered slightly as I came out of the elevator and up to the edge. The height gave me a little rush to the head – and I was only on the second floor. I arrived after my few days in Prague – a little hungover and really sleep deprived. I actually felt nervous arriving there. Hopping in a cab at Paddington and saying,”the Ritz, please,” felt pretty good. I’ve stayed in the area before and typically take the tube, but arriving on foot, with my backpack tripod and tiny rolling suitcase just seemed wrong. Even so, when the doorman opened the door and reached in for my bags my age, sneakers, corduroy’s and t-shirt probably sunk in. He stopped reaching for my bag and said, “are you checking in sir.”
After answering yes he was incredibly friendly. It was actually the most shocking thing about staying there. I expected them to be very up tight and snooty. It was the opposite, everyone that worked there was just incredibly friendly. It is a bit weird having so many people ready to help you – there are always two staff members per guest. After leaving, the standard ten minute wait to be acknowledged by the bartenders at the Red Lion in Gatwick seemed particularly shabby!
Most of the time I was there I chickened out of walking around with my camera and tripod photographing the place. On my last day, just before checking out I shot this photo. I was in a rush and didn’t want to set up my tripod as I didn’t know the policy on this, and it’d be a shame to survive 4 days at the Ritz and get kicked out on the last one. So, I shot handheld. As you can see the lighting was pretty low so I had to ramp my ISO up. This has led to a lot of noise in the image. Noiseware Pro made a noble effort in fixing this, but I won’t be displaying this one at full size any time soon. If you’re curious to see what I mean by noise you can click the image to go through to Smugmug and view the original size, just scroll around until you find the grainy bits
Next time, I’ll just break out the tripod.
If this goes right, this should be posting itself while I’m on a flight to London on my way to Prague. So, I think it makes sense that I post the one photo of London I have. I took this on my way to Africa. To maximize our time in Africa we decided to do two overnight flights back to back. But, this meant we had a lot of time to kill in London. We stuck our bags in storage at Piccadilly station and spent the morning taking a walking tour starting at the Tower of London before crossing Tower Bridge and walking down the south side of the Thames. Cameron and I had spent a week in London a few years ago and stayed in a hostel near this café. It’s a cool little place. For lunch they serve paella cooked on huge frying pans on the street. For breakfast they had giant Cumberland sausages cooking on the grill served on a fresh bun.
The setting is also great. It’s actually close to London Bridge train station. It’s hectic up there, crossing the street to get to the stairs is pretty stressful on 4 hours of sleep. But, it’s worth it when you drop down in to this little oasis of calm. As a bonus we were there on a Saturday. That meant that the Borough Market was happening just around the corner. They’ve got tons of good stuff there ranging from meat and fish, to cheese, to giant piles of brownies. I’m partial to the giant piles of brownies.
I’ve added a London category for this entry so I really hope I get some time to get my camera out while I’m there.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, the four people sat at the table were my travel buddies. Three weeks in Africa and we’re still speaking to each other… just about.