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Exploring London: Part 1
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Exploring London: Part 1
STORY LOADING... PLEASE WAIT
Exploring London: Part 1
21st Jul 2019   -   BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
Exploring London: Part 1
BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
          Over the years, London has been a great source for photographic inspiration and has become an area I'm very familiar with. Since I started photography, I’ve had many day trips up to the city to explore new areas with friends and I've decided to go through my archives to put together a collection of some of my favourite shots from the city I grew up in, which I'll be exploring over a couple of stories.
CROSSRAIL PLACE
          On one of my first full day trips out, I ended up wandering around Canary Wharf with my friend Christian (@chris_obe), where we came across the newly opened Crossrail Place shopping complex. Designed like a ship docked to the side of West India Docks, the impressive building is home to a wide array of shops, a cinema and a roof garden spanning the entire length of the structure (which is housed under the largest timber project in the United Kingdom).
          To connect the "ship" to the dock, the centre has two bridges which link the first floor of the structure to the surrounding buildings. With their metallic floor, a single line of light and structural symmetry, these tubes look like they belong on a spaceship! The first photo, which has become one of my favourite photos from London (and was even the most popular photo on my website in 2018!), was taken within the tunnel that connects the complex to One Canada Square. As it was a busy weekday, I ended up taking a 104-second-long exposure to remove all the passers-by. I also used a short tripod position because I didn't want to get kicked out by security and I also liked the perspective it created.
          When it came to editing, I wanted to maintain the simplicity of the futuristic structure. I used perspective corrections to make sure that the image was symmetrical, with the line of light cutting the image in two, and to have the leading lines meet at equal points on the sides. After this, I used basic colour grading to make the grey roof and floor neutral and remove unwanted colour tints from the image.
          After the photo had been taken, I moved back and elevated the tripod for another vantage point of the minimalist structure, seen below. I lined up the frame so it perfectly looked down the length of the tunnel and started taking my shots. Again, I used a 104-second exposure to remove all sign of busy commuters, although unfortunately on my first attempt I got stopped by the local security. After the encounter, I headed outside to the shopping complex, where I found this bench against a minimalistic facade. I decided to add a little prop I brought along with me to make the scene artier. Again, security was keeping a close eye when I was taking the shots.
          The photo of the bridge was edited in the same way as the previous image, only with different perspective corrections made. For the photo of the bench, I started out by cropping and making perspective corrections to make the horizontal lines of the facade perfectly horizontal. Whilst I colour graded the image, I desaturated the majority of the colours to remove any unwanted tint, whilst also boosting the colour of the plant. I then took the photo into Photoshop and worked to clean up the image, mainly by removing any unwanted marks or litter from the floor tiles.
          Christian and I then headed up to the impressive semi-indoor roof garden of the structure to have a quick explore of the tropical oasis. Within the garden, a series of concrete paths interweave through the foliage to navigate from the front of the "ship" to the back. I loved the little detailing that ran along the edge of the paths, where the concrete slants upwards before hitting the soil, along with the contrast between the greenery and grey floor. Along the way, Christian realised that his shoes perfectly blended in with the soil, so I grabbed a sneaky behind-the-scenes photo... (and check out his photo here, as the second photo).
          To keep the minimalist appeal of the photo, I only made slight colour grading to bring out the colour of the leaves and desaturate the concrete. I also removed some distracting scuffs and marks on the concrete to give it a cleaner feel. Before we left the "ship", we took one last wander around the inside of the centre and stopped to admire its design. Christian lining up to take his photo allowed me to snap another behind-the-scenes shot, but this time with a simplistic view of the interior of the building.
          We eventually left Canary Wharf and headed across the river to The O2 dome. I had seen a similar view on Instagram a couple of weeks before our outing and it was something I knew I wanted to attempt to shoot. Unfortunately, the day we visited it was very overcast across London, so I was unable to get the exact shot I wanted with a bright blue sky. Nonetheless, I set up my tripod and used my ND filter to take a 66-second-long exposure to smooth out the water and sky.
          During editing, I used perspective corrections to remove the skew present in the original photos and ensure that the buildings were perfectly vertical. As usual, I removed any marks or lens dust from over the water and sky. For the colour grading, I chose to have a slightly cooler tone to make One Canary Wharf (centre) look more natural. This meant that the rest of the buildings have a slight blue tint and, in general, the photo was quite cold. At the time I was editing this, I was in the height of my love for teal/aqua tones and so I loved the outcome of the edit but, looking back, I would make the photo warmer if I were to edit it today.
          The next two shots are perfect example photos from my aqua craze. From The O2, we headed back into town and wandered along the embankment towards the London Eye. It was here that I took one of my first "looking up at buildings" photos, which are now quite common in my photography. Whilst we were on our way back into town, I used the window at the end of our train carriage to quickly snap a shot of a nearly empty carriage next to ours.
          Continuing on with the theme of the overly aqua editing, I began my edits by adjusting the blue and aqua hues. For the tower block, I used perspective corrections to somewhat straighten the image and used selective adjustments to desaturate the building. Within the train, I used colour grading to counteract the yellow cast from the internal lights and, in Photoshop, I made selective adjustments to desaturate the door in the foreground.
          As the day began to come to an end, we headed over Jubilee Bridge to recreate a photo I had taken the month before. As it was the height of a typical British summer, so raining and overcast, the original image I had taken turned out to be very grey and bland. Whilst not 100% clear, there was some blue sky showing over the day that Christian and I visited, so I thought I may have a better chance at a shot I may like. Once I was on the bridge, I set up my tripod and camera and took the two long exposure photos that would be used to create this panorama shot.
AFTER
BEFORE
TAP FOR BEFORE
          As the whole scene was nicely lit, I kept the editing on the images minimal. I brought out the colour of the sky, Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, as the distance had caused the buildings to fade to grey and I wanted the structure to pop out more. Using the spot removal tool, I removed some lens dust and marks from over the water and sky. The two images were then stitched together in Image Composite Editor, which I used to finalise the image with perspective corrections.
SKY GARDEN
          The following Easter, I explored another indoor garden with my friend Natalie (@nat_gunasekara). This time, it was the stunning garden in the sky, the Sky Garden, which lies atop the 36-storey skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street. On a nice day, you are able to get stunning views of the city; all whilst enjoying the sculptured garden inside. Luckily, the weather was clear when we visited and one of the first places we stopped out was the balcony. Here, I captured the amazing, unobstructed view of the Thames, Tower Bridge and The Shard in a series of photos to make the panoramic photo below.
          Before I stitched the images together, I edited them to remove lens distortions and to brighten the images, whilst I removed lens marks and made the photo cooler (which I preferred at the time). When the images were ready, I stitched them together and applied perspective corrections to the final image.
          Back inside, we headed up to the second level of the garden to explore the indoor paradise. At the time, I was beginning to get into architectural and minimalist photography, so I ended up getting more photos of the building than of the plants and garden! Around the garden, I used the minimalist signposts as subjects in my photos to tie together the minimalist aspect with nature in my photos. I enjoyed how the light blue signs complimented the greenery around them and, as I had just got my new 35mm prime lens, I played around with the aperture to bokeh out the background.
          As the day became more overcast, we headed towards St Paul's Cathedral, as I had seen a photo idea within the newly opened One New Change shopping complex. In the centre, there is a stunning view of the cathedral. Unfortunately, the area was full of shoppers and tourists, so I had to utilise a long exposure to get the empty look I wanted. With the help of my ND filter and tripod, I ended up taking a 131-second exposure to completely remove the crowds. In the final photo, I love how the architecture of the shopping complex draws the eye up to the cathedral's dome whilst also providing the reflective surfaces that, in my opinion, make this shot!
MORE LONDON PLACE
          My next trip to the city was to show a German friend all the touristy spots in London, as she was yet to explore the city! Along the way, we visited the new building complex at London Bridge City and wandered down the central walkway. In the centre of the path was a nice little water feature/river, which rippled along the entire length of the complex. Halfway up, I decided to take a quick long exposure of the view by positioning my tripod low down, just above the waterline. I decided to aim my camera slightly upwards to give the appearance of the buildings towering over it. With my ND filter, I took a 30-second exposure so I could have smooth water and remove the majority of the crowd. As before, we were stopped by security, who were not happy with us for taking photos!
          As with most of my photos, I only applied light editing to the final image. I colour graded in Lightroom to remove the pink hue from my ND filter and to brighten the image. In Photoshop, I removed litter and marks from both the stream and the surrounding floor. Before we were stopped by security, I managed to snap some shots of the surrounding buildings' foyers to satisfy my taste for minimalist architecture.
          When we finished wandering around and looked at Tower Bridge, we headed towards the fake 10 Downing Street door to create some touristy snaps. Next door, an office building's facade stood out to me, as it has a nice, minimal facade against the bright blue sky and perfect sky reflections in the windows. I also love the contrast between the dark window surrounds and the outer panels.
          I colour graded the photo to bring out the colour of both the sky and facade. At the time and for shots like this, I'd have normally replaced the sky to make the image cleaner. However, I decided that, for this image, the small amount of clouds and the presence of the aeroplane trail added some character and a sense of life to the photo, so I kept them in! As we all had travelling ahead of us, we decided to stop exploring and call it a day.
          That comes to the end of my London explorations for now, but there are more to come in an upcoming story (as well as more explorations that I'll be doing in the future). Let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions for any areas I could explore in London!
BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
Alexander Wright is a London and Southampton based photographer focusing on architectural and minimalist photography. In his spare time, he enjoys roaming around the streets of London looking for new photo opportunities with his friends. Alexander frequently presents photography lectures and runs workshops at the University of Southampton.
More about Alexander
BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
Alexander Wright is a London and Southampton based photographer focusing on architectural and minimalist photography. In his spare time, he enjoys roaming around the streets of London looking for new photo opportunities with his friends. Alexander frequently presents photography lectures and runs workshops at the University of Southampton.
More about Alexander
Published: Sunday 21st July 2019 at 20:00
Before & After panels contain edited and 'semi-edited' photos.
These 'before' photos have had perspective corrections and cropping applied to provide a like-for-like comparison between photos.
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