Lockdown Mayhem – Winter 2020

This is my last blog for 2020 so as this ‘unprecedented year’ comes to a close, I’d like to wish you all a healthy and happy festive season and hope 2021 brings more joy to you all.

Thank you for reading me and following me and I hope my pictures and stories have brought you some enjoyment?

In my last ‘Lockdown Mayhem’ blog, I foolishly wished it would have been my last ‘lockdown’ blog. But here we are again, and I’ll not make the same prediction as the likelihood of a New Year lockdown seems high. But let’s not dampen our Christmas spirits.

During the latest lockdown, the early nights have provided an excellent opportunity to practice the art of night time black and white photography. I also wanted to go back to basics and use my camera in Manual mode. So with the exception of the camera’s light meter, I’ve determined the shutter speed and aperture using a low ISO setting, set predominantly at ISO 100 to help create deep and sharp monotones. I’ve not been disappointed.

Full blown lockdown in November allowed me to capture the loneliness of the high street around The London Borough of Havering within a 10 minute drive from GIdea Park. So I made my way to Upminster, Hornchurch and Brentwood on three separate nights over three weeks.

Fortunately each of the three nights were dry, but oh so cold with temperatures dropping to freezing. So not only a good test on how my trusty camera would hold out – very well indeed as things transpired, but also my non-thermal fingertip less gloves

Knowing I’d be taking long exposure shots, I splashed out on a remote cable so that I could operate the shutter without touching the camera to avoid camera shake.

My companions during each night were predominantly take-away delivery drivers, and because of the freezing conditions they were being very un-environmentally friendly by keeping warm with their car engines running. Other companions, albeit few and far between, were night time dog walkers who I suspect were only out because of necessity for the dog’s comfort, and the occasional dedicated runner.

Alas my attempts to capture trailing vehicle lights through long exposure was thwarted a little, as there were very few cars or buses around. The usual flow moving on from changing traffic lights were sparse and a little disappointing, but that’s good in a way as it demonstrates people were heeding the lockdown guidance.

Those of you who follow me on social media will already have seen the following pictures, but I hope I can add a little more of a story behind this small selection.

#01: Nandos – Hornchurch

A black and white view of the front of Nando's with their shop windows all lit up

This is a scene no doubt replicated everywhere. One where the lights are on but there’s nobody about. Normally at around 8.30 in the evening you’d expect to see the restaurant busy with customers, but not at the moment. I saw two take away collections during the time I was here taking this shot. Nando’s is in the heart of the High Street in Hornchurch, but there were only a couple of passing cars to create the streaked light flow.

  • Location: Nandos, High Street, Hornchurch
  • Date/Time: Thursday 26th November 2020 at 8:37 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ20; Shutter Speed – 47 sec; Focal Length – 46mm; Film Speed – ISO100 

#02: Hornchurch High Street

A collection of street lights, belisha beacon lights and Christmas lights at night highlighted against a pitch black night sky

The attraction of this shot was the combination of street lights, the fluctuating belisha beacon lights and static Christmas lights. It wasn’t difficult to capture this without any cars as there were long pauses of up to five minutes or more where nothing moved and the slow ISO 100 film speed has helped to create the deep contrasting blacks against the dispersed lighting.

  • Location: High Street roundabout as it merges with Station Lane, Hornchurch
  • Date/Time: Thursday 26th November 2020 at 8:54 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 63mm; Film Speed – ISO6400 

#03: Recycling Anyone?

an empty car park with recycling bins in the distance

Those who know Hornchurch will know the location of the recycling centre in Sainsbury’s car park. Normally a very busy place, even at such late an hour, but not now. The wide angle setting helps to accentuate the emptiness and the starburst effect of the overhead lights is created by a combination of the long exposure and small aperture. The distant object of the recycling containers is partially masked by two rows of shopping trolleys.

  • Location: Sainsbury’s Car Park, North Street, Hornchurch
  • Date/Time: Thursday 26th November 2020 at 8:22 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ20; Shutter Speed – 60 sec; Focal Length – 24mm; Film Speed – ISO100  

#04: Wintry Night Lights

headlight and tail light streaks set against a wintry and slightly foggy night sky

I’m crouched in between the lights on a small traffic island near the fire station in North Street in Hornchurch. Even though it sounds precarious, I felt quite safe given there were very few cars around, enough though to capture their headlamp and tail lamp trails. The camera is tripod mounted so I’m free to keep an eye out for the traffic, and as a light mist appears, this helps to magnify the street light starburst effect.

  • Location: North Street, Hornchurch
  • Date/Time: Thursday 26th November 2020 at 8:09 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ20; Shutter Speed – 63 sec; Focal Length – 106mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#05: St Laurence Church – Upminster

a view over the cemetary in front of the church in crisp black and white

This resplendent church is set in its own grounds at the corner of Corbets Tey Road and St Marys Lane, and as the parish church of Umpminster, it quietly dominates this suburb. The church dates from 653 AD, but the earliest traceable part of the current church is the tower housing four bells. It dates as far back as 1200 AD

This shot is the outcome of much patience as I tried capturing the church from several positions along each road. It was one of my first long exposure shots in this collection, so I took a few goes to get the shutter speed right. I could have shortened the time each shot took me by increasing the film speed, but I wanted the intense depth the ISO100 provided. It was worth the wait, despite the curious look from a couple of dog walkers who passed by at the time.

  • Location: St Laurence Church, Corbets Tey Road, Upminster
  • Date/Time: Thursday 19th November 2020 at 9:01 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ22; Shutter Speed – 62 sec; Focal Length – 21mm; Film Speed – ISO200

#06: A Christmas Cheer

a christmas scene in the shop window with a collection of toy snow people, reindeers and soldiers

Maybe I should retitle this picture ‘serendipity’. It’s funny how words stick in your mind and I remember when I first heard this word – it was on an early episode of Dr Who in the mid 1960’s. 

I had to look up its meaning in the classic of all classic dictionaries – The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) which I no doubt had been given for a birthday or Christmas present one year.

I digress, but the reason this is an accidental picture is that when I was crouched on the floor outside the Cherry Card shop, a few commuters who were just leaving the station a few metres up the road kept walking into the picture. I countered this by taking several shots expecting at least one to give me the picture I was after. Only when I returned home and reviewed the pictures I realised the balloon in the background of this shop window display changed, no doubt because of a slight draught in the shop. So I decided to create this animation instead. Now wouldn’t it have been interesting if some of the characters had moved as well – that could well have been a Christmas miracle!

  • Location: Cherry Cards, Station Road, Upminster
  • Date/Time: Thursday 19th November 2020 at 8:06 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ11; Shutter Speed – 10 sec; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#07: Shop Local this Christmas – Brentwood

Lydia Packahm inside the shop  painiting the window with decorative leaves

Crown Street in Brentwood is a pedestrianised area blessed with a collection of attractively decorated independent bijou shops. A charming and delightful street ideal for browsing and enjoying a slower pace. My visit is on the night before lockdown eases and I see several of the shops preparing their shops to reopen in the morning.

I’d now like to introduce you to Lydia Packham, and Essex based Calligraphist, who I found attentively adorning the inside of The Greenhouse shop window. She was happy for me to capture her at work, and after we chatted a while when she explained she often ran calligraphy workshops here, but under the current restrictions these were now offered online. The inscription on the window reads ‘Shop Local For Christmas’ which was intricately adorned with a variety of leaf designs.

  • Location: Lydia Packham Calligraphy preparing The Greenhouse shop window, Crown Street, Brentwood 
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 1st December 2020 at 8:32 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/15; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO6400

#08: A deserted Dairyman

a view through the window looking through an empty bar. all the lights are on

Look inside and what do you see? That’s right…nothing. Well to be more precise…nobody! One of Brentwood’s many pubs and restaurants along its HIgh Street which was closed during lockdown. Interesting to see the place fully lit with all the tables and chairs neatly ordered awaiting their next customer the following day.

I feel for the hospitality industry during the pandemic as the guidance affecting them has changed frequently over the last nine months making it particularly challenging to work out what can and can’t be served and at what times. An alien concept to an industry which has enjoyed the freedom to determine its own opening hours in recent years. I can’t begin to appreciate the impact on staff, but talking with a very close friend who owns a pub in Wales, I can understand their frustration. 

Question – when is a pub not a pub?

Answer – when it’s in Wales where you can open until 6.00 pm but you can’t serve alcohol!

  • Location: The Dairyman, High Street, Brentwood
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 1st December 2020 at 7:34 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/15; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO10000

#09: An eerie glow

three victorin style street lights shining on a brick wall

Is this a scene from a Dickensian novel, or maybe a crime scene from a Sherlock Holmes mystery?

That was my first thought as I walked past Lion & Lamb Court just off the High Street in Brentwood. A walk down the dimly lit alley leads me to The Imperial Peking – Eastern Oriental restaurant. Closed of course except for take-aways, but my attention was on capturing the mood of the Victorian style street lights casting an eerie glow down this narrow lane.

  • Location: Lion & Lamb Court, off the High Street, Brentwood
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 1st December 2020 at 8:55 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 89mm; Film Speed – ISO6400

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