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Emirates Air Line

#76: Emirates Royal Docks – 28/01/2020

My penultimate end of the line: what am I to do afterwards? Suggestions on a postcard please.

Today’s wintry cold yet bright day sees me heading to the northern end of the Emirates Air Line at Royal Docks London and/or London’s Royal Docks alighting from the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Royal Victoria.

The route I take is a fairly simple one: twice around the westerly part of the docks from The Emirates Royal Docks station in an anti-clockwise direction over the Royal Victoria Bridge and back. Once in the daylight and once at night time.

I also ‘fly’ in the Emirates Air Line to North Woolwich and back to enjoy the experience and daytime and nighttime views which shows the Dockland’s continuing development.

The Station

Commissioned, built and opened just before the London Olympics in 2012, the ‘air line’ has  a capacity of 2,500 passengers per hour travelling at five miles per hour and taking three minutes to complete the crossing.

On my outward flight, I’m joined in the gondola by VeJay, a resident from Australia who’s visiting friends in London for a couple of months. We both remark on the rocking motion of the gondola as it’s battered by the winds when at the highest point of the journey, but thankfully, the structure is designed to withstand such winds. I spot some of London’s distant landmarks and observe the waterline’s tidy array of yachts some 80 metres below.

This night time shot of the North Greenwich station is quite striking as the Moon and the planet Venus shine brightly against the cloudfree sky.

Reflections

Nearby to the station is The Crystal, a conference centre designed and built with sustainability at its core generating its own electricity needs through 1,580 m² of solar panels. Despite being closed for refurbishment, the conference centre boasts a daily average visitor attendance of 1,000, but today, it’s the exterior that grabs my attention as its glass fronted surface offers an opportunity to capture some reflective moments.

Nearby water puddles, which shimmer slightly in the breeze, also provide a similar opportunity by creating a fuzzy view of the neighbouring residential block.

And into the night, the low lit footpath along the southern end of the dock casts a colourful display on the water’s surface transforming an otherwise drab vista into an almost Meditaranean one – oh if it were only 20 degrees warmer…

Historic Docks

Constructed in the mid 19th Century, the docks were an instant commercial success as they could easily accommodate all but the largest steamships; and despite being badly damaged in the Second World War, the docks remained a viable hub until the 1960’s. With the onset of containerisation, shipping throughout the London docks migrated easterly towards Tilbury where the larger ships could more easily be managed, and consequently by the 1980’s, the Royal Docks closed to commercial shipping traffic.

The docks have been sympathetically restored with obvious reminders, here and here, of their heydays on display as the docks are surrounded by a display of cranes and derricks, as if ‘on guard’ for what has now become a fashionable residential and leisure area.

On the northern bank and just outside the entrance to the ExCel Centre is a poignant statue created by Les Johnson entitled ‘Landed’. Commissioned by the Royal Docks Trust, it has been erected as a tribute to the history of the communities of the Royal Docks and the men and women who worked there between 1855 and 1983.

Leisure

The docks are now a hub for a variety of conferencing, entertainment and leisure industries, although as it’s the middle of winter, all of the water borne leisure facilities are closed. There are few people milling around although there is a steady stream of visitors making their way into the Sunborn Yacht Hotel which is permanently moored by the ExCel Centre. This shot is taken through the legs of one of the cranes on the opposite side of the dock.

The docks is also the home of Lightship 93, a former Trinity House light vessel, now repurposed as a photographic studio and location. And looking east, about one kilometre away is London Docklands Airport with planes landing and taking off at regular intervals.

I end my day where I started, but spend a little time reflecting on the moody lighting which casts a soft shadowy glow on the footpath as a few revelers head for the DLR or to one of the nearby hotels. The overhead gondolas continue to pass robotically by, regardless of whether they carry any passengers, and I decide it’s time to get back into the warm…so it’s homeward bound for me too.

Picture of the Day

This shot is taken on the Royal Victoria Bridge looking straight into the low lying sun. I’ve positioned myself so that the point of dissection of the bridge support struts intersect the sun. The shot is unfiltered as the stark sunlight adds to the shadowy black and white effect I’m trying to create, and highlights the white wispy clouds against an otherwise clear sky…

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ13; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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Categories
Emirates Air Line

#29: Emirates Greenwich Peninsula – 12/11/2018

Built in 2012 in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics, this is a sponsored Cable Car ride funded by the Emirates airline, and operated by Tfl. It’s a mile long cable car crossing of the Thames running between Royal Docks on the north shore and Greenwich Peninsula on the south shore.

I didn’t journey on the cable car, as that’s for another day, but I did explore the surrounds by the O2 arena, and along the Thames Path as far as the Thames Barrier. As the daylight hours are now shortening, I also practised some night time photography, so I hope you enjoy the overall outcome from this day?

O2

The nearest point to the Peninsula terminus is North Greenwich on the Jubilee line; convenient for me as it’s just a short hop from Stratford. So I thought I’d have a look around the iconic O2 arena and do what every tourist and visitor does: take some pictures.

Did you know that the O2 and the land around it is private and the taking of pictures with a camera lens bigger than 35mm isn’t allowed without permission? No, neither did I until I was stopped by a local security officer who challenged me, politely, and asked what I was doing. I explained and showed the pictures I had taken and after a brief consultation with the security control I was allowed on my way and to continue with my quest. But not before I had checked the O2 website and explained to the security officer there was no mention of these arrangements and no direction as to who to seek prior approval from. I don’t mind complying, but it needs to be clearly set out how this can be achieved.

I suspect security were being extra vigilant as the ATP World Tour finals were being held at the O2. It may also have had something to do with the fact that near to where I was standing, some private filming was taking place. I spoke with one of the production staff who explained they too had been challenged and they too weren’t aware of the need for prior permission. They were filming for Dunlop Sports who it seems may be sponsoring the ATP World finals next year – you read it here first.

Cable Cars

The land immediately between the O2 and the Peninsula terminal is a construction site awash with new residential and office complexes, but the striking wintery blue sky gave an excellent photo-opportunity backdrop creating shots I had envisaged are synonymous with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Visitors for the gondola (cable car) ride were sparse when I arrived, but nevertheless, the gondolas continue to operate with robotic regularity regardless of passengers, and I hadn’t realised that depending on demand, the speed of the ride varies. Travelling at off-peak, the journey normally takes 10 minutes with spectacular views across the Thames, however at peak times, this reduces to 5 minutes.

Architectural Design

If you’re a Londoner, you can’t have escaped noticing how the Thames shore line has, and continues to change. Both on and off shore industries laying claim to wastelands over the decades as market globalisation took its toll affecting the social and economic environments.

But with great vision, and significant investment, the last generation or two have seen rapid re-generation in previously deprived areas, although the cost of the much sought after riverside apartments far exceed the ‘average Londoner’s’ capability. More recently, Local Authorities have adopted a better socially demographic approach to fashionable development in their boroughs ensuring a good mix of residential dwellings.

Whatever the constructional motive, developers have clearly embraced an appreciation of design and the wider visual statement their buildings make, and this was on full show along this part of the Thames Path walk.

Greenwich Yacht Club

A striking club with a club house standing in splendid isolation on stilts with the tide out. Notices around the club warn of deep mud and to avoid stepping off the path, so I take note but notice an intriguing collection of debris piled up. Could this simply be an attempt at cleaning up the shoreline, or is it in fact art? You decide.

I venture onto the private slipway to capture a better view of the surrounding views. Rather breathtaking I think.

The River

As well as being used for recreation, the Thames is also a working river, and as I stop to look around, it’s surprising how many working vessels there are constantly on the move; be it pleasure clippers, ferries or tugs pulling barges.

The view along the length of the Thames shows immense contrast between old heritage and new build, and to be honest neither looks out of place. I think that’s one of the many dynamics of the river that makes it so interesting. Walking east, I pass by/through a couple of aggregate operations: Cemex and Day. You can’t miss them or avoid them, and they’re not really somewhere to stop and look at, but they’re a stark reminder of the working river.

A little further I come to the Anchor & Hope pub, a seemingly traditional working pub now catering for both the local working clientele and the passing tourist encouraged to walk this route. It appears I’ve now moved from Greenwich into Charlton, another borough I’ve not been to until now. Before moving on, I try to capture the essence of the pub, painted all in black except for a golden dome on one corner. Striking and attractive in a peculiar way.

The Thames Barrier

I hadn’t planned to walk here, but the further I travelled the path I thought ‘oh well, it’s only another mile and a half: why not?’ I’m glad I did as it’s one of those landmarks I’ve never got close to in all my 30 years living in London. The pictures, like the O2, are iconic, and it was good to get close and try different compositions and filters. There are nine piers making up the barrier, and have you ever wondered how boats know which gap to go through as they navigate up and downstream? Well, the piers operate a traffic light system with a red cross and a green arrow indicating where to go through – simple really…

There’s a timely reminder that London City Airport is just across the river as planes take off during the afternoon, and I try to capture one doing so set between two piers.

Whilst here, I meet John and Catherine, a couple from Cambridge who were spending time walking the full length of the Thames. Today was the end of their third route; they explained they’re not doing the route in geographical order, but nevertheless intend on making sure they do complete it over a period of time. I wish them well as they head off, and as I walk through the tunnel that goes under the barrier, I see a wall etching outlining the full extent of the river.

Just a little further, I see a sign for a restaurant; I was gasping by now, but alas, it’s closed for winter. But I see another reminder that I’ve stepped into Charlton through an amusing yet informative map of local landmarks.

Heading around the front of the barrier buildings I see a small memorial garden and sculpture to commemorate those who died during the construction of the barrier – poignant and a harsh reality that building mega-structures remains hazardous.

Night Time

It’s time to head back through Charlton; well the retail park area which is typically similar to every other country wide retail park. I don’t stop, but press on and by the time I get back to the Peninsula terminal it’s starting to get dark, so I decide to wait until it does and see how well my camera and I can capture the night view.

Let me know what you think…?

Picture of the Day

If you have visited the Greenwich Peninsula, you’ll be familiar with an unusual steel sculpture created by Antony Gormley celebrating the millennium entitled Quantum Cloud. If you haven’t, then this alone is worth a look even only for it’s provocativeness in asking ‘what’s it all about?’ Nevertheless, an interesting curiosity near the Greenwich Pier offering a bespoke backdrop to the gondolas crossing the river.

A bright clear sky helps to create an almost silhouette effect; and I’ve tried framing the sculpture with several gondolas from the overhead cable car which pass by at regular intervals. This shot captures two just passing each other in the top right hand corner, and are complemented by another two almost hidden in the shot.

The puff of cloud in the bottom left corner also helps to balance the picture against the gondolas in the opposite corner and helps with the silhouette effect too.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 155mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – None

Social Media

YouTube, Instagram, Google PhotosTriptipedia – here I share some tips I use when travelling around London. A different twist on my ‘end of the line’ story

For more info, lookup Emirates Greenwich Peninsula on Wikipedia