#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 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 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 and I’ve positioned myself so that the vertical and horizontal struts of the bridge support are dissected by 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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#46: Tower Gateway – 03/04/2019

Four seasons in two hours today: Sunshine, rain, hail, snow and thunder.

Having decided at the start of the day to take all photos in black and white, the weather conditions make the task slightly more challenging as I stand/crouch framing a shot and then spend time in testing different settings. However I’m very pleased with the outcomes and hope you are too?

The Station

A busy station with trains every 10 minutes running along this single track line serving commuters, and tourists travelling to see the historic Tower of London and Tower Bridge. I hadn’t realised how close it is to Fenchurch Street station: almost in touching distance if you could open some of the station windows. But just as well you can’t as you’d otherwise get electrocuted by the overhead cables serving the c2c trains into that station.

I had some fun trying not to get in the way of passengers through the station and ascending the recognisable escalator coverway, by taking some slow exposure shots to exaggerate passenger ‘movement’.

Minories

The Minories is a former civil parish now sitting within the ‘City of London’ boundary and extends from Aldgate station in the north and Tower Hill in the south. My research about the area’s history is quite fascinating especially in relation to its extra-parochial status and the impact of the new poor laws. The name is probably more synonymous now with the pub that sits under the railway bridge which itself gives rise to some stark and contrasting images.

I follow the road around the gyratory traffic system along the side of the raised railway lines weaving under several bridges leading to Chamber Street.

A somewhat blended area, with its roots clearly in light industry but now almost fashionable with the advent of office space and ‘build ‘em up quickly’ hotel chains. I focus my attention on the ruggedness of the area, which is in no way though threatening.

Leading into Dock Street, I take some time admiring the bridge support structures and looking at their symmetry against the ever changing backdrop. The pillars have been painted with a marble effect which is no doubt an attempt to hide their concrete greyness; and those on foot walking past are evidently oblivious to their surroundings and my photographic efforts.

The space under the arches is occupied by light industrial businesses; the most prominent being Tower Tyres who promote themselves as ‘East London’s leading low cost tyre specialist’.

Photographer Beware

I cut across The Highway, the main east/west road, headed towards St Katherine’s Dock, but en route through Vaughan Way I detour into a new development. London Dock Wapping is a Berkley Group development branded under the name St George, and if you have £1.3m to spare you can buy a ‘near the river’ apartment. A smart development, BUT yet another location across London where I’m asked told not to take photographs and I’m reminded by the friendly concierge that I’m on private land.

I had quite a long conversation with the concierge, not having a go at him as he was simply delivering the landlord’s message, but about the inconsistency in the Landlord’s attempt to prevent photographers taking pictures. You see, had I been walking around with my mobile taking pictures, I wouldn’t have been challenged – and given that mobile cameras can take high resolution images, their approach doesn’t make sense.

It seems the camera type is the definer; having a DSLR instantly makes me a recognisable professional and thereby needing permission to take pictures. There’ll come a time when we’ll all need a licence to take pictures as we’re all walking on private land, and where’s the sense in that. Rant over….

Through to Tower Hill

I’m now in Wapping, a part of London I’ve never visited before. Yes I know St Katherine’s Dock is just around the corner, and it’s so easy to just visit the fashionable parts of this area, so I stroll around and enjoy the old docks view alongside Spirit Quay and the river view from Hermitage Memorial Garden which showcases the old and the new along the river bank.

The sky looks ominous as I head towards St Katherine’s Dock and I stumble across, and almost pass by an unassuming gateway to the river known as Alderman Stairs (see page 31 of this link). The wash of a passing boat splashes against the steps and serves as a reminder of the history of such steps up and down the river.

By now, snow and hail is falling quite hard and all the right minded people have taken cover, but I can’t resist this shot of Butler’s Wharf from across the water as the hail bounces off the surface of the Dock. Alongside St Katherine’s Pier, I look up at Tower Bridge and espy a different angle to highlight its ironwork.

By now the weather has scared away day trippers and tourists alike who have suddenly become scarce as I walk along the cobbled road in front of The Tower. It’s here I capture my ‘picture of the day’ (see below) before ending my day’s journey at Tower Hill station with its walls encased in some interesting artwork.

Picture of the Day

I seem to be developing a creative theme of low, pavement level shots to capture a slightly different angle of the subject. Sometimes with a slow shutter speed to give the effect of movement when people/vehicles are moving past, or as with this shot, to create a different perspective of a well known landmark.

This is taken on the cobbled path between the Thames and The Tower looking towards Tower Bridge in the murky background through an array of metal hoops. I was trying to accentuate the cobbles particularly as it had just started to rain so the light effect on the ground had just changed. Amazingly, as soon as it rained, everyone and I mean everyone suddenly disappeared and there was no one around. I took a few shots to get the framing right and played around with the settings to create the stark contrast accentuated in Black & White.

Settings: Canon Canon EOS 200D;  Aperture ƒ/10; Speed 1/40; Focal Length 30mm; ISO100

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