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#59: Liverpool Street Station – 12/07/2019

Today is a return to Liverpool Street station, this time completing the end of the line journey on the London Overground with destinations from Enfield, Cheshunt and Chingford. A fitting day too as the BBC News is featuring an article on those who were saved by the Kindertransport rescue effort and reliving the journey they once took as children over 80 years ago. 

Commemorative statues can be found inside the station by the underground entrance, and outside in Hope Square in memory of the 10,000 or so children saved during the Second World War, and of course to countless others who were not saved.

The Station

I’ll not retrace the ground I covered during my visit in March 2019 but had thought of venturing a little further afield. But not before a walk up and down platform 1, one of the main platforms used by the Overground line. For some time now, the platform has become the home of ten JCB style yellow diggers which are being used to re-lay track just outside the station. What fascinated me were the two gents in high-vis jackets sitting by these diggers who explained that they were there during each weekday to ensure no one wanted a closer look at them. A soul destroying job I’m sure.

On my countless journeys in and out of this station over the past 30 years I’ve frequently stared thoughtlessly out of the window at the passing trains shuttling to and from remote destinations. But today I decided to try and get a different view and travelled one stop on the Overground to Bethnal Green station. The view looking westerly towards Liverpool Street station is bewildering with new buildings all around, iconic City buildings such as the Gherkin to the left, and further afield to the south, more iconic buildings in Canary Wharf such as One Canada Square. But the one that fills my vision is the myriad of stanchions and overhead lines that converge from 18 platforms in Liverpool Street Station into the six independent tracks that feed to services north and eastwards.

I also take a moment to reflect on the old and new whilst at Bethnal Green station too. The first image here is of a cut off stanchion, presumably supporting on older (now redundant) overhead line. What attracts me to this is the creation of the rusty ‘H’ in the discoloured, but nevertheless colourful concrete base. The second is a collection of pulleys, set against the azure blue sky, that take the tension from the overhead lines. I think it’s an interesting study showing off some of the intricate engineering involved in providing overhead power to today’s trains.

Later in the day returning to the station via Exchange Square, I stumble on today’s work of art entitled the Broad Family sculpted by Xavier Corberó. It’s a study in rock of a mother, father, child and dog. There’s no Google maps reference for this but I found it in an unnamed passageway between Appold Street and Sun Street Passage: here’s an interesting close up of the child statue. If you’re in the vicinity go and take  a look.

Exchange Square is a hive of activity, mostly office workers wining and dining or simply taking a break. Today has the added attraction of the Men’s semi-final tennis matches at Wimbledon on show on large screens for all to see. And what better way to enjoy all these activities than with a cup of Pimms, cordially served by Akeem…cheers!

The Arches

In true ‘East Enders’ style the area in the immediate surrounds of Bethnal Green station is awash with garage repair shops, predominantly for London Black Cabs. Three Colts Lane, and the cut through under the railway in Collingwood Street and Tapp Street are awash with Black Cabs in various states of dis-repair. My ‘picture of the day’ is representative of the state some of the abandoned cabs have been left in. These garages stretch under several arches and peering into the workshops it’s clear they’re a hive of activity.

There seems to be an unwritten circular route around Cudworth Street where cabs are moved about with little regard to their not having number plates, and although there’s the occasional roaming police presence, I sense it’s more for show than control.

The scene has an attractive grittiness to it and as I ponder on capturing the right picture whilst standing in the middle of the road, I’m beckoned by Jengins (?) to take his picture. Not wanting to disappoint him, and at the same time capture this jovial character, we exchange a few words and I happily oblige; and he’s more than happy with the outcome.

Running along Dunbridge Street walking in parallel with the railway line, there are a few small cafe’s clearly serving the local working population. One of these, Breid, draws me in for a closer look at its simple, urban feel which has a certain appeal. Maybe it’s because of its open bakery where the ovens and preparation areas are on full view and it in some way reminds me of a local bakery in my hometown where as kids, we’d be welcomed in to sample the day’s cakes and breads – within reason of course.

Breid is a local artisan bakery making sourdough bread for the local community, and serves up specialist hot drinks; and as I’m keen to capture the experience, I’m pleased that the baker is happy for me to take some pictures. Thank you.

Whitechapel

I’m not far from Whitechapel so I head south passing Swanlea School; a compact secondary school somewhat surrounded by the development of the new Whitechapel Station being built to accommodate the Elizabeth Line. This station will eventually serve trains from Shenfield and Abbey Wood passing through to Heathrow and Reading.

Onto Whitechapel Road, and at its junction with Fieldgate Street I’ll pose today’s quiz question: what have Big Ben and the original Liberty Bell in common? Well, both bells were made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry which has been based in the area since 1570. Sadly the business closed in 2017 and the premises sold on, but thankfully the Grade II listed status ensures its heritage will continue into the future. Although looking a little dishevelled from the outside, you can feel its history as you walk around.

Brick Lane

A mere stone’s throw away is the renowned Brick Lane, buzzing with tourists, school children on a field trip and local office workers alike browsing the many markets and sampling the myriad of international foods on offer. Today the street is synonymous with the Bangladesh community and known for its curry, but the area is steeped in industrial and social history from the 15th Century to date. No guessing how it got its name, but it was also the home of the French Huguenots in the 17th Century, and later in the 19th and 20th Century, Jewish and Irish immigrants.

To do justice to Brick Lane I probably need to return, so for today I merely scratch the surface of what I see. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of variety and colour on show, especially from street and graffiti artists alike.

As I bid farewell with a promise to return, I meet one resident who’s not very talkative as he/she is focusing on matters a little further away.

Picture of the Day

There are several contenders today, but I’ve chosen this one of an abandoned Black Cab with its windscreen smashed in for several reasons: It epitomises travel in London; it has reached its own end of the line and it is one in a long line of Black Cab’s abandoned under the railway arches nearby London Taxi repair garages.

I tried several shots with a wide angle lens, but decided on a longer range shot using a 75-300mm zoom lens to help me get a tighter shot and get the row of taxis together; limit the background and capture enough contrasting light to help balance and frame the result. The Vista black & white filter is perfect in emphasising the cab’s blackness and highlights the contrasting light through the arches and the overhead lighting.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 160mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO1600; Google Photo Filter – Vista (Black & White)

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#48: Shenfield – 18/04/2019

I have new eyes and I can see!.. Let me explain. Having had a cataract operation last August, I’ve struggled a bit with focusing and had to rely on two sets of glasses as the focal point in both eyes have been somewhat out of kilter. So I’ve been using one pair of glasses for reading and one for long distance. So although when I’m walking about I have been able to see OK, when I’ve then tried to focus on taking a photograph, I’ve had to swap glasses. All in all it was manageable but somewhat clumsy.

The good news is that I had my other eye operated on last week, and almost instantly, my vision has returned so much so that from close to long distance I can manage without glasses except for close reading which I’m still in need. So a very good outcome indeed. Today’s journey was probably sooner than I should have ventured after my operation, but I was keen to try out my new eyes.

So the weather has changed for the better and today is a hot spring day for what turned out to be a nine mile hike through the Essex countryside which tested my childhood membership of the Tufty Club and latterly the Green Cross Code. All part of Britain’s road safety campaigns over the years to improve safety for pedestrians.

Shenfield Station

The station has six platforms serving Tfl Rail and Greater Anglia services. The former being the terminus out of Liverpool Street, and once the Elizabeth Line has been commissioned the station will serve trains through to Paddington and onwards to Heathrow (T5) and Reading. Greater Anglia services terminate here from Southend, and pass through from Liverpool Street through to Ipswich, Clacton-on-sea and Colchester.

The station shows off some memories of old. One in the guise of a Great Eastern Railways plaque (the forerunner of Greater Anglia) erected by the ‘traffic and civil engineering staff of the station’ commemorating those colleagues who died during the First World War.

The second is an abandoned caboose stranded on platform 1. I admire it’s dishevelled ruggedness which draws me in to take a close look, and it reminds me of my early childhood when steam trains were still the ‘norm’. I suspect the caboose hasn’t been abandoned, but merely parked awaiting transportation to some museum or rail enthusiasts destination – well that’s my hope anyway. Such is its draw that I take many pictures, trying to capture the mood of its era using a grainy B&W filter on the camera or recreating a wild west feel using post production filters; one of which makes it as my ‘picture of the day’ (see below).

Shenfield

Described by some internet commentators as a dormitory town for commuters to London and surrounding towns, I would say it’s more of a ‘one horse town’. What I mean by that is it’s predominantly one street with shops serving and meeting its local community. Without counting, I would say ladies and gents grooming salons make up the majority of shops with eateries/coffee shops a close second. With the exception of one or two unusual or decorative shops, Shenfield is a sedate town – and that is its charm and why residents are attracted here.

A Country Walk

I decide to head north out of Shenfield towards the hectic A12 dual carriageway, along the River Wid and through Hutton before returning to Shenfield several hours later. The route is a combination of busy main and country roads, often without a pavement, so I have to take particular care when walking along. I go under and over five different bridges; mostly railway bridges where in some cases the road narrows to single file traffic and the width of the bridge forms a short tunnel.

I also stop for some time (in a very safe place) on the roundabout that is junction 12 of the A12 (at this point also known as Ingatestone Bypass) and try to capture an image of the speeding traffic passing under me.

Turning off the roundabout to follow the River Wid, I walk past a newly completed housing development called ‘The Elms at Mountnessing’ (see Google map reference: Elm Gardens and River Court) and I’m struck by the exterior finish of all the houses.

The rural landscape is as you’d expect, although the country road is clearly used as a cut through for local and light industrial traffic serving the industrial estate north of Hutton and only a mile from the A12. I walk on through Hutton and I’m intrigued by a road name – Hanging Hill Lane. Its name is very suggestive, however an internet search doesn’t reveal any history of this road other than a ghostly sighting of a woman.

Brentwood

The road from Hutton brings me back to Shenfield so still looking for some local interest I decide to press on and walk a further 1.5 miles to Brentwood; and just on the outskirts I pass Shen Place Almshouses, a collection of six homes, and admire the adorned gable ends.

Around the corner is the Brentwood Cathedral of SS Mary and Helen, and as I poke my nose inside, I admire the colourful south entrance. Further inside I can also and see that Easter preparations are underway and understand why the cathedral is described as ‘…a light-filled baroque and renaissance-style Catholic cathedral with an ornate gold-leaf ceiling…’.

Even though there’s no one about, I leave quietly and end my journey, rather wearily, walking past the flint covered St Thomas of Canterbury Church which is next door to the cathedral before heading down the hill to the railway station. I leave Brentwood knowing that I’ll be home soon as the end of the line for me is at Gidea Park, only two stops down the line.

Picture of the Day

As soon as I saw this wagon I knew it would feature as my picture of the day, but I wanted to make sure I could create the right mood for it, capturing its age and derelict abandonment.

The wagon stands alone off platform 1, now disused, and cuts a sorry and unloved image ignored by most passengers walking into the station. This shot is one of a long series of pictures taken naturally and with a harsh B&W filter on the camera, the latter portraying an image reminiscent of an early newspaper picture: bold and stark – but I’m looking for something different.

If you’re familiar with Google Photos, you’ll know it comes with simple, but very effective edit features. One of which consists of 14 different filter settings. I’ve often questioned the purpose of the Modena filter as it places a yellowish tint across the whole picture. However, that’s precisely the effect I’m looking for: one that mimics old film stock, and this time it gives the feel of an early wild west colour movie.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 29mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Modena

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#47: Paddington (revisited) – 10/04/2019

This evening is an experiment in night time long exposure black and white photography… and although there are no new discoveries since my first visit over eight months ago, I hope you find this indulgent revisit interesting?

I also have to thank my daughter for enabling me to take these pictures as I decided to use a recent Christmas present in the guise of a new tripod; its use, essential in enabling me to take long exposure night shots. I’d researched the kind of tripod I was interested in; one that had to be lightweight to carry around, strong enough to handle my camera and zoom lenses, and compact enough to fold away for ease of carrying. I plumped for the Neewer 350C (red) as a tripod that meets my needs very well. The only compromise is its limited height, but that’s a compromise I’m happy to accept – thank you Ceri…

And why am I back at Paddington? Well, as things stand, the station will serve as a terminal for two Tfl Rail lines (soon to become the Elizabeth line): one to Heathrow (already operating), and one to Reading. Admittedly the Elizabeth line hasn’t fully commissioned all these services yet, but I feel the line’s media spotlight and current progress warranted a second visit to acknowledge this.

A little about the Station which most will know serves as the gateway to Wales and the South West of England. A station I have passed through many many times as a tourist travelling to London, and over the last 30 years, travelling to and through as a weekend commuter when I first moved to London and subsequently on work missions. At 10.30 pm at night, the station is though comparatively quiet as this animation shows.

The station is one of London’s iconic buildings created by Isambard Kingdom Brunel with its gothic style wrought iron work vaulted dome. A spectacle that fills your view no matter where you enter the station from, and one that draws your eyes upwards to admire the scale and engineering. A vision I recall in my younger days being full of diesel smoke as trains arrived and departed and smoke got caught in the domed roof.

The station also benefits from very long platforms to accommodate the pullman carriages that make up the services run by GWR in their fashionable green livery. And if you’re ever feeling particularly flush, you can always book yourself into one of their dining experiences  so as to enjoy good food whilst admiring the great scenery.

“Taxi!”

All good stations have well integrated taxi ranks to help passengers with a seamless transition from train to final destination; and equally those arriving at the station. Paddington is no different and the taxi rank is situated on the north eastern side of the station. It’s a well managed resource and directions to find it are well sign-posted. However given the size of the station, it can take passengers a good 10 minutes or even longer to get here. Not so bad when you’re travelling light, but when laddled with large, unwieldy suitcases, the effort can be somewhat frustrating.

To be honest I hadn’t taken much notice of this facility before, I guess because I’d never needed to use it, so my attention has only been cursory as I’ve walked past. But tonight, I spend quite a while, in different vantage points, capturing the movement of the slow black chain of ‘heel to toe’ taxi cabs meandering towards the pick up point before accelerating out of the station compound.

Can you spot the ghostly taxi?

This animation and few shots gives a sense of the calm patience taxi drivers exercise whilst waiting for the next train full of passengers to make their way to them.

The Basin at night

Walking along here at night is quite a spectacle as the combination of low and high rise building lighting has a rippling effect on the water, especially as the moon is rising too. In conversation with friends, they’ve commented on my bravery in walking about alone. But I don’t think it’s a question of bravery, more a balance of understanding your surroundings and being aware of those around you.

I’m not being complacent as I’ve found myself in several situations where taking the right action early, or saying/not saying something is the right thing to do. For example, as I was walking out of Merchant Square, realising there was only one exit at night and being confronted by a group of young men asking me if I wanted to buy some hashish, I diffuse a potential confrontation by making light of their offer but at the same time holding tightly onto my camera and handling my tripod in such a way that I could have used it in defence if needed…but none of this was necessary.

I hope you can enjoy these pictures of the area around the Basin as much as I enjoyed taking them. Some being taken with very long exposure times of up to 15 seconds so that I can get a good depth of field, or in some cases capturing cycle lights blinking on/off as they travel along a cobbled alleyway.

This shot of the Darcie Green floating restaurant along the Grand Union Canal is one of many I took trying to capture the mood of the revellers on board. But it was a cold night and only a few smokers braved the open top for a moment or two to ‘take in the air’.

Picture of the Day

An iconic picture taken inside Paddington Station at 9.32 pm on Wednesday the 10th April 2019.

This is one of several shots I’ve taken to get the composition and effect  just right and the settings I’m using achieves that. The particular challenge is to get the shutter speed right. Too short and the picture is dark, and too long gives a whitewashed effect. Camera stability with a 2 second exposure is achieved using the camera mounted on a low lying tripod.

The starkness of the image, taken in black and white, shows off the iron work which is captured in fine detail right throughout the station. The clock to the left, in grand Victorian style, offsets the symmetry of the picture just enough and helps draw the eye down to a statute of Paddington Bear. The long exposure also helps to create the starburst effect with the overhead lighting which a faster exposure failed to achieve.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ16; Shutter Speed – 2 sec; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO200; Google Photo Filter – Metro

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