#54: Stratford – 13/06/2019

Back from two weeks holiday and it seems I’ve forgotten what to do. Well, one of the key ingredients of this photo journal is my ability to take pictures – so I can only claim my holiday brain caused me not to charge my camera battery, so at less than 50% capacity, it didn’t take long to exhaust.

But to my rescue came the rain. Yes: whatever happened to ‘flaming June’. I went out of the house relying on good ‘ol BBC’s forecast that there was only a 25% chance of rain. Well it seems I was in that part of London where the 25% had been converted to 100%. So today was a bit of a soaking, but to be honest, it still turned out to be an interesting one.

The Station

I’ve written about the station before, so I won’t repeat myself. The Overground platforms, Nos 1 and 2 are on the most northerly end of the station, and serve trains to Richmond and Clapham Junction. The end of Platform 1 is overshadowed by a large cage like building creating an almost tunnel effect.

Whilst exploring the platform, I look for a different angle to capture, and as I do, I bemuse a couple of station staff as I crouch down below some fixed seats to capture this locked toolbox.

The overground platforms are oddly adjacent to platform nos 11 and 12, and having commuted through Stratford for over 30 years, and looked at these platforms from a passing train I’d never ventured there until now. There’s a large platform expanse, which seems slightly out of place, but there have been occasions when I’ve seen the area crowded as commuters wait for a delayed train taking them home east. But I wonder how many will have stopped to look at Jonathan Edwards – yes the Olympic triple jumper? You see there’s a rather tired perspex case up against the wall that does nothing to inspire the casual viewer to look beyond the faded, discoloured casing. But peer inside, and there’s a sculpture by Ptolemy Elrington who creates art from recycled material.

This one of Jonathan Edwards holding up the union flag depicting the scene when he won the Olympics in 2000 was commissioned as part of the 2012 Olympic preparations and the statue toured the country before finding its resting place here. I think more should be done to promote this forgotten piece of work.

There are some unusual building facades that probably puzzle passers by. No doubt the external facade is purposely designed to hide their ugliness, and if so,  the architects seem to have achieved this quite well. These two masking a car park and an energy centre are now part of the accepted landscape of the area.

Stratford City Bus Station

This is a hub for local London buses and National Express airport coaches located by the south entrance to Westfield Shopping Centre and is bubbling with transient passengers. Although I don’t count the number of buses pulling in whilst I’m here, I would guess though there’s a bus arriving/leaving every two minutes or so. But unless you have a need to use the bus station, or walk past it destined elsewhere, you wouldn’t know it’s here.

London Buses is a conglomeration of 20 separate bus companies who provide the city with it’s distinct red livery and managed under the TfL banner. And for this privilege, they can carry the iconic London Transport roundel…

East Village

Built as the athlete’s village for the 2012 London Olympics, the housing complex of mid rise self-contained secure tower blocks dominates the east side of the Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre. And 5 years on, development has and continues to expand, and you can get a sense of the surrounding environment in my ‘picture of the day’ below. Now an established residential area of architecturally attractive buildings, I still believe the area lacks character and soul as it’s devoid of personality. And if you’d like to know what an apartment costing more than £750,000 looks like in its naked state, here’s one I made earlier – and it’s exactly the same as any other development…

The village is adjacent to an area called Chobham Manor which gives its name to the local academy, and I’ve noticed a trend with modern academies – they no longer look like schools. I guess that’s a consequence of the market forces driving their financial models? This one looking more like a collection of office blocks with a little effort to camouflage their walls with some educational messages…

…and it seems any unused space is also open game for businesses to utilise, as exemplified by this nearby re-purposed prison van.

The Lee Valley Velopark

Tucked just inside the main A12 trunk road that cuts a swathe through east London, is the Velopark; built for the main cycling events at the 2012 London Olympics and now part of its ongoing legacy. There aren’t many people about on this windy rainy day, and as I walk around the Velodrome admiring the attractive cedar canopy, there’s one lone tri-cyclist on the road circuit cranking his way around the track. I’ve visited the Velodrome before but hadn’t realised it’s free to enter, so in I pop following in the wake of a coach load of school kids who had come to enjoy the spectacle.

The Velodrome runs Experience Sessions where you can be coached in the use of a fixed wheel bike and the basic skills required to safely ride the velodrome track. From my observations it’s not as easy as it looks, and some degree of nerve is needed to balance the right speed with the angle of the curves. At the London Velodrome the steepest curves are banked at 42°, but standing on top of it (safely  behind the barrier I hasten to add), it looks much steeper. Those practicing today were being guided by the professionals at a modest pace on the lower level.

The Marshes

Leaving the Velodrome, I have it in mind to head for the New Spitalfields Market now on the other side of the A12, but as I make my way there, the heavens open and within minutes I’m a little like a drowned rat. Not perturbed, I walk past the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, over the main road and take refuge under a bus shelter by one of the fields that makes up the infamous Hackney Marshes sports ground. But on a midweek wet day, there’s not a soul in sight on any of the 88 full sized football pitches.

I think the rain begins to ease (oh how wrong am I!) and walk up to the New Spitalfields Market, on the expectation I’d see how today’s fruit and veg distribution works in London. But alas the signs into the market make it quite clear this is private land and no photography without permission. Given the rain soaking conditions, I feel disinclined to follow through and search out the person whose permission I’d need. I satisfy myself, somewhat dejectedly, with a photo of their sign behind railings.

Drenched by now, I decide to head to Leyton underground as the lesser walk rather than returning directly to Stratford as I can’t see a bus coming. In the pouring rain, it’s much further than I thought, but I do pass a couple of things that catch my eye. One of which is my first introduction to London’s Quietways: a different sort of cycle route for those looking for a quieter ride. This one on the edge of Orient Way showing what I assume to be the number of cyclists that have passed today (328), and the number that have passed so far this year (85105). I couldn’t see, though, how this measurement was taken and if indeed it reflected this particular spot or the whole Quietway in its entirety. Perhaps someone reading this may have the answer – please drop me a line and if you do and I’ll update this blog.

The second thing is this distance measurement emblazoned on a brick wall. There’s nothing to indicate what it signifies, but I hazard a guess it’s nothing more than a reference to how far the nearest Asda store is, as the wall is on the route from the main road to Asda’s car park. Nevertheless catching the wet pedestrian within the measurement is slightly entertaining.

Hackney Wick

By the time I’m back in Stratford, it’s bright and sunny, so I decide to visit Hackney Wick out of curiosity. It’s a part of London I have walked through before en route to ‘Here East’, the former Olympic Media Centre which sits directly opposite on the other side of the River Lee. I was there exploring its suitability for an office move when at GDS, but the move to here was trumped by another location in Aldgate where GDS is now based. Hackney Wick has a long industrial heritage, but through the 20th Century, its association is more with poverty and deprivation. Walking around you can understand why, but there’s a 21st Century resurgence with the area now being popularised with millennial business ventures happy to work out of urban/industrial premises surrounded by graffiti and wall art.

The area, which sits by the river Lee, is also popular with river dwellers, and the recently modernised station helps to breathe new life into the area. An interesting way to end the day and I think a revisit here would be worthwhile in the future so that I can truly capture its essence. If anyone is up to joining me, drop me a line.

Picture of the Day

The precise location of this shot is at the northerly end of Champion’s Walk, part of the original Athlete’s Village built for the 2012 Olympics; and what struck me was the unspoilt, manicured cleanliness of the area. This shot, taken from ground level to accentuate the trimmed bright green hedges accentuates the symmetry of the surrounding high rise tower blocks with the street lights on one side, and balanced by the angle of the building on the other. The shot narrows in on the pedestrian highlighted in white at the centre of the picture with a snatch of colour from an orange bag (possibly a Sainsbury’s carrier bag), and just in view, the red ‘don’t walk’ sign on the hidden traffic lights (zoom in and you’ll see it).

The shot also helps to remind me of the excitement and the crowds that would have been prevalent in the summer of 2012 as the country (and world) welcomed the sporting elite and others to London. Maybe I’ve captured more than I’d imagined?

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/8; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 35mm; Film Speed – ISO250

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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.

I’m really pleased with the outcome, and I hope you enjoy the picture too?

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/5.6; 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

This is one of several shots to get the composition just right, and the settings I’ve used achieves just that. The starkness of the image shows off the iron work which is captured in fine detail and right throughout the station. The clock to the left, in grand Victorian style, offsets the symmetry of the picture just enough and helps to 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. The picture in its entirety also helps to show off the magnificence of the station at night time.

Settings: Camera Canon EOS 200D; Aperture ƒ/16; Exposure 2s; Focal Length 18mm; Relative Film Speed ISO200

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#44: Liverpool Street – 15/03/2019

I’ll begin by declaring I have a history with Liverpool Street station: almost 29 years of it travelling daily to and from the station on my commute through to various work destinations across London…and I’ve loved every minute of it…and I’ve worked out that I’ve passed through Liverpool Street station more than 15,000 times so I feel I have some affinity with the place.

Stories of seeing the station grow over that time spring to mind; stories of seeing the journey change – particularly in the Stratford area as the Olympic Park was developed; and stories of passenger anger as occasionally there wasn’t enough room to squeeze the next person on the train due to overcrowding as a consequence of an earlier cancelled train.

I learnt early on that starting my journey from Gidea Park, an end terminus of the now renamed Tfl Rail, that getting the right seat was vital. So it came to pass that I began to ‘own a seat’ by a window and not near an entrance – and woe betide if I caught a different train and sat in someone else’s seat…But let’s keep these stories for another time.

I hadn’t pre-planned my visit, but as I started to explore the station in depth, I decided my route would take me no further than one block away from the station complex, into parts of ‘The City’ that are defined by the iconic red, white and black bollards that mark out its boundary.

Liverpool Street Station

The station, declared as the third busiest in the uK, serves destinations to the eastern quadrant of England, embracing predominantly: Essex, East Anglia, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Having 18 platforms, it provides a service for National Rail, Greater Anglia, C2C, Tfl Rail, TfL Overground and the Stansted Express.

At the time I moved to London (1990) and started commuting through the station, it was undergoing massive redevelopment and over the succeeding years it evolved into the station it is today. The platforms were re-modelled into, what I thought at the time, unexciting,  modular and functional. But the more I looked, the more iconic I felt the vaulted roof with supported lighting became; so much so one of these pictures has made it into my ‘picture of the day’ (see below).

The main station platforms and the concourse shouts out classic Victoriana in the grandest scale and you need to crane your head up to enjoy the ironwork and glazing, fashioned in a  majestic cathedral-esque style. A marvel of architectural engineering, soon to be compared no doubt, to the feat of current underground activity in building a new station to serve the Elizabeth Line.

The current underground station has also undergone extensive modernisation and their new livery colours recently unveiled in monochromatic tiles. They too adopt a classic style synonymous with the underground network.

Broadgate

To the north and east of the station is an area predominantly occupied by financial services; the area is known as Broadgate and sits where once stood Broad Street station which was amalgamated into Liverpool Street station some time ago.

I remember Broadgate Exchange (to the north) being built over the station at the same time the station continued to operate, and didn’t realise at the time that the huge pylons being driven in-between the tracks ended up as stilts for the buildings above. Now a stylish business area with its own open air piazza with alfresco dining and watering holes. I hadn’t realised until recent years that you can walk through the station to Exchange Square. It’s an area worth a visit, even for the mildly curious, as the architecture of the immediate buildings is interestingly different, although I did have to run the gauntlet of the local building management security when taking some pics.

To the east of the station is Broadgate Circus, again a financial services district, where every winter the circus area is converted into an open air ice rink. This area has, and continues to  undergo significant redevelopment as new occupiers want to stamp their own independent mark on the buildings. In fact this is quite a feature of the City where nothing stays the same for too long. I can’t imagine the wealth that’s spent in developing and re-developing buildings. Brexit or no-Brexit: I really don’t think things will change here.

The ‘windy’ City

Heading through Finsbury Circus into an area behind The Bank of England; an area riddled with alleyways and historical buildings it’s easy to lose track of where you are – that was certainly my experience when I first wandered through this area. It is though what makes The City so interesting; a place full of character and if you dare to stop and look at what’s around, you can learn a lot about places such as the Furniture Makers Hall; Austin Friars; and Draper’s Hall which is one of the twelve great livery companies that modelled mutual assurance in England.

Exiting into the hustle and bustle of Throgmorton Street and crossing into Bishopsgate to explore around Tower 42 – or as I remember it: The NatWest Tower.

Bishopsgate leads into Leadenhall: both areas are full of history and where the old architecture is often dwarfed by the modernist statemented building, such as The Gherkin and The Leadenhall Building where office workers compete with the casual tourists for prime spots for lunch or simply to socialise. Today is a particularly windy day which is accentuated in alleys and building undercuts with gusts strong enough to blow you around.

The City is rightly proud of its heritage and does much to attract visitors. For example its Sculptures in the City exhibition draws you around looking at temporary works of art which live in harmony with more established statues. Here are a couple.

Night time in Spitalfields

I end my visit in one of my favourite haunts: Spitalfields Market, and although traders are closing up their pitches, evening time created an opportunity for some different pictures. I tried some long exposure shots to capture the effect of people walking through the frame, but such was the lighting that I’ve barely captured their ghostly image, nevertheless, these night time images of inside the market and en-route back to Liverpool Street ended what has been an interesting day.

Picture of the Day

I didn’t expect this to be my picture of the day when I took it but the more I looked at it the more I felt it reflected my visit to Liverpool Street Station. This shot is taken from the very end of Platform 16/17 and aiming up to the vaulted canopy looking down the length of the platform. It’s almost a black & white photo, but a streak of red on the train carriage to the left, and the colouring at the platform concourse (bottom centre) tells you otherwise. A wide angle shot to get the width of the platform, and it is one of a series of shots. I’ve picked this one because of its stark black and white contrast which creates a somewhat atmospheric and moody feel. I hope you like it?

Settings: Canon Canon EOS 200D; ƒ/3.5; 1/80; 21mm; ISO200

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