One Kemble Street and its roof clutter as seen from the ROH floating bar

The best thing about seeing Turandot at the R(oyal) O(pera) H(ouse) earlier in the week was definitely seeing Turandot. But almost as good was what I saw during one of the intervals.

So, do you remember this?

The “this” I am referring to is the disembodied rectangular box hovering up near the roof there. I copied and pasted the sanskrit my blogging system demands for that photo from this earlier ROH posting. To quote my earlier description in that earlier posting:

I especially like that disembodied clutch of drinkers, suspended up there as if in mid air, but actually in mid mirror.

All of which means that you don’t need to remember it, because I just told you again.

Well, during the interval in question, I found myself stretching my legs inside this aerial box. From it, I got views like this:

Which was all very fine, although I can’t really tell how good or bad this photo is, because I only have this terrible little replacement screen to look at it on.

But then, things got even more interesting. I looked through that big semi-circular window, and saw other interesting things. In particular I saw this:

That is one of London’s finer assemblages of roof clutter, made all the more magnificent by being anarchically perched, like a tiny shanty town, upon one of London biggest and blandest and most geometrically severe pieces of sculpted Big Thingness from the Concrete Monstrosity era. Namely: One Kemble Street, which used to be known by the much cooler name of Space House.

If you image google for One Kemble Street, you get a deluge of photos of One Kemble Street, but just about all of them are taken from below. It’s like they’re ashamed of that marvellous roof clutter. But why? It is magnificent.

Here is another view of part of this roof clutter:

That was taken in December 2014, on the same day I photoed the floating bar in the sky, in the first photo, above.

Memo to self: check it out again, and try to photo the whole thing, in nice weather like that.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Window cleaning cranes in Victoria

I find myself becoming ever more entertained by those cranes at the top of buildings, for cleaning windows. The ones that look like this:

Is it a crane? Is it roof clutter? It’s both!

The above photo was taken in March. And then, in April, this month, I took this next photo, because, although not by itself very significant, it really adds to the story being told above:

I did a bit of cropping on both these, to make them more identical, in all but the essential difference they illustrate.

For you see (which you now do), this particular window cleaning crane has the trick of disappearing into the (very visible) roof of its building like it’s not even there.

One moment: roof clutter, of the most obtrusive sort. Next thing you know: roof clutter gone.

There is another such window cleaning crane, very near to the above window cleaning crane, in fact just across the road from it, on the big ugly building with the curved roof, from which a window cleaning crane with a curved bit of roof on it occasionally emerges. And in February, I chanced upon this window cleaning crane in action:

From form emerges function. Function functions. Then function disappears back into form, like nothing had happened.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

More Big Olympic Thing photos

Yesterday morning from first thing to about midday, I had a nosebleed, caused by my lurgy, a lurgy which is lasting for ever. During this lurgy, I have had several nosebleeds (having never had a nosebleed in my life before), yesterday’s being by far the worst, and it cannot be coincidence.

Since then, I have been recovering my wits, such as they are, and am accordingly now in quota photo mode. And here are today’s quota photos, all of them of the Big Olympic Thing, designed by the man who also did the Chicago Bean, Anish Kapoor:

The photo on the left was taken in March 2012, from the Victoria Docks area, looking north, and the one of the right was taken looking south from Walthamstow. The one on the right (with all its excellent roof clutter in the foreground) being an example of a common thing at this blog, namely a good photograph, taken badly. (The one on the left, though I say it myself, is a really quite good photograph, taken really quite well.)

Trouble is, whenever I do one of these postings about some Thing, which I have a nice photo of to show you, I then go trawling through the archives looking for more photos of the same Thing. Here are two more pictures of this Big Olympic Thing, this time with foliage in the foreground:

The one on the left of those two, behind the trees was taken from Stave Hill, looking east (guess). And the one on the right was taken from the big road just this side of the Victoria Docks. These two photos were (left) taken in August of last year, and (right) in 2012 (about week after the sunset photo above).

The most recent of these four photos, the only one taken with my latest and undoubtedly my best camera, is by far the worst, technically. This is because, for that photo to work, the light had to be very good, but it was not. A less good camera with perfect light trumps a better camera with poor light, for me, usually, given the sort of outdoorsy, long-distancey photos that I generally like to take. I’m hoping my lurgy goes away soon enough for me to take advantage of this summer, and all its light.

As you can surely tell, I consider the Big Olympic Thing to be a fine contribution to London. It is not beautiful, exactly, but it is extremely recognisable. Every time I happen to see it in the distance, I immediately know what it is, and it lifts my spirits.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A weird view of the Wheel – and cats in Tiger

Yesterday I visited a shop called Tiger in Tottenham Court Road. Here is the sign about it that sticks out into the road, even though what I thought I was photoing at the time was the Wheel:

That’s actually one of my favourite views of the Wheel, because it is so weird and unexpected. We’re looking south along Tottenham Court Road, with Centre Point on the left as we look. You hear people seeing this, and saying: Oh look, the Wheel. Wow.

Tiger has lots of stuff in it, which I haven’t time to tell you about now but will hope to do Real Soon Now. But what I will say (today) is that, after a bit of searching, I found cats, in the shapes of: a cat mat, some cat suitcases, and some tigers:

Too knackered to say more now. Suffice it to say that Tiger is a veritable cornucopia of cheap and cheerful stuff.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Parisian roof clutter gets the Real Photographer treatment

I loved them when I photoed them last January. Now the chimney pots and rooftops of Paris get serious Real Photographer attention, from Michael Wolf:

One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto

Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography. The Eiffel Tower features in many photos. The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.

That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.

I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is. Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.

Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place. Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time. But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Things district.

What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know. I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these. Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is. When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care. There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris. But maybe you would like to know.

And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.

One other thing. This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong. When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200×900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger. Is this either too big, or too small? I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Blank-faced tower – crazy hairdo

This is a shot I regularly take, because it never fails to impress me. Here is the version of it that I took yesterday:

That’s the top of Millbank Tower, viewed from the point where Horseferry Road does its sharp right turn towards Victoria Street, or its sharp left turn towards the river, depending on which way you are going. (Me, I tend to go home, straight on along Regency Street.)

I tried cropping this picture even more, so that all there was was roof clutter, but this, I think, somewhat spoiled the effect. What I so much like about the top of Millbank Tower is the contrast between all that intricate techno-anarchy, and the architect-imposed blandness – the faceless face, so to speak – of the main building. Show only the techno-clutter, and you miss that contrast. Show it, and it makes the building look like the architectural equivalent of a blank-faced young man, with a crazy punk hairdo.

There is a similar contrast to be enjoyed in the last of these pictures, again of a big lump with a crazy roof garden of gadgetry. Roof garden is right, because all this stuff combines high-techness with the picturesque appeal of nature.

This is the picture I mean.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Rooftops

As regulars here will know, I am constantly fascinated by what goes on at the top of London’s buildings. I love the Big Tops that are built to impress, like the Shard, the Strata, the Gherkin. I love all the decorative stuff done in earlier centuries. I love chimney pots, which used to come in all shapes and sizes. And I love all the anarchic clutter that electronic communication of various sorts has placed at the top of otherwise utterly bland and forgettable blocks.

So here are some recent snaps, celebrating all that:

Those are shown in chronological order of me taking them.

1.1, 1.2 and 3.2 are are all quite near to me, taken in the vicinity of Warwick Way.

1.3 is the kind of thing you see when a big building site gets into gear, and then of course stop seeing when the work is done.

2.1 was taken in Lower Marsh, I think.

2.2 is Strata, also taken in Lower Marsh ish, peeping over a roof with a decorative knob on it.

2.3 is a bit indistinct, being roof clutter reflected off a big glass fronted building, but the clutter is there if you look.

3.1 is a bit of a cheat, because it is the umbrella that makes the picture, not the decorative roof (Parliament) behind it. But again, the roof is there.

3.2 includes the top of the big tower on the other side of the river from me, i.e. on the south side.
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3.3 is a big lump in Park Lane, as viewed from just inside Hyde Park, near Hyde Park Corner. I went with a friend to Hyde Park yesterday, hoping to view a statue of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, emerging from the Serpentine. No luck. Gone. Or maybe just not where we looked.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Sunset in Hampstead

A week ago I was in Hampstead for a supper date with Jackie D and Antoine, and was somewhat delayed in my journey, by a sunset. All had seemed normal and grey and dreary when I set out on my journey from the heart of civilisation to the outer edge of 0207 land. But when I emerged from West Hampstead tube station, I encountered some extraordinary sunlight crashing in across the railway bridge. There was a break in the clouds right where the evening sun was. Out came the Canon S1 IS!

Trouble is, cheap digital cameras, at any rate in my hands, are not necessarily at their peak of performance in conditions like these. The drama in what you see is in the spectacular contrasts between the bright bits and the dark bits, between where the sun is and where the clouds are, or between the bright orange buildings lit up by the sun, and the dark clouds behind them. I’m sure there are ways of dealing with all that, knobs I could twiddle, but I don’t know about them properly.

Here is a photo which illustrates the problem.

Basically I just stuck my camera over the parapet and hoped for the best, and because of all the rails, regularly polished by trains, I got some nice effects. But look at that sunset! Just a blaze of pure white. It was more interesting than that, believe me.

The purple splodge is some kind of camera thingy effect, or so Bruce the Real Photographer told me when he dropped by. A more devoted Photoshopper than I, such as Bruce the Real Photographer, could remove it, but I am a puritan about Photoshop. I think Photoshop is for sizing, cropping, brightness, contrast, and nothing else. Cutting things out is Stalinism. It is also too much like hard work.

However, there were some photographable sunset effects to be observed, which I snapped away at more in hope than expecation, but which did come out quite well.

Click to get any of those bigger.

The light here is coming in under the high clouds and lighting up the interesting low clouds. I know, I know, you’ve already seen pretty sunsets. But for me, this was a little victory, and this blog is all about me and my needs.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog