I looked at what I was doing a year ago today, and came across these photos, of a great little expedition I had out east:
My wanderings began at West Silvertown DLR, from which there is a great view of the Tate & Lyle factory or refinery or whatever it is, the one with the giant can of Golden Syrup attached to it. Other local landmarks included: that cruise ship next to the footbridge, which is actually a hotel; a superb crane cluster off to the north; the Dome; that skilift Thing that goes across the River; and the Optic Cloak. (Where the Eastern God (Buddha?) was, I don’t recall, but I like him a lot.)
This is the area I was exploring:
It’s a place that is palpably in transition. Go back today, and it’ll be different. A year from now, it’ll be different again. In ten years, unrecognisably different. The landmarks in the distance will still be there, but the foreground will be transformed.
The weather that day (unlike the weather today) was a bit grim and grey, but I remember really enjoying this expedition.
By the way, behind the cruise ship is the ExCel Centre, now in the news because it was turned into a hospital. A hospital which had remained mostly empty, and now seems like it will soon shut. Which is good.
Being unable to use public transport, but still allowed to venture out of doors on foot, I have been concentrating my photographic attention on nearby places. And I have become especially fixated on the statues in Parliament Square.
I show you the one on the left because it shows when not to try photoing some of these statues, namely those on the opposite side of Parliament Square from Parliament itself. I photoed that one on April 6th, in the quite late afternoon. Don’t try to photo these statues late in the afternoon, when the light is behind them to the west, unless all you want is silhouettes.
On the right is a photo I took this morning, when the light was coming from the east.
But the light coming from the east needed to be of a particular sort, which at first I got rather wrong, as the next two photos illustrate:
That’s Nelson Mandela, as I am sure you realise. The one on the left is a photo I took on the morning of April 26th, a morning I chose because it was so sunny. However, it was too sunny. By then, there were leaves (I constantly find leaves to be the enemy of successful photoing) casting random shadows over everything, and making it hard to discern the patterns on the surface of the statue,and totally messing up his face.
So, when I returned today, in the morning, I had chosen a less sunny morning, to see if that made things better. It did. Instead of the light crashing like a searchlight upon everything, and remembering all the things that had got in its way on the way to its destination, the light this morning wasn’t crashing anywhere. It was merely flowing gently, everywhere, in all directions, like a set of blurry lamps instead of one brutal searchlight. Hence the relative success of the photo on the right.
Until now, I have not tried very hard to photo statues. I have tried, but not very hard. I just photoed and hoped for the best, without wondering why it worked sometimes rather than at other times. But, I had begun to think that the sort of light I normally most enjoy for photoing, bright sunshine, might not be the best sort of light for statues. This morning, I paid attention to this notion, and it seemed to work very well.
So, here are several more photos that I took this morning, this next lot showing facial details of a sort I have never managed to get before, from these particular statues. These ones are close-ups of six of the statues that are at the west end of the square – Mandela (again), Disraeli, Gandhi, Fawcett (again), Lincoln, and Canning:
I forgot Peel and Derby, this morning. Or I think I did. I got in a bit of a muddle, forgetting that “Lord Beaconsfield” was really Disraeli. Maybe I have photos of Peel and Derby from earlier expeditions. If not, I might go back and do them too. Easy to do, what with all these Things being a walk away. (Photo rule: try to photo-obsess only about things within easy reach.)
Anyway, I’ll end this with three more photos I photoed this morning, two of them of one of my favourite statues in this square, Jan Smuts. I don’t know much about the man himself, but I really like this statue of him. I like that it’s green. And leaning forwards, like he’s skating:
I have photoed Smuts a lot, because he doesn’t always look like a mere silhouette in the afternoon. In these photos he has scaffolding behind him, and regulars here know how I feel about scaffolding. Also behind Smuts in the left hand photo of him there are the statues of Lloyd George and Churchill, which are properly photoed in the middle photo, again with scaffolding in the mix. Again, favourite subjects of mine, even though I don’t much like the statue of Lloyd George. To be exact, I don’t like his coat, which doesn’t look like a coat at all. More like metal. Which might be because it is metal.
Last Sunday, the gloriously sunny day when I photoed this reflection photo, I also photoed many other photos, as I walked to and around Parliament Square, and then along the River to Lambeth Bridge and across, and then to Vauxhall. My aim was to photo the statues in Parliament Square and the two pronged Vauxhall Bus Thing in friendlier light than I had so far managed.
But while engaged in this project, I couldn’t avoid noticing something else that was happening. See if you can spot what these twenty eight photos have in common:
Yes. Well spotted. Cyclists. Lots and lots of cyclists. Cyclists on their own. Cyclists in pairs. Families of cyclists. Great squadrons of cyclists. On otherwise almost entirely empty roads.
Quite what this “means”, I’m not entirely sure. But a major point of this blog is to feature things that seem interesting, without it being entirely clear to me why they are interesting. “Interesting” being the lowest form of interestingness that there is, because it’s the sort that you haven’t yet explained to yourself.
The only titbit of interpretation I can offer is that I caught a Daily Telegraph article about how the Lockdown was beginning to fray at the edges, and illustrated at the top with a photo like one of the ones above, featuring a great cluster of cyclists. I can’t now find this piece, but I swear I saw it. I didn’t read it, because the DT hides most of its stuff behind a paywall these days, and paying my way past paywalls is a habit I don’t want to start catching. But, I did see it. It was something along these lines, but with a cyclists photo at the top instead of a short video about people sunbathing en masses on the beach.
Also, there was me, creeping about photoing these cyclists. I too am fraying the Lockdown at its edges.
Because, another interesting thing about Lockdown London, at any rate the bit I live in, is that the Plod are almost nowhere to be seen. Parliament Square on Sunday contained many cyclists and creepers about like me, but no coppers whatsoever. You’d think Parliament Square would still be a worry to them, yet the only cops I saw that day were charging about in vans, attending to some other matter of far greater importance to them than me creeping about photoing, or than lots of cyclists. Who knows? Maybe they were actually having a go at some crimes.
Now, I know, had any policemen tried interrogating any of these cyclists, their answer would have been: “This is excercise, and exercise is allowed.” That would have been my answer also. But in practise, the rule that the police seem to have been applying during all this History has been more like: “You can go out, but you are not allowed to enjoy it.” It was the way these cyclists were so obviously having a good time taking their exercise that made it feel like defiance of the official line. And my worry was pleasure (because photoing) is what I would have been accused of also. So, I agree with the implication of that DT piece. It’s starting to crumble. If the government is wise, it will now relax things.
At the risk of boring you, another thought occurs to me about these cyclists, which is that slowly but surely the Lockdown is being politicised. Lefties don’t mind the economy tanking quite so much, because they have a government that they hate that they can then blame it all on. They have elections to win that they’ve lately been losing, rather badly. Righties, on the other hand, want the Lockdown to end, so that they can get back to being right about everything.
But cyclists of the sort I was photoing are a classic lefty demographic. If they are making a nonsense of the Lockdown, then the Lockdown is in trouble and needs to be wound down rather fast.
Also, the very fact that Lockdown is being politicised is further evidence that people are no longer taking it that seriously, the Righties in particular. When you start thinking how the crisis du jour will help or hinder your political tribe, then it’s no longer a proper crisis. It’s a mere circumstance.
Please don’t mistake the above for my considered opinions. This is me having made some observations, and then me thinking aloud about those observations.
Not the sort you do inside your brain; the sort you can see:
My photo walks tend to happen in the afternoon and early evening, after I have done morningy things at home. But today I took a quite long walk, quite early in the morning by my getting old standards, in order for the light to be coming from a different direction and thus to photo certain Things better. And of course everything looked a bit different, including the River, because light was bouncing into it and off of it in unfamiliar ways from Things that didn’t usually look like that. It helped that there was hardly a cloud to be seen anywhere in the sky.
When I first got a digital camera I couldn’t photo The Wheel enough. What a great Thing. But soon I realised that just photoing the Thing itself wasn’t good enough. You had to play photo-games with it in some way. Line it up with other Things, seen through it. Or reflect it, in a window for instance. Or water.
I like how the foreground foliage blots out any direct view of the Thing itself.
The above photo was just one of my favourites so far from today’s expedition. There were other nice photos also, but the above will suffice for now.
Anyone know what those two little golden crosses are, in the River? Image googling for “golden cross”, got me nowhere helpful.
Yes, on a mostly sunny day in May 2015, to add to an earlier one:
And actually, although rather fainter, there’s another one behind the big and obvious one.
What this photo also shows is how this phenomenon happens. Basically, there’s a big band of cloud that stops the horizontal evening sun lighting up the vapour trail, but the cloud leaves the sky behind the vapour trail still lit up. So, the vapour trail is turned into a silhouette. These circumstances are not common, which is why dirty vapour trails aren’t either.
If vapour trails always looked this this, air travel would have been a lot more unpopular and a lot more expensive.
A year ago yesterday I was in St Cyprien, and a year ago today I was in Perpignan. However, I was in Perpignan again on January 9th of this year, when the weather was much better and hence so were my photos. Here is a selection of the photos I took then, there:
Not only was the weather better last January than it had been in April of last year; there was also a temporary Wheel in place (photos 20, 21, 22, 26). And (see photo 9) there was an exhibition on of some photos by former President of France Jacques Chirac. How about that?
A feature of any visit to Perpignan is, or should be, a journey to the department store called Galeries Lafayette (the big white building in photo 18), the views from the top of which are excellent (photos 19-28). The views on the way down from the stairs are pretty good too (photos 28-30).
Other than that, it was the usual. Amusing signs in French, roof clutter, strange plants, pollarded trees, various sorts of sculpture ancient and modern, bridges, left over Christmas signs, a motorbike. All good stuff, and all looking much better in the much better light there was in Perpignan on April 9th. Click and enjoy.
Harsh sunlight can sometimes turn the subtleties of sculpture into a mixture of uninformative black and equally uninformative white, so the diminished but more ambient light I had to make do with may have helped, although a bit more ambient light would have helped. And I fear that in any sort of light, the inscription on the base of the statue (in photo 2) would have been a photographic struggle. You can just about make out that William Huskisson was born in 1770 and died in 1830, but if you care about these dates, you’d probably want to check them out.
The anonymous writer of this piece about the Huskisson Statue refers to it as “rather Roman”. This is like calling an F1 racing car “rather fast” or the Milky Way “rather big”. Huskisson dates from the era when politicians liked to dress up as Romans for portraits and statues, an era that ended with the mid-nineteenth century expansion of the franchise. At which point politicians stopped dressing in a way that emphasised how different and aristocratic and educated and virtuous and special they were, and switched to being ceremonially portrayed in the way that they actually dressed in their regular lives, i.e. a smarter version of the way everyone dressed. “I’m special” turned into “I’m one of you”.
Huskisson’s main claim to fame now is that he was the first mere person ever to be killed in a railway accident. Lots of people must already have died in the course of constructing railways and locomotives, but Huskisson was the first civilian, so to speak, to be killed by this newfangled technology.
More impressive to me is that, as much as he could manage to be within the limits of political necessity and ambition, Huskisson was an old-school classical liberal. At one point in his career, somebody tried to get him to impose a legally enforced minimum wage. Huskisson brushed the notion aside as foolishness. Good for him.
Here is what the Adam Smith Institute’s Madsen Pirie has to say about Huskisson.
Blogging as I just was about romantically linked birds, I recently transferred a posting about a couple of geese, which I did on Christmas Eve 2014, from the old blog to this blog, which was a big improvement because this posting featured thirty three photos of the happy couple, and viewing them is now a whole lot quicker and easier than it was.
Here is the photo number one of that clutch of thirty three …:
… and I really recommend you check out the other thirty two.
On Tuesday afternoon, at my end of Vauxhall Bridge, on the left as I approach it, I checked out the very same spot where I had photoed all these highly recommendable photos. Perhaps I thought I would meeting the original objects of my photography back in 2014, again. And rather to my surprise, I did encounter a couple of geese who looked very like the two I had originally photoed:
Sadly, I fear that “looked very like” is as far as it went. I had hoped I might have spied again the original couple, but this I now greatly doubt. There are now many of these geese in London and they breed fast.
I know this because I finally managed to identify what brand of bird these four birds all are. I googled “brown eyed goose”, and everything became clear. They are Egyptian geese. That’s a link to a Guardian piece about these geese. The Guardian loves them because the warmer weather we’ve been having lately has enabled them to flourish here. The Guardian loves warmer weather. Warmer weather, to the Guardian means that the world ought to have done to it permanently what the Coronavirus is only doing to it temporarily.