[if you did not see London: Part I or Paris:
on my first trip to europe I enjoyed a solid week of exploration. I started with two days in London and After a three great days in Paris, I arrived back in London and enjoyed the capital city for two more days. Hope you enjoy...]
I arrived back at Saint Pancras International, went back to my hotel, showered and changed clothes it was nighttime. This was Saturday night in London, so let's grab some dinner. I had an English breakfast on my first morning in London and thought, "what other traditional English meal do I need to eat?" *snaps finger..."Bangers and Mash!"
After a bit of Googleing and Yelping I settled on MotherMash on Ganton St. not too far from Regent St. It was too cool. Choose your sausage, choose your potato, choose your gravy. Nearly endless combinations. Add a beer on the side. Heaven. The dinner did not photograph well for a very good reason; there was too much gravy in the bowl for it to look good. You'll have to take my word or try it out for yourself sometime. Delicious.
Naturally I wandered the streets after dinner. I'll never forget the sounds and energy of this night. The UEFA, European Championships were just starting and that night England had a match against Russia. Loyalty in England goes as follows: The Queen, the national soccer (football) team. That's it. I walked by a pub right as England scored a goal and there was a huge rush of sound and energy into the street.
Ganton St. had a really nice lighting fixture set up. For the game? For the Queen's 90th birthday celebration (which was earlier that day). Maybe both:
I made my way back over to Regent Street, just to experience the lights and the traffic. By comparison, this section of Regent Street reminded me of Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills. Major labels and fashion brands had streetside storefronts like it was no big deal. "Yeah, let's walk into Michael Kors or Kate Spade...." Such a warm ambience at night:
An evening prior to this I was walking the Champs Elysees in Paris came to the Arc de Triomphe. It hit me to get creative and even without a tripod, try to capture a long exposure shot of traffic streaking across the Arc. It went well, and I was feeling confident so I went for it again on Regent Street. A bit more edgy than Paris, but I still liked the final results:
Sunday, Last day...
I had one last full day in London on Sunday before leaving the following afternoon. I had a small list of things in mind, and the great recommendations from Flora so there was no time to waste. I left my hotel, again in the Borough neighborhood. My first stop was to The Shard to go to the viewing deck. I had my Tube stops set, and would walk the streets to the nearest station grabbing a few post rain details from the streets:
Had to capture one of these at some point...
Madonna lyrics printed on a door at the Old Operating Theatre Museum:
It just kept calling to me to go the Shard. How could it not? I'm an architecture fan and just about everywhere you look in London you see it. It was taunting me everyday. I see you, Shard...
As I described it earlier, it is quite the site to behold: a 1016 ft. (309m), 95 story skyscraper, with 11,000 glass panels, designed to emulate a...shard...of broken glass. Completed in 2012, it was designed under the concept of being "a vertical city" with mixed zones and uses within it's vertical expanse. It houses everything form offices, to a Shangri-La hotel, retail space, luxury residences, restaurants and boasts the highest viewing deck in the UK.
I finally arrived and not surprisingly it was still overcast, but was determined to go up to the viewing deck in spite of the weather:
The employees inside assured me that despite the conditions there would be plenty to see. They were right. I circled the viewing deck a good few times with DSLR and cell phone in hand capturing various vistas of London: The Thames River, Big Ben, London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral, The Tower Bridge, "The Pixar Building"...
I have a weird thing with heights. I'm not afraid of them...per say...I have an opposite or reciprocal fear of them. If I am somewhere high and I look down, that's not a problem. All the shots above from the viewing deck were fun to capture. My fear of heights comes when I am already somewhere high, and then I look further up. There's something that happens in my mind where I look higher to the top of a structure and imagine myself trying to climb it manually, or get to the top of it, and the thought of how difficult and harrowing that would be (and would most likely end in my demise)...that's what scares me. It's ridiculous because I'll never actually try to climb up wherever it is I am. All that said, the following image made me weak in the knees...
More Uber stories...I met a really fun and lively opera singer one day in May 2016. She had a cold at the time so she was trying to preserve her voice, but we had a passionate conversation about being artists and the spirit of entrepreneurship. I left that conversation feeling refreshed and believing in my dreams. Yes. I CAN do this...I HAVE TO do this..."this" being, live the life, career of an artistic entrepreneur.
That singer was the great, Monika Beal. So very passionate and inspirational. After the Uber ride we exchanged information and would become Instagram friends. We will frequently like and comment on each other's photos, and I've come to really respect and appreciate her eye and attitude about light. She has great images in her feed.
I shared the iPhone version of the image above on Instagram describing that reciprocal fear of heights. Monika saw it and commiserated. Later in the day, she would post and image from a skyscraper in Chicago from a similar vantage point with a caption reading:
#vertigo from below - @mallurypatrickpollard, I feel the same thing looking up at #skyscrapers
I'm not sure if she coined it, but I don't believe I've found it anywhere on the net, so let's say she did. I thought, "that's brilliant." Vertigo from below...that's a really good description of it." Thanks, Monika!
I stayed a few moments longer at the Shard deck, and grabbed an image of the very unique London City Hall building. In post production, it just had to be blue. It wanted to be blue...
The Tower Bridge was my next stop. It was a full pace day...
Check out this awesome moment from inside the Tube and I'll explain why it makes no sense to be in this order afterward...
I'm puzzled that this shot came next in the order of shots. The Shard and the Tower Bridge are walking distance away. I don't remember taking a train to go from the Shard to the Tower Bridge, that would have not been practical. Did I walk down into the Tube to go the platform for just this shot? In the words of the rapper Drake, "I'm really too young to be feelin' this old." Brain fart. Can't remember. Either way, glad I got the shot.
Back on the surface streets, I made my way towards the Bridge and came across a nice outdoor plaza.
I know, right? Who couldn't use some...
Silly jokes aside, More London Place and the More London Riverside walk presented a nice few opportunities, especially with the wet reflective ground being in play:
It was then down to the River's edge where I was greeted by the City Hall building again (in blue) and got another look at the Shard:
The PwC London Building is very impressive. I should have thought to go inside as it is the most eco-friendly building in the UK. It's on the "next time" list:
Back to the goal, though. I turned around and there it was...
The birds. The beautiful birds...
Some of my favorite skyline views ended up coming from the surface of the Tower Bridge. After treating it in sepia, this one felt like something from the early 1900’s. The structures, mainly the Shard give it away, but the moment just felt classic:
I would enter the Bridge and take the tour, learning about it’s construction. They have two walkways connecting the pillars of the bridge and inside are more exhibits and even better, more views and vantage points of the skyline along the River.
A very cool moment and attraction inside the walkways were transparent glass floors allowing you to see the River and street below. There is a mirror in the ceiling above allowing for fun selfies:
After touring the pillars and walkways, you head outside and around a few corners, down into the foundation of the Bridge. Inside you learn about the engines that power it all:
At the end of the tour, I headed back up to street level and walked across the Bridge capturing a few more skyline shots:
The Tower of London
Once on the other side of the River, I was intentionally facing my next desired location, the Tower of London. Over many years it has been the holding place of prisoners, animals, and undoubtedly the Crown Jewels. The 11th Century fortress did not disappoint:
Legend has it that a minimum of six ravens must be captive within the walls of the Tower of London or the monarchy will fall. I'm sure four more could be found nearby:
If I could read a raven’s mind, this one was saying, “What are you looking at man?” But not in a bothered annoyed defensive way, but with a confident a tone like, “This is my house, dude. Why are you staring at me?”
Thankfully the sun decided to come back out after a groggy morning:
It was at the Tower of London that I had a second encounter with the Royal Guard. No members were asleep this time. They were quite impressive:
Naturally, strictly, there are no photographs allowed inside, but that doesn’t stop you from taking an image of the sign...
The items inside were so ornate and just…over the top. I’ll always remember the punch bowl from the Queen's coronation dinner being excessively adorned. But hey, that’s royalty.
On my way out, this actor was doing a wonderful job:
My next goal was to see “The Gherkin” up close, and that presented a great opportunity to walk around downtown amidst some the skyscrapers. I was near Tower Hill/Byward St. after leaving the Tower of London and my first sight was the All Hallows by the Tower church (where President John Quincy Adams was married), and in the background stood the “Pixar building” the “Walkie-Talkie”, 20 Fenchurch street.
I had noticed and witnessed it so much while in London, but this is the first time I’ll speak of it in the post: one of my favorite things about London was chronological juxtaposition. I LOVED how the cityscape/skyline of London contains both old and new structures, and this image is a perfect example. All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in London: Anglo-saxon arches, Roman tiles, built in 675AD, like…the 7th Century.
20 Fenchurch Street: postmodern, triple-glazed panelized aluminum, opened only two years ago in 2014, but yet depending on your view, they share the same space and sky of London. It’s remarkable to me:
Of course my fondness of the City Hall continued:
Translation: Dear American tourist, please do not get hit by a car.
I let myself get a little lost roaming the streets on the way to my next stop, “The Gherkin.” I later came back and looked up the location of this desolate street: Leadenhall St. I guess Sunday afternoons are not the busiest....
Quick aside, small moment of therapy for me: I think it’s natural for everyone to some degree, but I have a weird thing or fear of social desolation or social abandonment and that image woke it up. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square earlier in the week, downtown and these streets on Sunday were bare, and it was sad. I felt alone for the first time in Europe. It was odd. Then again, I have recurring dreams of showing up to parties and everyone has already left, or I get sad when I see photographs of abandoned stadiums, schools and shopping malls. I feel sad when life and activity should be in a place, but you see that it’s not there. That’s normal, right? Maybe I should move on…
Here was another example of that juxtaposition. Old and new. A clearly historic spire surrounded by the rhythmic, repeating paneling of glass skyscrapers:
I took a moment to capture the Leadenhall Building up close…
…but then worked my way around the block to my target: The Gherkin:
The official building name is it’s address, 30 St. Mary Axe, but it’s resemblance to what the British call pickles, gave it its nickname, The Gherkin. I personally always thought of it as “the egg-shaped skyscraper.” The neo-futuristic structure was finished in 2003 and houses a lot of financial firms, but the design by Foster and Partners is pretty memorable and I needed to see it up close. The spiraling glass work pattern the exterior is too cool. I first saw it in Woody Allen’s film, “Match Point” and was in love ever since:
I captured the following a few moments prior near the Tower of London, but it was my favorite view of the building:
Old Spitalfields Market
I get by with a little help from my friends…
Before heading to the UK, I sent a message to a friend from my hometown, Megan Loughran. Super talented, witty, sharp, warm hearted, actress and comedian, she has frequented London over the years involved in a few rather important stage productions. I honestly can’t remember all the details, but to Megan’s credit I’ll just say that Emma Thompson was involved along the way. Like Megan has selfies with Emma Thompson. Yeah.
Megan recommended a couple of great locations and I was able to stop by one near the Whitechapel neighborhood on the way to Shoreditch: Old Spitalfields Market.
It’s a covered market sitting on site that has contained a market of some kind for well over 300 years. Clothing, food, you got it. Great energy:
The one thing I tried were these Turkish pastries. They were essentially gum drops but had a more doughy texture. Funny, I recently described a Japanese pastry named, “mochi,” as tasting like a gum drop with a different texture and consistency. Either I like gum drops too much more maybe worldwide cultures have more in common with one another than we realize.
The Streets of Shoreditch
Shoreditch. Another “finally” moment. I implored the advice and input of so many friends and Uber passengers before going to London and one place just seemed to keep coming up. “Oh you’ll love Shoreditch.”“You have to go over to Shoreditch.” “Definitely, yeah, make sure you see Shoreditch.” “Shoreditch.” “Shoreditch.”
The advice was usually following whenever I would mention that I was a photographer. Apparently, and it turned out to be so, Shoreditch is a visual playground with a grungy artsy vibe. It’s kind of the London equivalent of Brooklyn or Williamsburg in NYC.
I roamed and enjoyed:
With every new city I visit, I learn that love locks are a universal sight and sign of well...love and unity among people. It's very endearing. A fence in Shoreditch was home to a few more:
I’ll say the same silly joke I did on Instagram when first sharing the following image of this little boy:
In Europe, they teach their children to appreciate football (soccer) from a very young age. *laughs at own joke. no one else laughing. I thought it was sweet that the little guy was watching the European Championships on that massive screen:
The following image turned out to be a hit. I don't worry too much about driving my social media numbers. I feel it's important for me to have a presence on social media (you can find me on Facebook and Instagram) given the nature that images and stories are what I enjoy, but whether or not I have X many followers or X many likes per post does not really concern me. I feel that it will all grow organically as it should. That said, I do, of course, like everyone, pay attention to my social media numbers and notice how many likes and loves images will get. For me it's an interesting experiment and exercise to see how my art is being received.
Social media was pivotal in my start. In the beginning, all I had was a Nikon D90 and some friends to photograph. I learned that people appreciated my art through posting 6 images of Denise to Facebook. A few months later, I would receive a message from my friend Emily asking me to photograph her wedding. I owe a lot to Facebook/social media.
So as I was saying...the following image turned out to be a hit. I was walking around Shoreditch and noticed that it began to rain (again). What was particularly special about this rain was that it was a sun shower. Not too far in the distance the sun was shining pretty well, yet this little pocket of Shoreditch was bathed. I love the rain. My cameras and lenses do not like the rain (as I mentioned earlier), but I love the potential to capture water droplets in mid-air. [There's one image of my friend, Stephanie that I'll never forget. It started to drizzle and she placed her hand out as if to catch the drops. You can see one drop frozen in mid-air.]
As it rained, I looked for anything to capture. I'm trying to be more confident with street photography. These days, if you see someone with a camera and they photograph you, you may not know how to receive it. Everyone is different; "get away you creep, you have to pay me for that," or "no big deal thanks for shooting me." It's a gamble every time, but I saw an opportunity present itself. A young woman, very well dressed, came down the street with an umbrella and I took a chance:
This shot, for a few reasons I'm sure, though it's still surprising, is my 3rd most liked image on Instagram.
As I sat down to edit, I knew right away that I loved that shot. All the drops and the stillness of her body in the frame. She is walking towards me in full stride here, and later lowers her umbrella because she most likely could tell that I was photographing her, but I caught her mid-gate with her foot so close the ground, you might think she's standing still for me. The beauty of imperfection: she's actually not in focus here. I can't get mad at myself or the camera too much. There was a lot going on here; you had a person in motion, a truck in the background, in motion, and all these water drops...in motion. The camera probably lost its mind, "what exactly are we trying to focus on here?" To get techy on you, I actually locked my focus on her much sooner, but the shutter did not fire right away for some reason so she's captured a few feet closer. Anyhow, it turned out to be one of my favorites from the trip, really capturing the moody rainy essence of London.
I later learned that this was not in fact a quote from Shakespeare, but inspiring nonetheless:
Back to the River
After leaving Shoreditch I would take the Tube back towards the Thames River. I was out of specific locations or attractions to find, minus St. Pauls' Cathedral. It was Sunday and some places were starting to close. I just thought that I wanted to walk along the River to wind down the day. There would be plenty of activity to keep me interested.
Upon exiting the Tube, I came across the The Monument to the Great Fire of 1666. Splendid:
Seriously though, someone had to tape a sign to plaque?
Then I crossed over the bridge made infamous by a children’s nursery rhyme, capturing a different angle of the Tower Bridge and my favorite, the Shard:
St. Pauls was coming soon…
On the opposite bank I was greeted by the Anglican treasure, the Southwark Cathedral:
I really started to weave my way back and forth across the different bridges. At the edge of the Southwark Bridge, I was able to get a nice detail of the Ofcom Building:
st. paul's cathedral
While the River itself is an attraction, it felt like there was only one last place on my list to see before the day was done, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Much like the Shard, it had taunted me for most of my London days, with it’s dome and spire being visible from many locations:
…from so many locations:
It’s a pretty photogenic monument, and the following shot opened itself up for some creative interpretation later. I capture this view of it from the opposite side of the River to east of the Millennium Bridge:
Nice enough on its own? Probably, but when eventually back home I realized the opportunity to turn the shot into something else. After playing with it for a while, a simple sunset silhouette emerged:
Speaking of the Millennium Bridge it was time to stop looking at it and finally cross it. I again would later heighten and romanticize these moments to highlight the sunset:
The Millennium Bridge really is the best way to approach St. Paul’s Cathedral. You get a straight on view and again can soak in that lovely chronological juxtaposition. Old and new. The curve of the bridge meets the stoicism of the Cathedral:
Before completely crossing over to the other side, I would look to my right and see a nice skyline view of the Southwark Bridge and Shard:
Oh statues...Loved this one. The statue (technically the replica) of Queen Anne, who was queen when St. Pauls was erected in 1711:
Corinthian columns, vegetation, you really couldn’t ask for more. With sunset bathing the Cathedral it was one of those moments where I felt like I could not get enough shots. The exterior courts surrounding the church are amazing. For a second you feel like you’ve discovered an ancient ruin deep in the forest:
It was then back to the front to keep capturing the sunset washing the facades of the Cathedral:
When I finally managed to pull away from St. Paul’s I saw this little gem looking down the street. London sunset…
The weather in London is unpredictable. Over in Shoreditch it was raining. On the way to St. Paul's there was no rain. I crossed the River back to the south side and suddenly, again, and a short storm began. This was all within an hour. Many ran for cover and dry ground but I stayed. I didn't mind because when this particular downpour started a sweet couple sat on a bench and just enjoyed it. I had to get an image and the caption that immediately came to mind:
"True love weathers all storms."
Depression is a real medical and emotional condition, and I would never disrespect it, but I think it's a fair word to use about this moment. After checking out St. Paul's, I could feel it creeping in. Depression. My wonderful adventure in Europe was coming to a close and I knew as I walked towards the Thames River. This was the end. "Soak in all the ambience you can. Get as many final images as you can, because the clock is now against you." God was so kind to stop the rain for the rest of the day:
Movie trivia time:
I ended up hanging around South Bank and found myself in another filming location from Love Actually. I’ll just tell it from the beginning as if you’ve not seen the movie…
The short synopsis: it’s a London based Christmas movie following…*thinking face…8 or 9 intertwining stories, each with different characters and consequences. Surprise: each story is a love story. Some find the film over the top and sappy, I’m in the camp that likes it. It’s feel-good.
One of the stories centers on a guy who is hopelessly in love with his friend’s wife. Oh, I’ll go for it…the guy’s name is Mark, and the girl’s name is Juliet. They are respectively portrayed by Andrew Lincoln, now lead of the Walking Dead, and Kiera Knightley, who crushes it in so many Hollywood blockbusters now.
Mark always seemed standoffish towards Juliet, but it turns out that he was just secretly he is in love with her. He can’t do anything about because his buddy, Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) just married her. Swing and a miss, Mark, gotta move on. How this relates to this image below…
There is a scene where Juliet arrives at Mark’s apartment in hopes of finding a nice wedding video as she had seen Mark filming footage during the day. It is revealed by the excessive footage he filmed of her that he is clearly in love with her. She finally gets it all, Mark is now exposed and embarrassed. He flees his apartment in utter horror of the situation. He walks, and walks (with Dido playing in the background) rounds a corner and finds himself none other than here at the South Bank.
The brick building on the very far right of the frame with the “OXO” at the bottom is the Tower Wharf and it is the exact place that Andrew Lincoln rounded the corner towards the River in that scene:
People watching at sunset became my final fun in London. Artistic license. It wasn't that "purple" out there but the following image looked and felt best with this hue. (Oh why am I defending myself at this point? Enjoy...)
I then accidentally stumbled upon a London treasure: The South Bank Skatepark:
It has been the mecca for London skateboarders for over 40 years, and a pain in the…for Southbank Center owners who find it to be an inconvenience and eyesore. If you ask me, it’s history, it’s organic, and if it’s not causing trouble, then it needs to stay. I had a professor in Architecture school that once said, “the best designs are inevitable.” There seems to be something inevitable about the space. It’s tucked in there so quaintly and again it didn’t even come close to seeming like the skateboarders were out there to terrorize families and children. If anything they had people stopping to watch them. I was privileged to capture a few shots as a few guys practiced:
Long Live Southbank has been a non-profit organization functioning for the past three years with the goal of preserving the historic space. Hope it stays:
Two final shots. This is it. I promise:
This page is a microcosm of how I couldn't let go of London and this Europe trip, but it was time to call it quits. I would put the camera away and walk back towards my hotel and the next day I packed up and headed back to Gatwick Airport.
Before I got on the plane to the States, I captured a cell phone image that I feel summed it up best. It was an image of my Passport. Stamped. I had finally done it. I travelled to Europe. Thanks, God: