I have just returned from 4 weeks in England and Ireland – destinations which have always been high on my list of priorities given that my ancestors decided to or were made to leave there well over 150 years ago to come to sunny, warm Australia – and I guess not un-surprisingly, not a single descendant that I am aware of has wanted to emigrate back there.
To be fair on England, this was apparently their wettest, coldest, cloudiest June in living memory – but I am still not used to wearing a scarf and trenchcoat with umbrella in tow almost every day of a Summer month – although I do remember this happening in Sydney in January just a few years ago – although it was warmer and wetter!
One of the first things I did on arrival was to throw out my good leather shoes and buy some waterproof boots as wet socks are not conducive to a pleasure stroll through the streets of London.
I had done much photographic research on south-west England and had packed a number of reverse graduated and normal neutral gradient filters to assist with my sunrise and sunset shots, particularly along the coasts – I never used them once – mainly because I never actually saw a nice sunrise or sunset because of the perpetual clouds on the horizon which totally blocked the sun’s rays let alone the sun – the golden hour is a rare commodity it would seem!
I had even awoken at 4am every morning just in case there was a golden hour – as sunrise in such northern latitudes occurs at such an ungodly hour, while sunset was closer to 10pm – the rest of the day was generally just the same gray, overcast skies with the occasional day when the sun would peep through between showers.
At least we managed to avoid the many regions with major flooding whilst we were there, and given our recent experiences with major flooding, I could emphasise with the poor people caught in them.
I was tempted to do some storm chasing, but I suspect my hire care insurance would not have fully covered such activities, and certainly my wife would never have allowed it!
Our first 5 nights was spent in a lovely apartment in the inner neighbourhoods of London, and we managed to find a fantastic local pub away from the touristic areas for our evening meals which were the perfect way to warm us up again after all day walking around London.
I was really impressed with the subway train system – although there were the odd line closures and the odd delayed train, we rarely had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train, and travelling off-peak, there was plenty of room on the trains, although the connecting subways were often extremely crowded even then – I am not sure how they will cope with the Olympics.
The Oyster card seemed to work much more responsively and reliably than our troubled but very similar Myki card in Melbourne.
Walking the streets of London was generally very pleasant and safe, as long as you were dressed and prepared for the rain and wind-chill – unfortunately very few areas have verandah protection, and the wind can quickly compromise your umbrella, while the uneven paths and roads quickly fill with puddles which can be difficult to avoid – I now understand why Wellington gum boots are a fashion item for women in the UK – they have never really made it big in Australia!
Despite all the negative sentiments outlined above, we had a great time exploring London for the first time – the architecture is fantastic and it’s history and culture always interesting.
Now let’s get back to some photography – as outlined in my previous post, I did manage to pack quite a lot of gear in such a small bag to bring with me for this trip – but in the end I only used 3 lenses (the Panasonic 14-140mm for general day time strolling around, the Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 for when I needed shallower DOF or low light capabilities, and the Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0 for indoors and night time low light work as one can do hand held shots down to half second exposures using this lens!), the fantastic, weatherproof Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera, a polarising filter to bring out the foliage, a graduated ND filter to bring out the stormy skies (although rarely used in London itself).
In the whole 4 weeks, I used my compact 30cm tripod only once and that was for some 10 second exposures of a stream in the Cotswolds – the rest of the time, the 12mm lens with the image stabilisation of the E-M5 addressed my flowing water and low light needs.
If anything, I will add the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 if I can convince my wife to let me buy it!
As I was not taking indoor portraits of friends, I never used a flash during the whole 4 week trip, so my FL36R flash will be staying at home too!
Here is a typical day in London in June 2012 – this one was taken in Trafalgar Square using the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens, essentially straight from camera other than resizing for web and a touch of vignette:
One of the best things to do in London on a rainy day is explore the fantastic British Museum as it has one of the best collections of cultural artefacts in the world – my apologies in advance as many of my photos in England were post-processed with very limited options on the next to useless iPad (although it is great for checking emails, backing up your photos and uploading them to Facebook or Flickr – but you can’t drag and drop so the Flickr organiser cannot be used on an iPad and the Flickr apps are severely compromised) – some may like the processing, some won’t:
Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens:
While the art galleries were not the same calibre as those in Paris or New York, they were nevertheless very well worth checking out on a rainy day and were free, but generally photography was banned unlike most other major galleries – here is a view of St Paul’s cathedral and the Millenium Bridge from the Tate Modern gallery:
Panasonic 14-140mm lens with ND gradient filter and a PhotoToaster iPad app effect:
I will be adding more posts over the next 2 weeks, but for those who wish to cheat, they can check out some photos that I have already uploaded to my Flickr set.