Although it's possible to walk from around the MI6 building on the Albert Embankment for about three or four miles to east of Tower Bridge, I like the busy stretch called the Queen's Walk on the South Bank, between Westminster Bridge and the Tate Gallery. I don't think I've ever been there when it's quiet and it can be very busy. Sometimes the short section between Westminster Bridge and the London Eye can be almost impassable.
I've walked that stretch of the river to take photos in the past and have even taken a 35 mm film camera with do some black and white photography. Unfortunately, after shooting several rolls of film, I had them processed by a company who went on to ruin every roll I sent them. After that fiasco I've only used Peak Imaging to process and scan.
Although I'd been back since those images were taken and have taken some quite nice results with a digital camera, I've wanted to go back and shoot some more film.
I managed to persuade my wife to buy a Samyang 14/2.8 wide angle lens for me for Christmas (the Canon 8-13 just wasn't an option) and I managed to pick up a very nice Canon EOS 1v film camera for myself, so the plan developed into going back to the South Bank and shooting off lots of black and white film with the Samyang lens mounted on the EOS 1v and perhaps having some colour film in my EOS-1.
I had also thought about shooting some film in the Natural History Museum, but when I arrived, there was a queue stretching down most of the way to the gate. I don't like queuing, so I nipped into the V and A for a coffee and headed into the west end. I called in at the Lomography Gallery and looked at some of their cameras. All I came away with was some oddly named Earl Grey film, which wasn't a bad price. I haven't used it yet.
The good thing about the 14 mm is that in portrait mode I could stand close to some tourists photographing the Elizabeth Tower and get all of the tower in too. There had been a woman in a white coat, who would have looked pretty good in shot, but she turned round and asked me to take a photo of her and friend. I managed to get her on the bridge, so all was not lost. The Samyang has a very domed front element and no filter will fit, so although I was using BW film, I couldn't use a red filter and had to add a graduated filter by opening the jpg in camera raw.
I planned to take a long exposure of Westminster and set the shot up using my 5D Mk 2, something of a lengthy process, I stacked a red filter and two ND filters on the front of a 24-105 and got a 1 minute exposure at f11. But in the end I just took a standard exposure on film and moved on.
The trouble with using a wide angle to look up is that you get rather a lot of distortion, like the woman in front of the Shell Centre. That would have been a better shot had I been able to isolate her against the pale buildings rather better. Photos from wide angles look very much better looking down rather than up - more of that later. Another failure was my shot through the railings along the edge of Jubilee Gardens, really the trees needed to bee in leaf and there was too much foreground. Something else that's quite noticeable is the distortion from just a slight tilt.
I took a few shots around the South Bank Centre and I think I ought to go back to explore architectural elements there as it's supposed to be some of the top Brutalist architecture in London. I think it's going to be another black and white film job. By the way, if you want to use a tripod when you go, you'll need to get permission. The book stalls are usually pretty interesting and I tried to get some people wandering past the Rankin photos, but got the shutter speed too slow. But note once again the need to be accurate with the wide angle, slightly off centre and it's not great.
At the undercroft there was a petition to stop redevelopment of the area into retail units and take away the very popular skate spot. I'm fully in agreement with the objection to bringing in retail units to secure funding (a perfect case in point being the Science Museum, which seems to have given up half of its content to dumbing down, with shopping and what I suppose they consider to be engaging content for younger visitors being the priority).
It took a couple of attempts to get some movement going on in the background and have the sticker on the rail in focus. In the end, I exposed for the background and had to dodge and burn the sticker to get it readable.
Another few shots from the walk east
The Tate is usually good for some photos outside and in, but I wasn't very taken by the entertainment going on outside. But there was plenty to see inside.
From my first visit, I've been keen to explore the escalators at the Tate photographically. They offer strong lines of perspective that really make the most of a wide angle lens, particularly when looking down from the top. I hate to think how many frames I've wasted trying to get a really good shot there.
I think the best shot I've taken there was the bottom right hand shot here, taken on my first visit, using a Canon 17-40 lens. It may not be very obvious on this frame, but this came from one of those ruined films I mentioned earlier.
After shooting far too many frames on those escalators, I headed back up towards Westminster and the tube back to Paddington. By the time I got back to the London Eye, the sun was looking good for some colour shots, but almost immediately I got there the battery on the colour film camera went dead and I took my last shots on BW.
What did I learn from my day out?
The Samyang 14/2.8 is a fun lens and although some complain about edge sharpness, it doesn't seem too apparent in the shots I took. It is very important to set up the shots carefully, slight inaccuracies, which are particularly evident when hand held, really impact the outcome of the shot. It's manual stop down and manual focus and you can't just point and shoot in the way you can with a fully automatic lens. To be able to see through the viewfinder you have to open up to f2.8, as you stop down, it gets to be very difficult to see anything. Although the depth of field can be pretty massive at say f8, if you open up to f2.8 to compose and don't refocus or don't stop down again, it's pretty easy to get an out of focus shot.
I also discovered that it's very easy to have someone walk or jog into your shot. Here's one from the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park
One last thing.
My EOS 1v didn't have a strap when I bought it and so I used the strap from my Canon G10 point and shoot. That's not enough strap to keep it on my shoulder and the lens suffered "deceleration trauma," resulting in a damaged hood. Fortunately, I was able to super glue the broken piece in place.
The gallery for these photos is here.