ADP Photography | Shards of Glass

Shards of Glass

May 09, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Or more precise, the Shard, made of metal and glass; or some other modern materials that I have no hope of understanding.

Like most tall buildings, the Shard dominates many of the scenes taken around it.  As modern architecture goes it’s alright, and you’ll regularly see tourists and photogs alike lining it up in their viewfinders.

I visit London regularly, may be five or six times a year.  Ok, that may not sound so regular but remember, I live in Turkey.  On my visits home I’ll make a few day trips into the city to see what new shots can be created.  It’s quite useful to keep going to the same place, there's always different light and perhaps different weather.  It's good practice to try and find new creative ways of taking similar sights, or to find new scenes altogether.  Read my blog posts on this subject. (same subjects - same locations)

The Shard then. 

Well, I too have shot it from many different angles, both day and night.  One of my favourite shots being that of the Shard rising above Southwark Cathedral.

Nearer but not closer, f/11, 1/40, 26mm, ISO320

Another common choice, especially at night, is from the north bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, looking across into the cluster of modern buildings.   The shot below taken from Tower Bridge, without a tripod, my camera was placed and held firm on the wall of the bridge, while still strapped to my avoid a disastrous muppet moment!

Gleaming Shards in Darkness, f/16, 2secs, 29mm, ISO800

There are also many more shots to be had!  Around the feet of those same city buildings, and the curved pizza box of city hall, there are lots of leading lines with the ornamental features to play with.  They’re on my list for the next visit, hopefully at night with a long exposure to blur crowd movements.  Hopefully, I can get a shot with a tripod without being moved along.  The police are always polite about it, and tripods do block the crowded pavements after all – aren’t selfie-sticks just as annoying? 

Either way, perhaps next winter I will have a higher chance of success.  The streets will be less crowded, the police not having to work so hard to keep people moving, and the lights will come on much earlier.  In summer, even at 9pm the sky can still be quite light.

A new shot (for me) of the Shard I tried recently was with the Thames at low tide, shooting from down on the pebble beach with a nice long exposure of the water.  The Thames has a long history of industry in the old city and, as the water recedes, you can see a lot of the timbers that belonged to the old wharfs rising up.  They add interest to the foreground.

This one evening in January, I wasn’t the only one with this idea!  Several photographers, with tripods and expensive looking pro gear, were already down on the beach lining up shots.  The best place for this is by the Millennium Bridge leading from the Tate Gallery to St Paul’s.  Just on the north side of the Thames there are steps down...but please WATCH THE TIDE!  The water can rise very quickly!  You can also get your feet wet thanks to the wake of the river taxies going up and down, (as happened to me).

I lined up the shot first from just under the bridge, still up on the Thames path.  As is always my technique before using the Big or Little Stopper, I lined up the composition without any filter first, adjusted the focus and angle slightly, turned manual focus on, (otherwise it adjusts when attaching the filter – something I learnt the hard way), and of course double checked that image stabilisation was off (something else I learnt the hard way).  Filters on, I timed the shot on my phone, using a remote release to start and stop the shutter.

The changing tides, f/16, 48secs, 28mm, ISO100

The beach below now a little clearer, down I went.  So many choices with the old timbers for foreground interest, perhaps these should have been the subject with the Shard in the background out of focus?  Maybe that’s a shot for next time.  The other photogs would need to be cloned out, but no problem, Photoshop has its uses!  I bracketed exposure, the sky was a little too bright compared to the water, and the skyline too erratic to make good use of a grad filter.

I lined up the shot again.  The boat...the wave...wet feet!  But more importantly, dry camera.  It was standing well up on the tripod.  I had to work faster, the tide was coming in and the timbers were beginning to disappear.  I fired off some more shots making various slight adjustments to my focus and angle to try and maximise the best perspective.  I am not 100% sure it works as a shot: nice foreground leaves the Shard too distant, and no foreground is, well, just another shot of the Shard.  

Definitely next time I plan to make those timbers the subject with a narrow depth of field to render the south bank skyline, and the Shard, out of focus.  Perhaps that will be an even better shot of the Shard, concentrating on its place looking down on the history of London.  I will post that shot when I can, though I guess that’ll be next winter, and I'll make sure I get down on the beach at the start of low tide to maximise the amount of timbers on show.

Furthermore, I certainly have to take this shot again.  My muppet moment about cutting off long shutter speeds too early left me using an ISO of 800 for this shot.  The 70D doesn't work well getting up towards ISO1000, 800 should be ok, but also the shot was under exposed, I needed to push Shadows and Exposure a lot to get the shot below.  Unusable really!  Read my blog entry on my Too, too dark muppet moments!

The Tides of Time on Old Father Thames, f/16, 60secs, 19mm, ISO800

What ways have you found to creatively capture landmarks?

Share your ideas, write me a comment, post your links!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


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