“Is there anything special happening?” The camera was sitting on a tripod and pointed along the Thames from Southwark Bridge. I explained that we were just out taking some pictures of local landmarks including scenes around the river. “Nothing special going on then?” He seemed disappointed that no newsworthy event was imminent. I tried to convey that we were on a bridge that had been open for almost 100 years surrounded by architecture ancient and modern but failed. Wanted to indicate the excitement of being in melting pot which has been England’s capital city since the 12th Century but none of this was any consolation.
I’d got together with a small group to experiment with techniques to smooth the water. 6.30pm was really too early for long exposures without something to hold back the light but I’d left my neutral density filters at home. You might consider that NDs were an obvious requirement, and you have been right. For the first picture I selected ISO 50 and stopped the lens down to f/22 but it did little to extend the shutter speed. As a compromise I tried taking multiple exposures combined in the camera which helped a bit with smoothing. It also helped create the ghost cruiser in this picture 🙂
All pictures are clickable for a larger version.
Exploring around Southwark Bridge
Since it was still early and long exposures were not going to be on the cards for a while I had a wander around the bridge looking for interesting pictures. This reflection was in an office window at the base of the bridge and was too good to miss. Fortunately it was after working hours or I doubt I’d have got away with pointing a lens at their desks and monitors. Data protection rules might have come into play. Fortunately, the picture shows only a hint of what might lay behind the glass.
Another challenge was to experiment with the picture control settings and capture mono photos. Also to adjust contrast and toning etc. in camera to vary the style of the picture. Because I pretty much always shoot RAW the only way to save the snaps as mono is to record them as jpegs so I set the camera to save both formats and the card in the second slot got an outing for a change. The thing to remember if you shoot RAW and Jpeg to the same card and import them into LightRoom is to tick the setting that jpeg files next to RAW files should be treated as separate images.
The first mono picture is a jpeg taken almost directly out of the camera with very little messing. The camera settings were tweaked to increase contrast a little and add a light sepia colour. I was hoping that the shutter speed would be low enough to emphasise the shape of the water.
The little bracket arrangement set into the concrete is annoying. Had I been using the RAW file I might have removed it as in the next picture but I was concerned about trying to do too much with a jpeg.
The slightly wider view showing the underside of the arch again but including Bankside Opposite with the bulging building has the metal brackets removed. It was still early which meant a decent exposure without smoothing out the water. This one is a black and white conversion from RAW although I did use the mono jpeg as for reference.
It was getting darker by now and we moved along a little way for a lower viewpoint. There is a little strand at water level with steps down next to a pub called The Banker. Here was the chance of taking some pictures from an unusual angle. Tip: if you think you might end up sitting on any of the rocks, take a plastic bag as a barrier against the mud!
The Cannon Street railway bridge, once called the Alexandra Bridge after Alexandra of Denmark (Wife to Edward VII) is upstream from Southwark Bridge. It is not elegant but the shape suggests the sturdiness needed to carry trains of nearly 200 tonnes. That’s probably because anything ornamental was removed during renovations in 1979-1972. It was near here that the pleasure boat Marchioness sank having been in a collision with the dredger Bowbelle.
This is a RAW conversion to mono using Silver Efex Pro. I liked the cloud trail almost running parallel with the bridge and the gritty rocks in the background.
We were deep into the evening by now and the original intention of smoothing out the water using long exposures became possible. I was trying to get a shot of HMS Belfast under London Bridge and standing out from Tower Bridge, but it didn’t come off. This is a much wider shot looking in the same general direction. Shame there is nothing in the sky at this point.
The wooden staves at the rivers edge were interesting though. They are the subject of a closer study in the last picture. The water started as being very smooth but I liked the idea of small peaks reflecting the light. To get this I blended a long exposure image with a quick very high ISO shot and adjusted the opacity to get the effect I was after. Thanks for looking 🙂