A Day At City Hall

November 28, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Black and white long exposure photography of Greenwich University Old Naval CollegeHaving spent many evenings in Greenwich, being there on a sunny day for a shot like this had been high on my 'list' for a while. If you've even dabbled into architecture photography, I'm sure you've spent many days traipsing around your nearest city, probably with a particular view or building in mind. I really need to work on just heading out and seeing what I manage to come across. When I go out with my photography buddies, I always try to polish up my street photography whilst wandering around towns and cities, but really I've almost always got a particular building in the back of my mind.

If you're anything like me, you probably run through a mental tick list of where you might like to go and photograph next. Have I got that particular bridge or museum already? Have I got it with a good reflection (puddles are your friend!)? Have I got it at night? Have a got it with a sunrise/sunset? Whilst I'm not quite this methodical, there is something of the trading card collection about the way I reflect on my photography. I'm more than happy to sit in front of the same scene trying to get a good shot for hours on end, or even return the next day and try a new angle, but if I know there's that great bridge, staircase or ruin nearby then I'm itching to try somewhere new. (Obviously new conditions means different looking photos, so definitely try again tomorrow if there's rain, or a sunrise, or better clouds (there are always better clouds another day)).

St Paul's Cathedral, long exposure traffic trail photographyBecause St Paul's on its own would never be enough.

I live near London, and like to get some shots in of some of the more iconic buildings when I can, but certainly I know my photo buddies can feel similarly jaded about returning to some of their previous haunts. So imagine my delight when one of them told me about Open House London. As a move to open up the world of architecture, Open House have been working throughout cities around the world since 1992 to allow people access to otherwise unreachable areas to appreciate and understand great examples of architecture. This aims to encourage great projects of the future, as well as preserve the treasures of the past. Open House's mantra is that architecture and the public domain should become part of our education system, so that public building and open spaces can be created for and by the people, rather than being thrust upon them.

This year, there were a number of key buildings open to the public, from construction sites for Crossrail, through the Royal College of Physicians to older buildings such as Temple Church. Rather predictably from someone who used to walk to Uni along the south bank, I chose to go to look around London City Hall, otherwise known as the Mayor's Office (or the egg, the woodlouse, the motorcycle helmet, the glass testicle (thank you Ken) or indeed the glass gonad (thank you Boris). For those who don't know, City Hall is a predominantly glass building, which architecturally presents an interesting shape in that it purports to have an energy saving shape (which is made somewhat ridiculous when you make a building out of glass). It also has two exceptional features for the budding photographer.

Tower Bridge black and white long exposure photographyLong exposure of Tower Bridge from the balcony of City Hall

The first of these is the superb balcony, which whilst nowhere near as high as the Sky Garden or the Shard, does beautifully overlook Tower Bridge. If you choose to visit City Hall during next year's Open House, I would get there early, as the queue was long, and the balcony crowded. Many a selfie stick was present, but if you were patient you could get a good position overlooking your intended target. Interestingly, very few people took tripods (I had feared a museum style argument with security, but there was none), but there was easily enough space to use a travel tripod up here. I wouldn't recommend a gorrilapod in this instance, the sheer footfall and amount of small children made handrail stability near impossible.

London cityscape and the Shard black and white long exposure photographyIt wasn't all about Tower Bridge Tower Bridge and the City of London black and white photographyBut it was largely about the bridge. Tick!












The second view familiar to anyone trawling for photos from London would involve the staircase inside City Hall. this is one continuous helical construction, allowing for sweeping views up and down, and beautiful reflections in all the surrounding glass. Many would come I'm sure just for the staircase. On the day, this was pretty hectic too, but with a bit of patience you can get some clearer moments if that's what you're after. Had I been more persistent, I would have been getting out the filters and going for some long exposures, but then I guess that's what next year's for...

Staircase Architectural Photography in City Hall, LondonView down the famous staircase, remember those leading lines! Spiral Staircase black and white architectural photography in city hall LondonThe one I came for.











Spiral Staircase architectural photography in city hall, LondonThe clouds seemd to align more for this shot; patience is always key. I loved the way the reflections caught of people walking down too. Reflections - abstract split toning photographyI couldn't resist homing in on the reflections, it's always worth trying to pick up on the incidental details when looking at the bigger picture.


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