We have just returned from three wonderful weeks in England, with the first week spent in London. On our first visit to the big city, we checked off many of the tourist items and did our best to experience life as a Londoner. We rode the tube and the double decker buses, ate in pubs, took a boat ride on the Thames and walked and walked and walked. Thanks to our good friends and former neighbours Doug and Shelly who took good care to share some of the fun and make sure we hit the right spots.

Here are a few photos I’ve selected to share my impressions of the city.

buckinghamThe promenade leading to Buckingham Palace is rich with tradition and pageantry. The Palace is just one kilometre from the Houses of Parliament. It’s easy to imagine the Queen heading down this road, in her horse drawn carriage, with throngs of adoring Brits lining the streets as she waves.

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Looks like the Queen should be well protected with serious faces like this one keeping guard. They had just completed a changing of the guard and I was enjoying the photographic opportunities when I may have approached a little too close for this guy’s liking. He didn’t look too pleased with me!

 

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I made this picture on our first night in London, near the flat we rented. I was so struck by the small dwellings compared to ours (most of these buildings are multi family), their close proximity, the brick construction and the many chimneys. Parking is a real problem as few houses have a garage. And the chimneys are a silent reminder of the days when coal was the main source of heat.

 

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The Houses of Parliament, with Big Ben in the clock tower, have sat proudly on the Thames for centuries. The current buildings replaced the previous ones that were destroyed by fire, and were finished in the mid 1800s. Since then, these buildings have survived the air pollution problems and the bombings of WW2.

 

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Facing the Houses of Parliament, just across the River Thames, is the Eye of London. We took a ride in it for the great views you get from the top. It’s a 30 minute ride in a pod shared with 16 others. When built in 1999, it was the world’s largest ferris wheel.

 

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London is a mix of old and new. Almost lost in this image is the Tower of London in the lower right, the castle built in medieval times, when it would have dominated the skyline. Many people lost their heads there. Towering over the castle are some of the buildings from the recent past. The top-heavy building on the left is known as the “Walkie-Talkie” and the conical building on the right is “The Gherkin”. As with any change, these new buildings and their designs have been the target of much scorn by the locals.

 

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We took a boat ride down the Thames to Greenwich, famous as the site of the Prime Meridian. After walking up the hill to see the site of Greenwich Mean Time (it’s really just a place for selfies), we saw this scene. In the foreground is part of the Royal Naval College, a youngster at only 150 years old. Standing in juxtaposition to it is the financial district of London, known as Canary Wharf.

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Pubs. This is a London pub on a warm evening. Crowded. Every one’s on the street. Great food. We loved the pubs on our English visit. They are so different from ours that I’m planning to create a whole post just on English pubs! Stay tuned.

 

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It was a pleasure to spend an evening with one of my previous photography students, who lives in London, and do some night shots together. We were blessed with good light that night and made many shots. The setting sun seems to create a blanket of warmth around Big Ben as a boat passes by in the foreground.

For Photographers

I’m not a travel photographer and I know why. You have to do it alone if you want to be in the right place at the right time. And the right time usually does not coincide with any social plans you might have. Since my wife was with me, and she is incredibly patient and supportive of my photography, I had to tell myself to mellow down and just take it easy so we could both enjoy.

One of the hardest decisions you have to make before going on a trip is deciding what camera gear to take. It’s a big mistake to take too much as it just weighs you down. I was using a new camera on this trip, a Fuji X-T1 with an 18-135 mm lens. What a great combination! The lightweight mirrorless camera, combined with a wide range zoom, was a dream. I had enough reach to pull in distant sights when I needed to and was wide enough to get in the whole scene at other times. The lens is very sharp and the image quality from the Fuji is superb. Although I had my Nikon with me  and a couple of lenses, the Fuji, for its light weight and totally reliable image quality, was my daily go to camera. The only negative is the need for a couple of back up batteries. With a digital viewfinder, these cameras go through the battery power much faster than a DSLR. I also took a power bar for my nightly charging process, to get laptop, iPhone and batteries ready for the next day.

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