Three Guys and their Bikes at London's Southbank Skate Space

On a recent trip to London with a friend we came across the Southbank Skate Space, opened in 1967 and used by skateboarders, BMXers, street artists, photographers and others from all around the world. It’s a free creative space, accessible 24 hours a day. It’s billed as the world’s longest continually used skate spot. Covered in graffiti, it provides a striking backdrop for the skateboarders and bikers.


We’d found the space the day before and watched some skateboarders for a while. On a whim we decided to go back the next day, and met up with three young guys giving their bikes a workout. We watched them for a while, mesmerized by what they could do with their bikes in such a small and challenging space.


We took a few shots but quickly realized how much fun it would be to photograph them in a more serious way. We started chatting with them and asked if we could take some pictures. From then on it was all fun. We’d take pictures, and then show them what we had on the back of the camera. Some were o.k., lots were out of focus, or they were moving so quickly that key parts of the shot were out of the frame. But we kept shooting and the time went quickly by.

Here’s Andrei, moving his bike on just the back wheel through space that’s full of obstacles, getting set up for more complicated moves.


Jacob, coming down one ramp and then quickly up another.


Jacob and Cameron talking over some moves perhaps. Maybe the new one where Jacob stops Cameron’s bike by grabbing the front wheel. Given the speed the bike is moving at that requires some courage.


As they explained, it’s not enough to have the wheel off the ground, turning it at an angle is more complex. Being airborne, off the seat, legs and feet at all angles, is important and requires concentration, skill, strength and athleticism.


Cameron, also off his bike and twisted to one side. The centre of gravity shifts and maintaining balance and keeping the bike upright is a challenge.


We asked for a picture of the three of them together. And - no surprise - the bikes made it into the shot as well. That evening we processed our images and sent a bunch of them to their e-mail addresses. And that was also fun.


Photographing Andrei, Cameron and Jacob was a memorable part of our trip. We were both delighted to have had the opportunity to spend some time chatting and photographing these friendly and talented young guys from London. Thank you from both of us.

London's Thames River

A friend and I recently went to London to photograph both the city and the sites along the Thames River. We felt the winding river, the bridges and the combination of old and new architecture would have lots to offer. The River Thames at 215 miles is the longest river in England. It’s been a centre of commerce and transportation for much of the city’s history, and currently provides London with two-thirds of its drinking water. While most of the images are long exposures this one, taken from the top of the Tate Modern, is not. It offers both a view of the city and the river, and shows the contrast between the old and the new.


A view of the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian bridge built in 2,000 to celebrate the turn of the century, with the historic St. Paul’s Cathedral, built by Christopher Wren and completed in 1708, in the background.


An image of the bridge taken from the south side of the river, close to the Tate Modern. The long exposure removes the many pedestrians from the shot providing a clearer image of the bridge itself. The temporary fencing along the right side is there to restrict access while construction work is taking place.


Southwark Bridge, an arch bridge across the Thames, built in 1921 to replace an earlier bridge. The older structure pairs nicely with the classic architecture of Vintners Place on the left and contrasts with the taller modern skyscrapers in the background. Southwark Bridge carries the least traffic of all the London bridges.


Two images of London’s famous Tower Bridge, taken from the south side of the river . The first image was taken in mixed light with some sun coming through the clouds. This was one of the few times in the week the sun was out.


A little further along the river, a small alleyway took us closer to the river and offered another opportunity to photograph the Tower Bridge from a different vantage point and in different light. The Gherkin, a commercial skyscraper built in 2003, can be seen between the two pillars.


The Thames is a working river, with barges and tourist boats moving along it constantly. Construction is evident everywhere.


A different day, still on the south side of the river but walking west towards the Parliament Buildings. Westminster Bridge in the foreground with the Parliament Buildings and Big Ben, wrapped and scaffolded for repairs, behind.


The Parliament Buildings and Big Ben are large and hard to capture in a single shot. The panorama seems the best way to showcase them both


Across the river on the South Bank views of The Eye dominate the scene. Completed in 2000 for London’s Millennium celebrations, The Eye is Europe’s largest cantilevered observation wheel providing incredible views of the city . The wheel has 32 sealed and air-conditioned passenger capsules, each with a capacity for 25 passengers. One revolution of the wheel takes 30 minutes. The Eye is the most popular tourist attraction in the UK with about 4 million passengers a year.


And if we need to imagine The Eye a little smaller we can frame it behind the Sphinx, a large statute - one of a pair actually - that guard Cleopatra’s Needle, an Egyptian obelisk built around 1450 BC and gifted to the United Kingdom by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan in 1819.


Renzo Piano’s Shard is a building that also dominates the skyline. Started in 2009 and finished in 2012, at 95 stories and 1,016 feet it’s the tallest building in London.


The Tower Bridge seen from the North Bank of the river.


The section of the River Thames that runs through London is also tidal, with a difference of 23 feet between low tide and high. The tides are measured at Blackfriars Bridge. It’s the one on the left in the picture below. Beside it are the red posts, left over from the original Blackfriars Railway Bridge, built in 1864 but declared 120 years later as too weak to support modern trains. It was removed but the supports were left, with the ones on the far right becoming pillars for the new railway bridge. I like that the old posts remain to tell a bit of their story and that their red colour is maintained.


And to close this post, a couple of evening and night shots.


London is a great city to spend time in. And not just for the photography. We managed to see a couple of plays, walked much of the city, and enjoyed some excellent meals. There’s lots to see and do in London and I could easily return. And perhaps on another trip the sun might be out a little more often.

A Visit to Coney Island

I've wanted to visit Coney Island for some time.  It's close to New York, a city I love and visit often, but so different.  It's old and new at the same time.  It's historical, a New York landmark.  and it has a devoted following.  I'd seen the pictures, read the history and I wanted to experience it first hand.  


Public transit makes Coney Island readily accessible.  I was amazed that from Times Square in the centre of Manhattan I could take a subway, on a journey that took almost an hour, for the tiny fee of $2.75. A bargain for sure.

Coney Island, the last stop on the Q Train

Coney Island, the last stop on the Q Train

My first view of Coney Island -  with the Wonder Wheel ferris wheel dominating the scene and the beach in the background - photographed through the window of the subway train.


Coney Island is an amusement park on the Atlantic Ocean in Brooklyn.  Well established by the 1890's with its three separate amusement parks Coney Island was the largest park of its kind in the United States for many decades.  Over the years there's been several attempts to rezone the area and develop it for residential and commercial use, with some success.  Two of the original three parks have been demolished.  Each attempt to develop large sections of Coney Island has been met with vigorous opposition, and today the area continues to be zoned for amusement and recreational use only.


Today there are two amusement parks - Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel Amusement Park - along with other rides that are not part of either.  And there's also the New York Aquarium, opened in 1957, severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, then rebuilt, expanded, and reopened in 2018.

Nathan's, home of the famous hot dog eating contest.  Hot dogs for sale, along with all sorts of seafood.  A busy place.


Three of the original Coney Island rides are now designated New York landmarks:  The Wonder Wheel, a steel ferris well built in 1918 and opened in 1920.  At a height of 150 feet it's the tallest in the world.  It's also been in continuous use since it opened, with more than 30 million riders and no accidents.


The Cyclone, a rare wooden roller coaster, built in 1927, and still in use today.  Seen in the background with the Coney Clipper in front.


And the Parachute Jump, a Coney Island landmark.  Built in 1930, it closed in 1964, was renovated between 2002 and 2004 but remains inactive.  


The Thunderbolt, a new ride, opened in June, 2014.  There's also a children's area, a Carousel, bumper cars, haunted houses and lots of games.  Something for everyone.


Two and a half miles of boardwalk connects the beach to the amusement area with restaurants and arcades all along it.


And then there's the beach.  It's sandy, well maintained and open to everyone, and there's no charge to use it.


I spent half a day at Coney Island, wandering around, photographing what I saw, and enjoying the experience.  It's a busy place, with lots of activity and people having a good time everywhere.  There's lots to see but it's not always easy to photograph.  Dense with colour, movement, big-scale structures, and lots of people, getting a clean composition is a challenge.  But I'm glad I went.  It more than met my expectations and I'm thinking a return visit at night when it's all lit up would be well worth doing.

A Few Days in New York

Like so many people I love New York.  Hard not to.  It's a unique place, with it's own look, feel, and special kind of energy.  Last week I spent five days there, seeing some opera and spending as much time as I could exploring different parts of the city with my camera.  I visited the East Village, NoHo, a bit of Little Italy, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  I used the subway and the East River ferry to get around and was surprised how fast, inexpensive and easy it was.

This time I wanted to visit areas I hadn't been to before, and Astor Place in NoHo/the East Village was the first stop.  This huge bronze sculpture jumped right out at me.   Installed in mid-March it has been met with both delight and derision.  Called The Last Three it was created to honour and bring attention to the last three remaining northern white rhinos on the planet.  I found it quite beautiful.  


The sculpture had been up less than a week when the male rhino, Sudan, died.  He was 45 and is survived by his daughter and granddaughter.  


The sun was out this morning, lighting the buildings and casting shadows.  Old and stately residential buildings with their cast iron fire escapes, sections painted in different colours, with a slim and elegant church making up part of the block.


On another day It was wet and cold much of the time, but the streets were still busy and the rain made the colours pop.


A brightly painted coffee shop.  Some inside enjoying a break, a man outside heading somewhere in the rain, another with a shopping cart perhaps out for groceries.  This is a neighbourhood with more residents than tourists.


One of the many steam vents that can be seen on the streets, part of the New York City steam system.   Steam produced by the steam generating stations is carried under the streets and used to heat and cool residential buildings and businesses. Excess is expelled through the vents.  In use since 1882 it's the largest steam generating system in the world and services much of Manhattan.


Walking around is a delight.  There is beauty everywhere - the buildings, the people, the streets.  I simply couldn't get enough.  


I turn the corner and come face to face with art on the side of a building.  Based on an old Blondie poster dating back to a concert that took place in 1979.  I stood and looked at it for a while. People strolled by, some not seeming to notice - perhaps they've seen it many times before - others, like me, stopping to take it in.


As in most big cities there's construction everywhere.  From the look of the paint and graffiti these barriers have been around a while.  People and traffic simply move around it all.


These two guys were movers, carrying things down from a walkup, then taking it all to a truck they had parked around the corner.  Not an easy job that's for sure. 


A pause at the edge of Little Italy.  Not enough time to wander through it.  Perhaps that will be part of my next trip.


An Asian lady walks by, and then stops to have a chat with an Asian man who was eating a sandwich in the outside seating area of a local coffee shop.  I watched them for a while as they talked to each other, oblivious of the many people walking by.


Another day that began with trip on the subway.  And just as I could spend hours on the streets I could do the same in the subways.  There is so much to see.  There's art in many of the stations, musicians playing in some, and lots of the subway cars are brightly painted.  And of course there's the people.


Roy Lichtenstein's Times Square Mural, 6 feet by 53 feet, commissioned in 1994 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and installed in 2002.  It's remarkable.


Brightly coloured subway cars, these two painted with themes from The Walking Dead.  A musician playing and singing and a group of people waiting for a train.


After the subway, a ferry across the East River to Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  Going down and across the river you see both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge up close.  Two beautiful and amazing feats of engineering.    

First the Brooklyn Bridge...


---and then the Manhattan.


Once across the river in Brooklyn, looking at Manhattan from the other side you get a sense of the size, scale and density of the place.  The East River Generating Station is on the left, the Empire State Building in the middle, and the spire of Chrysler Building visible just a little to the right.


The United Nations Building in the Foreground and the Chrysler Building to the left.


A walk through parts of Williamsburg, and then the ferry to travel back up the river and across to Manhattan once again.


Manhattan's East River Generating Station seen from the ferry dock.


A great few days in New York.  Walking around with my camera, trying to take it all in, a feast for the eyes.  And in between, opera at the Met, a feast for all the senses.  New York is a gift to the world.  I can't wait to return.

Iceland Through a Long Lens

On a recent trip to Iceland my main lens jammed on the first day and I was left photographing that big-picture landscape country with just a long lens.  And while my 70-300 is a good lens it's not the one I reach for first, and certainly not for a place like Iceland.  First disappointment, followed by mild panic, and then I simply had to get on with it.  So two weeks to go and an opportunity to practice longer focal length photography.  Not ideal and It was a challenge.

Iceland is known for the size and scale of its waterfalls.  Broad and high, cascading over massive rock formations, they are impressive.  With this lens I had two choices:  shoot from further away or focus on just a section of the waterfall.

150 mm, 1/40sec  @ F9, ISO100

150 mm, 1/40sec  @ F9, ISO100

A tall, narrow waterfall a short walk away from the massive Skogafoss waterfall.  It was the small tree, growing in a rock wedged into an opening that caught my eye.  

70 mm, 1/15 sec @ F16, ISO100

70 mm, 1/15 sec @ F16, ISO100

A small section from Skogafoss, a large waterfall in the southern part of the island.    Capturing the entire scene wasn't possible but this shot gives a sense of the volume and power of the water cascading from the river above.

108 mm, 1/8 sec @ F20, ISO100

108 mm, 1/8 sec @ F20, ISO100

Hraunfossar Falls, or really just a small part of it, is a series of cascading falls that stretch along the lava fields.  The landscape above was a riot of fall colours.  And because it's off the beaten track it gets fewer visitors and can be enjoyed almost in solitude.  That said, it's difficult to capture without getting unwanted twigs and shrubs in the foreground.  So this time the longer lens was an advantage.

70 mm, 1/8 sec @ F16, ISO100

70 mm, 1/8 sec @ F16, ISO100

A struggle at Oxarafoss Falls in Pingvellir National Park.  There was no way to get the right angle on the falls and also be far enough away.  At 70 mm, the widest angle I had, I focused on the lower section and the water cascading over the rocks in the foreground.  Vertical shots or closeups provide a different view.  

79 mm, 1/5 sec @ F22, ISO100

79 mm, 1/5 sec @ F22, ISO100

300 mm, 1/10 sec @ F16, ISO100

300 mm, 1/10 sec @ F16, ISO100

Lava fields, rock formations, black sand beaches, ice formations - Iceland has it all.  Rock formations jutting into the seas, formed by lava and shaped by time and weather, are remarkable.  Here a longer lens often worked well, as in the image below, taken at Vik in the south of Iceland.

128 mm, 1/20 sec @ F16, ISO100

128 mm, 1/20 sec @ F16, ISO100

"Drinking Dragon" rock formation with mountains behind.  

135 mm, 1/20 sec @ F11, ISO100

135 mm, 1/20 sec @ F11, ISO100

Ice formations on a black beach taken in the "blue hour" just before dark.

81 mm, 0.5 sec @ F16, ISO400

81 mm, 0.5 sec @ F16, ISO400

And the same place at dawn the following morning.

124 mm, 2.5 sec @ F16, ISO100

124 mm, 2.5 sec @ F16, ISO100

The Blue Lagoon.  Large chunks of ice and small icebergs break from the glacier, stay in the lagoon for a while, then make their way to the sea.  The black markings on the ice are ash from volcanic eruptions that occurred in ages past.  The longer they're in the lagoon the smoother the ice surfaces become, shaped by all kinds of weather.

182 mm, 1/50 sec @ F11, ISO 100

182 mm, 1/50 sec @ F11, ISO 100

Blue skies and snow-capped mountains with glaciers moving down them are part of the unique beauty of this place.

244 mm, 1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO100

244 mm, 1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO100

Lava fields are slow to regenerate.  It takes years for earth to accumulate sufficiently for moss to grow, and the hardy plants, bushes and few trees that are able to grow in this environment take much longer.  

70 mm, 1/50 sec @ F16, ISO100

70 mm, 1/50 sec @ F16, ISO100

112 mm, 1/6 sec @ F16, ISO100

112 mm, 1/6 sec @ F16, ISO100

Fishing nets along the shore in the northern part of Iceland.  

93 mm, 8 sec @ 16, ISO100

93 mm, 8 sec @ 16, ISO100

300 mm, 13 sec @ F16, ISO100

300 mm, 13 sec @ F16, ISO100

Winding roads along the fjords and small communities built along the water or nestled up close against the mountains, common sights as we travelled through the country.

78 mm, 1/160 sec @ F9, ISO400

78 mm, 1/160 sec @ F9, ISO400

90 mm, 1/80 sec @ F10, ISO100

90 mm, 1/80 sec @ F10, ISO100

124 mm, 1/50 sec @ F8, ISO400

124 mm, 1/50 sec @ F8, ISO400

100 mm 1/250 sec @ F8, ISO1000

100 mm 1/250 sec @ F8, ISO1000

Churches like this are found all over Iceland, brightly coloured, with a few buildings nearby.

300 mm, 1/200 sec @ F8, ISO400

300 mm, 1/200 sec @ F8, ISO400

The abandoned herring factory at Djupavik in the north of the country.  Built in 1934, closed in 1954 when the herring were gone, and recently painted and refurbished as a setting for part of the superhero movie "Justice League" in October, 2016.  A beautiful location.

105 mm, 0.3 sec @ 11, ISO100

105 mm, 0.3 sec @ 11, ISO100

70 mm, 1/30 sec @ F10, ISO100

70 mm, 1/30 sec @ F10, ISO100

The harbour in the town of Patrekskfjordur.

116 mm, 1/2 sec @ F8, ISO100

116 mm, 1/2 sec @ F8, ISO100

100 mm, 1/160 @ F8, ISO400

100 mm, 1/160 @ F8, ISO400

Iceland's famous black church in early morning.  And a full view of the church at dawn.

300 mm, 1/15 sec @ F13, ISO100

300 mm, 1/15 sec @ F13, ISO100

70 mm, 0.6 sec @ F16, ISO100

70 mm, 0.6 sec @ F16, ISO100

Spending two weeks in Iceland was a treat.  Being there without my regular landscape lens was a challenge.  Just an unlucky break.  I had an extra camera body with me, extra cards and batteries, a second cable release, but it wasn't practical or feasible to take a duplicate of each lens.  So I struggled to overcome my frustration, worked with what I had, and learned more about shooting with a long lens.  Despite the setback I had a great time and the images I wasn't able to capture with my camera are firmly tucked away in my memory.