I had a fairly big “to do” list for Thursday in terms of photographic bits and pieces. As the majority was in the open air I was keeping a close watch on what the weather was up to – for anyone who reads this from outside the UK (and I know there are a few) we’ve had constant rain for over a week here and it is starting to get a bit tedious.
We were supposed to take delivery of some thunder and lightning during the evening and I was rather keen to be under-cover when it arrived – the schedule was arranged to put me under cover at a gig when it was supposed to hit (no point in getting old if you don’t get artful with it) but our weather is unpredictable at best.
The last thing on my list was the official “opening” of The Shard which was due to take place at 22:15, so I didn’t venture out until around 15:30, this looked to give me enough time to get to the first port of call and then follow my loosely connected schedule. I landed in Victoria just before 5pm, which, in hindsight might not have been the wisest thing to do, but at least I was heading in, when the masses were going in the opposite direction.
As is ever the case with Victoria, there was some form of construction work going on outside – I cannot recall ever being there when it was free of scaffold, hoardings or Chapter 8 paraphernalia. I don’t know what is being done there at present, but I hope they wrap it up soon – I might be back in a couple of weeks and I’d like to see it construction free at least once in my life!
My destination was just the other side of the Royal Hospital, home to the Chelsea Pensioners. There are a couple of buses that go from Victoria and stop reasonably close to where I needed to be, but as the roads were at a standstill I thought I’d walk. Once I’d got past the coach station it was quite pleasant and I was beginning to regret wearing the coat I’d chosen – I needed lots of pockets and as mentioned I was keeping one eye on the weather, so my choice was right for what was being forecast for later, but not for the moment – I need a wardrobe assistant!
I found my destination, got the shots and it was time to get across to Leadenhall Market – there was a charity gig on and I’d been asked to go along and get a few shots. Now, from where I was, the logical choice would be to take an 11 bus to somewhere along the Strand and then change to a 15 which is pretty much the closest route that stops by the market. But, given I already knew what traffic was like locally and knew from experience that Aldwych and Bank would be busy at the time of day, I decided to walk! Stupid boy!! As I was only one block away from the river, I walked down and just followed it along. Had I been attired differently, it would have been far more enjoyable, but it won’t go down as my favourite part of the day.
When re-telling this to a friend on Friday, he rather bluntly reminded me that I could have got the river-boat from one of a few points down to Tower Pier which would have cut out a large schlep and been a bit quicker. This is very true, but for some reason it didn’t even cross my mind – on any other day I’d have been the first to suggest this as the best option!
Anyway, I got to the market just before 7pm which was not bad going, if I say so myself. It was heaving with bodies and I knew straight away that I could have difficulty getting decent shots in and amongst the throng. Here is where experience comes into play – I stuck the camera onto the monopod and put the flash-gun on the top – then waded in to the crowd.
The automatic assumption when people see a “proper” camera and other items at such a gig is that the operator is working and it proved to be the case here. Well, I had been asked to turn up and being a charity gig, I wasn’t charging, but it was a good opportunity to drop a few cards and get noticed by new people – so to all intents and purposes, it was work!
The one thing that was missing was music – which was key to the evening. I found my way to the stage and had a quick word with one of the technicians – apparently there had been some sort of “issue” and they were running late, but the first act was due on in ten or so minutes – no real hardship as I was on schedule, they were not!
As is the way, people do like to come and chat. I was quickly able to ascertain that all of the acts were made up of people that work within the insurance sector, which is by far the biggest employment group in the local area. One or two asked to have their pictures taken with friends or alone, which I was happy to do and they gave e-mail addresses for me to send the images on to – you never know if work will come from these things, after all. There were plenty of offers of drinks and much as I would have loved to, I still had several hours to go, so had to decline all offers. Besides which, the beer would almost certainly have been from The Lamb and I’ve never had a decent pint in there – either it’s cloudy (i.e. not ready) or starting to taste of vinegar – which means it’s off or the lines need cleaning – and I think I’m more than qualified to speak on this subject!
At one point some chap who’d clearly been keenly supporting the licensed trade, offered to take my picture with the band as he was a “really good photographer”. I declined his generous offer, of course!
After a few chats with various people the person organising the event took to the stage and gave his opening speech. The event was organised to raise funds for Kings College Hospital Brain Tumour Unit and Brain Tumour UK – both very worthy causes. I discovered that the organiser’s daughter had been in need of treatment from Kings for a life-threatening condition but because of their expertise, she was expected to make a full recovery and live a normal life – if I was at all dubious about being there and taking pictures, this was enough to settle my mind.
I spoke to the gentleman in question later in the evening and he gave me some background into how the event came about and how the Insurance industry had acted to make the gig happen. There was an announcement made to the effect that the event had raised some £15,000 so everyone has reason to feel proud of themselves.
There were four acts on the bill for the evening and the headline band were due to be on for an hour and a half, which meant because of the later than advertised start I’d miss the 4th act as I needed to leave at around 8:30 to get to my next destination. The headline group “Client Number 9” were something else.
As with all the others, they are formed of people in and around the Insurance business but they have raised a staggering amount of money for various charities – once they took to the stage and struck up it was easy to see and hear why – blues, rock, mod, they could do the lot! I was really disappointed that I couldn’t stay to see the whole of their mammoth set but I’m sure it would have ended on a high if the opening four numbers were anything to go by.
London Bridge was my next destination; The Shard was being launched/opened or whatever you want to call it at 22:15 with a “spectacular” light and laser show. The bridge is a 10 minute walk from the market but I was desperately in need of something to eat and drink. A quick stop in Sainsbury’s took care of that and I stopped somewhere with makeshift seating to have a rest (I’d been on my feet since about 5pm) and devour the comestibles.
Now, according to the weather forecasts, we were due to be granted the aforementioned thunder and lightning about an hour before and it was meant to be on-going. I’d figured that this would put most off coming to see the event, especially as it was being streamed live on the web. I am glad I got there when I did – there was already a sizeable number of people lining up along the east wall of the bridge so after a quick scan I picked my spot and levered myself into place.
In my experience, when you get a gathering of photographers for an event, everyone generally gets along and there is some chatter whilst we await whatever we are there to capture. However, there was none of this. I had kept my kit rigged from the market mainly because I couldn’t be arsed to pack it all away for the short time between sites. There was a guy to the right of me that had a shed-load of kit with him and was busy putting it all together. I nodded and said hello, and got a grunt in reply. Fair enough, perhaps he’s not the talkative type. I set about taking a couple of sighters to make sure I’d got the right lens on and that the settings I’d selected were right. Someone else had put himself to my left and was busy setting up his kit – he said hello to me and we had a brief chat, but the grunter was not interested. Then his phone rang – he was clearly from somewhere in Eastern Europe from the accent, so maybe he didn’t want to or could not speak English too well – no problem.
I busied myself taking some shots of the buildings on the banks of the river and of the new lighting scheme on Tower Bridge, which was installed for the Jubilee. I don’t remember the “old” scheme but this one looked quite good, even if it is only one colour. I was hopeful the Olympic rings would be lowered into place, given the number of government types that had been creeping around the Shard for the past week, but it was not to be – I’ll have to go and capture that on another occasion. However, there was a bridge lift whilst we were waiting which was nice – I’ve only seen that happen on a handful of occasions and never at night.
As it got darker, I needed to keep adjusting settings, which was quite good practice – it had been a while since I’d done any night-shooting and was a bit rusty. I love doing the night stuff and there are some stunning images to be had along the river if you are prepared to be out late enough, but it takes dedication and self discipline.
I turned round just to see if anyone else had turned up and was gobsmacked – the pavement I was on was packed, so was the central reservation and there seemed to be quite a crowd on the west side of the bridge as well. I was rather glad I got there as early as I did – I would not have fancied fighting my way through that lot!
At ten past ten I took my final sighters and was now ready to be amazed. I’m writing this up on Monday night, almost 96 hours after the event, and I’m still waiting!
I saw my first laser show back in the mid-80’s (86, I think) at Christmas in Basingstoke town centre. It consisted of a green beam of light shone from somewhere high up in the multi-story car park onto a wall at the side of the sports centre, drawing Christmas type outlines and “Merry Xmas” type things. The Shard’s laser show was beams of green light shone out from various vents part way up the building into the night sky. 25 years between the two events and I’m still struggling to work out which was the better of the two.
The building was also colour wash, which changed at regular intervals but once the sequence has been gone through twice you’ve seen all there is to see. There was some talk amongst the crowd of a firework display to go with it, but to be honest I’d been out long enough and was starting to feel pretty hemmed in – I’ve seen nothing written about a firework display so I’m assuming it was wishful thinking.
The bridge was now packed with people in varying stages of sobriety, which rather reminded me of New Year’s Eve. Traffic was moving albeit slowly as people were all over the road. One stupid bint thought it’d be a good idea to ride her Boris Bike northwards up the southbound carriageway into oncoming traffic. As she drew up level with me I politely suggested that she was on the wrong side of the road and I got a mouth-full of invective delivered in a broad south-London accent.
Whilst she was delivering this, a cab had drawn up on the other side of her and the driver took great delight in reiterating my advice but in the style she had used when speaking to me. I could not help but burst out laughing and went on my way. She was giving out looks that could turn people to stone but something must have struck a chord because she moved to the correct lane to continue her journey. I am quite proud that I resisted the urge to reply to her in her own language, I’m quite capable, trust me, but I was not in a vindictive mood. I really must be going soft!
I was not up for walking back to Liverpool Street so fought my way to the bus stop and got on a 133 which had LS as its final destination. Nothing of note happened on the way home and I got back just after midnight – I really appreciated the two large mugs of tea I drank before going to bed.