Iconic (St Paul’s Cathedral, London)

Iconic

The only photo I remember from my primary school history book is this:

St Paul’s Cathedral, rising above the bombed London skyline, is shrouded in smoke during the Blitz. Taken from the roof of the Daily Mail offices in Fleet Street. Copyright: © IWM.

I’m sure you’ve all seen it before: St Paul’s dome standing intact above the ruins, surrounded by smoke and flames, seemingly indestructible, converting into a symbol. Iconic doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was taken on 29 December 1940, the 114th night of the Blitz, by Herbert Mason, a Daily Mail photographer, from on top of the Daily Mail building in Fleet Street. I take my hat off to Mr Mason – quite apart from any other considerations, just for having the guts to stand on an exposed London rooftop during a German bombing raid, taking pictures.

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Take Your Time: The Case of the Neurotic Photographer

One of the greatest impediments to me becoming a better photographer is that I wouldn’t want to be seen dead with a camera in my hand. 

Quick on the Trigger like John Wayne

In a city like London not wanting to be seen taking a picture does rather pose a problem. Even if you use a phone, even if you had an invisible camera, you would be still seen acting like a photographer.

What I’d like instead is to take great photos without behaving like a photographer.

To pull out the camera and shoot from the hip, as it were, in one quick movement, non-chalantly, seemingly without aiming but hitting the target for the first time, all the time. Yeah! Like John Wayne.

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Night at the Museum

Many of London’s museums and galleries stay open late into the evening once a week. You might think day or night makes no difference…

But it’s nice to break the daily routine once in a while. Instead of going home after work, I head for Bloomsbury.

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The British Museum after six pm is a different place

The lights are dimmed. The crowds are gone; it’s quiet. I relax in the members’ room with my book and a glass of wine before going for a wander.

I can get up close to the most popular exhibits without an elbow fight. I can contemplate. I can read the labels in peace.

I can take pictures.

Till next Friday.

You might also like:
Made by the Egyptians: A Bust of Amenhotep IIIThe Mausoleum at HalicarnassusThree Hours at the British Museum

Under Italian Influence: The Queen’s House in Greenwich

Today I’m going to depart a little from the usual topics to share instead some photos of the Queen’s House in Greenwich – built by one of England’s greatest architects, Inigo Jones. If you wonder why we’re looking at an English building on Mediterranean Monday, it’s because:

  1. The Queen’s House is the first pure, classical, Italianate building in England – which to English eyes at the time must have looked shockingly foreign
  2. Inigo Jones was heavily influenced by the classical architecture he saw in Italy in 1613-14, and in particular by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio
  3. It’s beautiful

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Through the Doors of the Queen’s House, Greenwich

The Queen’s House in Greenwich is one of those buildings that I walked past dozens of times each year and never once entered, despite being a member in the Maritime Museum and despite the entry being free in any case. There is so much to see in Greenwich that the Queen’s House always ended up bypassed. I finally went in two weeks ago – to see the so-called Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I that the museum had recently acquired and which was about to disappear into a conservator’s workshop for the near future. The building is so stunning I can’t believe I ignored it for years – don’t miss it if you ever visit Greenwich!

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (The Drake Version) [public domain] via Wikipedia
The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (The Drake Version) [public domain] via Wikipedia
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Christmas Lights on the Cutty Sark

Christmas preparation took  up too much time this week for me to be able to write anything that’d be worth your while to read. So instead, three pictures of the Christmas lights of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich to wish you all a…

Merry Christmas

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P.S.: Although it'll be Boxing Day on Monday, Mediterranean Monday will go ahead as usual - with the stunning Roman Theatre of Mérida for its subject.

The London Eye at Night (Geometry)

Or, as this post more appropriately should be titled:

A Dummy’s First Attempts at Night Photography

(I’ll let you know when I feel competent enough to write A Guide to Night Photography for Dummies instead. Just watch this space.)

Generally, I much prefer taking pictures in blazing sunshine – they seem to come out so much better with so much less effort. But since winter arrived in London (in as much you can call 10 degrees above zero winter), the only choice is between fuzzy-muzzy-grey or night scenes. I’ll take night any time!

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The Erotic Gherkin (Distortion)

30 St Mary Axe, better known as The (Erotic) Gherkin, is a skyscraper in the City which at the time of its building was the second tallest building in London. It was completed in 2003 and stands in the site of the former Baltic Exchange which was badly damaged by a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA in 1992.

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A beach ball of a building? The Erotic Gherkin from below.

Is this a building that – for all practical purposes  – is shaped like a globe?

Well, no.

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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is not, as some American readers might imagine, the title of an apocalyptic post in the wake of the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States… In fact, it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with America or politics: it’s merely the title of an English work of art.

A rather striking work of art:

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Tower Poppies

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A Digression On Pepys (Throwback Thursday)

About a year ago I started to write a post comparing two books that I had happened to be reading simultaneously, one of which was boring me to tears. I was not going to waste my breath on it too much – I was going to point out how good the other book was in comparison. As luck would have it, both were on the subject of history, so I started the post with an introductory paragraph about having read some good history books in my time… Unfortunately, the introductory paragraph ended up running to several paragraphs, neatly hijacking the entire post. The chief hijacker was Pepys – whom I found myself quite unable to dismiss in one summary sentence.

I feel Pepys deserves a post to himself, so here I proudly present you with:

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Riggers Aloft the Cutty Sark

Different from most other museum ships is the fact that all the ropes were installed. It is the 8 miles of rope and 3 miles of wire and chain that help make Cutty Sark’s rigging so spectacular.
(Who’s Who at Cutty Sark: Meet Rigger Andy)

Salvaging something of a rainy day in half-term with Young Friend of the Elephants – visiting the Cutty Sark in Greenwich… and catching the riggers at work aloft. (Yes, those are real people in the rigging. 🙂 )

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“She might be static, but in terms of rigging all she needs is some sails and she’s ready to go sailing!”
(Rigger Andy)

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Spaniard’s Inn

Today’s miscellany is a swindle… because the Spaniard’s Inn is not actually anywhere near the Mediterranean! The Spaniard’s Inn, in fact, is a pub in Hampstead Heath in London. Although, clearly, Spaniards are involved – which is my excuse for writing about it here. (That, and that it was passable weather today and I went to Hampstead Heath.)

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Photo: Wikipedia.

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Downriver

Continued from: Upriver: Jerome K. Jerome Comes Out of the Woodwork

Sometime in January, I suggested to my family that we should go rowing up the Thames. À la Jerome K. Jerome. They didn’t take me seriously but I didn’t see why that should stop me. So a few weeks later, I was back on topic…

“We will need to get fit,” I said. It was a Saturday night and my husband and I were alone in the living room with a bottle of red. “We’ll need to practise.”

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Can’t Ignore an Elephant

There are animals… and there are animals. As George Orwell memorably wrote:

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

In my family, the animals that are most equal of all are the elephants. So naturally, we can’t pass a statue of an elephant without taking a picture of it.

“Asia”,  Albert Memorial, London.

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(In response to the Art in the Streets Photo Challenge)

 

The Admiralty Arch

Day 20 – the final – assignment called for a picture on the theme of triumph. I decided that’ll have to be the best picture I’ve taken on this course… when I actually stopped and thought about what I wanted to do, remembered the various things I was being taught, and then I managed to do what I wanted to do.

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The Admiralty Arch, London

TGI Maundy Thursday

Day 17 (as you see I’m permanently a day behind!) is on the theme of glass… as in, say, the view through a window.

I didn’t even consider bothering taking a picture specifically for this assignment, partly because I was too busy blogging about The Burning Mountain of Huexotzinco…  but chiefly because I’ve got half a dozen – at least – set of photos from the last half year alone with views through windows. The difficulty was to decide which one to go for.

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Rivers Must Have Barges

Day 15 Assignment: Landscape.

I always loved the river. Rivers connect us to each other, city to city, city to the sea and beyond. And the barges that go up and down, prosaic and ugly, loaded high with cargo speak of foreign lands, trade and adventures.

Tugboat towing barges on the Thames as seen from Hungerford footbridge:

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