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Though we take it for granted, and frequently curse it to high heaven, the London Underground is a real wonder. Yes, signal failures cause delays at the most inopportune times, we are sometimes packed in like sardines, stuck in tunnels – but, the Underground is indeed a working man-made miracle. The Tube network is the oldest and longest underground railway system serving a major city. Its history goes back to 1863, its conception even earlier. The Tube has driven engineering developments and creative design, and has featured in countless books, songs, films and poems. The Underground has been the site of births and deaths, and bombs planted by everyone from pre-war anarchists to suffragettes, the IRA to the Islamist suicide bombers of 2005. Yet this venerable railway system keeps going, keeps growing and keeps enabling more than one billion Londoners a year to make their daily commute.
While I am unashamedly obsessed with motion photography, what strikes me most at almost every station is the design deep in the bowels of London. From Canary Wharf to Southwark to Green Park, and well beyond, the creative design of London’s Underground stations inspires me, and sparks my imagination. It really is a must for an architectural detective, and there are nineteenth- and twentieth-century survivals everywhere, with arcaded embankments, cast iron columns, wooden platform canopies throughout the system.

At Baker Street, the Edwardian panelling is as good as in an ocean liner.; at Coven Garden glazed brick arches the color of toffee and canary yellow bands. They are della Robbia blue at Knightsbridge. Piccadilly Circus has a complete art deco feel, and circular. Tottenham Court Road is busily graced with mosaic murals by Eduardo Paolozzi, and at Canary Wharf one can find the remarkable Norman Foster’s beautiful station. And everywhere there is Edward Johnston’s sans serif lettering, the red, white, and blue symbol, and the colored map which is both a work of art and very clear.

Nearly everything needs cleaning, and no doubt a bit of mending, though more times than not we can overlook this on our way through the meandering tunnels. We hear live music, can be pushed or shoved, we mind the gap, and even our step, while making our way through the labyrinth well below the London streets. Volumes of photographs could be included from the twelve lines within the London Underground, but in this edition only the Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo, Piccadilly, District/Circle, Victoria, and Piccadilly are included. Enjoy the ride, and feel free to share your favorite Underground stations at any time.

BASIC UNDERGROUND FACTS

Number of miles/km traveled by each Tube train each year:  114,500 miles/184,269km

Total number of passengers carried each year:  1,107,000,000

The London Underground has 402km (249 miles) of track, making it the second largest metro system in the world in terms of route length, after the Shanghai Metro.

Average train speed:  33km per hour / 20.5 miles per hour

Proportion of the network that is in tunnels : 45 per cent

Longest continuous tunnel:  East Finchley to Morden (via Bank)  27.8km / 17.25 miles

Total number of escalators throughout the network:  426

Station with the most escalators:  Waterloo 23

Longest escalator:  Angel – 60m/197 feet, with a vertical rise of 27.5m / 90 ft

Shortest escalator : Stratford, with a vertical rise of 4.1 m

Total number of lifts (elevators), including for stair lifts:  164

Four passenger moving conveyors: two at Waterloo, and two at Bank

Shortest lift shank:  King’s Cross – 2.3m / 7.5 ft

Carriages in London Underground’s fleet:  4,134

Total number of stations served:  270

Total number of stations managed:  260

Total number of staff:  approximately 19,000

Station with the most platforms:  Baker Street – 10

Busiest stations:  Morning peak – Waterloo with 57,000 people entering

Per year – Waterloo with 82 million passengers

The Underground name first appeared on stations in 1908

London Underground has been known as the Tube since 1890, when the first deep-level electric railway line was opened

The Tube’s world-famous logo, “the roundel” (a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar), first appeared in 1908

An Average of 2.7 million tube journeys are made on the tube daily.

The deepest lift (elevator) shaft is at Hampstead on the Northern Line, and is 55.2m deep.

There are two tube station names that contain all 5 vowels – “Mansion House,” and South Ealing.

The oldest tube line in the world is the Metropolitan line, which opened on 10 January 1863.

The first escalator was introduced at Earls Court in 1911.

The shortest escalator on the tube system, with only 50 steps, is at Chancery Lane.

Almost 60% of the London Underground is actually above the ground, and not underground.

Only 29 stations are south of the river Thames, out of 287.

Edward Johnston designed the font for the London Underground in 1916, and it is still in use today.

Harry Beck designed the tube map in 1933, and was paid only five guineas for the job.  His design still forms the basis of today’s tube map.

Each of the 400+ escalators do the equivalent of two round-trips around the world in kilometres every week.

Angel station has the third longest escalator in Western Europe, with a vertical rise of 27.5 meters (90 ft), and a length of 60 meters ( 197 ft ), which takes 80 seconds to carry passengers up, or down.  It has a massive 318 steps.

Bank Station has the most escalators of any Tube station, with fifteen escalators, and two moving walkways.

Few stations do not have buildings above ground – these include Regent’s Park, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, and Bank.

The air in the underground is, on average, 10C degrees hotter than the air at street level.

The Jubilee Line was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, but did not open until two years later, but serves stations which originally opened over 100 years ago.

The District Line serves sixty different stations; Piccadilly Line serves fifty-two; and the Northern and Central Lines serve fifty-one and forty-nine stations respectively.

The Piccadilly Line was the first of the deep-level tube lines to be converted to a one-person operation, where the operator drives the train, and controls the operation of the doors.  (August 1987)

The Circle Line, which opened in 1884, was described in The Times as “a form of mild torture which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it.”

The London Underground runs 24 hours a day only at New Years, and major events, such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The shortest distance between two adjacent stations is 260 meters ( 0.161 miles ) between Leicester Square, and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line.  The journey takes approximately 20 seconds, but costs £4.30.

The phrase “Mind the Gap” originated on the Northern Line in 1968.

QUIRKY FACTS ABOUT THE LONDON UNDERGROUND

The first escalator on the Underground was installed at Earl’s Court in 1911. A one-legged man, “Bumper” Harris, was employed to ride on it and demonstrate its safety. Unlike modern “comb” escalators, the original “shunt” mechanism ended with a diagonal so that the stairway finished sooner for the right foot than for the left.

Anyone not wishing to walk on the escalator was therefore asked to stand to the right to allow others to pass, leading to Britain’s unique flouting of escalator etiquette which dictates in most countries that escalators tend to match the rules of the road.

The first crash on the Tube occurred on the line in 1938 when two trains collided between Waterloo and Charing Cross, injuring 12 passengers.

The inaugural journey of the first Central line train in 1900 had the Prince of Wales and Mark Twain on board. The tunnels beneath the City curve dramatically because they follow its medieval street plan. The Central line also introduced the first flat fare: tuppence.

The tiles at Leicester Square depict film sprockets; Baker Street has Sherlock Holmes, Oval cricketers, while Eduardo Paolozzi’s abstract mosaics at Tottenham Court Road celebrate musical Denmark Street.

The recording of the phrase “Mind the gap” dates from 1968, and is voiced by Peter Lodge, who owned a recording company in Bayswater.

He stepped in apparently when the actor hired to record the lines insisted on royalties. There have been several books, a gameshow, two theatre companies, several films and lots of songs called Mind the Gap.

While Lodge’s recording is still in use, some lines use recordings by Manchester voice artist Emma Clarke, while commuters on the Piccadilly line hear the voice of Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer in The Archers.

On 7 July 2005 a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks during the morning rush hour killed 56 people and injured 700. Three bombs exploded within 50 seconds of each other at Edgware Road, Aldgate and King’s Cross and a fourth exploded an hour later on a bus in Tavistock Square.

Filming takes place in many places in the Underground system, but the most common locations are Aldwych, a disused tube station which was formerly on the Piccadilly Line, as well as at the non-operational Jubilee Line complex in Charing Cross.

One of the levels in “Tomb Raider 3” is set in the disused Aldwych tube station and sees Lara Croft killing rats!

In “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, the Headmaster at Hogwarts has a scar shaped just like the London Underground map on his knee.

Covent Garden station on the Piccadilly Line is said to be haunted by a man dressed in evening wear who disappears very suddenly. Some staff members have refused to work at the station because of him.

The best places to spot the legendary underground mice running around the tracks are Waterloo Station and any platform at Oxford Circus. An estimated half a million mice live in the Underground system.

People who commit suicide by throwing themselves under tubes are nicknamed “one- unders” by London Underground staff.

It is estimated that around 100 tube suicides occur each year, the majority of these at Victoria and King’s Cross.

The most popular tube suicide time is 11 am.

Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasance starred in a 1970′s horror called “Death Line,” which tells the story of a cave-in while a station is being built at Russell Square in the 1890s. Several laborers are presumed dead and the bodies are left there when the construction company goes bankrupt. Of course these people are not really dead – instead they survive and reproduce… Years later, they start to find their food supply from the platform at Russell Square.

A fragrance call Madeleine was introduced at St. James Park, Euston, and Piccadilly stations in 2001 as an idea to make the tube more pleasant. It was supposedly a fresh, floral scent, but it was discontinued within two days after numerous complaints from people saying they felt ill.

In January 2005, the London Underground announced that it would play classical music at stations that had problems with loitering youths. A trial showed a 33% drop in abuse against tube staff.

In 2004 it was found that rubber mountings on carriages were collapsing on Piccadilly Line carriages due to excessive passenger weight! The estimated cost of replacing these defective mountings is in excess of twenty million pounds.

Is it because the Cadbury’s Whole Nut chocolate bar is by far the biggest seller in the dispensing machines at tube stations.

The nickname “tube” originally applied to the Central London Railway which was nicknamed the Twopenny Tube – because of the twopenny fare as well as its cylindrical tunnels. The “tube” part of the nickname eventually transferred to the entire London Underground system.

In terms of asphyxiation, traveling on the tube for 40 minutes is the equivalent to smoking two cigarettes.

The Underground is a good place to stumble on musicians busting out tuneful tunes to the delight of passers by. Following in this spirit, Julian Lloyd Webber is rumoured to have been the London Underground’s first official busker.

Bubonic plague swept through England in 1665, and was especially rife in urban areas. Aldgate Station, on the Circle and Metropolitan Lines, is built on a massive plague pit, where more than 1,000 bodies are buried.

Many tube stations were used as air-raid shelters during WWII, but the Central Line went one better and was actually converted into a massive aircraft factory that stretched for over two miles, with its own railway system. Its existence remained an official secret until the 1980s.

There are several unused stations down there. For instance, Down Street Station was used by Winston Churchill and his cabinet during the Second World War. The British Museum also has an abandoned tube station, lying on the Central Line between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn.

Next time you walk into a tube station, keep your eyes peeled for roguish fruit. Green grapes are particularly notorious offenders, causing more accidents on the London Underground than banana skins.

The mosquitoes inhabiting the tunnels of the London Tube have evolved into a completely different species to any that lives above the ground. Unlike their upstairs brethren, which bite only birds, the London Underground mosquitoes bite rats, mice and show a distinct affinity for human blood. Biologists named these voracious biters Culex pipiens molestus

Have you seen movies where a person looks through a keyhole? On the viewer’s side, the side where the person looking through the keyhole, the scene is dark and perhaps ominous? Through the keyhole might be a mysterious scene or even something magical?

As viewers of the movie, we are taken into a scene and we feel as if we’re part of the action. Not only is the actor in the movie looking through the keyhole, but we are as well. We see what the actor sees at the very same time. We feel the suspense, angst, shock, horror, joy, enchantment – whatever emotion the moviemaker wants us to feel, we feel it, too.

This is an effective method in moviemaking and cinematography as we become part of the action. This is also an effective method in photography.

As photographers it is important to draw the viewers of your photographs into your image. Your photograph is the keyhole, so to speak, that allows viewers to experience or view what you have seen and captured with your camera. If your viewers can be drawn into your photo, then they will feel the emotion or feeling that you’re trying to convey. And, if you can draw viewers in and make them feel a certain way, then you my friend, are not a picture taker but instead a photographer.

How do you draw people into your photographs? You begin by mastering photo composition. You master photo composition by practicing all key elements until they become second nature to you. Becoming a great photographer really is that simple tho’ it is a lot of work.

One suggestion regarding photo composition is to challenge yourself. One way to challenge yourself is to change the camera you use. For example, if you typically shoot with a digital camera of any sort or a mobile phone, let’s say, then switch to a film camera for a day or even a week.

You can pick up inexpensive film cameras at ebay. And yes, you can still purchase film and have it professionally developed.

I have a variety of film cameras but for this blog post I chose the Fisheye camera from Lomography. I also chose black and white film. Better still, I chose London as my backdrop.

The cool thing about Lomo’s Fisheye camera is the captured image is actually a circle with a pronounced black border. Basically, the result is like looking through a keyhole – at least that’s how I see it.

I’ve included a variety of images I captured over a week’s time. The shots are entirely random tho’ you’ll recognise some of the scenes. Have a look at the photos. Are they the best images of London you’ve ever seen? No. They are not the best images I’ve seen either. The better question is – have you seen London portrayed this way before? Unless you’ve practiced this same photo exercise, your answer is undoubtedly a no.

Photographing a familiar scene in a new way with a new perspective and with a camera you’re not entirely familiar with will allow you the freedom to explore and test your creativity.

It is easy to be comfortable. It’s easy to always surround yourself with the familiar. The easy way is not the best way to improve your photography skills.

You will grow by challenging yourself. You’ll reach new levels of achievement by stepping away from your comfort zone.

It’s safe to say you’ll surprise even yourself by creating a masterful composition that draws your viewer into your vision. And in the end, involving the viewers of your photographs is exactly what you want.

The following is an exerpt from “Alice Through the Looking Glass”.
Notice how Alice first envisions what life might be if she and kitty could go through the looking-glass house. In an instant, Alice does go through the looking glass and she takes us with her when she does. This is exactly what you want to do with the viewers of your photographs.

“But this is taking us away from Alice’s speech to the kitten. ‘Let’s pretend that you’re the Red Queen, Kitty! Do you know, I think if you sat up and folded your arms, you’d look exactly like her. Now do try, there’s a dear!’ And Alice got the Red Queen off the table, and set it up before the kitten as a model for it to imitate: however, the thing didn’t succeed, principally, Alice said, because the kitten wouldn’t fold its arms properly. So, to punish it, she held it up to the Looking-glass, that it might see how sulky it was—‘and if you’re not good directly,’ she added, ‘I’ll put you through into Looking-glass House. How would you like that?’

‘Now, if you’ll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I’ll tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there’s the room you can see through the glass—that’s just the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way. I can see all of it when I get upon a chair—all but the bit behind the fireplace. Oh! I do so wish I could see that bit! I want so much to know whether they’ve a fire in the winter: you never can tell, you know, unless our fire smokes, and then smoke comes up in that room too—but that may be only pretence, just to make it look as if they had a fire. Well then, the books are something like our books, only the words go the wrong way; I know that, because I’ve held up one of our books to the glass, and then they hold up one in the other room.

‘How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty? I wonder if they’d give you milk in there? Perhaps Looking-glass milk isn’t good to drink—But oh, Kitty! now we come to the passage. You can just see a little peep of the passage in Looking-glass House, if you leave the door of our drawing-room wide open: and it’s very like our passage as far as you can see, only you know it may be quite different on beyond. Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through—’ She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.

In another moment Alice was through the glass, and had jumped lightly down into the Looking-glass room. The very first thing she did was to look whether there was a fire in the fireplace, and she was quite pleased to find that there was a real one, blazing away as brightly as the one she had left behind. ‘So I shall be as warm here as I was in the old room,’ thought Alice: ‘warmer, in fact, because there’ll be no one here to scold me away from the fire. Oh, what fun it’ll be, when they see me through the glass in here, and can’t get at me!’

Then she began looking about, and noticed that what could be seen from the old room was quite common and uninteresting, but that all the rest was as different as possible. For instance, the pictures on the wall next the fire seemed to be all alive, and the very clock on the chimney-piece (you know you can only see the back of it in the Looking-glass) had got the face of a little old man, and grinned at her.”

Discovering London should be done in layers and in stages.  In order to truly experience one of the greatest cities in the world, you have to look at London at every angle.  You must experience one layer before you move onto the next.  It is impossible to visit once and see everything there is to see in London.   There is absolutely no way to experience everything London has to offer in one go and perhaps even ten.

There is a great quote that sums up London.  “I’ve been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day.”  I could have written the quote as I myself have been exploring London for the last thirty years and yet there is still so much I haven’t seen or experienced.  Every time I set out on foot I find something new and interesting about London that I hadn’t known before.

London is layered.

The first time you visit London you will want to see all of the must-see sights.  Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus.  All of these sights will be on your list.  You’ll probably also want to ride on the iconic double decker bus, ride on the London Underground and have your photo taken in a red phone box.  This is the surface of London.  The superficial, if you will.

Museums aren’t superficial at all.  The National Gallery, Tate Modern and British Museum will also be on your list of things to do in London.  London’s museums are world class and they are free.  You’ll feel as if you’ve been cultured at the highest level having been mere steps away from the masters of art.  You’ll feel as if London has fed your curiosity with a silver spoon.  You’re right to feel this as the city has so much to feed you.

The next time you visit London you’ll stay at the same level.  You’ll feel as if you know London inside and out.  You’ll return to familiar sights, you’ll hop on the London Underground feeling like a Londoner, and you’ll pop into the café or restaurant you remember so fondly from your last visit.  You might even find your way from Point A to Point B without getting lost.  But, you’ll still get lost when a street curves in a direction differently than what you expect.

If you decide to go for a walk instead of taking the Underground, you’ll find a new route and the next layer of London. You’ll find a new place you hadn’t noticed before.  You’ll find a charming street or mews that puts a huge smile on your face.  You’ll pop into art galleries instead of only exploring the large museums.  And, you might even attend more than one theatre production.

As you discover more about London, your curiosity will get the best of you.  You’ll want to know more but there isn’t time.  You make a mental list of what you want to see and do during your next visit to London.

It’s during your third visit to London that you might want to cross each and every bridge in Central London.  Instead of only riding the London Underground, you’ll walk more and you’ll get lost more.  The streets still curve in unexpected directions but when you get lost, you won’t panic.  You will keep walking further and explore streets just to see where they go.  You’ll find new neighbourhoods and sit in parks you never knew were there.  

Instead of only visiting Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, you’ll find incredible churches like St Bartholomew The Great near Smithfields.  You’ll stumble upon St. Dunstan-In-The-East and be amazed how London’s noise is silenced when you walk into the public gardens.   Curiosity might get the best of you as you try to discover other secret places in London – and there are plenty to discover.  Pickering Place off St James’s Street with it’s brilliant sun dial, or Holborn Viaduct are just two secrets waiting for you.

You’ll be charmed even more by London.  You’ll be so charmed that by your next visit you’ll relax a bit.  You will understand that visiting London is not a race but instead a layered treasure waiting to be discovered.  You’ll sit on a park bench to eat your lunch.  When the sun comes out, you’ll lay on the grass in Hyde Park, Green Park or St. James’s Park just like Londoner do.  You’ll want a cuppa instead of a cup of coffee.  And, you’ll think to venture beyond the ground floor at Fortnum & Mason.  When you’re finished there, you’ll pop into Hatchard’s book shop next door and know you’re walking into history when you do.

Each layer of London will reveal a different part of the heart and soul of the city.  With each layer you peel back, you will want to discover more.  Many elements make London tick and move.  The vibe and energy of the city are immeasurable and you’ll feel both with every step you take.  It’s the addictive vibe and energy that will keep you wanting to return for more.

If you’re a keen photographer, you’ll want to capture the best possible photos of London.  I dedicate a section of the blog to the Best Places to Photograph London.  Have a look.  I make finding the best London photo spots easy to find.  Consider the following photo composition tips for your next photographic journey in London.

Rule One 

Simplify the scene.

When you look at a scene with your naked eye, your brain quickly picks out subjects of interest. But the camera doesn’t discriminate – it captures everything in front of it, which can lead to a cluttered, messy picture with no clear focal point.

Remember, don’t let your camera rule you.  You rule the camera!

What you need to do is choose your subject, then select a focal length or camera viewpoint that makes it the centre of attention in the frame. You can’t always keep other objects out of the picture, so try to keep them in the background or make them part of the story.

Silhouettestextures and patterns are all devices that work quite well in simple compositions.

The simpler the shot the bigger the impact

Move in close to cut out other parts of the scene
Silhouettes and shapes make strong subjects
The balloons radial lines draw you into the frame

Rule Two

Fill The Frame

When you’re shooting a large-scale scene it can be hard to know how big your subject should be in the frame, and how much you should zoom in. 

In fact, leaving too much empty space in a scene is the most widespread compositional mistake. It makes your subject smaller than it needs to be and can also leave viewers confused about what they’re supposed to be looking at.

To avoid these problems you should zoom in to fill the frame, or get closer to the subject in question. The first approach flattens the perspective of the shot and makes it easier to control or exclude what’s shown in the background, but physically moving closer can give you a more interesting take on things.

Rule Three

Horizontal vs Vertical

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and take every picture with the camera held horizontally.  In fact, I was taught to shoot this way and only this way.  It took time for me think of turning my camera vertically.

Try turning it to get a vertical shot instead, adjusting your position or the zoom setting as you experiment with the new style.

Rule Four

Avoid The Middle

When you are a newbie, or just starting out, it’s tempting to put whatever you’re shooting right in the centre of the frame. However, this produces rather static, boring pictures. One of the ways to counteract this is to use the Rule of Thirds, where you split the image up into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and try to place your subject on one of these imaginary lines or intersections. 

Let me say, however, this is an overrated approach.

Instead, move your subject away from the centre and get a feel for how it can be balanced with everything else in the scene, including any areas of contrasting colour or light. 

There are no hard and fast rules about achieving this kind of visual balance, but you’ll quickly learn to rely on your instincts – trust that you’ll know when something just looks right.

Rule Five

Leading Lines

A poorly composed photograph will leave your viewers unsure about where to look, and their attention might drift aimlessly around the scene without finding a clear focal point. 

However, you can use lines to control the way people’s eyes move around the picture.

Converging lines give a strong sense of perspective and three-dimensional depth, drawing you into an image. Curved lines can lead you on a journey around the frame, leading you towards the main subject.

Lines exist everywhere, in the form of walls, fences, roads, buildings and telephone wires. They can also be implied, perhaps by the direction in which an off-centre subject is looking.

Rule Six

Dutch Tilt

Horizontal lines lend a static, calm feel to a picture, while vertical ones often suggest permanence and stability. To introduce a feeling of drama, movement or uncertainty, try the dutch tilt technique.

You can need nothing more than a shift in position or focal length to get them –wider angles of view tend to introduce diagonal lines because of the increased perspective; with wide-angle lenses, you’re more likely to tilt the camera up or down to get more of a scene in.

You can also introduce diagonal lines artificially, using the ‘Dutch Tilt’ technique. You simply tilt the camera as you take the shot. This can be very effective, though it doesn’t suit every shot and is best used sparingly

The Dutch Tilt can be used for dramatic effect and helps portray unease, disorientation, frantic or desperate action, intoxication, madness, etc….  

Rule Seven

Space to Move

Even though photographs themselves are static, they can still convey a strong sense of movement. When we look at pictures, we see what’s happening and tend to look ahead – this creates a feeling of imbalance or unease if your subject has nowhere to move except out of the frame.

You don’t just get this effect with moving subjects, either. For example, when you look at a portrait you tend to follow someone’s gaze, and they need an area to look into

For both types of shot, then, there should always be a little more space ahead of the subject than behind it.

Rule Eight

Backgrounds

Don’t just concentrate on your subject – look at what’s happening in the background, too. This ties in with simplifying the scene and filling the frame. You can’t usually exclude the background completely, of course, but you can control it.

You’ll often find that changing your position is enough to replace a cluttered background with one that complements your subject nicely. Or you can use a wide lens aperture and a longer focal length to throw the background out of focus.

It all depends on whether the background is part of the story you’re trying to tell with the photo. In the shot above, the background is something that needs to be suppressed.

Rule Nine

Be Creative With Colours

Bright primary colours really attract the eye, especially when they’re contrasted with a complementary hue. But there are other ways of creating colour contrasts – by including a bright splash of colour against a monochromatic background, for example. 

You don’t need strong colour contrasts to create striking pictures, though.

Scenes consisting almost entirely of a single hue can be very effective. And those with a limited palette of harmonious shades, such as softly lit landscapes, often make great pictures.

The key is to be really selective about how you isolate and frame your subjects to exclude unwanted colours.

Rule Ten

Breaking The Rules

Photo composition is basically a visual language – you can use it to make your pictures pass on a particular message.

Just as we sometimes use the written word to create a deliberately jarring effect, we can do the same with photos by breaking with standard composition rules.

When you understand the rules of composition and then break them on purpose things start to get interesting.

It’s often best to break one rule at a time, as John Powell does in the image above.

Just remember: for every rule we suggest, somewhere out there is a great picture that proves you can disregard it and still produce a fantastic image.

A visit to London will undoubtedly feed your mind and soul.   It is impossible to leave London and not be inspired, tired, or challenged.  London’s effect on you are great.  She seeps into every part of your being without you noticing.

A visit to London is like a love affair that never really ends.  The city is always on your mind.  You crave her and everything London offers long after you leave.  You miss the sounds of London, the rumble of the London Underground, and navigating the crowded streets.  Crossing over London Bridges remains in your memory.  Iconic places such as St Paul’s Cathedral or Trafalgar Square stay etched in your mind.  Maybe the views from Waterloo Bridge or the wide spans view of London from Primrose Hill are still in your mind when you close your eyes.

You’ll always remember London.  

My affair with London began more than thirty years ago.  The city has made a huge impact on me.  I often like to say – “Everything I’ve Learned About Life I Learned From London.”

My love of live theatre began in London when I saw “Daisy Pulls It Off” at the Globe Theatre, which is now the Gielguld Theatre.  I saw magic when the curtain went up and I was captivated until the finals bows and the curtain came down.  Even today I attend live theatre performances like most people see movies.   Theatre taught me a bit about being dramatic and I use the lessons I learned in my photography.  Funny that.  Right?  It also taught me how to string together words in a particular way to make a point.  

London is a mecca for art and museums.  If you have an interest in the world’s artifacts, head over to the British Museum.  If you love paintings from Monet, Manet, Seurat, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens and a myriad of other masters, go to the National Gallery.  If you love modern art, head over to the Tate Modern Museum.  And what’s more is you’ll find a plethora of independent art galleries throughout the city.  

Studying the masters of art is a fantastic way to improve your photography.  Painters are masters at presenting light which is what photography is all about.  But, also pay attention to the use of textures, leading lines and other composition elements.

Perhaps you love fashion or interior design.  Fine art at any museum could inspire you to redecorate your home or design your next outfit that no one else will have.

A walk past Fortnum and Mason’s window displays will bring a smile to your face, tho’ it’s entirely possible you’re creative energy explodes.  You could be inspired to create your next masterpiece.  Or maybe you’ll get a warm feeling and think of the person who is not with you but you love with all your heart.

The gardens and parks throughout the city offer a sanctuary from the loud noise and madness that is London.  One of my favourite places is St. Dunstan-in-the-East.  The moment I walk into the remnants of the old church all of London’s noises go away.  I feel peace and everything seems to be right in the world.  I’ve sat on the park bench for hours and sometimes with a lunch.  It’s a place where I can actually think without distraction.  Problems are sorted through and even my next project is pieced together while at St. Dunstan’s.  There is no other place of solitude like it anywhere in London.

Soho is a splendid place for understanding and inspiration.  This area of London is one I’ve spent countless hours with my camera.  I’ll typically wander through Soho at night and into the wee hours of the morning.  Great photographs are a dime a dozen in this area of London, but if you stop long enough, you might end up in a conversation with someone you would not normally speak to.

I met a man drunk as could be who wanted me to celebrate the birth of his grandchild with him.  I spoke with a young heroin addict who described what it was like to be homeless and sleeping on the streets.  A prostitute offered me her services.  Although I declined, we had a good jovial chat in Wardour Street and she told me where to capture the best photographs.  She also warned me to keep my camera safe.  

Not everyone in London are like the people I described.  The point in sharing these experiences is that London taught me to keep an open mind and listen.  And trust me, if you listen long enough, you’ll hear everything.  The key is avoid judging anyone or projecting your own life’s beliefs on someone else.

Don’t be surprised to see a woman walking down the street wearing only her bra and a pair of shorts.  You might even see a man jogging in his tiny speedo.  Whatever you see, take it all in and realise that you can be anyone and anything you want to be because London tells you that you can.  Many of my own inhibitions went away because of the sights I’ve seen on London’s streets.  Be who and what you are without worrying what others may think or say.

I especially love Jermyn Street between St James’s Street and Regent Street St James’s.  The street has been gentrified lately but it keeps the authentic gentlemanly traditions it is known for.  The statue of Beau Brummell reminds us that Jermyn Street catered to London’s gentlemen long before we arrived.  Feel civilised and have a shirt tailored for your next special occasion, have a shave or become a connoisseur of cigars and fine art.  Almost everything you need to know about being a gentleman can be found in charming Jermyn Street.

If you’re visiting from the United States, a walk through London should remind you how young your country is.  So many of London’s buildings date back a thousand years.  That’s four times the age of the USA.  It is sort of mind blowing when you think of London that way.  As you walk along London’s streets, know you are walking amongst history.  If you know a bit of London history, take yourself back.  Try to visualise what Piccadilly was like in the 1700’s.  What was Westminster Abbey like when it was on an island in the Thames River?  Or what were the views from London Bridge when it was the original London Bridge?

London has something for everyone no matter what your tastes or interests are.  Your challenge is to be aware.  Be aware of what the city has to offer.  Be aware of what is in front of you because you never know how London will move you to be the person you always wanted to be.  Open your mind and let London shape you.  London is a hard cold city on the outside.  The truth is, however, London will take good care of you.  She will teach you about life and help you understand that you are more.  London will teach you how to love other people, too.

 

 

The year that was in travel is the year that is.  And, it’s the year ahead in 2020.

Every 31 December we ask ourselves – “Where did the year go?  It feels like January was just yesterday”.  Why does time feel like it slips by so fast?  

Is it because technology steals so much time from us?  Our work days find us in front of computer screens and in our spare time we are always tip-tapping on our mobile phones or tablets?  Our meals are delivered to us quickly in restaurants.  And, we better hurry because “this deal” won’t last.  It seems as if we are continuously in a race against time. 

Is time the friend of anyone amongst us?  Time is certainly no friend of mine.  There is never enough time in my days, weeks or months to check off my to-do list.  I’m fairly certain my to-do list grows faster than the things I get done.  Is there anyway to slow time?  Is there any way to make 2020 move slower so we can savour the days?

2019 was a remarkable year in more ways than one.  I use the term remarkable as it can refer to both good and bad.  Everyone’s year is filled with both good and bad so I can’t very well say my circumstances are special.  They are unique to me, however.

People come and go from our lives.  Life becomes fresh as new and interesting people come into our lives.  There is a lesson to learn from every person who crosses our paths.  It is up to us to decide what to do not only with the lessons but the people we meet.  

Richard Bach said it best in his book, “Illusions” – one of my favourites.  Bach said, “Every person, every event in our lives is there because we have drawn them there.  What we choose to do with them is up to us.”  

I read the book and the quote more than twenty years ago.  The words made such an impact on me, I remember and use them today.  The quote refers to the good people in our lives, tho’ unfortunately, the bad people as well.  I won’t go into details but I can say I’ve been betrayed, told I was loved when I wasn’t, used, taken advantage of and  lied to as well.  At one point it got so bad I had to question what is happening in our world.  Where did all the good people go?

I still wonder and sadly I’ve had to become weary and cautious.  I’m a genuine sort of guy who prefers to see the good in people.  I’m kind and I’ll do almost anything to help you, if I can.  I won’t change they way I live and see life.  I’ll simply be smarter in 2020 and beyond.

When you travel like I do, my travel experiences are also my life experiences.  I talk a lot about opening your mind and heart while travelling.  Throughout the blog I talk about the good people I’ve met.  I stay away from talking about the not so good people I meet along the way.  Today I’ve chosen to only refer to the bad seeds.

Instead of harbouring feelings of anger and hurt, I turn to myself.  I’m always comfortable with who and what I am.  I’m also aware I can always be better.  What can I do to improve?  I take stock of myself and take steps to become a better person.  I want to be better not only for myself but for the people in my life as well.

All that said, how can I put a year of travel into one video?  Over 4,000 travel photos – all with an iPhone – in one fast paced video.  Four minutes and thirty seconds.  That’s a lot of time in our fast-paced world.  Thanks for taking the journey with me.  I hope you enjoy.

Best of Luck to Everyone in 2020.

What is the best way to explore and discover London?  Randomly.  There are unexpected finds around every curved road in London.  There is no doubt about that.  This is London.  Take her each day.  Take her at night.  Take her your way and don’t let a guidebook guide you.  

If you love travel photography, London is the perfect place for you.  There are no shortages of photo opportunities.  In fact, I write a series on this blog called “The Best Places to Photograph London” where I list all the top London photo spots.  But in this post, let’s talk about capturing the best London photos with your iPhone.

The iPhone camera is convenient for spontaneous moments.  It is also a power little tool that fits in your pocket.  The cool thing is you only have to follow one rule.  Don’t Think.  Just Shoot.

Forget the postcard travel photos.  Try one full day where you candidly snap shots without thinking.  The idea isn’t to capture the perfect photo.  Don’t review the photo just after you’ve taken it.  Keep shooting.  Look up.  Look down.  Turn sideways.  Get down on the ground.  Go up some steps.  Try any and every angle you can imagine.

The theme is London.  What will you see that is the epitome of London?  What will you photograph?  When you review your photos at the end of the day, the ones you see that scream LONDON are the right ones.  

Soho is brilliant for this sort of candid photography.  There are ample opportunities all throughout the once sordid area of the WestEnd.  Try a walk along the Thames River.  The Southbank is one of my all time favourite London walks.  It is also full of photo opportunities.

The idea for this exercise is to strengthen how you see and your photo composition.  Exploring aimlessly with your camera phone is also a fantastic way to learn more about the city.  If you don’t find yourself in London, try the same photo challenge wherever you are.

I’ve listed a few tips about taking nice travel photos with your iPhone ::

10 Handy Tips for taking better travel photos with your iPhone

1. Clean your lens
This may be the silliest thing you’ve ever read as a tip for better photography, but there are so many times phones are picked up, the lens gets accidentally swiped by a finger and one forget to wipe the smudges off before snapping a photo. These photos tend to come out cloudy or blurry and the shooter doesn’t realize it until looking back at the images later when she wants to post. Carry a lens safe wipe and before any photo taking commences, wipe that lens clean.

2. Get to know your camera settings
There are a number of options in the iPhone camera settings that will allow you to have a better understanding and guide when taking any kind of photos. It takes just a few minutes to explore what the settings include and having the better understanding will help you feel just that much more comfortable with what you are looking at when you shoot. The following are some adjustments to make in your setting:

3. Keep HDR in auto mode (turn it on)
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it blends the best aspects of three different exposures into a single photo. You are also able to keep the normal photo you take if you’re making adjustments to the screen when you snap the pic, but if you want to edit the photo after it’s been taken, the HDR photo is going to be your best version to modify.

4. Turn on the Grid
Do you ever wonder why the grid shows 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines in the camera view? This is because it’s helping you set up for the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a photography technique that has the photographer align the subject to intersect with the lines or specifically fall in one of the three divided planes of the photo. All photos don’t need to be taken with this rule in mind, as you may want to simply center a subject for a different effect. But placing the subject at the intersection of the lines can add more interesting tones to an image.

5. Avoid using the flash
Turning the flash on and off isn’t in settings, but actually in the camera app. Your best bet is to take the photo with the best natural light or add more lighting to the subject. There are a number of variables that could turn for the worse when using a flash, so best to avoid altogether.

6. Don’t shoot with a filter
There might be some default filters in the iPhone (or camera) that you love and gravitate toward, but your style or preference may change down the road and you can’t take it back. It’s best to take your photo filter free and add it later. You can always duplicate the image and add the filter to it after.

7. Turn Live Photos on or off
Live photos are essentially mini videos and now the iPhone models allow you to edit the Live Photo in a variety of ways. If you want to have the opportunity to turn it into a gif more easily, turn on Live Photos, consider the subject and it’s movement when you take the photo.

8. Never zoom 
This may seem counter-intuitive, but because the iPhone camera isn’t optimized for a zoom it destroys the quality of the image the closer the zoom gets to the subject. Instead, consider two choices. 1 – get much closer to the subject. It has the potential to create a more interesting image. or 2 – take the photo as is and then zoom in later and crop. Photographing this way retains the integrity of the image and makes for both a cooler and more impressive shot.

9. Avoid using the selfie camera
Unless you’re obsessed with taking selfies, shooting any further than a short arm’s length away doesn’t make for quality images with the front lens. You may want to turn the selfie camera on to shoot yourself and see yourself in the photo while it snaps, but it won’t come out the way you hope. You’re better off setting the camera on a tripod and photographing yourself with the timer. The lens on the front of the camera isn’t as good as the one on the back.

10. Take action shots in burst mode
Burst mode is often overlooked! There’s no need for you to guess when it’s the right timing to take the shot and there’s often a delay. Hold down the shutter button and shoot away. You can go back and pick the photo with the best quality and edit from there.

 

Have you felt the London Vibe?

A few years ago I was on my way to a member’s club to meet friends when I stopped in a small corner store for a couple things.  I guess I had an odd look on my face as the store clerk asked “Are you ok mate”?  “Yeah,” I replied, “I’m just tired”.  He looked at me with a smile and said “Everyone in London is tired”.  I think the store clerk may be right.

London is a city full of energy.  Everything moves fast and furious.  You wake up, get ready for the day, step outside onto the pavement and before you know it, it is time for bed again.  Seriously, this is how it feels for me most days.  The days race by in what seems to be an instant.  March through September fly by and the next thing you know is the Christmas lights are switched on in Oxford Street.  It’s incredible.

Being in London is living.  I always say – I go to London to live life and I go to Texas to sit down and take a breath.  There is a rush of energy in London that can only be matched by New York City.  You can feel this lightning speed energy simply by walking down any London street.  You can’t look anywhere and not see something moving.  Everything is in motion it seems.

People are always in a hurry, waiters in restaurants move fast, cars zip by, and tall double decker buses zoom past one after another after another.  Lights constantly flash in your eyes. Motion doesn’t stop underground as “The Tube” stops at a platform every few minutes.  Nothing stops.  Commuters rush through underground tunnels like ants bringing home food to their queen.   It’s crazy.

Have you ever had a quiet moment on the streets in Central London?  I haven’t found one and I’ve been walking London’s streets for more years than I can count.  I remember being on Oxford Street on a Saturday once and literally having a panic attack.  I never have panic attacks.  That’s not me.  On that particular day, however, all I wanted to do was get away from the crowd and the noise.  Now I avoid Oxford Street at all costs and I’ve even found an alternative route when I head that direction.  Since that day I learned quiet is inside me and that’s a bit of comfort when I find myself in a tense London situation.

The fast paced energy of London is actually a good thing.  The vitality of the city makes you feel alive.  You might even find there to be an extra step in your skip so to speak.  It’s a good feeling, if not a bit exhausting.  I always think better and my creativity is sparked simply by being aware of my surroundings as I walk.

London is a city where you can be anonymous and even alone amongst a million people.  As long as you like yourself and can keep yourself company, being anonymous and alone is great.  I love it myself.  If you need constant attention and validation, you might find London a wee bit hard, cold and callous.  Can you imagine walking through a city so crowded as London and never speak to someone and no one speaks to you?  It’s interesting.

I like the anonymous bit to be honest.  It’s especially nice when I’m out with my camera.   I can get lost in London without being literally lost.  I zone everything and everyone out.  It’s me, my camera and London.  Sometimes I feel as if I have the entire fabulous city all to myself.   If anyone speaks to me, it’s tourists and not Londoners.  Tourists want to know what I’m doing or how to capture a great photo.  Londoners might glance over to see what I’m doing but mostly they could care less.  It’s great.  It’s brilliant and part of the London vibe.

London is not for the faint of heart.  If it’s rainbows and butterflies you’re looking for, go to the Rainforest Café.  When you want the vim and vigor of a city full of liveliness, step out onto to the streets of London.  

London will challenge you.  Challenge her back.  Walk with your head held high, look people in the eye, offer the odd smile and don’t let anyone tell you London is not for you.  London is for everyone of all walks of life.  She is especially great when you contribute to her energy.

At the end of the day when you go home and prop your tired feet up, or you return to your hotel exhausted on your bed, remember the day you had.  Rewind everything that happened during the day.  Remember all the sights, sounds and motion that engulfed your senses.  And when you’ve done all that, remember what a brilliant city London is.

No matter how, when, why or where you travel around the world you are sure to receive one of the best educations of your life.  The lessons you learn may be small and unnoticeable or they may be huge and life changing.

A foreign culture may make you realise something you didn’t know about yourself and sometimes even move you to tears.  My visit to Bhutan took me to a state of peacefulness I’ve not found anywhere in the Western world.  I can’t begin to describe the effect the tiny kingdom had on me except to say when I viewed photos and video from the journey, tears rolled down my cheeks.  It’s a mystery to me why the tears came even today.  All I know is Bhutan touched me beyond measure.

The taste of new food, aromas, colors and even travel sounds can leave an impression on you well after you leave a destination.  The sensory elements of travel may inspire you to add them to your own creative adventures in cooking or music or handicrafts.

You may be in awe of Big Ben or Mont Saint Michel glowing against the night sky.  Istanbul’s Blue Mosque or the Old Medina in Marrakech send your senses into sensory overload.  A sunset on a beach in the Caribbean or Bali may change the way you look at the world.

But most of all, it is the people you meet along the way who will touch you in ways you never though imaginable.  Maybe you’ll understand that we are all just trying to make it in this world.  We just happen to speak differently or pray a little different.  Inherently, we’re all good people.

And so when I wanted to show the many places I’ve travelled throughout the world, I decided to do it in one go in one epic video presentation which I’ve titled “Travel Around The World With The Gentleman Wayfarer.”  There are approximately 3000 photos in the fast-paced presentation that span all the way around the world.  The places and people I’ve included have impacted my life in one way or another.  This is my tribute to every one and every place that has made a difference in my life.

Travel with an iPhone or any mobile phone is very common today.  If you are keen to improve your travel photography skills, a mobile device is a great way to do it.  Phones are easily accessible, they fit in your pocket and you really don’t have to think too much.

Consider these iPhone Travel Photography Tips during your next journey.

1) Strengthen your travel photos with different focal lengths.

The iPhone is equipped with two lenses, a wide-angle 28mm and a portrait lens, 56mm. Different focal lengths tell different stories. A wider angle generally gives a better sense of place, while a telephoto brings the viewer into the details of the subject.  Consider this while you’re shooting and experiment with both.  And remember – one key element to great photo composition is filling your frame.

2) Keep Using Your iPhone in Low Light

Some of my favorite images have been shot well after the sun has gone down.  I love the challenge of low light photography.  In the past, I would have put my iPhone away thinking the images wouldn’t be usable, but now with a new sensor and faster aperture (f/1.8), the iPhone autofocuses and captures substantially better in low light.

3) Be In The Moment But Also Think Ahead

Travel photography is about capturing the unknowns and unexpected.  Always be looking forward, and consider using the iPhone’s burst mode so you don’t miss a moment as it happens.   To use burst mode, press and hold the shutter button until rapid fire begins.

4) Buy An Unlocked iPhone So You Can Switch to Local SIM Cards.

Communication is super important while traveling.  If you’re roaming internationally, the cost can be astronomical.  Buy a local SIM card as it allows you to make new plans, call someone, google something, and more, while you’re on the go. In photography, this means your GPS data will be recorded with your photo.  The iPhone’s memories feature can organize your images together by location and create simple and fun video vignettes.

Later, you can also look on a map in Photos and see exactly where you captured different photographs.  I use this feature as I don’t always remember the names of the places where I’ve taken photos.

5) Bring a Small Tripod

A small, compact tripod can be helpful and is a great way to capture time-lapses, low-light images, and more. While the iPhones now all have a stabilizer built in, the extra support from a tripod can be especially helpful with the iPhone optical zoom.

Keep in mind that shooting with a longer focal length, like the iPhone optical zoom, amplifies camera shake.  You’ll find it will naturally be more difficult to get a sharp clear shot while shooting with 2x, especially in low-light environments or unstable foundations, like a moving vehicle.  To compensate, use a mini-tripod or experiment with burst mode. Sometimes I’ll shoot a 20-shot burst just to ensure that I have the sharpest shot possible.

6) Upload Your Photos to the Cloud Daily

Thanks to a the iPhone’s water-resistant feature, you won’t be losing our pictures during accidental swims, but it could be left at a hotel, or worse, picked from your pocket, which happened to me in Ecuador. At the end of the day, the iPhone can be replaced, but your pictures can’t. Don’t get two weeks into a trip only to lose them all in a moment.

If you don’t have your laptop because you’re traveling light, consider a SanDisk iXpand.  It’s essentially a USB flash drive with a Lightning connector, so you can quickly and easily off-load your images each day.  I love mind and take it everywhere I travel.

Be sure to keep your backup and your iPhone in separate bags for extra safety.

7) Play it safe.

Don’t put your iPhone—or any valuable—in the tray when going through security. Instead, put it in a pocket of your bag before sending it through the x-ray.  This way it’s protected from being accidentally—or intentionally—carried off before you get through the metal detector.

8) Play To The Strengths of the iPhone

One of the greatest strengths of the iPhone as a camera is its agility.  You can focus on getting to the best shoot spots instead of worrying about lugging gear. Don’t weigh it down with a bunch of unnecessary DSLR lens adapters.

Try leaving your DSLR at home and travel super light.  The iPhone  doesn’t replace your DSLR, but it’s plenty powerful and a really fun way to experience and capture the environment around you.  You’ll love leaving the extra chargers, batteries, lenses, and big tripod at home for a change.

night photo palace of westminster

Capturing images of the House of Parliament, or Palace of Westminster, is one of my favourite places to photograph London.  I prefer to visit the area at night because the buildings illuminate beautifully highlighting the gold tones in the stone used throughout the structure.  Like so  many other brilliant London photo locations, the area around Palace of Westminster is a treasure trove with Big Ben, Westminster Bridge, the Thames River, Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square nearby.

If I had to choose the ultimate place to take the best London photos, Palace of Westminster and the area surrounding the grand building would near the top of the list.  As a proficient night photographer, you’ll find me out and about after the sun goes down.  The reflections of the Victorian architectural masterpiece reflects beautifully in the river especially with the warm lighting tones.  The truth is, however, the entire area is worthy of a visit with your camera day or night.

In 1834, fired ravaged both Houses of Parliament along with most other building on the site.  Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower and a few others were spared from destruction thanks to firefighters and changing winds.  

The new Palace of Westminster, what we see today, was custom-built by the Victorian architect Charles Barry.  Mr Barry was careful to combine the old with the new, so that the surviving buildings – Westminster Hall, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St. Stephen’s, and the Undercroft Chapel – formed a structure that appeared seamless.

The Palace of Westminster towers over the River Thames and is quite imposing as a symbol of power, tho’ one might question the power bit given today’s political folly.  Back in Victorian times when the Palace was rebuilt, the architecture and massive structure captivated the imaginations of the public.  It also had a significant influence on the subsequent design of various public buildings such as town halls, law courts and schools throughout the United Kingdom, and internationally.

Where is Palace of Westminster?  How Do I Get To Palace of Westminster?
Palace of Westminster GPS Coordinates :: 51.4995° N, 0.1248° W

Map Showing Location of Palace of Westminster ::

Map Showing Location of Palace of Westminster