There is nothing quite like a bird's eye view, and it doesn't get much better in London than from the very top of the Shard building. Join me and Kodak Portra (400 & 800) for London from above by day and night!
As part of Week 15 of my 52 rolls of film project, I managed to head up to the top of the Shard for some panoramic viewing and shots of London (in black & white shooting Kodak Tri-X 400). I did have another secret weapon with me...
During my trip to London I also managed to pick up a very decently priced and in excellent condition Hasselblad 501c camera. What an absolute delight of a medium format classic! Armed with "the tank" (as I now call it) and some Kodak Portra film I headed up the Shard to explore the sights and hopefully capture some shots in the oh-so-wonderful 6x6 medium format. More on medium format technology here.
Given the price tag to go up the Shard I figured it's a once in a lifetime trip, however they do have a decent enough offer: pay an extra 10 pounds and you get to go up twice in one day (day & night ticket). I headed up first thing with my photography friend and work colleague Daniel and shot some Kodak Portra 400. I will start with the night shots as it was much clearer, all shot with Kodak Portra 800.
More London Place Complex (including EY offices), City Hall and Tower Bridge views
20 Fenchurch street, aka the Walkie Talkie buidling. You can also see The Gherkin in the background.
There's something special about the city lights at night and from above, especially on a clear evening.
For the observant readers, you will notice the image is reversed, this is normal and due to the mirror. It does, however, take some getting used to, especially when you move the camera around to compose a new shot. As well as a reversed image, this camera also has no light meter, batteries, or any electronics. It's full on manual, baby!
The actual image the camera took based on the above phone shot of the viewfinder - not bad at all! The Hasselblad produces a square 6x6 image, so quite different to the normal rectangular image my Leica M6 produces. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but the results are really cool.
View towards Waterloo side, with the BT Tower seen faintly in the distance.
Unfortunately this photo came out blurred, but I knew I had to show a photo with the London Eye in it. They don't allow any tripods at the top so I had to balance the camera carefully on the random flower pots they have around the place.
My favourite shot of the roll.
Daytime shot of St. Paul's Cathedral. It was extremely hazy, I am impressed the photos came out as well as they did. All day-time photos were taken with Kodak Portra 400 film.
London Bridge station.
I liked the geometry of this view.
The highest viewing platform is actually on the 72nd floor, there are still a good 20 floors above you. Shot looking straight up, against a very white sky!
Standard shot of Tower Bridge - pity about the reflections in the window.
Hazy view towards Waterloo / London Eye, at least it was not foggy with zero visibility!
Crisscrossing trains around the centre of London
By the way, if anyone ever needs any film or analog equipment in London, I highly recommend Westend Cameras, at the top of Tottenham court road, not far from Warren Street station. As you can see from the photo below (courtesy of the owner's website), this place has the largest selection of film I have ever seen (even compared to Germany). Extremely nice owner, does all his development in house and, as you would expect, is very knowledgeable about all things photography. Definitely worth a visit.
So there you go, London from above by day and night. If you ever do decide to go up The Shard, after hours is definitely the time to do it. The bright lights bring out a real magical view, whereas the daylight views are potentially more prone to haze and fog, and not that interesting.
Until next time (and remember my mantra - go out and shoot some photographs!)...