Always Expect the Unexpected: On Location in East London

I had a couple of hours to kill a few evenings ago so I decided to have a wander around the Isle of Dogs in East London, home to Canary Wharf, one of the two major financial districts of London. See my previous blog to read about a previous outing which ended with some cool pictures of Canary Wharf from the Blackwall Basin.

I wanted to try out my recent purchase of the XF55-200 Fuji lens. It has been a long time since I had a longer lens and I brought it for a couple of reasons. First is I plan to try more isolated or even abstract shots of London. I also wanted to try some more distance shooting, taking advantage of lens compression which is essentially the phenomenon of background elements appearing larger than they actually are at longer focal lengths (when zoomed in). This technique, when used correctly, it can help create some fantastic images.

One view I wanted to check out was of the skyscrapers in the other major, more central financial district in the City of London. It was a particularly overcast day and with this in mind, I thought it might end up being a scouting trip so at least I would know the best spot to return too in better conditions.

So, from Canary Wharf tube station, off I went to find the best view. I walked north-west along the river and found the spot with the best view of the City of London. I wanted to find a view that would have the financial district on the north of the river and The Shard on the south.

After a 20-minute walk, I found the spot. I remember thinking to myself that the view on this particular evening was a bit "meh" as the sky was dull, without any real drama and the moisture in the air meant the buildings from this far back (2.3 miles) lacked a bit of clarity but I knew this would be a great spot for another day with the air clearer and more drama in the sky. With the sunrise location behind me, the scene would also look great all lit up by the rising sun. Mental note taken.

I hung around, with the camera, trying out a few compositions on the iPhone and after a few minutes, I noticed the clouds breaking a little near the horizon and a little colour sneaking through. Within 5 minutes, the sky lit up with a beautiful orange glow. It really was quite something.

As the colour appeared I quickly set up my tripod and took a few shots on my Fuji X-T10 while the colour blasted across the sky. The dynamic range was pretty high so I popped on a Formatt-Hitech 3 stop ND soft graduated filter to tone down the light in the sky just a bit which enabled me to pull a little more detail out of the buildings.

Photo of the city of London at sunset taken by Trevor Sherwin

1/6th sec
f6.4

ISO200
164mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

Photo of the Shard at sunset taken by Trevor Sherwin

1.4 secs
f18

ISO200
105mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

Before I packed up and as the light was fading, I took a panoramic image of the view to show the entire scene in one frame. The image below is made of 10 separate images taken in a portrait orientation stitched together in photoshop. The resulting image is pretty huge I can tell you.

1/5th sec
f6.4

ISO200
164mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

So, what did I learn on this particular evening? Well, I really didn't predict that the dull, dreary scene would produce such great light for the few minutes it did as the sunset. So, the lesson here is to never quite before it is really over and always expect the unexpected. If I had arrived at the location an hour earlier, I may have left before the sun had set and I would have missed it all together. Sometimes you just get lucky.