Winter evening in London

Rather conveniently, two days after picking up the new camera, I had two hours to kill between work and meeting family for dinner. This meant I could take a relaxed walk along the South Bank and get to grips with the Canon and test its performance in the low light of a winter evening. After some light bedtime reading of the manual the previous night, I had left the settings on the Program mode, which was one step up from auto. I don’t have a problem with using Auto for the most part (especially once I know how a camera will perform reliably), but I like the ability to tweak some of the finer settings like white balance, exposure metering and AF points. Therefore Program seems the way to go especially in the early days of learning the little idiosyncrasies of any new equipment.

This is one of many tunnels under London Bridge, and just literally up the road from work. The area as a whole lends itself to interesting photography and it’s something on my list for a day in the future, but this was a quick photo at the beginning of the evening. I have to say, I love the shutter sound on the 60D. It’s a proper, reassuring ‘clunk’. I’m also a fan of the ergonomics, which I had initially thought could be a problem as I have small hands. And while we’re on the ‘loves’ section, the LCD on the back is fantastically sharp and clear.

What you can see from this first shot is that there seems to be a slight tendency to overexpose, especially in articifical light. This is something I’ll mention later, as I got into checking some of the settings a bit more.  As you might have noticed, there are no useful stats on my photos at the moment for f stop or speed, for which I blame the fact I am at present having to work from jpegs due to software incompatibility issues. It’s very long and not very interesting so I won’t bore you but I hope to have my RAW workflow sorted fairly soon in order to share the technical info.

St. Paul’s caused me some troubles later on as it got darker, but at dusk it stands out very clearly. As you can see, it was a bit of a flat day with that solid grey sky that is all too familiar, but again it helps some of the grander London buildings really stand out. The clarity from the camera and the sharpness of the standard 18-55 kit lens really look great in this photo, I am very impressed with IS capabilities having some from a much older camera that wasn’t compatible with such technologies.

This was where I began playing with a little fine tuning. As you can see in the first shot, the cathedral is overexposed, but the rest of the image looks about right. However, to me the big white glowing blob doesn’t really add much to the photo, so I had a look at the metering options and switched from ‘Evaluative Metering’ to ‘Partial Metering’ (there’s an ambiguous phrase) for the second shot. This seemed a lot more effective although I had to adjust the focal length to make the subject more prominent or else there would have been a lot of nothing.

I was quite excited to find the pier at Oxo Wharf open for wandering down, although I think it’s usually open and it’s just that they’ve been working on it before now when I’ve been past. Anyway, it meant I could get further out from the South Bank and have a go at some photos of the Oxo Tower itself. As you can see, still not entirely resolved the overexposure issue, but given that this was a low light situation with one bright spot it was sort of inevitable. And by this point I had actually switched back to Evaluative Metering again, so it’s possible that other metering modes would have been more successful. But meanwhile, not a bad zoom into the tower itself with just the 18-55!

I haven’t really worked out how to take photos of random strangers without looking creepy, but I wasn’t the only one by the skatepark and the skaters themselves didn’t seem remotely bothered – well of course they wouldn’t be, it must come with the territory. Just as well, because I intend to go back at some point and try some different photos there. As for these, they sealed my delight with the new camera. It was a dark area underneath the lovely concrete monstrosity that is the South Bank Centre, and being handheld I wasn’t expecting to get a lot from it, especially with the skaters constantly moving through the frame which could have thrown off all sorts of readings. But apparently none of these issues presented a problem, and the image stabilisation on the lens dealt with any wobbles incredibly well.

Nothing like a high ISO to highlight light pollution. At present, I have the ISO set to Auto, which means it can go all the way up to 6400 – insane. This photo was taken at 3200, and to be honest, it’s too high for my liking. The grain is very obvious at full size, and I think I’d rather use a tripod or monopod and expose longer, however I can’t argue with a result for those times when you don’t want to haul around a small donkey with the contents of a camera shop on his back.

Yet another testament to the IS of the lens, this was taken as I leant against the railing of Hungerford Bridge for a bit of support but still, ultimately, handheld with a 2 second exposure. It would have looked great if the southbound traffic was moving too, however the traffic lights didn’t work like that – very inconsiderate.

I ended up in Trafalgar Square, and had apparently lost my steady hand by then as I tried quite a few longer exposure shots that just didn’t work as well as the previous one, no matter what I leaned on. IS can’t solve everything. Program mode still did the business though, and worked very well with the National Gallery being lit in the dark. Again, the sharpness is stunning, you can almost feel the texture of the stone columns.

At this point it was time to try and make myself look more like I belonged in a French restaurant than someone who had just walked a couple of miles in the cold, so the camera went back into it’s temporary case (a wooly hat) in my backpack. But I am very pleased with the Canon 60D and feel inspired to get out and about taking more photos, as per this year’s resolution.

5 thoughts on “Winter evening in London

  1. These are some great shots – especially the skatepark ones, they have great colour to them. I wanted to shoot there last time I was wandering aimlessly around London, but funnily enough it is darker under there during daylight, and the skaters there at the time looked like they would beat me up and steal my camera. On a related note, the 60D is pretty good for not looking that creepy when shooting strangers, as you can fold out the screen and shoot surreptitiously from the hip without anyone noticing (you still feel creepy, however).

    Congrats on getting the blog going!

  2. Pingback: Winter evening in London | Creative Splurges |

  3. Pingback: London at Night Revisited « Creative Splurges

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