London’s Tower Bridge is likely the most photogenic bridge I’ve seen in my life. Although it’s not as massive as other famous bridges, it has a refined bit of charm and detail. Photographed here with David Wynne’s descriptively named ‘Girl with a Dolphin’ sculpture as the setting sun colored the sky. The Tower Bridge ended up being my most photographed subject in London, as we spent about an hour loitering around this area after sunset as blue hour and then nighttime changed the look of each image.
There’s a Map-App for That
Before heading to Europe, Sarah and I decided that we’d do so without the “shackles” of our smartphones. We elected not to rent phones, and instead to do the trip largely phone-free, using only WiFi. This was about as big of a mistake as we have ever made. On the first day, we found ourselves lost, at which point we quickly added on an overpriced data package to Sarah’s phone.
We had to be conservative with how often we used this data, as we didn’t have much of it. So, most of the time when we wandered around, we relied upon paper maps. Occasionally we got lost, but this was no concern, and was actually a fun way to explore. The one day when time was of the essence, as we were trying to make our way to the Tower Bridge before the sun faded from the sky, we found ourselves walking the wrong direction due to our (lack of) navigational skills. Once we finally used Sarah’s map app to get turned around, we had about 20 minutes before sunset and a little over a mile from where we were to the Tower Bridge. I decided to make a run for it with my camera bag, tripod, and about 20 pounds of gear. Sarah elected to walk and just meet up with me later.
My goal was to get a “sunburst” shot of the sun as it set, but by the time I arrived in a spot where that would work, the sun was just out of my frame. I did stumble upon this sculpture (along with a few others) on the Thames waterfront walkway, so I used it in my composition. Since I didn’t have a phone, it ended up taking Sarah and I about thirty minutes to find one another again (we actually got pretty lucky that we found each other so quickly). In the end, the running was probably worth it, as I’m pretty pleased with this shot. It wasn’t worth it, though, to do without the phone; we are too dependent upon our phones to completely cut the cord in a foreign country.
Lesson learned: rent a phone when traveling abroad.
For this photo, I used the Nikon D600 and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. While I could have placed the sculpture on the left side of the frame and the bridge on the right by choosing a different angle, I chose this angle with the sculpture on the right of the frame for two reasons. First, so that the sculpture would balance the sunset instead of being against the sunset (I prefer the blue/sunset sky rather than a frame filled with sunset colors). Second, because the leading and converging lines of the handrail, bridge, and fountain simply looked better with this composition than anything else I could visualize (although I was in a hurry). As far as processing goes, this is technically HDR as it’s two photos (-2 & 0) merged together by hand in Photoshop CS6 using layer masks (no tonemapping). I could have used just the -2 frame by bringing out the shadows, but I wasn’t happy with how the blue was rendering when I did that. Instead, I used the -2 photo for only a small portion of the frame–right in the middle of the sunset. I finished the processing with a curves adjustment to give the photo a high contrast look, and increased the vibrance.
How do you use your phone when traveling? Do you try to go off the grid, or do you use it like normal? Share your thoughts on this topic of the day…or anything else…in the comments. One lucky commenter might become the next Earl of Sandwich!