London with a Prime Lens
So, along with writing a travel photography blog comes the challenge of taking photos that I think people will enjoy. This year has taught me that there is a difference between quickly capturing a moment vs taking time to take a photograph which tells a story. Both options are fine, but there definitely needs to be a balance when capturing scenes purely for the purpose of a blog.
Thankfully, I love taking landscape, cityscape and wide angle shots. It’s what I prefer to do so it serves me well for this purpose. One element in which I am lacking in confidence is being forced out of my comfort zone. I have had several conversations with friends about this in the past.
One friend, a fairly keen and talented photographer would happily take her camera out with only a 50mm prime lens and capture some really interesting shots. She suggested I should buy one, as you get can get some great quality photographs with a fairly reasonably priced lens. ‘But….but, what about zooming out to capture the whole scene, what about everything I would miss?’, I thought and pushed the idea to one side continuing to use my 18-55mm (probably the only lens I had at the time). My partner always comments about my ‘FOMO’ – my Fear of Missing Out. It seems that this creeps into my photography as well!
Another friend then suggested the same lens to me. ‘It’s fantastic for low light photography and shallow depth of field,’ he exclaimed. ‘You should get one’.
So, I bit the bullet and purchased the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens – a bargain at about £100. At the time, I was partaking in a 365 photography project – one photo a day for a year, so the lens became very useful to take some fantastic and sharp close up shots as well as some portrait shots. But would I take my camera out without any other lenses? Not a chance!
So, today my 50mm lens still always sits in my camera bag during my travels but rarely gets an airing, so I decided to set myself up with a challenge. A day out to London using only this lens. No sneaky wide angle shots. If I wanted to get more into the image, I would have to walk further away. Simple.
I have mentioned previously in this post about my enjoyment of travelling in London on the bus – especially the number 23 bus, which is practically an open top bus tour (without the audio or the open top). It takes in a lot of the typical London landmarks so I thought this would be a great opportunity to take my challenge and see just what I could come up with. And here are the results.
Starting off at Paddington Railway Station its nice to actually have a look around and see all the old and restored Victorian detail.
Outside of the station and onto the #23 bus my first stop is Marble Arch, a 19th century white marble faced archway situated on the intersection of Oxford Street, Park Lane and Edgware Road on the north east edge of Hyde Park. Originally designed in 1827 and meant to be the entrance to the ceremonial courtyard of Buckingham Palace it was relocated in 1851 due to the widening of Park Lane, to its current location rather sadly in the centre of a busy roundabout.
Marble Arch sits at the west end of Oxford Street – arguably London’s most famous shopping street. Decked out for Christmas, it was nice to have a wander down Oxford Street taking in the decorated window displays of department stores such as Selfridges and House of Fraser. I spent some time studying the detail of the Selfridges building facade which is quite spectacular.
Along Oxford Street to the busy Oxford Circus intersection, the #23 then takes a right turn onto the curving Regent Street, heading towards Piccadilly Circus. Along the way, there are plenty of side streets to take in some more famous landmarks such as Carnaby Street, the Liberty London department store and some more of the fabulously ornate details of many buildings.
We arrive at Piccadilly Circus in the heart of London’s West End and Theatre District, featuring the famous illuminated advertising screens, now newly updated to huge HD screen, the Criterion Theatre and the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain sitting proudly in the centre (but currently hidden behind hoardings due to renovation work). I did manage to sneak in a photo of the statue of Eros from above the hoardings.
From Piccadilly Circus the route then heads down Haymarket past more theatres and historical building (along with a few more modern and less beautiful ones).
A left turn at the bottom of Haymarket and the bus heads towards Trafalgar Square, the large public square which is home to the National Portrait Gallery, the 52 metre tall Nelson’s Column and numerous fountains and statues.
Heading from Trafalgar Square we pass Charing Cross Railway Station, featuring a lovely and ornate footbridge which crosses Villiers Street which I have honestly never noticed before!
Finally we arrive at The Strand, a main throughfare which heads from Trafalgar Square towards the City of London and home to many old London theatres and the famous Savoy London hotel.
The #23 bus then heads along The Strand before turning and heading back westbound along the same route. By this time in the day, as dusk was settling in, I had the perfect opportunity to get off the bus at Regent Street and take in the evening views of the Christmas lights, and to see the results of the lens’ excellent low light capability. All photos taken were hand held and without the use of a tripod or long exposure by the way.
I really enjoyed my day using the prime lens. I had the benefit of knowing I wasn’t far from home, so it didn’t really matter if I missed some of those images that I couldn’t quite squeeze in with a non-zoom lens because I could return another day. I am not sure how comfortable I would have been using only this lens if I was at a destination where I was only visiting once, but that’s ok, there are no rules to say that I have to.