Exploring London - Travel Photography tips
How to shoot London's Big Ben - quickly and cleanly
I'm quickly learning that photographing Europe's most iconic churches, buildings and monuments takes planning, timing and swiftness (similar to shooting Colorado's milkways and sunsets can be seen here on my website). Good luck trying to ask people to step out of the way so you can set your tripod up and snap a long exposure of Big Ben - it's going to be impossible. Shooting travel photography is all about being quick, stealthy and prepared. Many of these locations are over-crowded with tourists waving selfie sticks around trying to get Big Ben in the perfect place for the perfect selfie. Know your location before you set out to shoot a monument like Big Ben - Google the location and also peek at some other photographers work to gather fresh ideas. I didn't exactly plan the location for this Big Ben image (seen below) but we knew that around sunset we would be walking towards the big clock and also the London eye. The first placed I stopped to shoot was well away from the busy corner directly underneath Big Benny I did this on purpose because this plaza seemed like a calmer place for me to set up a tripod and mess with some settings. Here's on I was able to take away...
I also added a neutral density filter to the front of my 16-35mm lens giving me the ability to turn the already gray, boring sunset into more of a night time scene so that I could really open up exposure times. It's important to roll with the conditions on hand as coming to the Big Ben area was a trek for us so coming back (perhaps during a better looking sunrise/set) wasn't going to be a possibility. Stopping at this first location set my camera up for success since I was able to dial in my settings with a few tests shots and then create this image above of the trailing cars in front of towering Big Ben... I believe the image seen above was taken for about 25 seconds.
While this isn't my favorite image in the world - I was still proud of the way these first few turned out... I knew there would be a few more opportunities as we walked over the River Thames bridge towards the London eye. Be warned that this bridge is covered in tourist traffic - you'll find yourself dodging bright flashes and everyone attempting to capture their perfect moment with Big Ben looking over their shoulder. I kept my tripod set to lowest settings, walked about 1/3 of the way across the bridge and set my pod up right next to the curb where no one would bump me or my camera. With my settings dialed in from the shot before I set up quickly and fired a series of 25-30 second exposures. In total I captured maybe 3 images but these really stood out as my favorites once I was done with their final edits (seen just above here) - although I wanted to shoot maybe 10 images, you must learn to be quick shooting travel photography in Europe.
Another great spot to shoot Big Ben in a long exposure scenario is to cross the Thames River bridge all the way and look back at the scene while you wait for a colorful boat to cross into the scene. I wasn't sure how these final images would turn out but after some post processing these are another few of my favorite images that I took from our time in the U.K. check them out above and below is a long exposure I took of the London eye...
Let's recap these few photography tips from capturing busy European monuments:
-Scout your location before hand selecting a few primo spots on Google maps where you believe you'll capture a neat perspective
-Perhaps make the first spot a calmer one, to get those settings dialed in
-Roll with whatever conditions or weather is upon you
-Be swift, quick and stealthy but don't rush yourself out of a golden image
-Research other photographers work for inspiration, angle ideas and setting selections
-Look back thru at your images before departing the area altogether and make sure you've captured an image your proud of (otherwise make another quick lap thru your photo spots)
It's rumored that Big Ben's 600 pound clock hands might stop ticking someday in the near future so get there while you still can. The London eye is another sweet piece to photograph especially with some long exposures - definitely take advantage of shooting both while your in the area. Thanks for reading until next time ~MYT