There’s just so much to shoot in London that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start if you’ve got just one day to yourself with your camera. London-based SNAPP Pro-Photographer Jon Reid gives his suggestion for a dawn till dusk shoot in the UK’s capital taking in some classic as well as lesser known locations. Have spare batteries and memory cards at the ready, your most comfortable shoes and a sense of adventure as he takes you on this incredible one-day tour of some of London’s top photography spots!
London in a day – by Jon Reid (Nomadic Vision)
London is a world-class destination with something to impress even the most discerning traveller. For a photographer, it’s a playground with endless photographic opportunities… Fun as it is to wander around the city soaking up the atmosphere and seeing where your journey takes you, I find the way to ensure you return with your best shots is to make a decent plan for your outing, so I’m going to try guide you through taking photos of London in just one day.
We’ll start at dawn, before sunrise when London is asleep. This is the perfect time to photograph the iconic sites without the crowds. At this time, it can be difficult to get around, so it will help you to be based in zone 1, along the river Thames. Tower Bridge is the perfect dawn location and floodlit, which will help it stand out against a pastel sky. Whilst photographing the bridge, turn your focus along the river towards the Shard, catching the reflections of the skyscraper in the river.
Just before the sun crosses the horizon, get onto the underground and head over to Westminster Station. Rush across the Westminster Bridge to arrive opposite the Palace of Westminster just in time to capture the first rays of sun striking the palace and the world-famous clock, Big Ben.
Once the light gets too bright and contrasty for photography, head back to Westminster Station and take the district line to Kew Gardens. On your arrival you’ll feel like you’ve stepped out of the city and into the idyllic English village.
Pop into the Bread Stall to pick up breakfast and your choice of caffeine supplement. The breakfast calories will help power a speedy trip through the Royal Botanical Gardens. By now, the light will be challenging for photography, so use the shady areas to flatten the contrast. Even a whirlwind trip through Kew Gardens will take you up to lunch.
Head back to the underground and get out at London Bridge. If you’ve picked the right day, street vendors in the Borough Food Market will be serving lunch. Whilst looking for the perfect treat, keep your camera out as the area is great for street photography. For the coffee lovers, don’t leave the area without sampling Monmouth Coffee – the queues are much shorter if you order beans to taken home.
Light after lunch will usually be tricky for any outdoor photography for a few hours. This is the time to explore London’s hidden interior architecture. The Astor House at 2 Temple Place was built by a wealthy American who loved all things British. It is a beautiful example of lavish Victorian architecture and the perfect escape from the harsh daylight. Or why not take a look inside the revamped Tate Modern or one of London’s many museums, such as the British Museum.
I’ve now got two options for you for late afternoon onwards:
OPTION 1 – THE EAST
The old shipping yards have been rejuvenated and are now referred to as the Docklands. From Temple, head to Bank Station and jump onto the DLR to Canning Town. Canning Town leads onto the Royal Victoria Docks. Here you can experience London’s only beach, complete with a wakeboarding course. The area is great for photography with a mix of converted warehouses, old shipping cranes and interesting residential sites. Take the Emirates Air Line across the Thames and photograph the O2 from the sky.
From the 02, take a bus to Greenwich town centre. From the town centre, it is a quick walk to the Greenwich Naval Colleges. Take a few moments to appreciate the Painted Hall which is a dinner hall designed by Christopher Wren and it is full of interesting paintings by James Thornhill.
From the Painted Hall, it is a short walk up the hill to the Greenwich Observatory Point. From this point, there is an amazing view over the Baroque Naval Colleges contrasting with the modern architecture of Canary Wharf. Enjoy the sunset and watch out of the Meridian Laser, a beam of light projected from the Observatory Point.
OPTION 2 – THE WEST
Take the underground line from Temple to Victoria and then take the over ground-line to Battersea Park Rail station. Battersea Park is a large park, that is worth exploring, but because you’re taking photos, head straight to the Peace Pagoda – a large Buddhist monument built on the banks of the Thames River. The contrast of the Buddhist architecture and English park makes for an interesting subject.
From the Peace Pagoda, walk along the Thames River and cross the Chelsea Bridge. The bridge is a great location to photograph the Battersea Power Station – an iconic London site – that is possibly best known for being on the cover of a Pink Floyd album.
After watching the sun set at the power station, get onto the underground at Sloane Square and head to Black Friars Station. From the station, it’s a short walk to the Oxo Tower. Few restaurants in London have a better view. Take in London at twilight whilst enjoying a cocktail and if you’ve still got the energy, continue along the Southbank to Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge to make the most of the blue hour light!
CREATE YOUR PERFECT DAY
So you see it’s possible to pack a fair amount into a one-day shoot in London, provided you have a plan and the stamina and energy to get through it! If you want to put together your own itinerary, take a look at my app-based guide to photographing London I’ve created with SNAPP Guides. I’ve included some of my favourite spots in the capital and all the information you need to get there, find the exact location and some local and creative tips to help you get some great shots. The SNAPP Guides app has a handy itinerary planner plus navigation tools and maps to help you plan your trip with ease.
Have fun exploring and don’t forget to tag any shots you post #snappguides so we can follow your personal journey around London. Wishing you great light…. Jon Reid