One of my favorite haunts for photography is London’s South Bank. For years I’ve walked along the Thames between Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge to capture photos for my magazine and web photography features and tutorials.
Over a hundred years separate the building of those two bridges and there’s a wide range of photo opportunities between them. The iron walkways crossing the historic street of Shad Thames provide subjects for dramatic and atmospheric architectural shots. The Victorian-built Borough Market’s colorful food stalls attract huge crowds, presenting a photographer with plenty of street photography stills. I’ve snapped this South Bank route for a couple of decades, so I was happy to take a photography group from my hometown of St Albans for a photo walk along my favorite route as I had so much to show them. As it turned out they had more to show me!
I met Joseph and Stewart at London Bridge Station and walked to Shad Thames where we met up with Tim, Phil, and Scott. I was shooting on my iPhone 14 Pro Max while the others packed a range of smartphones and DSLRs. My plan was to lead the lads through my favorite locations and show them the usual subjects that I’d been regularly photographing for years, but I soon found that guiding photographers is like trying to herd sheep.
At Shad Thames, I tended to shoot upwards from a low, wide angle to capture the crisscrossing girders that linked the old warehouses. However, my colleagues soon split up and found their own vantage points along the street, with some - like Stewart - spilling out into side streets to explore old alleys with weathered brickwork. This individualistic behavior jolted me out of my habitual groove and I was inspired to experiment with shooting down instead of up, capturing the girders in puddle reflections from the morning’s rain.
Shooting with a group also gives you a supply of free models! I got Joseph to pose by the puddle so I could add a human figure to my creative reflection photo. I couldn’t have snapped this shot if I’d been shooting solo. I also recruited Stewart to pose while I tested out the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s Portrait mode, using the girders as a blurred film noir-style backdrop instead of them being the main subject.
After Shad Thames, we reached City Hall, where large black spheres were scattered like a giant’s marbles. I’ve used these pieces of street art as backdrops when shooting models. However, it never occurred to me to shoot a close-up of a reflection of City Hall in a sphere’s reflective surface as Scott did. The shiny ball’s dimpled reflective surface turned the glass dome of the domed building into an impressionist image.
When we encountered a scale metal model of our South Bank location Scott suggested that I use the Hobolite Mini that I’d brought along as a sun setting behind the model’s version of Tower Bridge. This creative approach to another piece of street art would never have occurred to me, so this was another example of how there's inspiration to be had by collaborating with fellow photographers who each have years of experience (and a different eye) to share.
Our photo walk featured tall buildings such as the pointy Shard. I’ve found tall buildings can be a challenge to shoot due to boring empty space on either side, but Scott used the surrounding foreground structures as a ‘picture frame’ around this steel and glass landmark. All in all, I can highly recommend shooting favorite haunts with a group of photographers so you can learn from them and collaborate with them. If there’s a trip to the pub after the shoot then that’s a bonus (and you can enjoy sharing and comparing your best shots of the day!)