2010 Thames Festival – London

I didn’t prompt any drunken shouting at my friends’ apartment from passing Londoners. The first improvement over my last trip to visit Dom and Raquel in London.

Last time I visited was November ’09 – the timing coinciding with the Lord Mayor’s show which was expected to climax with fireworks over the Thames (something I’m keen to capture after my first experiment a couple of year ago at Heaton Park’s November 5 display). Unfortunately it also coincided with strong winds which hit the country. The natural sum of Thames barge-launched pyrotechnic plus heavy wind meant the fireworks were cancelled.

Note – click the images to see them – and the rest – on Flickr.


2010 – with holidays scarce due to Australia and Cyprus I’ve had to be conservative with my use of the remaining holiday for the year, but was keen to ensure I made one trip before year-end. Once more I suggested the Lord Mayor’s show, but Dom pointed me in the direction of the Thames Festival which takes place in September. It’s finale is a night carnival and fireworks – with the bonus of a reduced likelihood of rain/wind stop-play.

The trip down was the usual, slightly cramped, seats on a Virgin train. Thankfully brief, and passing more quickly courtesy of Football Manager 2009 on the MacBook Pro. I started a new game for the trip; Phil Long, managing Rochdale in Coca Cola League 2. I’m not fancying our chances for promotion. Play-offs, if I’m lucky.

The Shard under construction

On arrival in London, I topped up the Oyster card and headed to Borough, the nearest tube station to Dom and Raquel’s apartment. I waited for them to finish work with a pint in the LIbertine. A couple more after Dom arrived and then it was an evening of Chinese, more beer, wine and Kick Ass on Blu-Ray. Before the light was completely gone I got a quick shot of the Shard under construction; as viewed from Dom and Raquel’s balcony. This controversial tower is nearly a third of it’s final height built – and will likely dominate the London skyline once completed.

Saturday we headed out to the Thames Festival – starting with Feast on the Bridge. Southwalk Bridge hosted a variety of food stalls and ‘banquet’ tables and shares along it’s length. Breakfast was a pint of Scrumpy, which went down surprisingly quickly for an early-afternoon drink. It was good stuff. Avoiding the vegetarian, the weird, and the weirdly vegetarian I settled for an organic beef burger, topped with a cheese with an unpronounceable name.

Burger and Cheese at Thames Festival - 2010

Along the banks of the Thames we joined another river of people; opposing tides amongst the stalls celebrating the cultural diversity of London. Occasionally a tacky souvenir stall appeared – though I guess that’s as much a representation of our diversity as anything else – unfortunately. Bastards didn’t have any souvenir stickers though!

The open space around the London Eye had a couple of stages, one of which seemed to be trying to make the audiences’ ears bleed. Huge bubbles floating overhead caught my eye. By chance I captured one just after creation – a fellow snapper behind is blowing a bubble-gum bubble with a look of surprise which suggests she may have mistaken the bubble ahead for her own creation.

Blowing Bubbles - Thames Festival 2010

The Korean stage nearby was a far better experience. As we were there it hosted a Jazz/Blues-ish band playing mellow melodies to the bright Saturday afternoon crowd.

Korean Stage - Thames Festival 2010

We walked up and down the Thames, before heading to a Mediterranean and South American restaurant/bistro on the ground floor of Dom and Raquel’s apartment building. I wasn’t especially adventurous with my food choices – as should be expected – with us being served a selection of what was essential Tapas dishes.
The bill came to £75 between three of us (pay attention, that figure’s important). We discovered the most convoluted method of splitting the bill possible. As Dom and I had drunk several drinks more, and eaten a bit more than Raquel, I suggested rather than split three ways I’d need to pay more to cover my extra food and drink. The bill handily came with food and drink totals separately and we agreed we’d split food three ways, and drink two.

I paid the £25 which our sums concluded was fair.

Sunday – Greenwich the destination. We took the 188 bus; a cheap trip with the Oyster, but you pay in time. Around 45 minutes for what might be a bike ride of just over 15 minutes. London now has Barclays Cycle Hire points around the City – so perhaps cycling might have been a better option.

London Bike Hire

In Greenwich we visited the Royal Observatory and Maritime museum. Like most museums they were free – something I find to be fantastic. I’ve now visited the Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum (well, a floor of it – there’s a hell-of-alot to take in ‘hell’ being the operative word), Royal Observatory and Maritime Museum in my last few trips – all for free. Let’s hope “austerity” measures don’t see an end to unfettered access to these great and important resources. At the Observatory we also took in the (paid) Planet-Arium show. It was good, but as is the “fashion” these days its script echoed the melodramatic narrative of “Cops” or “Big Machine Thingies” (where it’s apparently “lucky” a crane designed to carry a certain weight is able to carry that weight – erm); it’s redeeming feature is the voiceover belongs to Patrick Stewart – and at least it concludes the world-ending events are basically very unlikely to happen, and it’s fun to think about. Science is fascinating, and entertaining, enough without the melodrama injected into it.

Miss Britain III - Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Sunday evening came. In a moment of uncharacteristic *cough* idiocy I thought I had lost or forgotten my flash. Not an issue for fireworks. A big issue for shots of the night carnival. Gutted.

After grabbing some Thai beef and rice from a stall near Waterlook bridge I joined what seemed like an army of snappers on the bridge itself. I set up my tripod and took some test shots. Dom had handily brought some wine to wash down the food as we waited for the display to begin. And begin it did.

I was shooting using ‘Bulb’ mode, low ISO and exposures between 2 and 10 seconds with aperture ranging from f/8 to f/16. I had my IR trigger so I was able to take in the show through my own eyes, while making occasional adjustments to the camera. I’m pleased with the results; landmarks such as the OXO tower and St Paul’s Cathedral featuring in the background. Alas, where the fireworks are launched from negates the ‘dream’ shot of the London Eye or Houses of Parliament in the background through.

Thames Festival Fireworks - 2010-2.jpg

I got back to apartment after the display and started packing; discovering my flash in my small camera bag. Curses!

Monday; another cramped train journey; some hopeful displays from Phil Long’s Rochdale; shower, then work in the afternoon and the useful – but tedious – job of call listening.

Back to reality.

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