Saturday, October 25, 2008

Limehouse Cut Walk

Saturday and another walk/shoot, once again in Tower Hamlets and as promised to myself last week, visiting the gnarlier waterside locations.

I picked up my good friend Ian on the way and together we strolled through Wapping investigating the odd cobbled alley and shadowy places in our hunt for views and new, interesting things to stimulate our short attention spans. The plan was to make our way to Limehouse Basin and then to follow the Limehouse Cut for a bit, looking for gritty scenes of dereliction, urban decay, vandalism etc etc. You get the picture? Well, I did. Sort of.

This is a deceptive picture. Despite the 'prettiness' of the scene, the canal boat is chugging along through a fairly industrial part of London, with several abandoned old buildings, construction sites and graffiti daubed walls.

The Limehouse Cut is a shortish length of canal that links up with the Lea Navigation (a "navigation" is a canal that runs alongside an un-navigable river) which goes all the way to Hertford in, umm, Hertfordshire. Its almost dead straight apart from a few turns near to Limehouse Basin. In the days when the canals were heavily used for cargo transport, Limehouse Basin was the narrowboat "port" in London - so densely packed with narrowboats that it was possible to cross the basin simply by leaping from boat to boat. It forms the entrance to the Regents Canal, part of the Grand Union Canal network that covers England. I digress.

Drowned Trollies. Look carefully, there's a whole fleet of them there! It seems these days that canals are considered to be reliable repositories for trollies and other valuable things - I once saw a Sony Viao laptop on the Regents Canal bed.

Where were we? Oh yes, walking along the canal into the less salubrious parts of the East End. I love it. Ian wasn't as enthusiastic, but I think he was still pretty interested. We came across a vast, long 70s style tenement block - only six stories tall but long, depressing stories. Many of the windows were boarded up with steel - it looks as though the dreadful place is about to meet the wrecking ball. What were its architects thinking? Were they over optimistic that their building would bring out the best in people? Because it didn't. Call the Design Police!

Homes for the terminally monochrome.

But I do confess, despite the building being ugly, moribund, and reeking of hopelessness, I was glad it was there. It was Canon fodder (see what I did there?) and I shot off a couple of frames knowing that there was almost no point in converting the images to monochrome because they seemed to have had their colour confiscated by the architects. Perhaps they thought poor people on housing benefits don't deserve colours? (There's evidence of a rebound against that sort of thinking in abundance: shitty 'affordable' housing tarted up with splashes of bright colour - "give them pretty colours to stimulate their dull minds").

Instant Kill. This vehicle was spotted by Ian. Thank you Sir! Click to enlarge.

After wandering back down the canal for a bit we cut through the streets of Poplar (?), through a couple of housing estates and back down to the river.

Thank God someone has done the decent thing and saved these old warehouses from demolition. They are actually swanky apartments, I think, but from the outside, they are gorgeous! The creek on which they lie is lovely too, the perfect place for me to moor my Dutch Barge.

I found a gate with stairs down to the 'beach' alongside the river and wasted some time badly exposing some old timber structures. I was trying to use fill in flash to good effect, but frankly underachieved in meeting my objective and then... nothing. No power. Clearly my camera battery is begging to be thrown into the Thames - just 46 exposures! Thank God that didn't happen on Friday's Chinese food shoot.

Chain and shackle. One of the things I love about Adobe Lightroom is that you can de-saturate images and then use "split toning" to colourise the highlights and shadows. This particular image was very green in full colour - the algae is a "chemical green colour" that looked false.

We stopped in at the Prospect of Whitby for a quick pint and then moved on to... Bugger! I cannot remember its name, for another beer.

All afternoon I'd been getting warning signals that my headaches where about to make an appearance and true to their word, they did. And when they strike, I know to GO HOME NOW!!! I won't go into the fun I had on the tube with my head. Suffice it to say, it was not the best journey ever.

Despite the headaches, another excellent afternoon. I'm seeing an image of myself doing similar tomorrow, possibly around Greenwich...Wanna come with?

See a selection of the pics here.

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