Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

I noticed on Twitter that many people are not happy by the lack of trains from the south coast into Waterloo Station over Easter, and thought the pictures contained in this post might be of interest explaining why the rail service is so poor.

It turns out that in this case “rail replacement service” is literally apt. The bridge shown in the photos below might appear innocuous and no different from the dozens of similar railway bridges we drive and walk under every day, but this one is the source of this weekend’s disruption for the very simple reason that it’s not been there this weekend.

Here’s the current state of the bridge on Easter Sunday 2012, first from the Lovelace Road side of the bridge looking into Surbiton:

And these from the Surbiton side looking the other direction:

The bridge has been in a deteriorating state for some time and has been receiving increasingly frequent patch-up jobs in the last few years. Looking up at the underside of the bridge, it’s been disturbing to see big patches of sky showing through and parts of the rails literally suspended in mid-air. Finally it seems even patch-up work is no longer sufficient and a longer-term solution is needed, which is what this weekend’s work is about. As well as rail replacement, it’s a total bridge replacement service.

Here’s some pictures from the past of the bridge before this Easter’s work:

During previous restoration work in 2009:

Surbiton Railway Bridge closure - view into Surbiton

During the snowfall in December 2010:

Snow in Surbiton - December 2010

Condition of the underside of the bridge:

Surbiton Railway Bridge - underside

The position makes this a particularly awkward bridge to replace: it’s just outside of Surbiton Station, and is the only way for trains to continue travelling south. Take it out and trains can go no further (and because of the places where trains can be turned around, it means that Wimbledon is really the furthest out of London they can come, although local loop lines to Teddington Wick, Dorking and Dorking can still come out as far as Raynes Park and New Malden.)

A planned bridge replacement can be done (they hope!) in four days over the long Easter weekend, whereas an unscheduled closure for a structural failure could wipe out the service for a month or more, so rail commuters have much to thank National Rail for in this case. Whereas motorists come out of it particularly badly, with the road under the bridge closed for 3-4 weeks to allow for the preparation and follow-up work that needs to be done. It’s no minor road either: it’s the A243, the main link from the M25 through to Chessington, Surbiton and Kingston-upon-Thames.

Closing the road also means the buses are suspended, which is a genuine concern to the many elderly and handicapped residents in the area for whom the bus service is a literal lifeline. Some of the buses are diverted through sideroads in the area, but then there is the issue of (a) finding out where they go, and (b) persuading the bus drivers that they should actually stop while on diversion – some have contrary feelings on this point.

Here’s the nearest alternative route, under the railway bridge that runs over St Mary’s Road:

And then there is the issue of pedestrians: on the Upper Brighton Road side of the bridge, a five minute walk to the local Sainsbury’s becomes a 20-minute-plus detour even for a relatively able-bodied person. To their credit, National Rail have limited the closure of pedestrian access to just five days over Easter during the period when the bridge is literally being replaced and when the overhead work makes it genuinely impossible to allow anyone through.

[There’s a ‘bus service’ for pedestrians advertised, but it turned out to be one 13-seat mini-bus running an hourly service only. Considering you’d normally get a dozen people walking this way every 5 minutes, I think you can label this “the very least they could do” in every sense, and strictly for the most disabled groups – although how the disabled and elderly could stand around (no seats provided) for an hour waiting for the service is another question entirely.]

Even so, it’s an interesting psychological effect that the whole thing has as a result. The empty A243 – usually full of traffic at most hours of the day – has that unearthly silent feel that you associated with end-of-the-world scenes like the start of 28 Days Later… Similarly the lack of trains is rather spooky; and the inability to get to the local shops or into London without taking a long detour also has a peculiarly isolating effect.

That brings out the bloody-minded streak in me, and I’ve found myself going out of my way (literally!) to get to the other side of the railway tracks over Easter, more than I would likely have done over a similar period when the road was open on a normal weekend. Today’s excuse was to take the pictures to take here (which my brain insisted had to show both sides of the bridge for the sake of the public record.) And I threw in the purchase of a Sunday paper while I was round there, just to make it feel even more worthwhile.

Hopefully the railway line will be open on time on Tuesday morning for the resumption of the commuter peak time rush, and the pedestrian access along with it. Even so, it’s estimated to be another two weeks or so before the work completely finishes, the road itself reopens and life in the area around the bridge gets back to normal.


Having written about being offline for a week, and saying that I didn’t really miss the social media side of Twitter, Facebook, email and the like, I’m now going to look as though I’m going back on those thoughts.

Kew Gardens - April 2011

After my internet connection was restored I had a terrific weekend – ironically by being out of the house and offline for most of it. But ironically, the Saturday outing was a direct result of having my internet back in the first place, as I was able to spy an invitation from my former COI colleague Sebastian Crump asking if anyone was interested in tagging along to Kew Gardens at the weekend. Already signed up was his lovely wife Jessica, and Ann Kempster of GCN who I know quite well from our online dialogues but had never had a chance to properly meet.

Kew Gardens - April 2011

Seb and Ann are keen photographers, and I like taking pictures as well although sometimes I get out of the habit and need to be nudged back into the groove. A visit to Kew Gardens was just such a nudge and I was keen to take advantage of it and try my hand at taking a whole load of photos.

Kew Gardens - April 2011

I’m very pleased with the results; they’re posted over at Flickr (more are being added as I get around to them) and a few of them are included in this post to whet your appetite and hopefully lure you over to check out more of them.

Kew Gardens - April 2011

Thanks to Seb for the invite, and to him and Ann for the inspiration – seeing them at work showed me true dedication to the photographic cause and got me working away as well, even I managed only half the haul that Ann did. And thanks also to Jess for being such great company, who indulged us and put up us clowning around with our cameras!

Kew Gardens - April 2011

Ann’s photos put mine to shame – check them out in her sets in her Flickr photostream – and I’m sure Seb’s will be too when he catches up, but he works on a 7-week turnaround time for new material!

I’ve long been a big fan of political “behind the scenes” photography for years, going right back to the iconic pictures of JFK on the campaign trail and in the White House, with his son playing in the Oval office underneath the presidential desk.

In these days of social media we seem to be having a bit of a resurgence of this, with many government departments both here and overseas having Flickr accounts to which they are uploading all sorts of photos, from official portraits to news events, to behind the scenes photos of ministers and officials at work. In fact of all the more headline-grabbing social media channels (blogs, Twitter, YouTube et al) Flickr may actually be one of the most popular and most genuinely useful to government and politics.

Number 10 was one of the first trailblazers in setting up and actively contributing to a Flickr feed. The change of administration hasn’t changed this enthusiasm for the Number 10 photostream and there are some great shots from the Prime Minister’s visits to Berlin, Paris, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales this week. (Photos from Gordon Brown’s time as Prime Minister can be found in a separate archived account.)

The Number 10 Flickr account has some formal pictures of the first coalition Cabinet meeting and that first joint press conference with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. A historic moment is captured from inside Number 10 in a great shot of David Cameron crossing the threshold for the first time and being greeted by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell.

The Conservative Party have a Flickr stream for their party which includes some fascinating shots from election day and its aftermath, including a historically significant one of David Cameron as he phones Nick Clegg for the first time to discuss what happens next. There’s also a very human shot of the soon-to-be Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne very early on the Friday morning, tired and with his feet up as he scans his Blackberry for the latest email news. We’ve all been there.

For political balance I’ll mention Labour Party photostream (the Liberal Democrats don’t seem to have one) although it seems to have gone a bit quiet at the moment, perhaps understandably. But in fact the best equivalent pictures from behind the scenes at Number 10 during those critical moments of the handover come from The Guardian newspaper, which has a great set of exclusive photos of the last hours of the previous administration.

As the business of government gets back to normal after these interesting and eventful few weeks of politics, the regular departmental Flickr feeds are getting back to business as usual, too. There’s the DECC Flickr feed for example, as well as the Department of Health. The Department for Communities and Local Government’s photostream shows a diversity of subjects with photos of this week’s Home Improvement Pack press conference and a photo from the set of the Daily Politics Show with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles facing up to Andrew Neil.

There’s photos of Business Secretary Vince Cable at BIS, and Kenneth Clarke in full regalia as Lord Chancellor at the Ministry of Justice. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has some splendidly photogenic occasions to work with – including a great shot of the new Foreign Secretary arriving last week. And here’s the feed from the Department for International Development, which mixes the usual mix of ministers and officials with some spectacular shots from the countries and regions where UK aid goes to help those who truly need it.

It’s great to see these shots – it makes the work of government feel somehow much more real and human and somehow more worthy and worthwhile as a result.

That’s even true when applied back to the White House, where this post started, which naturally also has a very active Flickr account ranging from state visits to very tender private moments between the President and the first lady.

But to get back to that ‘behind the scenes’ aspect for a second, one of my favourite shots from the White House stream is this early one of a meeting in the Situation Room. That location should be familiar to us from hundreds film and drama series, but on the screen it always looks high tech and state of the art: the photos reveal instead that it’s a meeting room like so many others that you and I spend half our lives in.

Indeed, if you look closely in the background, you can see a coffee dispenser on a shelf at the back. It’s exactly the same sort we use in most meetings here. It’s a strange and small world when you realise that the President of the United States must have exactly the same problem of coaxing hot drinks out of it, without either looking like a klutz or else sending scalding hot water everywhere!

Have you been out and about this morning? If not, you missed a treat, because it was sunny and warm and all-round spring like.

I’ve been finding it hard to get motivated to take pictures recently – at least, since the drama of UK Snow Day on February 2 – but it was a delight to get out and about today and go looking for the colourful signs of spring.

Here’s a few f the pictures I took, the others are on Flickr (you can click through to see them.)

This shot’s better in larger sizes, but the pollen’s really there and waiting to be picked up by the insects:

Spring flowers - Pollen 1

Taken at a jaunty angle which manages to disguise how mundane the background is, here’s a daffodil:

Spring flowers daffodil at an angle

And some pink blossom breaking out on the trees:

Spring flowers - pink blossom

Full spring flower set over in Flickr.

Kingston film shoot

I’m pleased that I’m remembering to take my camera with me everywhere I go these days, because you never know what sights are going to pop up unexpectedly.

Walking down Clarence Street, the main shopping street in Kingston-upon-Thames, I found a large throng of people grouped outside the local branch of Getting closer, I found they were all watching a film crew at work.

I have no idea what they’re filming – an advert of some kind is my guess – but it involved a knight on a horse outside the electronics store. Bizarre.

My pictures were just quick snaps – it was crowded and I was in a hurry to get elsewhere. But I was pleased by the end results after a bit of cropping. This one is my favourite, for the bored look on the rider’s face (not to mention the fag, and for the fluke of him looking right at my camera) but also the spectacularly incongruous sight of the knight in armour reading the newspaper in the background. Oh, and I love the thoroughly disinterested woman in pink with the shopping trolley paying no attention to it all.

All three shots that I took can be found on Flickr if you want to see more.

Silver lining

Walking in the rain

Well, it might be raining, but at least that means there are some pictures to be had …

Actually it’s really weird to see one of my photos in situ in a ‘proper’ web page like this, as opposed to the normal Flickr-type page. Gives me a little shiver down the spine, as if it’s ‘professional’ or something!

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