Some thoughts on why London is such a great city for photography.
London is, in my opinion, the first European city that most American travelers end up visiting. Whether that is due to our shared history or a common language, or something else - I will never know. But nonetheless, it's either #1 or pretty high on the list of places to go see...and it's a great town. I can understand why.
While I tend to be of the opinion that you should go see a lot of other places too, I can understand the attraction of visiting London. It really is a lovely city, and it's easy to get around in. Plus, there is a LOT to go see and do there.
I go there a couple of times per year on business, and whenever I have free time I make sure to get out and explore all the city has to offer. Ok, that's not entirely true. I don't explore all the city has to offer. I tend to go find interesting and beautiful places to take photographs, and I explore that stuff. That's really what I'm about.
In fact, I created a list here on the blog of the best places to take photos in London, and you can find that here: http://nomadicpursuits.com/top-photo-spots-in-london/
Anyways, I started thinking about what I like to shoot in London and have simplified it into 5 categories: train stations, museums, churches, bridges, and pubs. Keep in mind that these are things that I like to shoot. And while I find all this stuff beautiful and interesting, I realize you may not. However, I think that at least a couple of these categories will appeal to everyone, so take a look and let me know what you think!
1) Train Stations
Have you ever heard me mention my love of train stations here? LOL I feel like I mention that about twice a week. Every time I go to a city in Europe, I head for the train station and fire away. I love those things. I just can't help it, but at least I am aware of my addiction, right?
London has some beautiful ones too - my favorite is probably Kings Cross, but Waterloo is great and Paddington is pretty sweet as well. But don't forget about St. Pancras, which conveniently is across the street from Kings Cross, so you can shoot both in a short while. That will save you some time so you can get to your next destination.
Wow, there are some AMAZING museums in London! The museums in London are pretty well known, and folks head there to see all the wonderful art and sculptures...but did you ever think of them as a destination for photography? Being a fan of architecture, I love going to museums. While I do enjoy seeing the art on display, I tend to run out of steam for that stuff pretty quick, and resort to looking for cool interior architectural scenes to shoot.
My favorite by far is the Natural History Museum, which is a freakin' masterpiece! I just absolutely love that thing. The British Museum is pretty awesome as well, especially the interior courtyard that you see in my photo below. The Victoria and Albert is pretty decent, and the Tate Modern is fair - these are strictly my opinions in terms of the architecture, for photography purposes. If you go to the Tate Modern, there is a cafe up a few floors with a balcony that gives a nice view of the Thames and St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance.
No place does churches quite like Europe does, in my opinion. That is another thing I search out when I travel in Europe, because (again) I love architecture and history, and these things have usually been around a long while!
Westminster Abbey is a monstrous beauty, though you are not allowed to shoot inside. St. Paul's Cathedral is beautiful, with that fabulous dome on top. It's well worth a stop, though I admit I have never made it there before closing, so I haven't been inside yet. There is also a lesser known cathedral, sort of near Tower Bridge, known as Southwark Cathedral, and it's quite beautiful. They do allow photography there, though if I recall you have to buy a pass if you are using a tripod.
There are quite a few bridges in central London, owing to the fact that the River Thames flows essentially right through the middle of town. Everyone knows about the Tower Bridge, and probably the Westminster Bridge too (with Big Ben there at one end of it). But don't forget about the Millennium Bridge, which is right outside of the Tate Modern (in case you end up there).
Bridges make great subjects, whether you are shooting on them, under them, or from a side. They're one of my favorite things to shoot, partly because I like the symbolism they represent and partly because they are over water, which I also love to shoot (reflections are high on my list).
You can't properly go to London without a visit to a pub. It seems there are a few on every corner, and let's face it, it's just cool to check them out. Plus, ok I admit it, I like beer. While they are not all photogenic, at least usually they have cool names.
As you can tell from all the photos, there is just a whole lot to see in London. Coming at it from the standpoint of a photography addict, there's a lot to shoot there. And admittedly, this article does not cover everything. It's a large town and while the core area is not spread out too far, it's certainly easiest to take the Tube from spot to spot, because some of it is just not walkable in a reasonable amount of time.
When I plan my photowalks there, I do pick an area and plan out a walking route though, within reason, based on sights I want to see and shoot. There are countless street scenes in between the famous sights, and many iconic landmarks as well (London Eye, anyone)? In other words, don't take the Tube everywhere - walking gets you out into the city and let's you really get a feel for it. Plus, you can always stop in a pub to rehydrate! :-)