Photo location guide: South Bank, London
From Tower Bridge to the London Eye, this stretch of the capital has plenty to keep your shutter firing, says Jeremy Walker
I see the South Bank as an area from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge, about two-and- a-half miles packed with ancient and modern architecture. Tower Bridge is the best place to start; its southern pier has an area large enough for 20 people and I have never had a problem with putting a tripod up. The views looking west are fantastic. Next door is More London – a privately owned area that allows public access. If you want to shoot there using tripods at strange times of day, then obtaining permission is advised. As you walk west you encounter HMS Belfast, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge and views of St Pauls. Further west is the National Theatre, the London Eye and Westminster. In the past if you tried to shoot the London Eye using a tripod, a member of staff would say you couldn’t. The same would happen opposite the Houses of Parliament. The rules on the use of tripods opposite Parliament have now been relaxed, as far as I am aware.
Best time of the year
This is a great early-spring location. Early morning and late afternoon or evening are good times of day for shooting. If you only have a day in London, save the last shot for the Tower Bridge location looking west into the sunset. Although do not dismiss the middle of the day – fluffy clouds reflecting in glass office blocks, harsh contrasty shadows and the blurred movement of people or traffic can all make good shots.
As for camera kit, the usual suspects will be sufficient. full frame 24-70mm and 70- 200mm lenses will cover most opportunities. However, having an extreme wideangle for those quirky angled architecture shots will be useful, as will a long lens for compressing the perspective along the river or isolating a small part of a much wider view. If you really wanted to shoot the architecture in a more traditional way then a tilt-shift perspective control lens will let you keep the uprights vertical. Nikon does 45mm, 24mm and 19mm perspective control lenses, which are ideal for architecture.
Another great bit of kit for shooting cities, especially at dusk as light levels are falling, is a Novoflex BasicBall tabletop tripod. It’s a small but very sturdy tripod that is about 15cm at its highest, extremely stable and robust, and will take a heavy DsLr and lens but won’t draw attention to you as a tripod user. I have shot in many a city ‘No Tripod Zone’ using a BasicBall and have come away with shots I just would not get any other way.
Food and lodging
This Is London! The South Bank is dotted with cafes, restaurants and the occasional pub. My choice would be to head to The Founders Arms, close to the Tate Modern. It doesn’t look much but the food is good and there is a great view across the river to St Pauls. Accommodation is plentiful but not always particularly cheap. Try the Premier Inn at Tate Modern or Tower Bridge, both great locations. There is also a Travelodge at Southwark and no doubt plenty of Airbnbs if you go hunting online.
The 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses will cover most eventualities. The 24-70mm is popular with pros, mainly because it teams excellent image quality with a fast fixed aperture of f/2.8. The 70-200mm lens is great for low-light situations, and boasts excellent Vibration Reduction technology.
Tilt and shift
While not essential, a tilt-and-shift perspective control lens helps to keep uprights vertical. This comes at a price, so learn how to correct distortions using post-processing software if you’re on a budget.
The Novoflex BasicBall is a small but sturdy tripod base. It’s ideal for ground-level photography and extremely discreet, making it perfect for city work. It can reach about 15cm, and shoulder a DSLR and lens with a combined weight of up to 25kg.