A couple of shots from my various long walks this Fall. Some East London mixed in with Jeff Koons and a couple of rainy afternoons...
I'm not sure what it is about hot air balloons that seems to make people absolutely have to photograph them. Looking through family slides from the 1980s seems to demonstrate that this theme is not generation specific given the large numbers of shots devoted to balloons shaped like Busch beer cans or advertising Ronald McDonald and other healthy kid themes! The annual summer balloon race in Saint Louis's Forest Park definitely captured my family's attention that much is clear.
These shots come from a visit to Cappadocia, in central Turkey, a few years back when my Mother and I visited the famous "fairy chimneys", which are large cone shaped rock formations that dot the local landscape. Created by oddities of erosion, the hard rock caps remain while the rest of the formation wears away leaving these very distinctive towers and providing outstanding rock to build homes into, which inhabitants have being doing since before recorded history.
One can of course go visit fields of the chimneys and wander around a bit, however the perspective is such that it's difficult to take photos of them from ground level or even get a good feel for their scale. As such one of the most popular ways to see the area is to wake up at 5am and head out for a hot air balloon ride. Now this isn't just any balloon ride, this is basically a short daily balloon dash with 50 or more balloons launching in several waves floating through the morning skies amidst each other, hovering up and down through the rock formations as the sun peaks above the horizon.
Needless to say I quickly understood why this is the preferred method to tour the area! Having never been in a hot air balloon before I didn't know what exactly to expect, but the ride is truly fantastic. Unlike most other methods of flight the near silence of the balloon as it wafts along punctuated only by an occasional pull on the burner really contrasts with the way we typically take to the air. It's so different from "normal" airplane or helicopter flight and really very pleasant and relaxing. Following an hour or so in the crisp morning air my takeaway in the end was that some photography subjects have very much remained in the family....
Messing about near Parliament I stopped to take a few shots of Big Ben and the carousel located cross the river on the Southbank. Looking up and seeing the clock-tower looming there in the fading light one can't help but appreciate living in a vibrant city with history right there in front of you!
For a period of time I became rather (healthily!?) obsessed with WWI naval battles, in particular the clashes between the British and German fleets in the North Sea. The conflict pitted the massive British Grand Fleet against the upstart German High Seas Fleet. The two sides met in a variety of battles including the big one everyone has heard of at Jutland, and by the end of the war the German fleet was still mostly intact with ships rusting at anchor and its sailors rioting against the conflict and starting to drift toward the same Communist revolutionary ideas that had already taken root in Russia.
Rather earlier in the war the Germans, despite an aggressive battleship production program, knew they didn't have the numbers to confront the British directly with much hope for victory. So they instead conducted a series of raids designed to boost morale, stir up the British and hopefully lure part of the British fleet into a trap where the overall numerical difference between the two sides wouldn't matter and where a piece of the British fleet might give chase and be lured into facing the entirety of the German fleet. The ships chosen for this mission were the hottest vessels of they day, the battlecruisers. These were a new class of ship with the firepower of the largest battleships afloat but with less armour and therefore much greater top speed and the flexibility to perform a variety of missions. In sum...a unique combination of speed and power.
In December 1914 four battlecruisers and one slower armored cruiser were sent to raid the British coast where they ultimately shelled Hartlepool, the resort town of Scarborough, and the town Whitby, firing more than 1,000 shells killing 100+ people and damaging 300 houses and churches. One of the churches in question is Whitby Abbey, pictured below during a "pilgrimage" I made there. Shelled by two of the German battlecruisers in the raid and severely damaged, it marked one of the places one can come closest to the WWI naval war onshore in the UK today, and where one can stare out into the North Sea and imagine the battle cruisers Von Der Tann and Derfflinger looming out of the fog and ruining a bunch of people's morning.
The aftermath of the attack was that the German main fleet wasn't able to ambush the British battlecruisers sent to chase the German raiders. Instead the British had signals intelligence warning them of the attack and so opted to try and turn the tables on the Germans. In the final analysis both sides avoided traps set by the other largely by accident and thanks to poor weather and failed to capitalize on the opportunities presented. The attack resulted in Briitsh public outrage towards the Germans for conducting the raid on what were seen as innocent civilians and against the Royal Navy for not having prevented it. It also marked the first casualty on British soil during the Great War.
The Abbey here had been in decay for years prior to the attack, so the Germans don't get full credit for what you see here,. However, being able to walk amidst the ruins, further degraded by the battlecruisers shelling, as the sun completed its decent for the day made for a fantastic evening.
One of the best parts of London Open House is that it gives one an excuse to wander around town taking photos all day long. Something I might do anyway on a given Sunday but with special focus and effort. Here are few other shots from one particular day of wandering