Brian Birkenhead has been busy shooting a unique photo project on the River Thames
I’ve always had a camera, but began to get serious about it when digital came along and I began to invest in good quality Nikon lenses. My ambition is to construct a portfolio of images of the bridges over the River Thames, illustrating their great variety of age, and demonstrating differences in styles, materials, location and usage. I want to shoot the older, smaller bridges upstream using afternoon light, and the modern, larger bridges using early evening or sunset light. I have lived on the banks of the river for a long time and want to recognise the unique characteristics of its bridges that have helped shape the history of the country.
Tower Bridge, being the most iconic and famous bridge over the river, has to be in my portfolio. I wanted a night shot of the bridge complemented by the dolphin fountain, and had ■ Brian began taking photos with a Kodak Brownie when he was 10! He still loves photography and has recently embarked on a special project… to obtain special permission from the management of St Katharine’s Docks in order to use a tripod. It was quite a difficult shot to do using my tilt/ shift lens, which only has manual controls, and I wasn’t used to it. It did, however, achieve its purpose by straightening the verticals. It took me three visits to find a time when the fountain was not surrounded by tourists. Trial and error finally gave me the right exposure of 13 seconds at f/19. It took over two hours to get this shot right.
I haven’t yet figured out how to use my tilt-shift lens properly. My knowledge of Photoshop and/or Lightroom is fairly basic and I’ve never worked out how to use layers. How do I ensure that my landscapes are consistently pin-sharp front to back? And I’d like to know how I can use my tilt-shift lens to get infinite depth of field.
Brian, your project sounds like an interesting one, and will really capture the heritage and history of the Thames. You’re right, a bridge photo project about the Thames would not be complete without the inclusion of Tower Bridge. This is probably one of my favourite photos from your portfolio, and it’s quite