Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

Posts tagged “england

Big Ben: London’s Big Deal

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2500 sec

If you look at the skyline of London, probably one of the most recognizable pieces of architecture is Big Ben. The name actually refers to the bell only (the rest is officially called the Clock Tower), but more people know it by its nickname than anything else. There are two main theories on how it got it’s name: The bell has the name “Ben” inscribed on it after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation. Also, the English Boxing Heavyweight Champion at the time was Benjamin Caunt, and anything that was the largest or strongest in its class was referred to as “Big Ben.”

The tower is quite a sight in person, rising 316 feet (96.3 m; ~ 16 stories) on top of a concrete raft. The four clock faces themselves are 23 feet (7 m) in diameter and hold 312 pieces of glass each (though some are removed for servicing the dials). Yet it gets its name from the bell, a 16-ton monstrosity that was cast in 1856. This is actually the second version of the bell. The first one cracked in transport, and was melted down and re-cast. The current bell also cracked after being in use for two months, but it was repaired, rotated a bit, and given a smaller hammer. Even today it has a funny-sounding ring caused by the crack.

Tours are available to go inside the Tower, but only if you are a UK citizen. Even then, you have to book it with your Member of Parliament way ahead of time. The rest of us just get to watch from the outside. That’s still cool, though. The light on the top of the tower indicates when Parliament is is session, the chimes play “The Cambridge Chimes”, the tower leans enough to be seen by the naked eye, and sometimes we can see some dudes risking their lives trying to clean the clock face (there’s even a game for that!). There are lots of other fun details about the clock I could talk about, but why don’t you see for yourself?

This is my second clock feature in two months. So tell me, which would you prefer to see? Is there another clock somewhere you think is even cooler?


Fly Sky High in the Eye

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/4000 (all images)
(Note: This panoramic was created by digitally stitching three photos together)

The London Eye, now the third largest Ferris wheel in the world, offers a great view of the city from 443 feet (135 m). On a clear day, you can see Windsor Castle, up to 25 miles (40 km) away. It’s especially popular at night when all the city lights are twinkling. On my visit to London, I was limited on time and cash, but if you have 30 minutes to ride the loop, it will only cost you around $25-$30. Reporter Steve Rose wrote, “It essentially has to fulfil only one function, and what a brilliantly inessential function it is: to lift people up from the ground, take them round a giant loop in the sky, then put them back down where they started. That is all it needs to do, and thankfully, that is all it does.”

The Eye has a fascinating history. It was originally supposed to be a temporary structure, designed for a millennium landmark competition. It took seven years and help from five countries to build. The parts were floated down the Thames River, and then the wheel was built on its side. It was lifted by degrees and took over a week to reach its final standing position. Today, it is used by 3.5 million customers a year. It has 32 “pods” (one for each of London’s boroughs) which hold up to 25 people each (or, you can book an entire private pod for $600-$1500). The pods are mounted on the outside of the wheel, allowing for 360° views without support structures getting in the way. It also moves about 0.6 mph (0.9 kph), allowing passengers to get on and off without stopping the wheel.

I noticed when I took this picture that the wheel was missing a pod (top right). In preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games, the pods are being refurbished, one at a time. They are being swapped out at night, one by one, in order to keep the wheel going the rest of the day. I’d be excited to go see it once these are completed! In the meantime, there’s always the live webcam (when it works, anyway).

If you could ride a giant Ferris wheel anywhere in the world, what would you want to see?


Crazy & Crooked Buildings!

Location: London
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2500 sec

It’s a double photo week! While I was touring London, I was amazed at the interesting architecture, including the Gherkin (above) and the City Hall (below). The Gherkin, officially known as 30 St Mary Axe is an office building constructed out of 34,000 m² (approx. 366,000 ft²) of glass panes arranged to look somewhat like a Fabergé egg. City Hall, which houses the Greater London Authority (Mayor & the Assembly), is build like a lopsided dome and includes an open-air amphitheater in the back.

Location: London
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2000 sec

So that got me thinking, what other cool weirdshaped buildings are there in the world? Here’s just a sampling of what I found. Follow the links to see more pictures & articles:

Ok, there’s a sampling of some cool things to see on your next trip to… wherever. But what have you already seen?

What is the strangest piece of real estate you’ve come across?


Dilly-Dally in Piccadilly

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2000 sec

As our double-decker tour bus looped the London streets, the tour guide announced, “This is the statue of Eros (Cupid), on one of the most visited streets in Europe. It is said that if someone waits here for at least 30 minutes, they will run into someone they know.” I didn’t have time to test his theory, but that would certainly be interesting!

This fountain in the middle of Piccadilly Circus (a large and busy intersection) was originally erected in 1893 as the Shaftesbury Monument Memorial Fountain. It was meant to commemorate the 7th Earl of Schaftesbury for his work for the poor, and is also named The Angel of Christian Charity. The figure on top, made of aluminum, was meant to be the Greek god Anteros (the god of selfless love), but most Londoners call it by the name of his twin brother Eros/Cupid (the god of sensual love). Don’t try to correct them, though. It’s like telling an American that the “Statue of Liberty” is actually named “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

The statue is the site of several rumors like the one the tour guide told me. Another is that a proposal under the statue at the stroke of midnight will bring good luck and happiness to a marriage. There are several stories about where the archer’s arrow might be pointing. Then there’s the “what were they thinking?” stories, like how some locals planned to climb the statue on New Year’s Eve. One drunken man succeeded in 1994, damaging the statue. It has since been repaired.

What’s your favorite piece of art? Are there any fun stories you remember about it?


Mexico’s Random Rock Art

Location: Mexico
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 200 • f 5.6 • 1/320 sec

Driving around Juárez, Mexico, I kept seeing these odd drawings all over the mountains.  Were these some part of the culture or did some person just have too much time on their hands? Were they just random or did they have a meaning?

Historically, rock art is categorized as either pictographs (paintings on rock) or petroglyphs (designs carved into the rock). The images in Juárez are from the first category, since they were made of thousands of gallons of whitewash. That’s enough to make Tom Sawyer proud! I never was able to figure out what the drawing in today’s photo was supposed to be (if you figure it out, let me know!). However, three other drawings were easier to determine.

Passing through the area at night, I saw what looked like a giant string of Christmas lights illuminating a huge portrait on the side of one mountain. This was the Mexican President Benito Juárez. The painting was commissioned in 1996 to celebrate his bicentennial birthday. The architect who made the painting, Héctor García Acosta, claimed, “It’s the work of a plastic surgeon. If you change the ridge of the nose just slightly, it changes the whole expression. The first time we did it, the nose was too big and he looked like (the late movie actor) Jimmy Durante. Then we changed and he looked like a boxer. The third time, we got it right.” Good! I bet it would be creepy to constantly be stared at by a man that looked like a boxer. ‘~’

Another of Acosta’s more well-known works is a giant white horse on the side of another mountain. This painting was a copy of the Uffington White Horse in England, now grown to over a half mile in length and taking three years to complete. There is a lot of debate on the meaning of the horse and why it was carved in England, but artists all over the world have been making copies for years. Finally, the third drawing is a lizard on a mountain right by the horse. Lizards are just cool like that.

Have you ever seen mountain art when traveling? What about in caves or on rocks?