Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

Posts tagged “london

The Path to the Olympics

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

Ahhh summer. The time to go for camping trips and baseball games, canoe down a lazy river, or just plant yourself in front of the TV and watch the Olympics. London 2012, baby!!! 😀 For a travel nut like myself, I’ve always been curious about the journeys people take. Then what could be more fascinating than the journeys some Olympians took to get to the games?

For instance, what about Khatuna Lorig (USA, Archery)? Her Olympic career has covered shooting for multiple countries! Originally born in the Republic of Georgia, she shot for the Unified Team (Soviet Union, under the Olympic Flag) in 1992. Georgia was her next flag in 1996 and 2000. She wasn’t a naturalized citizen yet in 2004, but by 2008, she was competing for the USA. However, during that match, her hometown in Tiblisi was being invaded by the Russians. Imagine trying to compete under that pressure! She returned under the US team again this year and got 4th place.

Next, what about the “Blade Runner,” Oscar Pistorius (South Africa, Sprint)? Born without fibulas, he had both legs amputated at the knee when he was one. In college, he played several sports, until a rugby injury & subsequent rehab got him into running. After a successful time in the Paralympics, he set his sights on attending the Games with able-bodied runners. A hotly-disputed scientific study initially banned him from the Olympics due to a percieved advantage he had from his carbon fibre “legs.” It was overturned in 2008, but he failed to qualify for that years Games. This year, he not only qualified, but made it to the 400m semi-finals, becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games. In a moving display, he and the winner, Kirani James, traded bibs at the end of the race.

I’m out of space for more stories today, but let’s hear more from you! What’s your favorite story about an Olympic athlete?

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?

London’s Biggest Tourist Destination

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens EF 7-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/800 sec

No, it’s not Big Ben. The Tower of London is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country,  for several reasons. Built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, it was first a symbol of oppression and a new regime. But over the years, a number of additions, notable events, and special prisoners have made the Tower the interest it is today. For example, did you know the story behind why at least six ravens are kept as permanent residents in the tower? What about the ghost stories that arose after the murders of Queen Anne Boleyn and the Princes in the Tower?

I arrived at the Tower via the Traitor’s Gate, the entrance that faces London’s River Thames. This was one of several entrances to the compound, which was actually many towers and buildings put together. On the grassy area where the moat used to be, medieval actors practiced their fencing skills and showed off ancient catapults. Merchants hawked their wares and the Yeoman Warders (appointed Tower guards) led others on tours that included the Crown Jewels, the museum, royal menagerie, and the royal armor. Many wanted to see the dungeons and old torture chambers as well, but those areas of the compound were cleaned out many years ago. A replica of a torture rack is one of the only things available to the public. The last person executed at the Tower, Josef Jakobs, was sentenced to death in 1941, and the firing range was demolished in 1969. There were tons of other areas of the Tower up for exploration, however! The White Tower is the main structure, but the Tower Green (where most executions occurred) and West Wall Walk are also popular. Maybe next time I’m in London, I’ll have to make the time to check all these out, too!

If you were to take a tour of the Tower, what would you most want to see?

The Queen’s Guard & Those Pesky Tourists

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f/2.8 • 1/500 sec

What would it take to get these guys to laugh? is the question of the day. The Queen’s Guard are a common sight around London, so I wasn’t surprised to run into this guy on the street. I was shocked, however, that I caught a slight grin before he saluted me and my ginormous camera. *gasp!*

These contingents of soldiers are in charge of guarding the royal residences around London, including Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Palace, the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle, among others. Their main purpose is to protect the royal family and the crown jewels. There are five different kinds of Foot Guards, and most can be told apart by the buttons on their tunics. Since this guy has his buttons in groups of four (assuming he’s missing one button), that would indicate he is one of the Irish Guards. That division also should have a blue plume on their bearskins (the big fuzzy hats), which is not visible here. There, now don’t you feel all smart & stuff?

Most tourists know the guards either from the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, or their rule to stand completely still when on duty. The former is accompanied by a 35-member military band that puts on quite a show. Other times, tourists are the ones to put on a show while trying to get the guards to fall out of character and laugh. For example, this guy went to the trouble of dressing up as Groucho Marx and putting on his own SNL skits!

Ok, so what would you try? What would you do to get these guys to crack a smile?