Photographing An Icon: Big Ben

Big Ben, London, England

On my last trip to England I spent a great deal of time trying to find unique shots of various London icons. Big Ben proved a particular challenge, largely due to its height and the number of people in its vicinity. I settled on trying to find some red telephone boxes, another icon of London. A shot with both a phone box and Big Ben in had to be a good bet, so I started shooting with the entire phone box in the foreground and the famous clock in the background. But I really didn’t feel like it was working, the images didn’t have the impact I was looking for.

Ben Ben, Attempt 1

I was then hit by a flash of inspiration. What if I shot through the phone box, focusing on Big Ben and using the famous red of the booth as foreground interest? That would make a pretty cool shot! Or so I thought, but the glass in the first couple of booths I came across were reflecting a lot of light and I couldn’t get a clear shot. I kept seeing my own reflection in the glass and it looked pretty bad!

Big Ben, Attempt 2

I tried getting in the phone box and shooting just through a single sheet of glass, but it was difficult to get a good angle in the tight space, and in any case it didn’t really have the desired effect. I tried to get as close to the glass on the outside as possible, but I was still seeing the undesirable reflections, and in addition it removed any depth from the shot which I was keen to maintain.

Big Ben, Attempt 3

Wandering a little further away from Big Ben I found another phone box and thought I’d give it one last try. The lighting conditions were different and hey, maybe it would come out well! The box was covered in shade by some nearby trees, so I was hoping that the reflections wouldn’t be quite so bad.

Big Ben, London

To my delight, this phone box just happened to have one piece of glass missing. This meant I could shoot through it without having the same issue with reflections as I’d had on previous attempts, and maintain the depth I was looking for. Fantastic!

Big Ben, London, England

I probably spent about 45 minutes to 1 hour trying to find an interesting shot of Big Ben, but I think I got there in the end! What do you think? Do you have any great angles of often photographed icons? How did you find them?!

You might also like:

Advertisements

95 thoughts on “Photographing An Icon: Big Ben

  1. Laura

    I love these shots! I always struggle to find non-cliche ways to photograph the most famous landmarks, and I think this is a cool approach.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thank you! It certainly is, but I think it’s worth the effort in the end. It gives you the opportunity to explore a location in much greater detail which cannot be a bad thing!

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Ryan. Looking for a unique perspective certainly makes you look at the environment around you in a different way. It’s great fun!

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Cindi! I always find it interesting to see other people’s process too, so I thought I would give it a go myself.

      I love the framing of your shot with the leaves in the foreground. It can be quite difficult to avoid the buses in London! I suppose it’s lucky they themselves are an icon of the city, so they tend to make a picture better when they do make an appearance.

      Reply
  2. klsprout

    Amazing shot – thanks for posting your trek to capture it. It’s so visually pleasing, not only for being a non-typical shot of Big Ben, but because of all of the rectangular spaces bisecting the shot.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thank you! I love the lines too, they help focus the attention on Big Ben itself. And you can’t beat a bit of pleasing geometry!

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Kan! I’m going to try and write more posts like this in the future, I think it’s interesting to see how someone arrives at the shot they like the most. It’s very rarely a case of clicking the shutter at the first opportunity!

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Jude! It’s always interesting to see how people think about their photography, so I’m going to try and write more posts like this in the future. I’m glad you found some inspiration in it! πŸ™‚

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Haha, thanks Paula! Sorry I missed this one. My sign is Leo, not sure if that makes a difference on the photography though πŸ˜‰

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Greg! It’s a nice way to start the new blogging year. I’m loving your car photography, it’s fantastic! I’ll be following your blog for sure.

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Chelsea! It certainly wasn’t easy. But I really enjoy the challenge of finding the most interesting angles, it’s so much fun πŸ™‚

      Reply
  3. moodsnmoments

    Hey Ben, great work. I’ve got some shots of the Big Ben but they so don’t even scratch the surface of your work. Congratulations on being freshly pressed and thanks for sharing these.
    Oh btw, good to know you’re a Leo!

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed my shots! Do you have your Big Ben shots up on moodsnmoments anywhere? I’m always interested to see someone else’s perspective.

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Louise, I was lucky to be blessed with fantastic weather that afternoon. Definitely a rarity in London but it’s such a beautiful city when the sun is shining.

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      It’s definitely not easy, but the challenge is part of the appeal. It helps if you have good weather too, not much fun trying to find a good shot in the rain!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: DP: Best of 2013 | As I See It

  5. surrendertochaos

    I can honestly sat that I had a love affair with the tower (because I couldnt see the bell!) while I was in London and took so many photos from all over the city, anywhere I saw it.

    None of them are quite ao unique as this, however. Great shot.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      It’s a good challenge to try and find the best angles, such a beautiful building! Did you know that it’s actually the bell that is called Big Ben, not the building itself? Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Deborah, I think the challenge is half the fun. Very often we only show the finished product, but I think the process is just as important. And sometimes more interesting!

      Reply
  6. rileybanks

    Reblogged this on THE WRITERS' SHACK and commented:
    When it comes to travel photography – particularly of well known landmarks – there are two types of photos you can take: the run of the mill tourism shot that’s been recreated a million times before; or you can take a little bit of time and try to snap something unique.

    British expat, Ben Whitard, shares his tips for how he took a unique shot of Big Ben.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks! I like the second shot too, I can’t believe I managed to get one without any people in. It was very busy so I spent a lot of time waiting for a quiet moment. I think it was worth it though.

      Reply
  7. kdphotobooks

    Great idea! I love it when people think outside the box with photography. I took a cute pic of my niece this summer, “leaning” up against big ben but not sure how to share it here

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks! That sounds great, I like spotting people taking shots like that because they look so strange from the wrong angle. You can always contact me via email – all details on my Contact page πŸ™‚

      Reply
  8. MayZ

    You were very innovative with this… We see lots of normal/regular pictures of world icons but we don’t always see pictures with good angles!

    Reply
  9. Jeffrey Everets

    Hi Ben. Great photo with a great perspective. My wife and I are hoping to visit England (London & Leeds) this coming fall and i will keep this shot in mind for ideas once I get all the “traditional” photos done (but won’t copy you ;-). Thanks for the great blog.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Jeffrey, and feel free to copy me if you like! They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery πŸ™‚ Hope you have a great time in England.

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Trevor, that’s what I was going for. It really felt like a methodical process while I was there! Loving your photography, you have a new follower in me for sure.

      Reply
  10. Pingback: Photographing An Icon: Big Ben | harshcreations

    1. Ben Post author

      Thank you! There’s a story behind every photograph, I just wish I had the time to tell more of them like this one. Nice shot of the capitol building πŸ™‚

      Reply
  11. sadhchyme

    this is what i call working the situation, and not giving up, until we get to a point that we are self satisfied with the photograph we make. This is one of the most unique views of the big ben. If i may add so, taking this same photograph at night or better even at twilight, where you will be having the lovely evening sky, and also the lights will come up. Thats my cents. πŸ™‚ Cheers mate πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      I think that’s one of the real joys of photography! You always know when you’ve found the shot you’re after. I’d love to go back to this same spot at sunset, I agree I think it would make a fantastic photo. Just after the city lights spring to life. Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

      Reply
  12. rosealys

    O wow, that’s a really good idea!
    I’m also an British expat in Switzerland, although at the other end of the country to you. Whenever I go back to England I try to get interesting shots of The Homeland… If I fly into City airport, I take the DLR to the centre, and I try to get a seat either at the very front or the very back of the train, I like the shots I can get of the East End landmarks with traintrack in the foreground (I have a weakness for railway photographs,) or at least if the window isn’t so filthy that my camera refuses to focus on anything else…

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Rose! Whereabouts are you in Switzerland? I’ve not visited the east of the country but would love to get out there some time, especially around St Moritz. But it’s a long drive from Geneva!

      There must be good opportunities for shots on the DLR, especially with the leading lines created by the tracks. I haven’t visited the east end for a while but I used to live there before moving to Switzerland.

      Reply
      1. rosealys

        I’m in St Gallen, not quite as far east as St Moritz, and not nearly as mountainous. But it’s a very pretty little city, and nice and easy to get out into the countryside: I live 10 minutes walk from the centre, and 10 minutes walk in the other direction from country and farm-land. Well worth a visit if you ever find yourself this end of the country!

        Reply
        1. Ben Post author

          That sounds fantastic. I’ll be sure to make a stop there if I’m that side of Switzerland. It’s similar here in Geneva, except a 10 minute drive to the countryside instead of a walk. It’s great to be able to get out of the city so quickly!

  13. neverclipmywings

    What a brilliant idea! The only thing that comes to my mind reading this post is that before every shot we have a huge story to tell others if we want to! Everything you wrote are only thoughts that come to our minds while trying to find the perfect spot, the perfect angle and the perfect light. But the difference is that we usually keep that for ourselves. Brilliant!

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Thatiana! I think it’s interesting to see an insight into the thought process behind a shot. As you say you don’t see many people doing it and I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚ If I have anymore interesting stories I’ll try to tell them in the future!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s