Stealth Shooting At Canary Wharf With The Olympus EM10 mkI

Sundays are sometimes not the most exciting days when there is little or nothing to do. It's the time of year when the nights are drawing in early so I decided to venture out to Canary Wharf and frequent a few familiar places I'd visited previously with my Nikon and do some night photography, only this time with the Olympus EM10 mkI. I only took one lens with me with that being the 12-40mm pro, giving an equivalent of 24-80mm. I'll point out that 24mm is not a lens to do this kind of shoot with as it is simply not wide enough for those tall buildings and they just don't fit in the frame when lens corrected, so choosing the right place where to photograph from was key.

I think I need to make clear that the evening was not good weather wise with very high winds, rain and overcast low cloud that would make you wonder why I even bothered to go in the first place! I also took along with me my smallest tripod for two good reasons, the first being portability along with it's very light weight I needed it to fit in my small Manfroto shoulder bag. The Velbon CX Mini, a tripod I usually only use for still interior video, fitted perfectly. The second reason I needed a small tripod was that photographing around Canary Wharf requires a permit, so I needed to look as inconspicuous as possible and carrying a large tripod about would have had the opposite effect. Just a side note: I have obtained two permits in the past and photographed freely with my Nikon, but that doesn't guarantee you not getting stopped by security.

For this shoot I wanted to shoot 3 prime locations that I know produce good photographs so I started out my night at Cross Harbour, a wide open space of water that is also known as Millwall Inner Docks that looks towards Canary Wharf. To the left are retail and offices and to the right is The Floating Lotus Chinese restaurant and more retail outlets further down with South Quay DLR at the end. Notable visible buildings are Citi Bank, One Canary Wharf and the beautifully coloured Pan Peninsula building. There are a few notable spots worth photographing from this location, with one being rather risky and definitely not advisable with weather as bad as it was. Sadly after only about 20 minutes the wind was so strong it was becoming nigh impossible to shoot, and despite my tripod being cheap and small it was holding its ground extremely well, just I wasn't! And it was shortly after this I had to abandon and take cover and head inside Canary Wharf until the rain eased off.

The second location of Cabot Square was more of a risk of getting caught by security, but I'm always up for taking the risk to get that shot. I hoped that with a small camera and tiny tripod I'd not look out of place and took the gamble. It was at this point I encountered my first framing problem as I knew I had to allow for Lightroom's upright correction that's means allowing enough space at both the top and bottom of the picture, but One Canary Wharf is a tall building when photographing so close so I knew had to get as far back as I could but still keep the shot well framed. Unbeknown at the time my judgement just about paid off and I got the shot, but not great I'll add. Sadly once again the rain started and it was time yet again to take cover for a short while and I knew just the place...

The third and forth locations are split as two parts although they're technically almost the same shot just from different places. The first being a covered walkway leading from Columbus Courtyard to Hibbert Gate. This location has a lot of security cameras, but there are pockets that overlook the North Dock and its from here you can get some good shots. I was once stopped by security in this very location a few years prior, but luckily on that occasion I was finished and was almost packed up as he explained I wasn't allowed to take photographs. So it wasn't long after I'd grabbed a few shots that I heard footsteps and gingerly looked behind to see a guard walk by. Had I had my big tripod with me he would have most certainly have seen it and stopped me, but with my tiny tripod and the EM10's small size I was able to shield both behind my legs making out I was just admiring the view and he disappeared. It was time to move on as the security cameras would have most certainly spotted me entering the walkway and disappearing into one of the pockets without reappearing, and probably as to why they sent a guard out to investigate.

The fourth and final location was next to St Peters barge looking down the walkway that has the impressive Marriot Hotel to the left, One Cabot Square to the right with West India Quay DLR and bridge at the far end. I personally like this location if only for the Marriot Hotel. I moved from side to side for about 15 minutes before the rain once again came in and I decided enough was enough and I called it a night, but not before getting totally soaked making my way to the DLR station as the rain was now hammering down.

One final note worth mentioning: Despite my 10 years photographing nightscapes I still get caught up in that photographic moment and make a stupid mistake every now and then. On this occasion it was because of the wind at Cross Harbour I needed to smooth out the water just a little more so I went for 20 seconds and f/20. Whilst that setting was perfectly fine there, I forgot to change back to maybe 10 seconds at f/10 for the remainder of the shoot and that resulted in terrible star bursts and not so sharp images. I could put this down to my first true night shoot with the EM10, but in truth my experience should have kicked in...

Below are a few Samples from the nights shoot.

 Inner Millwall Docks

Inner Millwall Docks

 Cabot Square

Cabot Square

 West India Quay

West India Quay

To see a comparison against my Nikon then please visit the following blog post : Nikon Stealth Shooting At Canary Wharf