I like the Druids. Not that I’d want to be one, but they have an eccentricity that appeals to me, and visually they are rather striking. I don’t like them enough to go to Stonehenge for the solstices (and things get rather crowded and confused there with so many claiming a right to the space) but their two annual performances in London are certainly worth a visit from time to time. I don’t intend to be rude or belittling when I describe them as eccentric; eccentricity is one of the great British characteristics, and something that many of us share to some extent. And something that I admire if not in this particular aspect wanting to share.
Though I do feel a little eccentric holding up a camera on top of a pole and pressing the cable release to take pictures like the one above. Or even leaning out over a wall to photograph the procession as in the picture below.
I wasn’t sure about the angle when I took this picture, lining up the edge of the frame carefully (or at least fairly carefully – you can still see a little of it at the bottom right) with the edge of the wall in this uncropped image) but it seems to have a certain logic. As you can see in Druids celebrate the Spring Equinox I made some pictures with the camera level (or intended to be level and not far off) too, but the wall rather gets in the way to my eye.
Back to the monopod image, I’ve still not found a good way to keep the camera level when holding it up above my head. And for these images taken with the 16mm full-frame fisheye that is rather important. It needs to be level in two dimensions, with both ends of the camera to avoid a tilted horizon, and with the lens not looking up or down in order to get a straight horizon. As you can see above, I’ve not quite managed this, though I don’t find the fairly slight curve of the horizon too distracting.
This image was converted using the Fisheye Hemi plugin as I do with most images taken with this lens, which removes the curvature of vertical lines. But if the camera is tilted, these lines will either converge or diverge, which can sometimes look odd. There is a very slight divergence visible in the building at the right of the image, but hardly noticeable.
My reason for making the picture from this side of the circle was partly because of the position of the sun, just out of picture to the right, but mainly to put the Tower of London and Tower Bridge more or less in the middle of the picture. Another reason is that the leading figures in the Druid circle and the standards are also visible on the far side of the circle – their backs are less interesting.
You can of course see them more clearly in a conventional photograph taken with the 18-105mm from a normal eye level, which also shows how the high viewpoint of the top image makes the Tower and Tower Bridge more prominent.
I’d forgotten to put back the 70-300mm in my camera bag when I rushed out to catch the train, and this is an event you have to work from outside the circle, and the distances across it are rather high. But it would have been one more lens to work with, and changing lenses can be a pain. It’s probably best to leave it at home except on those occasions a very long lens is essential.
With people standing in a circle, you can take pictures like this that most people think were taken from inside, standing behind people further around the circle and aiming my 18-105mm lens though the gap between two of them. It was probably taken from more or less the same position as the image below, made shortly before with the 16mm fisheye.
This part of the event, with the figures around the circle joining hands to renew their vows as druids is one of the visual high points, and you can see different ways I’ve tried to show it in My London Diary.
The pictures in Druids celebrate the Spring Equinox are posted in the sequence that I took them (with possibly some very minor variations) and along with the text I hope give a good idea of what happens. You can also find some other examples of my pictures from Tower Hill in previous years, most recently in 2009.
What is rather surprising about the event is how few people came to watch it. I’d come with an old friend and there was another photographer and just a handful of onlookers. The event at Primrose Hill for the Autumn Equinox attracts more people, but again I think relatively few who have actually come for the event.
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