A very dear friend of mine, when he hears someone is feeling a bit down, invariably sends them a story to read: Jerome K. Jerome’s magnificent “Three Men in a Boat”. When it was my turn to receive it, I saw why.
Boats, words about boats, pictures about boats…they weave a special magic. So a day aboard the Nb Midnight Star, a 30-foot narrowboat owned by my pirate friend Glenn Lesanto, was going to be full of the stuff.
The first moment you set foot on it, things start to change…
Exif*: 24mm; ISO 320; f/7.1; 1/50
Time slows a little, then a lot. People you pass are smiling, invariably. Then you realise they’re smiling at you. And then they’re talking. To you. This is unheard of. Below London and–for a few hundred memorable yards–above (as the Grand Union Canal slips over the top of the North Circular) a separate world is going unhurriedly about its business.
Exif: 400mm; ISO 400; f/5.6; 1/320
Glenn has plans for this boat. Big plans. I heard a lot more about them as we chugged east on his “commute” into town. That’s a four and a bit hour commute, by the way. Not a moment of that wasted, if I’m honest.
But first we talked about the coconuts. Bobbing around in the canal every few hundred yards. Big coconuts. Sometimes floating near neatly wrapped food parcels and religious posters. They’re devotional offerings, apparently. And at Alperton, I spotted one being left, right in front of me. Wasn’t so sure about the bags they were wrapped in. Hopefully not plastic.
Exif: 70mm; ISO 250; f/8.0; 1/200
The boat makes such a good setting for, well, anything–but especially observation, learning and focus–that Glenn’s put together some Learning Voyages. They sell out quickly. I’m thinking about some deep, photo-based sessions. Interested?
Because stuff just happens. Images appear. Stories take shape. You just have to wait, and spot them. Like these guys, furtively heading towards some broken-into containers carrying bedrolls:
Exif: 43mm; ISO 320; f/8.0; 1/250
And on we went…Bend upon winding bend, through country parkland and light industrial squalour. Wildfowl exploding from the canal edge and flapping alongside you for a hundred yards. Swans, coots…a magnificent cormorant.
And the boats: from the pristine to the “seen better days”:
Exif: 400mm; ISO 320; f/5.6; 1/1000
As it became inescapable that we were now in town, and there would be no more of this country-park stuff, the way ahead was rich in striking urban imagery:
Exif: 300mm; ISO 320; f/5.6; 1/800
Exif: 400mm; ISO 320; f/5.6; 1/1250
Journey’s end, Paddington Basin. Except it wasn’t. I was hooked. Couldn’t get enough. Wanted another quick blast. In this case, “quick blast” means a leisurely 45 minute swing through a tunnel and a park (Regent’s) to cruise in style into the heart of Camden.
Exif: 28mm; ISO 1000; f/2.8; 1/10
And to finish, Camden doing what Camden does in the sunshine: a langour that could have been Sunday in August gracing a brisk Wednesday in March.
Exif: 400mm; ISO 400; f/8.0; 1/800
Go on one of Glenn’s Learning Voyages. You will if you do. I am certain of it.
Full set of photos from the day here.