London at Dawn: A Photographer's Dream

The challenge is simple.  You meet up an hour before sunrise with the London at Dawn team consisting of photographer Anthony Epes and black cab driver and certified tour guide Nick Mortimer.  Using tripods (which the team graciously provide), Anthony will guide you to photograph entirely on manual settings while Nick shares his impressive knowledge of London history and architecture with you.

The workshops are aimed at beginner photographers and what better subject to practice on than a city at dawn?  Especially London at dawn?

I now understand why people say they will never return to automatic after learning to shoot on manual. For the first time I was able to see a scene with my own eyes and transfer that light and beauty into my photographs.  It was amazing and I cannot express enough how much I learned on the workshop.

On the morning of our photo shoot, we met just after 5am and began taking photos at 5.30am after a short introduction.  We were standing on the Tower Bridge Millennium Pier, just beneath the Tower of London.  The sunrise was at 5.50am on that day and these photos were taken in the 20 minutes before sunrise.  It was amazing to me how rapidly the light changed and how frequently we had to adjust our settings. 

Remember to click on any of the photos below to enlarge them.

The Shard at Dawn 5.31am The Shard

I am sure that it is no surprise that I immediately set my tripod down and pointed the camera straight at The Shard.  We were fortunate that we had blue skies but it got colder as it approached sunrise.

The Shard and HMS Belfast at Dawn 5.32am The Shard and HMS Belfast

In this photo you can see the HMS Belfast in the foreground and that is London Bridge at the far right of the photo, lit up in red.

Tower Bridge and City Hall at Dawn 5.33am Tower Bridge and City Hall

This is one of my favourite photos. This photo was taken facing south-east and you can see the faint glow of sunrise behind Tower Bridge. City Hall is to the right.

The Shard and London Bridge at Dawn 5.36am The Shard and London Bridge

Facing west again, it was a little darker. You can see a little more of London Bridge.

Tower Bridge and City Hall just before sunrise 5.41am Tower Bridge and City Hall

Nine minutes before sunrise and the buildings still had a bluish hue before the arrival of the golden glow of the sun.

More London Riverside at Dawn 5.42am City Hall, 3, 4 & 2 More London Riverside and HMS Belfast

The Shard and HMS Belfast just before sunrise 5.43am The Shard and HMS Belfast (with 2 More London Riverside, Southwark Crown Court, Hays Galleria and the Cotton Centre)

Tower Bridge at Dawn 5.48am Tower Bridge

Two minutes before sunrise and it felt as if the whole world was holdings its breath.  What a stunning experience.

Tower Bridge London at sunrise 5.49am Tower Bridge, one minute before sunrise

London Bridge at Sunrise 5.54am London Bridge at Sunrise

And finally… daybreak.

We took many more photos that morning and there are lots more to come.  One thing is for sure, as painful as it was to wake up so early, I will definitely be trying to catch London at dawn this summer and hope to attend another London at Dawn workshop this summer, hopefully the two-day Big Ben to Canary Wharf one in August.

Disclosure: My day on the London at Dawn experience was kindly sponsored by London at Dawn but all opinions and enthusiasm are definitely my own. I’d like to thank the team at London at Dawn for inviting me along on this adventure and hope to see them again soon.

18 comments on "London at Dawn: A Photographer's Dream"
  1. Beautiful shots. Worth the early rise :)

  2. You're right, pre-dawn and dawn is a magical time. I've never been able to get good photos then, but I've never really learned about manual settings, so I shouldn't be surprised!

    Lovely, lovely, photos!

  3. Looks awesome! I have yet to venture out at night to take some cityscapes...
    Hope all is well :)

  4. How fun! It looks like you got some really good shots. I hope the workshop provided coffee before you started. :)

  5. Yay..Fabulous shots Emm..yes it is quite fascinating with manual settings..! beautiful post..sounds like such fun...shine on!!! Gorgeous scenes...

  6. I know it gave you a chance to try the cabbie app, but I wish you had told me that you were doing this - you could have crashed at my place the night before - and walked to Tower Hill from mine (or caught the N47)

  7. So many beautiful photos! Well worth getting up for this. Some of the most beautiful photos you get when everyone else is asleep:-)

    Are you in Norway/Oslo now? Well, there are many places in Norway called Grimstad, I live in Grimstad town on the south coast, there are 4 hours to drive from Oslo..
    If you visit the south coast, give me a hint:-)
    Anyway, enjoy:-)

  8. What beautiful pictures!! You are so lucky to live in such an amazing city!

  9. this is well worth an early rise
    I think these shots are exceptional, gorgeous, definitely postcardlike
    how wonderful to be sponsored by London at Dawn
    wish we had a Brussels at dawn here ;)
    maybe someone could pick up the hint !

  10. Great shots! :) Sounds like a fun class.

    Sadly I don't think I could get up at that sort of time and still be with it enough to work a camera. Kudos!

  11. Lucky you to go out on a group photo shoot at dawn. Getting up so early must have been difficult, but the photos are worth it.

  12. The Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast show up the modern glass architecture for the emptiness it is very well!

    Excellent pictures and dawn is a great time to go out, unless there is clouds around! You have a great collection of pictures there!

  13. Fabulous, I didn't realise you were getting a guided tour and mentoring, it certainly makes up for the early rise.
    Looking forward to more photos.

  14. These are all beautiful photographs Mandy!!! Love them. It's worth getting up early... although I prefer to sleep long and stay up late :-)

  15. Stunning shots, really beautiful. I would love to learn more about photography but I wouldn't love to be doing it at 5 in the morning.

  16. London at dawn looks fantastic, but I still reckon that late at night is the best time for exploring and taking pictures along the River Thames - nothing beats it!


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