For the third — and judging by my track record of being ill at Xmas — the last time, I got up early and walked into central London to hire a bike and cycle around taking photos of the city minus its human population.
Well, almost deserted, and by 10am, while still incredibly empty, most of the main areas had people walking around enjoying the atmosphere of a silent city.
Apart from the emptiness of the city, it is the silence that makes the experience such an addictive one for me.
London is never silent, not even at 3am, but on Xmas morning, it is almost silent. The background drone of aircraft approaching Heathrow has gone, and away from main roads, the streets lack the sound of car tyres rolling over tarmac.
Heading home, also a sound you never really hear now – the pealing of church bells. Not just coming from a single church you are nearby, but from all over the city as the sound carries far further than usual and surrounds you from all sides. Magical.
This year though – Christmas Eve was on a Saturday, so I thought it might be possible to photograph the City of London on Saturday and save time. Despite what people might say, the City is never empty and quiet at weekends, as builders and maintenance workers displace office workers, and road traffic is still fairly high along the main roads.
This year though, the city was unusually empty for a Saturday, and worth the effort.
Well, you just have to try and recreate that famous scene from 28 Days Later.
I rather like the combination of old and new buildings, and taking it in B&W seems to work better than in colour, especially for the older buildings.
You don’t need to know anything about where this street is for it to work – as you see four lanes on the road and wide pavements and instinctively know it should be busy, but isn’t.
One of the busiest bridges across the Thames.
Again, this one seems to work better in black-and-white and the area seems to look more desolate as a result.
Busy Bank with Mansion House standing alone over one of the main road junctions in the area.
This was taken just as the sun was rising, so it lacks the “middle of the day” lighting effects of the other photos, but the empty street lined with so many shops and offices feels right for this.
Not that good technically as it was just too early in the morning – but I did have a nice chat with three policemen who also turned up to take photos in the morning.
Empty Trafalgar Square – although there were a couple of security guards huddled in a doorway nearby.
Hyde Park Corner – London’s scariest road junction looking a little safer than usual.
A giant pigeon in Picadilly Circus – presumably that advert isn’t a serving suggestion?
And the new X-Crossing at Oxford Circus. Actually not as empty as it looks, I just had to wait a while for the cars to go away. I also had a nice chat with three Chinese tourists who were stunned at the lack of public transport.
You can see the full set of 89 photos here.