Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

So I was in London in February for work then again in June with Katy and Meagan for fun.  February was cold, dark and rainy and I had to work.  June was sunny, warm, the sun set at 10 o’clock at night and we explored London like tourists (we were!).

Rebecca went in July for a month and shot back pictures of these red poppies in the moat of the Tower of London.  What?  I was just there and we didn’t see any poppies!  What the…   Anyhow, I became obsessed with the poppies which are an art installation of what will be 888,246 ceramic poppies commemorating and representing a British military fatality during World War I.   The installation was created by incredible ceramic artist Paul Cummins and theatrical designer Tom Piper and installed by volunteers.  The name of the installation is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.  Which is so fitting considering what it represents and by scouring the internet, what it looks like.

So yes, I scoured the internet.  A lot.  Every week there were more and more poppies filling the moat.   I started to scheme.  I really wanted to see it and experience this installation.  It’s epic and a once in a lifetime experience.   I started to price flights.  Just to see.

My birthday came around in September and I hinted I wanted to see the Tower of London poppies for my birthday present.   I finally pulled the trigger.   Three days, in and out.  I was going to see the poppies.

I arrived on a Saturday and of course got stuck in traffic on my way to Shoreditch.   I chose to stay at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch because I’ve never been there, I heard it was a very artsy part of town, the hotel was affordable and I could walk to the tower from there.    It was far though.

That evening I just checked into the hotel, ate a wonderful Indian meal at Dishoom (which was packed) and walked a little around the neighborhood.  Shoreditch was HOPPING on a Saturday night.  There were tons of young people walking around and it was very active.

The next morning I had a coffee and muffin at Bulldog Edition in the hotel which was great.   I then took off on my quest to the Tower!

As I was winding my way South West to the Tower I suddenly came upon a large group of German tourists who, I was certain, were also going to the Tower.    I saw the spires in the distance and as I came through the Tower Hill tube stop tunnel I saw my first glimpse of the poppies!   They were bright red and looked real or surreal.  I pushed through the group of tourists and made my way to the corner and started shooting.   I kept taking breaks just to soak it in.   There were a lot more poppies in the moat than the first photos I saw from Rebecca.   A lot more.

I set up my tripod and started doing some HDR photos.   Of course I don’t know what I’m doing at all when it comes to HDR so I was winging it.  Once I was satisfied I bought a ticket to go inside the tower.   Not being sure if you could see the poppies from inside the walls.

Once in, I made my way far from the usual tourist spot the Crown Jewels are just stared exploring.   There was no one in certain areas.  It was odd but nice.    I caught a peek of the poppies through a cross shaped window but other than that, nothing.   One interesting thing however, in Beauchamp Tower there were original etchings in the walls made by prisoners in the 17th and 18th centuries.   Glancing through a name jumped out at me – William Beveridge (1562).   Hey, my 7th Great Grandfather is William Beveridge!   Could we be related?   Well that will take a bit of research…

So the next day, Monday, I woke up early again but it was raining so I opted for a cab to the Tower.   Much faster.    This time however the place was deserted.  I mean there were like 5 people.   I got a few good spots with my tripod and my umbrella and I did more HDR.   After spending a few hours on the internet the night before I was much more prepared.    I got a lot of shots.

That night I saw Lindsay Lohan in Speed the Plow on the West End.   I’ll just say, I found it odd that there was a last minute 5th row center ticket available.  The whole thing was a little flat and high school.

I flew home the next morning satiated and happy to have experienced such a wonderful memorial.   I also purchased a poppy and can’t wait to display it in a place of honour.     I only wish I would have been able to volunteer.  I also loved the hotel but wished I were more central.   Next time I do a quick trip like this I’ll find a hotel near a tube stop from Heathrow.   Also, I tried some great food but I think I should have stuck with my faves, Eat and Pret.   Can’t go wrong with those.

Here’s my two HDR experements. A bit of overkill but hey, I’ve never done it and I was trying to create a mood.

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Self portrait, Ace Hotel, Shoreditch, London

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