The Glass Furnace

I used to live a 15 minute walk from this view of the London cityscape, in a sleepy little part of London called “Wapping”.  Which was pretty nice, because it was one of the few places in the city back then where you wouldn’t get a nose full of soot from the diesel buses, and I had easy access to everything the city had to offer.  I was a young engineer at Ford Motor Company doing a rotational assignment.  Life was ridiculous.  I thought it was a blast to be driving a stick shift on the wrong side of the street powering through roundabouts.  One of my friends at Ford, who was on rotation with me and owned a small race team back in The States, took it to an entirely new level.  He once yanked the handbrake to get his car to slip sideways while driving down a corkscrew ramp in the movie theater parking lot.  Straight-up “Tokyo Drift” in real life.  I still have no idea how he returned that rental without a scratch on it, though I’m not surprised the hand brake no longer worked.

Ford somehow also put me up in a flat with a balcony overlooking the River Thames.  After the sky got dark, party boats filled with hundreds of people would slowly cruise by with music blaring.  I was quite the setup, except for lack of an air conditioner.  So after a hard workout at the gym, it could be a little hot for sleeping.  And I did what I had to: I adopted new clothing habits (or lack thereof) for bedtime.   One night I got up fumbling in the kitchen for a glass of water and decided to turn on the lights.  And that’s when I heard dozens of women on a passing ship immediately  start to scream and whistle.  That sort of thing sticks with you, forever.   Glad I could make their night a little more entertaining.

So, with my head filled with memories of sixteen years ago, I made my first return trip to London last year.  I somehow expected such an old city would stand still in time, but it’s changed dramatically.  I love all the new architecture, especially this view of City Hall, The Shard, and the Ernst & Young building on the Thames.  The glass facade warms up like a blast furnace with the fiery colors of sunset.  I felt like I’d explored every inch of the city when I lived here, and now there’s so much more.  I took this shot with a new photographer friend and then headed for a pint at one of the pubs faintly visible in this shot.  I love that aspect of cityscape photography.  You can capture distant memories and be inspired to new adventures, both at the same time.

Sunset over London Cityscape (The Shard, City Hall, Thames, Ernst & Young building)


  • Exposure blending and dodging/burning in Lumenzia
  • Added a Black and White adjustment layer set to luminosity blend mode to bring out the yellow lights of the building
  • Color grading with Selective Color tool
  • Cloning to remove some distractions (a few construction cranes and a lone cloud)
  • Straightened verticals with Lumenzia Basics‘ “verticals” tool (applied this to a smart object containing all layers)

Below are the four exposures I blended to create the image.  I don’t typically shoot 1ev brackets these days.  I could have just as easily captured this scene with 2 RAW images (or even 1, depending on how much you want to push your shadows).  Shooting fewer exposures is ideal with a fast setting sun and moving clouds to deal with.


Greg Benz Photography