For most people a night on the town involves getting lashed at your local spoons and stumbling into a kebab shop at 2am in a drunken hunger fueled haze of garlic mayo and pita. For some of us it means a night on the roof tops. For the past couple of weeks myself and a good buddy had been planning to have a look at a disused victorian underground reservoir simply because it looked like the mines of moria from Lord of the Rings. This plan was cut short when we found all the access points had been sealed shut by quarter of inch thick metal plates and anti-vandal nuts. So, I gave a friend a call to see what activities he was planning for the evening, and made a detour to Reading.
I make no secret of it, I love rooftops. The challenge and risk they can present getting on to them is half of the fun of a good urban exploration experience. The photography is simply a secondary activity most of the time. Our first port of call was just outside of one the car-parks in Reading Town centre. Access via some finely constructed scaffolding made the ascent easy. The climb up did highlight that I need to find a better tripod/bag solution to free up both hands as I had to put the tripod on the boards above me, climb up the ladder, pick up tripod and repeat which made for slow movement.
We spent about an hour up here, everyone grabbing a couple of shots and just enjoying the view for what it was. We then climbed back down to ground level and quickly headed to the nearest Tescos for some food (anyone passing through Bordon….dont buy a coffee at the machine in Tesco’s….warmed up crap!). We then darted around the corner, nipped down a side access road and hit the rooftops of the main high street. We walked, climbed and scrambled the length of the roofs for about 20 minutes before finding an open rooftop work room that provided some heat and a chance to dig my down jacket out.
About a year ago, I read an article about how to use ETTR (expose to the right) to photograph the Milky Way in a light polluted environment by Justin Ng. ETTR is a technique that involves exposing a frame so that most of the tones in an image sit towards the pure white range (right hand side) of the histogram without clipping the highlights. This gives you substantially more shadow data and allows you to bring details out during post that you could not otherwise see. Whilst your image may appear overexposed, as long as you have not clipped the highlights you can use a couple of editing techniques to bring the image back to a correct exposure but have sufficient data in the file to bring out the dark and shadow tones without too much noise being created. I used this technique on the shot below with the end result of my face looking like a beacon of glowing light. Good times.
After some more running around across icy roof tops we headed over to the highest peak in Reading. My friends previous attempts at access proved to be a fine balancing act on empty barrels before clambering over the main fence on to a staircase. This time round access was easier and a bit more fun, weaving in and out of walkways and car parks before making the hefty climb up what felt like 1,000,000 steps. I stopped off on a few floors and each was the same, trashed and dismantled with most signs of previous use removed in prep for demolition.. Had I not been so tired I would have grabbed a couple of shots, but it was the shot of Reading train station from an elevation I was after. On the way out we attracted attention of a NCP carparking attendent, not that it mattered, but it did make leaving a bit more rushed.