05.05.24: Obviously London

People typically use “Big Ben” to refer to the tower and/or the clock itself, but it’s actually the nickname for the Great Bell that chimes every quarter hour. 

Iconic sights make naming locale easy

There are certain iconic sights that are symbols of specific locales, the type of sights used by filmmakers to identify a location to movie or television viewers.

Think the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building or Times Square in New York, the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial or U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

For London it’s the tower of Big Ben with either a red double-decker bus or a black taxi in the foreground.

I grabbed this shot during a walk on a London visit in 2010. I was looking for the best angle to get a photo of the Big Ben with traffic around lunchtime on a sunny March day when settled on this location on the south side of Parliament Square. Traffic moving west across the River Thames on Westminster Bridge gets routed around Parliament Square after passing the clock tower — commonly called Big Ben — on the north end of the Palace of Westminster.

It’s the perfect spot for the photo I wanted. I just had to wait until a black cab or double-decker bus was on the street, which seemed to happen every few seconds. I grabbed a number of shots before I continued with my walk.

People typically use “Big Ben” to refer to the tower and/or the clock itself, but it’s actually the nickname for the Great Bell that chimes every quarter hour. The tower was officially called the Clock Tower until it was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The tower was completed in 1858, which makes it a somewhat recent addition to London when compared to other structures in the city.

The red double-decker buses in London are also a national symbol. Red double-decker buses began carrying passengers in London shortly after World War II and have been common sights on the streets for 70 years.

I didn’t pay attention to it when I was composing the shot but I actually captured another much more recent London icon in the image. To the left, rising above a building, is the London Eye Ferris wheel. The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is a cantilevered observation wheel opened in 2000 on the south bank of the River Thames.

A London double-decker bus passes in front of Big Ben, the common nickname for the clocktower known as the Elizabeth Tower, with the London Eye Ferris wheel visible at left, London, England.

A London double-decker bus passes in front of Big Ben, the common nickname for the clocktower known as the Elizabeth Tower, with the London Eye Ferris wheel visible at left, London, England.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Mar 15, 2010 11:55 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM 
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • Aperture: f/10
  • Shutter: 1/320 second
  • ISO: 400

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