Bird's Eye London by Paul Campbell

Sensational photographic book captures London from the air

Bird’s Eye London, the first title from Graffeg photographic imprint Bird Eye Books, showcases stunning aerial images by photographer, Paul Campbell.

More than 150 photographs give the viewer a totally fresh perspective on some of London’s most famous landmarks, as well as giving us an insight into corners of the capital that are hidden from the usual street level view – such as the Rooftop Secrets section.

The book is separated into chapters that document the city’s iconic attractions and architectural landmarks:

  • Royal London
  • Classic London
  • Arts and Culture
  • Green Spaces
  • A City within the City
  • Sporting Excellence
  • Politics and Religion
  • Towers of London
  • Rooftop Secrets
  • Canary Wharf and O2
  • Railheads
  • Home Sweet Home

The book took five years to shoot, and during the course of those years, Campbell frequently had to deal with air sickness, which is something akin to sea sickness. The fumes from the plane were another factor to contend with.

Campbell also chose to use a helicopter for his photoshoots, rather than use a drone. He points out that drones have a height limit of 400 feet, and The Shard stands at 900 feet! Also, despite technological advances, a drone cannot yet compete with a top-of-the-range camera manned by a top-of-the-range photographer.

Hardback / 270 x 270mm / 216 pages
ISBN 9781913134532 / RRP: £35

Publication 15 October 2020

Q&A with Photographer Paul Campbell

Q: You mention airsickness. Is this something you get used to, or does it continue to be an occupational hazard for an aerial photographer?
P: It just comes up on you now and again when your eyes are not focused on the horizon or you are flying in a tight circle – very much akin to seasickness! The unpleasant fumes from the Jet A-1 fuel also enhance this experience, as would the fumes of a diesel engine outboard motor on a boat!

Q: Do any funny or alarming moments spring to mind from the five years of photoshoots for Bird’s Eye London?
P: No funny moments I can recall, although I do try and keep my sense of humour at all times, but a poignant moment came on 14 June 2017, which had begun as a fabulous day for aerial photography. At around 6am, on my way to the airfield on the M25, I received a phone call from the pilot to tell me we couldn’t fly because there had been a blanket no flying restriction imposed over London because of a fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington. I am told at that time the security agencies suspected this being the handiwork of terrorists. I had not turned my radio on and was completely unaware of the severity of the tragedy but had noted a long, long trail of smoke rising into sky from the distant horizon of London as I made my way eastwards to Stapleford.

Q: Much has been made of the power of drones for aerial photographic purposes. Can you explain why this is not a route you would take?
P: Drones are great and there is nothing wrong with a drone in the hands of a skilful professional pilot who knows what they are doing, however, there are height restrictions when flying a drone over London which mean you cannot legally fly over the top of many of the skyscrapers and also not that far from the River Thames. The maximum legal ceiling height is 400ft – putting that into perspective, The Shard is 900ft tall. The skies above London are also a dangerous place to be because of the constant activity of aircraft flying into Heathrow and London City airports. Also, and importantly, drone technology to date cannot deal with the autofocusing of telephoto lenses, which I used for some of the shots. It would have been far, far more economical to use a drone than a helicopter but unfortunately not possible.

Q: Did the London skyline change a great deal in the five years it took to shoot the images for the book?
P: It has to a certain degree because London is relatively flat, so any tall building, such as The Shard, appearing on the landscape immediately creates a lasting impact. There are skyscrapers constantly popping up at Canary Wharf and the recent arrival in Bishopsgate of the new king of the City of London, The Pinnacle, at 278m (912ft) does change the skyline for posterity.

Q: Can you share with us a few of your favourite images in the book?
P: I am pleased with the cover shot of The Hub in Regent’s Park because of its graphic simplicity and the fact it gets you thinking. The rowing boats on the Serpentine, close-up shot of Lord Nelson, Battersea Park and some of the photography in the Rooftop Secrets chapter I feel particularly good about.