25,000,000: If you own a camera and have ever been to London, you've probably taken a photograph of the London Eye. In fact, you've probably taken several. Some from a distance, some from underneath, and some from the pod at the very top looking down on all the grinning people in the capsule just beneath you. The London Eye is a magnet for megapixels. It's almost impossible to walk past without whipping out your camera and snapping a shot or three. Indeed a significant proportion of your hard drive or mobile phone memory may be taken up with digitised images of this revolutionary London icon. Today there's an opportunity to unload some of your favourite London Eye photographs onto the attraction's website, and it's all thanks to an imminent visitor milestone.
Very soon, probably at some point during the next seven days, the London Eye will welcome its twenty-five millionth passenger. That's an impressive total, approximately equal to one thousand visitors for every hour that this giant observational wheel has been open to the public. 25 million is of course a very important milestone, and therefore well worth celebrating with a PR-inspired competition. So yesterday the Eye's owners invited a handful of media types and bloggers along for a free ride on the Eye and a glass of bubbly, just in case any of us should choose to publicise the contest on their behalf. What are the chances, eh?
It was interesting to watch what happens when a dozen or so 'photographers' are locked inside a pod on the London Eye for half an hour. Unlike normal tourists, who spend all their time taking photographs of one another with Big Ben in the background, we spent most of our time attempting to take artyshots instead. Three things made this easier than normal. Firstly our flight was timed perfectly for sunset, so bright skies dimmed imperceptibly to pinky-blue darkness as the 30 minute revolution passed. Secondly the Eye is currently bathed in soft red illumination in honour of Comic Relief on Friday, so the spoked metalwork glowed in perfect contrast to the twilight sky. And thirdly there were no tourists or small children getting in the way of all the best shots, so everyone moved around the capsule with appropriate care and deference for one another's line of sight. It was almost too simple.
After our flight we were whisked off into a sideroom at County Hall to meet with some of the Eye's staff and upload a few of the photos that we'd taken. This was, no doubt, a cunning ploy to make sure that the competition gallery has a variety of images already loaded when it launches officially this afternoon. Sorry, but if it's still Thursday morning you won't yet be able to access the competition website, nor view the 4 slightly random photos I uploaded. Once the official site is up and running you'll be allowed to enter up to ten photographs altogether, each of which must be in some way Eye-related. There's a registration form to fill in first, and some terms and conditions about copyright which one of the more professional photographers present last night didn't seem too happy about. I've stuck my ten chosen photos onto flickr while I wait for the Eye's site to emerge. [5pm update: it's emerged!]
The 25 million competition is open for the next month, after which the best picture will win some photography equipment and a year long ticket to various Tussauds attractions (that's Alton Towers as well as the waxworks, before you sound too disappointed). You almost certainly won't win, but it's a good way to bring your photographic skills to a wider audience. And one of the best things about the competition is that you don't need to fork out £14.50 for a flight on the Eye in order to enter. You can take perfectly good photographs of the Eye for free from a distance or from underneath, without needing to take any from the pod at the very top. In fact, if you have a hunt around on your hard drive you'll probably find that you've already got at least ten photos of the Eye which you could enter immediately. Very few world-class attractions can boast such universal popularity.