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Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham

I love exhibitions that think outside the box. The Sistine chapel exhibition is different. Whilst In Rome, I missed the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel and wonder what the experience is like. Apparently it is very crowded and you spend your time looking upwards and at a distance at the great works of Michelangelo. It is still said to be a moving experience.

Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
God divides the water from the earth.

Meanwhile in a warehouse in deepest Digbeth, there is a Secret Space and it was here that 34 life sized reproductions of the frescos were displayed by the Fever exhibition company.  The pictures were arranged around two large rooms and there was an audio accompaniment to each fresco. Some pictures were hung on the ceiling with the majority on the sides of the warehouse.

Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
The Creation of Adam
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
Taking a picture
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
The Ceiling of the Warehouse in Digbeth.

There was ample space to move around and take pictures. My friend Monsignor Danny McHugh religiously followed the audio narrative. I chose to jump back and forth taking pictures of both the exhibition and the observers. It was an enjoyable experience.  A church like atmosphere was maintained throughout by the use of choral music.  I found that I came away with an enhanced understanding of how Michelangelo executed his paintings and the thought processes behind them.  There were some humorous parts of the narrative that accompanied the picture viewing. There were some nice attentions to detail and the staff were very friendly and helpful.

Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
David and Goliath
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
The Prophet Ezekiel
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
The Last Judgement
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
So much to take in
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
Looking upwards
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
Judith Slays Holofernes
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
Zechariah

Next I will visit the real Sistine Chapel but for now I hope you enjoy the pictures. If you can catch the exhibition in your own local town then I would recommend seeing it.

Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
In deepest Digbeth, the Secret Place, River Street
Sistine Chapel, Fever, Digbeth, Birmingham
Contemporary Art outside the Exhibition

The pictures were taken with both my Fujifilm x100v and my iPhone13. The mobile phone does a great job of low light situations but I like the control that the x100v gives me as well. I have the settings of the Fujifilm on Aperture priority and automatic ISO.


Middleton Lakes RSPB

I always wonder how I miss local attractions when I have lived in the area for most of my life.  Kingsbury water park and Drayton Manor Park are near to each other and the family has enjoyed many days out in both places.  What I had overlooked over the years is Middleton lakes which is owned by the RSPB and is situated between the other two major venues.  The RSPB reserve is next to the Bodymoor Heath Aston Villa training grounds and adjacent to Middleton Hall.  The latter was closed when I visited but the RSPD car park was open and once there, I set off to explore the reserve. 

My first port of call was the bird feeders and as I placed myself behind the hide, several birds visited included blue tits and a woodpecker.  I had brought along my 400mm zoom lens and was able to get some good close ups.  My walk up the river path took me to the Birmingham and Fazerley canal. The path took me past some nooks and crannies near to the river. Here I was able to stand in the woods and get some great pictures of the birds who came along. 

I walked past the canal onto the flatlands and there were hundreds of seagulls flying around although there were a few other birds such as Canada geese present.  I did spot my first butterfly of the season, an orange tip.  The reserve is well set out and you can get good views of wildlife.  I spotted swans, herons and partridges although I was not quick enough with my camera for some of them. 

Middleton Lakes RSPB
The wetlands at Middleton Lakes

I did enjoy the visit but was left frustrated as I did not capture the flying birds as well as I had hoped.  As I walked back reflecting on how to get better images, there were two ducks on the canal bridge walls.  Getting my iPhone out I took a close-up picture of the birds before they moved on. 

My duck stare picture did get a positive set of viewing on my social media channels. The picture of the lakes was featured on the lunchtime BBC weather report. These features made for a satisfying end of my visit to Middleton Lakes.

Middleton Lakes RSPB
My picture feature on BBC Midlands weather report.

This is my first blog on wildlife pictures but here is a taste of some of my previous blogs that features a few of my feathered friends.
Coombe Abbey Country Park
Arrow Valley Country Park


Normanton Church on Rutland water

There are many iconic picture locations in England which demand to be photographed. Luckily I have visited several including Chesterton Windmill and Burnham-on-Sea Lighthouse. Both places combine an unusual structure that can be photographed against the elements of the weather. One iconic location that I have wanted to visit for a while is Normanton church on the shores of Rutland Water reservoir.  The place is a popular venue especially for weddings and sightseers .

Normanton Church on Rutland Water
Normanton Church does appear to have sunk below the water line.
Normanton Church on Rutland Water
The Church makes looks good against the sky
Normanton Church on Rutland Water
A view of the Church framed by nearby tree branches.

The church sits just below the water level and therefore looks as if it has sunk. The iconic look of the church as it sits away from the shore of the lake provides many photographic opportunities. Access is very easy and there is a car park nearby with well served amenities all managed by Anglian water. In fact the place is ideal for many activities including a walk around the lake shore. Sian my daughter and her husband Jim, were interested in visiting the place as well and when we arrived the weather looked good. Blue skies and white clouds. As there was a wedding taking place it was not possible to explore the church itself and I could only take pictures from afar. It was still possible to get some good photographs of the church against the lake and the sky.

Normanton Church on Rutland Water
It was a beautiful start to the walk around the lake edge.
Normanton Church on Rutland Water
Beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Rutland Water
The sailing club was active in the gusty conditions.
Rutland Water
There is a well maintained path around the reservoir.

After taking pictures of the church and then setting off on a walk, the weather changed. As you can see we then experienced sleet and rain followed by yet again blue skies etc. The weather did not dampen my enthusiasm for taking pictures of Normanton Church and the walk around the lake will be explored more at a further date.

Rutland Water
In an instant the weather turned to sleet and rain.
Rutland Water
The sky is slowly returning to a blue colour on our way back.

As a final note, I started off my Spaghetti Junction blog with the words “What lies below”. When I posted my pictures about Rutland Water reservoir on my social media feeds, one of my friends commented about a murder novel written about the area. The book is called “What lies beneath” and features Normanton Church on its cover. The story when a dead body is found on the rocks of Normanton Church. The victim has been laid out in a crucifixion pose…….


Spaghetti Junction March2022

What lies below is a theme for this and my next blog.  Spaghetti Junction is 50 years old in May 2022. Millions of car drivers pass over Spaghetti Junction as they hurtle past Birmingham.  Many are on the M6 heading north or south to their destination with no thought about what is below.  For others the Aston Expressway is the main northern route into Birmingham and is a spur off the Junction.  The sprawl of roads spit out cars to Erdington and 6 ways along the Tyburn Road.  People live in Gravelly Hill immediately adjacent to the junction.  The area is a mixture of concrete, noise and fumes.  The Junction celebrates 50 years in May and at the time was seen as a landmark construction.  Over the years it has become synonymous with Birmingham.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The layers of the Junction from the River Tame to the Signs for the Aston Expressway

As a photographer what lies below is much more interesting and is seldom seen from above.  The first part of the junction to investigate is Salford circus which is the link roundabout for many of the local roads to the motorway.  It is not clear what the planners had in mind but the inner pedestrian area of the junction is an unfriendly concrete jungle.  It is covered in litter and graffiti tagging.  It is not a place to visit alone and luckily my photographic colleague John Bray was with me.  The concrete pillars are giants holding up the roads above.  The area is under attack and the hero is nature as it attempts to reclaim the area.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
What wonders what the planners had in mind for the underpasses.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The sound of broken glass
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Nature is fighting back on the concrete.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Tagging and signs
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Having someone with you when visiting is essential.

Kicking our way through the rubbish we make ouir way through the underpasses and cross the busy junction to reach the canal access steps.  Running under the Motorway the canals also make a junction.  There is where three canals come together namely the Birmingham and Fazeley, the Tame Valley and the Birmingham and Warwick Junction canals.  Flowing alongside the canals is the River Tame.  The area has numerous bridges criss crossing the canal and the light peeks through vents above.  There are grafitti strewn around the place.  Cyclists and walkers move around in a surreal dance.  Walking eastwards the Motorway passes Star City and the area is reminiscent of many TV programmes.  This is probably because a great deal of car chase filming takes place around here. 

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Concrete everywhere
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Access to the canal
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Starting to explore underneath.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
A view of the Star City entertainment complex
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
A place where many movies car chases are filmed.

Moving westwards there is a bridge tunnel where there is graffiti which in the past was renowned for its beauty and craftsmanship in previous years.  When we visited, there was just a white washed wall with a prison window.  I am unsure of the meaning of this painting.  The site is used as there is a shaft of light that comes down from above the junction onto the canalside.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Underneath the heart of the junction.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The “prison window” graffiti.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Reflections and stagnations in the water.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The deep green canal.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Traffic thunders above.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Constant repair of the road structure goes on.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Looking back along the canal.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Bolts hold the roads together.

The canal path leads under all the roads that form the Junction and there is repair work on several of the bridges.  A path along the Aston Expressway eventually comes out onto Aston reservoir.  This is a hidden feature in the shadows of the Motorway.  It is relatively peaceful and a contrast to the distant noise of the traffic.  Moving along the perimeter and keeping the river Tame in view, there are trees and shrubs which are reclaiming the land underneath the tarmac.  This becomes the end of our journey underneath Spaghetti junction, and we head home back on the M6. 

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Aston Reservoir
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Spring Blossom against the concrete pillars.

There are likely to be birthday celebrations on its big 50 birthday but meanwhile here is a BBC link celebrating 40 years.


Photographing Southampton

I always enjoy visiting a new city and I was excited that such an opportunity arose through my research work. The City was Southampton.  Arriving in the city via the train station, it is quickly apparent how much of it is new and there is little in the way of old pre-war structures.  Blechynden Terrace is one of several reminders of the German Blitz during WWII.  Whilst interesting, it was not in a great state and there was a large metal ring which held the wall together.  The ring was a memorial to the past but the park was neglected and a refuge for the fringes of society rather than remembering the past. 

Photographing Southampton
The arch in Blechynden Gardens is a memorial to lives lost in the Blitz on Southampton.

The Southampton civic centre features on many photographs of the city.  The buildings are set in a public area and serve several functions.  I did not have time to visit inside the Civic centre and made my way around to the Guildhall Square.  Next to the square there is what appears to be an old department store building called the St James Mathews Building.  It is owned by Southampton Solent University and the part that I liked is all the Street Art on the outside of the building with some of it being very colourful. 

Photographing Southampton
Walking upwards to the Civic Centre
Photographing Southampton
Graffiti around the Solent University

I only had small parcels of time to get any photography done and, on the morning of the meeting, I got up very early and went down to the Mayflower Park to see which cruise ships were in.  these floating cities are quite monstrous in real life, and one wonders how they float yet alone sail.  My pictures show the Spirit of Adventure in the early morning light.

Photographing Southampton
Spirit of Adventure in Southampton docks

The meeting finished early, and I had a few hours before the train home.  I walked down Portland Terrace setting off from the Civic Centre.  The street is very non-descript with a range of shops and facades that would make you think you could be in any city.  I passed through Bargate and discovered more of the old city wall.  There is the Arundel tower of the old city and the forty steps.  I particularly liked the statue of one of the former mayors of the city looking over the old walls.

Photographing Southampton
Passing through Bargate
Photographing Southampton
Looking over the City walls.

The next point of call was the remnants of the old town and the Tudor House and the church of St Michael the Archangel.  Another part of the old area of Southampton and although only small in area full of history.  There was a passageway that led down to the Pig in the Wall pub and other interesting artwork including the outlines of merchant ships Western Esplanade and memorials of the voyage of the Mayflower.  I was now back at Mayflower Park and saw another of the big ships was in with the Spirit of Adventure.

Photographing Southampton
A view of the Church of St Micheal the Archangel from Tudor House
Photographing Southampton
Pig in the Wall pub set in the old City walls.
Photographing Southampton
A view through the misty afternoon from Mayflower Park
Photographing Southampton
Watching the ships

Time to catch my train home and as I walked to the station, I passed derelict areas where planners of large shopping centres had not realised that a change of tastes and economy would make them quickly redundant.  Southampton is a city to visit but it does portray a history of a changing city.

Photographing Southampton
The demise of Toys R Us

Pictures were taken mainly with my Fujifilm x100v and Silver Efex was used for the black and white conversions.

If you enjoy the Photographing cities and countries series then here are a few links to get you started.
Photographing Royal Leamington Spa
Photographing Oxford
Photographing Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Finally there is always the Visit Southampton webpages to follow up any interest that I may have generated 🙂


Wheels of London

I was down in London visiting the British Dental Association in Wimpole Street. A friend and colleague, Nairn Wilson, has a project of collecting dental ties. So far he has well over 200 of them. My task was to photograph them for cataloguing purposes.

Wheels of London
Biking along Regent St

A trip to London is always fun as the place offers so many photographic opportunities. I came down by Chiltern trains to Marylebone and returned via Euston to Rugby where Sandy was visiting my daughter and the grandchildren. The arrival and walk from Marylebone is always exciting as you pass by many different streets, main roads and parks. After the visit to the BDA and the photographs of the ties, I made my way down to Oxford Street. I was lucky as the setting sun had begun to set low along Oxford Street.  In the subsequent golden hour, there was some lovely light with long shadows. Oxford street is an ideal place for street photography as there are so many people moving around.  There were so many pictures on my camera and of some many different themes. However I noticed that I had focused on bicycles and skateboards and these leant themselves to a story.

Wheels of London
The shadow of a wheelie on Oxford Street.
Wheels of London
Skateboarding in Triton Street

At the start of the day, I had taken a few pictures of cyclists on my way to the BDA HQ in Wimpole Street.  As I made my way back to Euston, there were cyclists moving along Oxford Street. The area around Oxford Circus is very busy and there are many cyclists moving around in between the buses.  My final part of journey back to Euston took me through Triton street and here I came across people on skateboards that added to my portfolio. So enjoy my themed series and I am looking forward to my next visit to the capitol.

Wheels of London
Bus versus cyclist

Reflections in Birmingham

I love National Geographic Traveller UK magazine and I am always tagging my pictures with their hashtag #NGTUK in the hope of being featured. My persistence paid off and my picture of a person walking along Regency Wharf in Gas Street Basin was featured first on Instagram and then in the April edition of the magazine. It just shows that you do not have to travel far to get featured in a travel magazine.

Cracks Hill, Sunrise

This hill is the remnant of a glacier and has a prominent view of the nearby village of Crick and the surrounding Northamptonshire country side.  I have visited the hill before as Sunset and captured a beautiful scene.  On a recent visit to my daughter, I took the opportunity to capture the sunrise.  Whilst there were no clouds in the sky the rising sun was still beautiful and I was able to frame the sun in the beacon.  Whilst I was on the beacon there were several walkers who passed through for a chat.  The subsequent light was beautiful and made a perfect start up for the rest of the day.

Cracks Hill, Sunrise
The view of Crick Village from Cracks Hill
Cracks Hill, Sunrise
The Grand Union Canal next to Cracks Hill
Cracks Hill, Sunrise
The canal bridge that leads onto Cracks Hill

If you want to learn more about Cracks Hill then read the West Northamptonshire Council Web pages
and I have been there before at sunset visiting both the Hill and Crick’s Wood.

Cracks Hill, Sunrise
Another view from Cracks Hill.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham

Oozells square in the westside of Birmingham is unremarkable other than the IKON gallery which is on one side of the square. The IKON is a highly acclaimed contemporary art venue and when you have finished looking over the latest exhibits, take a well earned rest in Yorks coffee shop.  However in the months of March and April the square erupts with cherry blossom and becomes one of the most photographed squares in Birmingham.  I also took many photographs.  The square was featured in a BBC news and my photograph was included.  I have also added a few more of my own in this post.

Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A favourite reflection is produced around the water feature
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
the blossom turns and ordinary square into the extraordinary.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A traditional view of the blossom with the IKON in the background.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
Another traditional view of the blossom in the square.

Further links include
The IKON gallery
Yorks Cafe

If you would like to see previous entries on this square then please visit
Blosson in Oozells Square
Cherry blossom experiments

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire

My quest to discover new National Trust properties took me to Croome House and Gardens in the heart of Worcestershire countryside.  The day was glorious for March and just the weather to go exploring a new place.  Arriving right on opening time, I took my map and quickly planned my visit.  I had an hour before the house doors opened so I made my way along to the lake with an island feature at the end of the property.  The tag line for Croome is expect the unexpected.  There is certainly lots of unexpected views and points of interest along the path.  The photographs provide an insight into the different views that can be seen at Croome.  There are several outhouses and statues along the way. The lake had the final mist of the morning lingering on the edges with views of main house. Following on from the lake, I soon found myself approaching the house and the wooden bridge over the river made a good feature for framing the house in the background.  This picture is the main feature of my blog and also made the BBC Midlands weather bulletin for that day.

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Starting out on the walk at Croome.
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
A view of the Lake from inside the Grotto
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Coombe House in the morning mist.
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
A close up of the footbridge.

The house was interesting.  Whilst it initially looked bare there were several strategically placed objects including urns that I was reliably informed were rare and individual.  The house was slowly unpacking furniture and other items that were being loaned by the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The wooden boxes looked very surreal in several of the rooms. There was a range of boxes in various stages of unpacking.  One part that I really loved was where the bone china was being displayed.  It was a glass and mirrored display box that you could walk into.  The reflection of the plates was surreal.  I took the opportunity to take different photographs including lying on the floor looking upwards with my camera.  The results were quite incredible.

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Another imaginative display.
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Whilst much of the interior furnishings have long gone, this sofa remains.

Walking out of the house into the expanse of the grounds, I carried on the path discovering outbuildings that commanded great views of the surrounding countryside.  The final delight was the beautifully simple church with the afternoon sun shinning into it.  This made for some good picture opportunities.

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Interior of St Mary Magdalene Church

The National Trust link to Croome provides further information on visiting the property.