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Night Time Photography

Brum through a lens at Night

When the call goes out on Instagram for night time photography organised by the WestMidlandsPhotoCollective then you know it will be a good event.  Unfortunately, it was limited numbers, and I was unsuccessful. I put my name down  on the waiting list and promptly forgot all about it.  A day before the event, a call came through saying someone had dropped out and was I still interested?  No difficulties in saying yes.

Brum through a lens at Night
Brindley Place with reflecting lights on the Canal

We met at the Roundhouse Birmingham which is where the horses that pulled the canal boats were kept in the early days of the industrial revolution.  After a period of falling into despair, the Roundhouse is now restored to its former glory. With funding from the National Lottery Heritage fund, a partnership formed between the Canal and River Trust and National Trust has led to a community-based centre offering new purpose for the building.  Check out their web site to see what is on offer.

Brum through a lens at Night
Classic viewpoint of Gas Street Basin.
Brum through a lens at Night
Gas Street Basin looking towards the Black Sabbath bridge.

Jim and Sarah from the WMPC met us and outlined the walk.  We followed a community route called “Brum through a Lens”.  We were armed with our tripods and set out along the canals to Gas Street Basin to start taking our first set of photographs.  It is one of the highlighted stops on the Brum through a Lens walk. This classic view is immediately under the Cambrian Wharf wall, looking out over the basin towards the Cube.  I started having tripod malfunctions and struggled to get pictures.  By the time I had freed up the tripod, it was time to move on to the Cube.  On the way we passed under Holliday Street Aqueduct.  This looked an ideal spot for light trials and I lingered around the place taking what turned out to be my best picture of the night.  Several cars came through at once and I had the camera on the long exposure settings (25s, f22, ISO 100). 

Brum through a lens at Night
Light Trails under Holliday Street Aqueduct

Catching up with the group, I took a picture of the Mailbox.  Trying something different I went low and illuminated the train tracks with my torch.  The long exposure gave the water a milky texture and the background was the bright lights of the Mailbox. 

Brum through a lens at Night
Mailbox with old tracks in the foreground.

The final stop was Centennial Square with the Big Wheel and the Star Flyer.  I looked around for a vantage point.  Many of the photographers were setting up underneath the Star Flyer and I saw their pictures after the event.  It was a unique viewpoint.  I decided to stand back and get a good vantage point with both attractions in the viewfinder.  After a while I got an idea of how the Star Flyer was moving up and down.  I had a few efforts with the long exposure and then there was one session where I captured the movement from top to bottom.  The flyer had illuminated struts with people suspended in chairs out into the heights.  It looked quite scary and the movement made a good subject for the long exposure. There were also plenty of screams as well to accompany the long exposure.

Brum through a lens at Night
The Star Flyer looks like a lollipop after the long exposure treatment.

The group moved back to the Roundhouse to take part in some light painting.  Both fairy lights and long neon tubes were used for the light sources.  It was a different light display and made for some dramatic effects as shown.  The circular structure of the roundhouse allowed it to be very dark with little stray light.  An ideal location for light painting.

All the walking combined with the photography made for thirsty work.  The remaining photographers made their way to the Distillery pub for some well-earned refreshments.  There was talk about those pictures that were successful and those that got away.

Thank you to West Midlands Photo Collective for organising the meeting which was very enjoyable giving many of us an opportunity to wander around the City. Being in a group reduced concerns about our safety with all of our equipment and we were able to concentrate on the photography.

All these long exposure pictures were taken with a Canon D5 on a tripod. I used a fast zoom lens 24-105mm. The camera settings were on manual with an ISO 100. The aperture was set at either f/11 to f/22. The timings were around 30 seconds for the light trails and the Star Flyer. At the Roundhouse, I adjusted the timings to be around a few seconds due to the intensity of the light.


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Author: Damien Walmsley

Photography started many years ago when I was influenced by my father who was a keen amateur photographer who loved slide and cine film. I had a black and white Kodax camera and quickly progressed to colour prints and slides. 35mm pictures chronicle my family growing up. But it was the digital age combined with the reach of social media that opened my eyes to a new world of photography and I am still learning. My favourite subjects are travel, people, macro and of course Birmingham! Damien Walmsley Twitter @dammo Instagram @dammodammo  

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