Tag Archives: amateur photographer

Gas Street Basin, Birmingham

Welcome to my series on cameras, lenses, advice and taking those all-important pictures.  So which camera do you use?  This is a common question that I am asked when someone sees one of my pictures.  It is if the camera took the picture not the photographer!  There may be an element of truth in this, although there are a lot of factors that go into taking a picture and the camera is only one of them. 

FujiFilm x100v
FujiFilm x100v

To kickstart this series, I am going to talk about my ‘go-to camera’ which is the Fujifilm x100v.  The story is that I wanted to buy myself a new camera to replace my Sony RX100 V.  My requirements were many.  Simple to use but requiring the level of complexity below the surface when needed.  Weather resistance was a desirable feature.  I have had several compact zoom cameras over the years, and they have worked well.  Often the zoom mechanism has not been robust despite the camera quality with grit getting into the zoom mechanism.  Therefore, a fixed lens appealed to me.  As I grew up on 35 mmm cameras, like many reading this blog, I love the idea of owning a Leica, but the cost is prohibitive.  More realistically, I looked at alternatives and in early 2020, the release of the Fujifilm x100v came with positive reviews.  I did my homework and researched it. My decision was made after I looked at pictures people had posted and read reviews on the camera in the photographic magazines.

FujiFilm x100v buttons
FujiFilm x100v buttons

The Fujifilm x100v was waiting for me on Christmas day morning.  I unboxed it and started taking pictures.  With a new camera, I oscillate between starting to take pictures and reading the camera manual.  There are a few internet articles and YouTube videos that got me started.  One of the first differences was the position of the buttons compared to my Canon and Sony.  The tactile feel of the buttons gave me more control of my picture taking.  The buttons are traditional analogue designs and not digital.  Gradually I got the hang of the camera and then starting to use it in serious mode.  I read the manual more and more discovering even more buttons! 

I tried out the different colour settings and settled on the weak chrome colour.  Using the camera in aperture priority, I worked through the options.  My first pictures were a little hit and miss but the jpg quality began to impress me.  My confidence grew and it started to come most places with me.  In the morning whilst walking the dog, it proved to be a useful camera to record details on the high street especially during lockdown.  It is not a replacement to the big camera (Canon D5-mkIV) but it certainly does its job of delivering remarkable pictures.

What I like
In no particular order, here are my favourite things about this compact camera. 

  • The flash settings are easy to use and understand.  It gives good portrait pictures with the flash on.  This is quite something considering it is a camera mounted flash.  I use a manual setting of 1/64 sec often for a fill in.  The flash does not create many red eyes either.
  • The exposure compensation button is easy to understand and is set up next to your thumb.  I found this very useful and quick to select.
  • Some may consider it a gimmick, but the selective colour is so easy to set up and use.  If there was one fun element to the camera then this is it.
  • The double exposure is straightforward and offers three settings depending on which picture you choose to be the main feature of the setting.
  • The jpgs are stand alone, high quality and need little adjustment.
  • The back controls are easy to use and the tilted screen allows for flexibility in the framing of the pictures you take.  This includes being able to get down low.
FujiFilm x100v
FujiFilm x100v weather proofing at a price and convenience.

The camera is also cool to customise.  I added a thumb rest and changed the strap.  I did add a shoot button but then found it much better for my shooting technique when the button was clear. The pictures also show a half case for the lower half of the camera body.

What I do not like

  • Connectivity is poor over the wireless and the app design is poor.  So one is reaching for the iPhone if you wish to quickly upload pictures to BBC weather watchers or want to get that picture sent to family and friends as soon as possible.
  • It required an extra £100 to add the weather proofing and then I could not use the Fujifilm lens cover that came with the camera. So ended up having a black plastic cover! I wish I had brought the NiSi weather proofing as then I could have used the original silver camera cap that came with the camera.
  • It took time to work out the focussing and the switching between the settings.  This is maybe the learning curve that I have got to get through including using the manual more.

Best Pictures

Canal bridge at Acocks Green
Canal bridge at Acocks Green

My first picture that I published with the camera.  It is a canal bridge in Acocks Green, Birmingham.  Catching the two people under the arch added interest.

Hatton Locks
Hatton Locks

Hatton locks – All the lines caused by railings around the lock made for an interesting pattern in black and white.  I did have the traditional picture of a boat going through a lock, but this was more intriguing.

Takeaway reflection
Takeaway reflection

Takeaways are doing well in the Pandemic and here is one customer on their way home.  I was able to get down low for the reflections (the picture was published in the Amateur Photographer letters’ page)

The Night Train to Birmingham
The Night Train to Birmingham

The night train to Birmingham taken on a very cold night on the Dorridge footbridge.  There is much to see and discuss and the colours and light add to the atmosphere.  All picked up by the camera. The picture reminded me of the following song.
Down on the night train,
feel the starlight steal away,
Use up a lifetime looking for the break of day
Night Train – Steve Winwood 1980

family portrait
Family support bubble

The Support bubble of daughter and grandson and the camera produces some good details on portrait pictures

Dandelion Clock
Dandelion Clock

I was going to take a landscape photograph and came away with this dandelion clock.  This is cropped from a much larger picture and then edited in Black and White.  The effect is quite nice but the detail that remains after heavy cropping is amazing.

Detail of the Low Lighthouse at Burnham on Sea
The red stripe of the Low Lighthouse at Burnham on Sea. Love the colours and the details.
Gas Street Basin, Birmingham
Boats in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham

This picture is of the boats in Gas Street Basin and processed to bring out the colour. It is not designed to be a landscape camera but it manages such a scene very well.

Where did I buy it from WexPhotoVideo and their service is good. I am not receiving anything for saying this either!

Charlecote park

So many photographers talk about their 3.30am starts, getting up early so that they are able to catch the sunrise.  This got me thinking that it was time I looked for a good place to visit for a sunrise with a difference.  Amateur photographer had a recent feature on places to visit in the UK whilst interesting, they were a long road trip away, so I searched on the Internet for more suggestions closer to home.  On my search, a 2016 AP article came up from Stu Meech who lives near Charlecote park, a National Trust property in Stratford upon Avon.  What a great read and Stu advises where to park and how to access the public footpath in the park.  So I got ready, packed the gear and went to bed early.  I woke up before the alarm went off at 3.30am and got dressed.  The dog took a while to settle down as I had woken him up, but I eventually got out of the house but silly me, I made the decision to go down on the M42 and M40.  It was the fastest route, but I had not factored in night time roadworks. Eventually I got off the motorway and then the misty wonderland was all around me.  The village of Barford looked marooned by an eerie white carpet which was flowing around the old bridge.  I nearly stopped but Charlecote awaited. 

Charlecote Park
The early morning mist in Charlecote Park
Charlecote Park
Mist and a sunrise in Charlecote Park

Passing through the village of Charlecote, eventual I came across the lay-by described in the article about 50 metres away from the West Gate to the park.  Time 4.35am and all looking good so far.  Once through the gate, there is a recent sign that informs you that you must rigidly stick to the footpath and not to enter other parts of the park.  You may only do so if you have registered with reception (which opens at 9.00am).  Not possible this early in the morning so sticking to the public footpath is the only option.  Everywhere I look the park has a beautiful carpet of mist.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement and a herd of the resident fallow deer have picked up the noise that I am making.  Do I stay here, do I take pictures of the deer or do I move on?  Moving on has to be the best option and I eventually come to a hollow where the path opens up to show the beautiful Charlecote House. 

Charlecote Park
Sunrise through the trees
Charlecote Park
Charlecote House in the mist

The sun is impatient and already the beams of light are pressing through the mist.  I find a good spot as the intensity of the sun increases.  Excitement rises.  Do I put a filter on such as my half grad filter. Wide or telephoto lens? Decisions, decisions.  Settling down I switch my lens and filters as I see sunshine hitting the tops of the trees.  Then it starts to lower gradually becoming stronger and stronger.  I place the sun behind a tree, close down the aperture for a potential starburst and take pictures.  The light is magical.  Whilst this is going on, there is a procession of deer and goats passing through my line of sight.  There is too much to take in and I take as many pictures as I possibly can.  My kit bag falls over spilling lenses etc on the dewy grass but luckily, no damage done (I thought).  It was about 6:00am and I had been taking pictures since sunrise at 4.45am. 

Charlecote Park
A misty scene in Black and White

I moved further along the path and then looked over to some trees and saw the deer frolicking in the mist.  Telephoto lens on and more pictures.  One of the pictures of a deer in the mist got a big reaction on my social media. Reflecting I should have brought my 100 to 400mm lens but then I could have brought the kitchen sink as well! Photographers are never happy.

Charlecote park
Morning mist and deer in Charlecote Park

My next steps were to follow the footpath towards the village of Charlecote.  Everything was very quiet in the village and entrance gates to the park were locked.  The church was catching the sun and there were some super photos to take which normally I miss when you are rushing to park and get to the house during a day visit. 

A black and white path with sun and mist.

Then it was time to slowly retrace my steps back to the car.  There were a few more photographs but the mist was gone, having been burnt away by the sun.  The time 7.00am and the day was starting.  An enjoyable drive back home through Stratford and Henley in Arden.  The only drawback was that I left my lens hood in the park.  It was broken and loose on the camera so no regrets.  Leaving bits behind is a photographer’s lot in life but what I took with me was some wonderful pictures of the park.

Did you enjoy this article. Then please follow these links for other articles of taking pictures in the mist and fog. Please comment if you liked it too!
The Fog creates a Black and White Landscape describes a walk in the fog with my camera
Mist at Packwood is about a misty morning at this local National Trust Property

…..and if you go remember to stick to the footpath.

View of the City May 2021

Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac.  With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me.  New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site.  It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.   

The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on.  It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town.  I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety.  Still the lure of  taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through.  I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings.  After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting. 

Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two.    I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside.  The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.

It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour. 

This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography.  The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated

On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema.  I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham. 

So enjoy the pictures and it is good to see Birmingham as it emerges from the pandemic.  The only down side is the weather which is atrocious rain and so unlike May.

The British Tech Network is run by Ewen Rankin and started out mainly as a discussion network for computer enthusiasts.
It is lovingly termed the BTN and the members discuss topics via the BTN Slack room. The network runs a weekly Mac Show and Big Show which is very popular with well over 20,000 subscribers. “The Photo Show” is also part of the British Tech Network. We cover news, kit and then discuss a topic. We have had guests on who have discussed subjects from wedding photography to portrait photography.

The BTN PhotoShow
The Photo Show in full swing with Sarah Longes

The Photoshow is also popular and has around 6,000 views. Whilst Ewen started off the Photoshow he has now entrusted the project to small team of 4 people who are all enthusiasts when it comes to photography.

Martin who is an amateur photographer and a brilliant pub quiz organiser.  His pub quizzes kept Sandy and I going through the first Lockdown in April 2020 and we are still doing them in the 2nd Lockdown.  Then there is Ian Lewis who is an amateur photographer from Cornwall and lives amongst the most amazing scenery.  There is Doddsie (Neil Dodds) who lives in Nyon, Switzerland who also has beautiful scenery to photograph.  Finally there is me who enjoys a picture or two.

Photoshow Web Page
The BTN website with Tubemapper – Luke Agbaimoni – featured guest

We started off by ourselves and as we got more proficient, we invited guests.  You will see in the recordings that both Luke Agbaimoni (@Tubemapper) and Sarah Longes have been on the show.  Both were very entertaining, and Sarah has so much to talk about that we have made it into two shows.  She covered such diverse topics especially mindfulness and dealing with adversity in your life.  Even though she was shielded during the Lockdown, she still managed some amazing pictures.

The show is released as a podcast on a regular 2 weekly basis and is already receiving rave reviews for its content.

Photoshow Regulars
Ian Lewis Photography – https://ianlewisphoto.co.uk/
Neil Dodd – http://doddsiephoto.ch/

Photoshow Guests
Tubemapper – https://tubemapper.com/
Sarah Longes – https://miradordesign.wordpress.com/

Sponsors of the Show
iMendmacs – https://www.imendmacs.com/
Tshhost – https://www.tsohost.com/

This has been a week of rain and the days have been dull. Even though it is wet there are still great opportunities to go out and take photographs.. My early Wednesday walk from Snow Hill took in the canals that run underneath Snow Hill. The arches under Snow Hill are a favourite haunt of photographers and one can always find a good place for a picture. With the rain there had been condensation with rain collecting on the tow path near to the ornate gates which used to hold horses. Now the activity on the tow path is bikers commuting into work and runners making the best of the early mornings. I settled my camera down on the dirty floor at the edge of a puddle and started to take some pictures. It was difficult to control the bright light of the centre of the picture and the dark recesses of the tunnel. I could see on the first few shots that there was a perfect reflection that made the exit look like an eye onto the outside world. Just then a runner came past. It gave me an idea and by trial and error I set the camera at a shutter speed of 1/100 and f/6.3. I hiked the ISO up to 640. I set it for rapid shooting and then waited for the next runner. Soon enough one appeared and I took my pictures. I had to pick up the shadows from the RAW picture and also do a bit of dodging of the runner. The picture came out very well and was well received on social media.

The train station over the canal

After this I wandered over to St Paul’s square and took a few pictures of the Church and the tree lined paths that criss cross the square. The early commuters were oblivious to the camera and I took several pictures of the area. The black and white treatment suited the day, my ideas for the pictures and set off the charm of that particular area of Birmingham. Here are a selection of the ones that I took.

St Paul’s Church
The paths around St Paul’s Church
The Jam house with 3 Snow Hill towering over it
Commuting down Ludgate Hill to the City