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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.


Osman Selfridges Story

Selfridges is always on my list as a building to photograph. It has featured in many of my picture books over the years. I have even written a blog about the building which includes several of my pictures. The building is striking with the discs spread over an amorphous design. I love the building and it has come to be one of the iconic images of the City. I also like shopping in the store as the interior design is appealing but that is another story. If you want to know more, there are several good sources of information about the design and history of the architectural design.

Osman Selfridges Story
Sunset fire over Selfridges and look closely some discs are missing
Osman Selfridges Story
Missing disc highlighted by the sunrise

In 2020, problems with the attachment of the discs to the building began to surface and this is evident in my pictures. A decision was made by Selfridges to undertake the refurbishment and replacement of all the discs on the building. There are 15,000 discs and it will take some time to replace them. The original makers of the discs no longer exist and new constructors were required. The story may be followed up in the news media when in November 2020, the official reports of the replacement began.

It was during Lockdown #2 that scaffolding began to go up around the store. So as to protect the construction workers and the scaffolding, an eye-catching temporary skin has been put in place. The striking art structure is called “Infinity pattern 1” and is designed by Birmingham born artist and interdisciplinary designer, Osman Yousefzada. It is intended to be a “message of hope” to the people of Birmingham. The design was drawn up in conjunction with the IKON Gallery. The colours are striking and are best viewed in the sunlight which picks up the shades of red. The installation is temporary as the replacement of all the discs will be completed in time for the Commonwealth games in 2022. Therefore whilst it is on view, I encourage you to wander down to Birmingham and see Osman’s creation. The visit will be worthwhile.

These photographs show how Osman’s artwork interacts with the City and the people. The pictures tell the story of the loss of the discs, the placement of the scaffolding and the final structure. There is merchandise in the store that feature the Infinity Pattern 1 on them. The colours and the design pattern lend themselves to pictures and I like the picture with my daughter looking out over Birmingham with the Infinity Pattern 1 behind her.

Osman Selfridges Story
My daughter looks out over the street below.
Osman Selfridges Story
A favourite Birmingham viewpoint. This time with Osman’s Infinity Pattern 1.

I have included some web links for further reading
Birmingham Selfridges covered in huge artistic wrap
Osman Yousefzada at Selfridges Birmingham

Osman Selfridges Story
Examples of the various merchandise that can be brought designed with the Infinity Pattern 1

National Memorial Arboretum

Instameets are friendly photographic get togethers where you meet like-minded people for a social chat and take pictures.  The meetings are also held at fascinating venues around the West Midlands.  My usual patch is IgersbirminghamUK or the Westmidlandsphotocollective. Both hold meetings at venues which provide a multitude of photographic opportunities.  Igers_staffordshire is a group that hold Instameets around the Lichfield area.  The venue for this meeting was the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.  The Arboretum occupies a large swathe of land just North of Lichfield and is well signposted off the A38.  However, it is a place that I always pass by and think to myself that is somewhere to visit in the future.  When Igers_staffordshire advertised the event then I quickly signed up.  The meeting started in the car park which is one of the strategic places in the Arboretum.  Whilst entry to the site is free, car parking is strictly controlled and must be prebooked.  The entrance and the welcome buildings guide you through to the main body of the Arboretum.  I was greeted by the organisers and it is easy to work out who the photographers are as you will not miss the tripods, backpacks and cameras on display.  Once through the entrance we made our way to the most commanding monument which is the Armed Forces Memorial.  It is not difficult to miss as it sits as a raised structure with an attractive circle of trees.  We posed on the steps for the picture of the group and then started exploring.

National Memorial Arboretum
The inside of the Armed Forces Memorial

You find yourself pulled towards the Armed Forces Memorial, up the steps and into the inner parts.  It borrows heavily in architectural design from the Greeks and Romans.  It is impressive, and it was here that I met Kenneth who is a volunteer at the National Memorial Arboretum. We got talking about the Arboretum and Kenneth outlined some of the major features about the place. He showed me where a shaft of sunlight shines through the gaps in the southern walls onto the central bronze wreath on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month #Armistaceday. Kenneth does two days volunteering and is out in all weathers, greeting visitors. His welcoming smile and enthusiasm help visitors to get the most from their visit. Kenneth is one of many volunteers who I met during my time at the Arboretum. I explained to Kenneth about my ‘100strangers’ project and he agreed to being photographed. This picture shows him standing in the centre of the #ArmedForcesMemorial near the central wreath with the #cenotaph in the background.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CVqFBz6DwvR/
Kenneth, Volunteer

Next, I set off to visit the rest of the Arboretum.  There were several memorials that I passed along the way including those to the Iraq war and The Polish War memorial.   I did like the Irish Infantry Grove.  The paving stones are set out with a map of Ireland.  From there, I wandered into the trees and was taken with the numerous discs with messages on them.  There is so much to take in and this blog only touches the surface.  I posted several sets of pictures on Instagram.

National Memorial Arboretum
Looking through and remembering

The first is a set of lines and colours that made an impression on me. The #shotatdawn memorial by artist #AndyDeComyn was particularly moving.  Consisting of stakes in the ground representing the young men shot by firing squad.  There are several other memorials captured here.

My other reflection from my visit was the numerous Connections in the Arboretum and this is the link for this series of photographs including pictures with permission of soldiers remembering people behind the names. The sun and the rain connect with the memorials to enhance their stories.

It was a moving day out and I covered a fair amount of the Arboretum.  There is still much more to see.  These are the best of the pictures although there were many more to discover. Several of the memorials have been cleverly designed to catch the natural elements such as the sun and rain providing reflections and opportunities for carefully taken pictures that bring out the best in their design.

Finally a big thank you to @igers_staffordshire for organising this instameet. I also met such great fellow photographers.  Follow #igersstaffordshire_nma for all the pictures taken by the group on the day.

National Memorial Arboretum
A rainbow brings hope and joy
UoB Exchange IgersbirminghamUK

The University of Birmingham has a major economic impact on Birmingham and the West Midlands region.  The University educates students, is a major employer, a research leader in all sectors and a gateway bringing in global connections that benefit the city. Even though the University has a beautiful campus at Edgbaston, a physical footprint in the city centre has long been on the University’s wish list.  The old Municipal Savings Bank began to look an interesting project.  Especially with the location of the bank on the new look Centennial square.   

Produced by the University of Birmingham

The former Municipal Bank is a Grade II listed building and has historical links with the University.  Joseph Chamberlain was founder and first Chancellor of the University of Birmingham.  Neville Chamberlain, the son of Joseph Chamberlain was behind the building of the Municipal Bank on Broad Street.  It was first opened by Prince George in 1933 and has a long history of underpinning the wealth of an ambitious city.  However, the bank closed at the turn of the century and the last 20 years has seen the building empty with no tenants. It was famously portrayed as the AC-12 base in the BBC series ‘Line of Duty’.  The iconic safe deposit boxes in the vault were used in a Chanel advert amongst the various roles that the bank filled in these barren years.  In 2018, the University negotiated a long lease of the building with Birmingham City Council and the renovations began.

I was fortunate in my University of Birmingham role to see these renovations firsthand in October 2019 before the pandemic.  During my visit, I took a series of pictures on my iPhone.  I had no idea which room I was photographing, although I remember the vaults where the safe deposit boxes reside.  They are so interesting to see.  Rows and rows of metal doors with numbers on them.  One can only begin to imagine what was contained within them.  The building was being gutted and there was so much to do from floor to ceiling in each room.

UoB Exchange
Banking floor

Fast forward to October 2021.  Hasan Patel who is part of Communications Team at the University of Birmingham invited me to coffee at the Exchange after his Marathon Run. (Follow Hasan on Twitter to learn how to sponsor him on his running diary). We spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting the world to right.  Hasan introduced me to the University team at the Exchange and we visited several rooms in the building. 

Not long after my visit with Hasan, IgersBirminghamUK announced an Instameet at the Exchange.  Immediately I signed up and went along.  This Instameet is a friendly collection of photographers.   We were given access to all areas including the Board room and the former bank managers office which I did not get to see on my first visit.  The other interesting feature is the balcony where the bank manager opened the doors and looked out onto the banking floor to check that the bank was running smoothly.  During the Instameet, this was a favourite spot for all the photographers.

Whilst we were in the vault, we were also given access to a utility room where many of the safety deposit boxes were stored.  Now many of the boxes are placed strategically around the building and are a feature of those rooms which are used as teaching spaces and meeting areas.  This basement room had many of the old boxes and proved to be a fantastic place to take photographs.  There were still some stickers remaining and on one of the boxes the notice stated that this box could only be opened in the presence of a solicitor.  Once again one could only imagine what was kept in these boxes over the years.

We finished the tour and adjourned to the Distillery Pub next to the Roundhouse.   This is another interesting place to visit and includes a wall mural of a canal horse painted by one my favourite street artists, Annatomix.   The Roundhouse was used to care for the canal horses that pulled the boats and has been renovated as a historical place of interest. There is even one of the horse stables on view.

This was a day taking pictures of historical buildings that have been brought up to date in a city that is rediscovering its roots and moving forward.  Thank you to the team at IgersBirminghamUK for organising the tour and The University of Birmingham for opening the Exchange for this Instameet.

I have also included a blending of the old and new photographs in two of the rooms to show how the building has been modernised between my two visits.

Pictures taken with iPhone 11 and 13, camera Fujifilm x100v

If you are interested in joining an IgersBirmingham Instameet then please follow them on Instagram. An account of a previous IgersBirmingham Instameet at Moseley Market is also available on my blog.


Standing with Giants

I have been to several art installations which reflect on the Covid19 pandemic.  I have covered “In Memoriam” Luke Jerram’s flag creation that visited Aston Hall. The flags were blue and white and made from hospital bed sheets.  They were stunningly arranged in a medical symbol. “This is Gratitude” is an Art installation of 51 sculptures championed by Dame Zandra Rhodes. The figures visited Chamberlain square in central Birmingham and were painted by several artists.  These two installations were colourful, moving and told stories about different aspects of the Pandemic. 

Standing with Giants
The front and ….
Standing with Giants
The grounds of Coombe Abbey make a superb setting for the installation
Standing with Giants
The backs of the figures with the messages of thanks and hope.

Would I go and visit a third installation by the “Standing with Giants” organisation?  This post tells the story of my visit to the installation. I nearly missed it and only picked up on the tour via a photographer I follow on social media.  The beautiful grounds of Coombe Abbey were the setting for the visit.  Standing with Giants consists of 300 figures cut out of industrial recyclable materials. On one side, there are colourful paintings of key NHS workers.  When you first encounter the figures, you are struck by how many of them there are.  Already there are emotional touches to the installation as bouquets of flowers have been left at the feet of some of the figures. 

Standing with Giants
Playing hide and seek amongst the figures
Standing with Giants
Having fun
Standing with Giants
Sandy writing her message

Chloë, my grand daughter, started playing hide and seek amongst the figures and I followed her deep into the art display.  As I turned around, there was a surprised waiting for me.  The backs of all the figures were black and there were messages written in white.  The sight of all the black figures wearing white face masks is extraordinary. It was different to the colourful front facing view. The messages were a mixture of thanks, hope and remembrance. The were both moving and a joy to read.  Clive, one of the volunteers, came over to us and handed us one of the white writing pens. Sandy is an ex nurse and she penned a message on back of one of the figures.  We spent a good 15 to 20 minutes taking in the messages and the sights.  It was a different approach and I am fortunate to have seen three different installations that make you think, challenge and also help in reflection about many of the individual tragedies that happened during the pandemic.

Standing with Giants
More of Coombe Abbey

Finally…..We just want to say thank you to Clive who was one of the volunteers on the day we visited ‘Standing with Giants’. Clive explained what to do with writing the messages and showed us where the white marker pens were kept. A friendly face to the installation. Thank you.

Standing with Giants
Clive an enthusiastic volunteer assisting at the Installation.

Echills Wood Railway

Whilst I was researching our family walk around Kingsbury Water Park in October, I was reminded that there was a fully working model railway track.  During Covid restrictions it was not working and therefore I had not looked at the Echills Railway site for a while.   I tend to read too quickly.  Being able to speed read is a gift but it can cause you problems as some of your information gets lost and your mind fills in the gaps.  Whilst I saw it was open, I missed the fact that it was only working on Sundays and not Saturdays!

Echills Wood Railway
Hoping to get a ride on the trains
Echills Wood Railway
All aboard and ready to go
Echills Wood Railway
Are you ready for the train journey?

I had to break the news gently to the Grandchildren who were upset about not going on the trains. However when we arrived on the Saturday morning, there were shouts from the children that it was open.  We soon discovered that it was not open and the Railway team were running through rehearsals for their Halloween and Christmas extravaganzas.  More disappointment. But wait a minute! Katie, my oldest daughter, is not shy about tackling difficult situations and asked one of the railway team whether a ride was possible.

Echills Wood Railway
Back in the train yard
Echills Wood Railway
Approaching the tunnels
Echills Wood Railway
Just waving
Echills Wood Railway
Waiting at the station
Echills Wood Railway
Tunnel coming up!

Much to the joy of the family the person we talked to said we could travel with him. We had three very excited children once again.   We sat in the carriages and off we went.  The railway track is landscaped and has much to see.  First off there were many gnomes next to the track waving us on and secondly there were lots of trains moving around.  We discovered that the Echills team are getting ready for their Halloween and Christmas Extravaganzas and checking out their movements around the track. The trains are miniature in size but they can pull a load.  We passed through several stations with ‘Picnic’ in their name. We enjoyed going through the tunnels and stopping at the main turnaround station.  The enthusiasts who run Echills are friendly people, with hand waving to everyone and smiles and shouts as the trains passed one another. 

Echills Wood Railway
Trains queuing up for the station.
Echills Wood Railway
So the story goes (part 1)
Echills Wood Railway
So the story goes Part 2

The railway is a fun experience and entertaining for children and adults.  I enjoyed the attention to detail of the scale models of engines and trains.  When we arrived back at the main station, there were several trains parked and much discussion amongst the staff about the engines and carriages.  We carefully negotiated the platform thanking our driver.  I took many pictures and hope they convey the friendliness and enthusiasm of the Echills Wood members.  Reflecting on the day, we were very fortunate to get a ride on one of the trains. Thank you to Echills Wood railway for an enjoyable day out to Kingsbury Water Park and we look forward to travelling again.

Echills Wood Railway
Letting off steam
The beautiful surroundings of Kingsbury Water Park

The love of Concrete photomeet

The breakfast table conversation went like this, “Why are you going out to take picture of buildings?” “It is a photo meeting organised by the West Midlands Photo collective and Space.play“, I replied. “We will be taking pictures of concrete buildings on and around the Hagley road in Birmingham”. Stunned silence followed by “Well good Luck to that venture.”

Luckily I knew it was going to be great Sunday. The meeting point was in the centre of Five Ways roundabout. Already a large number of photographers were there and several familiar faces. The West Midlands Photocollective organisers, Jim and Sarah and Dave from Space.play got everyone together. They set about explaining the game we were taking part in. A game? LOL No one said anything about a game when I signed up. As it unfolded everyone realised, It was a well thought out idea for a photo walk. I was really looking forward to taking the pictures along the route. An added bonus was the networking with new people. Seeing people I had not seen for some time was also good as well. Time has certainly raced onwards since the year of the pandemic.

Love of Concrete
Explaining how the day will work.

The game instructions

How did the game work? We were asked to take pictures on our photographic walk. Each participant received a pack with 4 cards. One contained the details of the game and what we were expected to do. The other three cards were set out as playing cards. The name of the building and a map of how to get there from the last building was on each card. They went from Ace to 10 with the Jack, Queen and King. We had to work out with the help of other players how to find all the buildings and as a team work our way through the course. For example my cards were Ace of spades, 5 of spades and the 10 of clubs. These represented the following buildings, Tricorn House, Chamber of Commerce and the Central Travelodge. I needed to find the other 10 buildings. Immediately, a group of us came together and we had all the cards except a number 7. We surmised we would find that on the route, so off we went. Looking back I wish I had concentrated more and looked at what other people’s cards were. There was a good number of people, all in groups as we made our way to the first concrete building.

The love of Concrete photomeet
My three cards

1 – Tricorn House

This three pointed building is a very large concrete building with one side facing the Hagley Road. I had a card for this one and I used it with both the West Midlands bicycle hire rack and also with my lensball. It is a concrete delight but difficult to photograph as there is so much of it. I swapped my only good card the Ace of Spades for the 2 of Diamonds, Cobalt Square. Guess someone was going to get lucky with their Poker scoring game. I just wanted to see another card!

The love of Concrete photomeet
My first card and Tricorn House
The love of Concrete photomeet
Not sure if this worked but there is concrete about!
The love of Concrete photomeet
The front of the house
The love of Concrete photomeet
This makes it look so important

2 – Cobalt Square

I did feel sorry for this building as it was not wearing well. The steps leading up the building were breaking down and it did not really have any unique features to make it memorable. The name is interesting but it did not lead to any any thing Cobalt related in the architectural design. Looking on social media, I saw that I missed the car park and that had an amazing ceiling. Must remember to look around more.

The love of Concrete photomeet
I swapped my Ace for 2 of Diamonds – probably not a good idea 🙂

3 – 54 Hagley Road

Now I am guessing the next two buildings as I was just following the people on the route. 54, Hagley Road is big and looks a monster concrete building. The security guard was very confused about what was happening. As we were taking pictures, he came out to see what we were doing. I explained about the nature of the event and what we were aiming to achieve. Even with the explanation, he was none the wiser but just said OK. I gave this one a bit of the once over in black and white. It does have a bit of character about it.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Taken just before being questioned by security
The love of Concrete photomeet
Frontal Attack Camera Attack

4 – Lyndon House

You would be excused if you missed this building which is in the shadows of 54, Hagley Road. Sharp edges, tall, glass and rectangular in shape. Moving on swiftly…

The love of Concrete photomeet
Sharp and pointy

5 – Chamber of Commerce

Now this is a place I know and visit on a regular basis. I also had the card for it so it was great to be able to photograph this building. I do know from inside that it is a dated building so my photographs probably reflect this aspect. Someone had left a window open and it made a nice contrast to the regular arrangement of the design.

The love of Concrete photomeet
5 of Spades for the Chamber
The love of Concrete photomeet
Someone left a window open
The love of Concrete photomeet
Too much glass is good for you

Following pictures of the Chamber of Commerce, the group I was with walked down Greenfield Crescent. This a street that I don’t normally walk or drive down. It looked neatly swept and could have been a film set it was so pretty in appearance. The owner of Lux Gallery which is newly opened, came out to met us and invited us into the gallery and his photographic study at No 13. Many of us went in and were impressed with what we saw. An unexpected bonus of the walk.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Walking down the Crescent

6 – 12 Calthorpe Road

This is the old HBSC banking offices. It is sadly neglected being made ready for redevelopment. I was fascinated about the Blue Plaque for Washington Irvine the American essayist who lived on the road between 1819 and 1824. It would be lovely to have a time machine and look backwards and forwards to what happens to all these areas over time. Sadly the machine is stuck on today and we just see decay of a brutalist concrete building.

The love of Concrete photomeet
The Blue Plaque remembers
The love of Concrete photomeet
Times are difficult

8 – Five Ways House

This building was out of sync and I blame myself for following everyone else! This is such a big concrete building and it is so long. This is the home of Department for Work and Pensions and I tried a panorama shot but failed attempting it. I just had to try and show the sheer enormity of the building with my regular picture. It is so faceless yet stands there, taking up a commanding position on Islington Row Middleway. The building wants to make an impression but one can debate what form this takes.

The love of Concrete photomeet
That is a long building wish I had brought my wide angled lens

7 – MAKE UK – the Manufacturers organisation

It was decision time and I split up from the group that I was with as I wanted to go back and check out this concrete building. I am glad that I did as I loved the place and would have been most upset if I had missed it. Just to the side of the entrance there is a wall of diamond holes that makes it very intriguing. So many photo opportunities as well. I got my lensball out here and had a field day. Enjoy the pictures.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Eye in the Wall
The love of Concrete photomeet
Face in the Wall
The love of Concrete photomeet
Nature and Concrete

9 – Hampton Inn

I am really struggling now as I have become isolated on route but I had an idea from seeing other people’s cards where we should be going. The next few concrete buildings are hotels on Broad Street starting with the Hampton Inn which I hope is on the list. Just a functional hotel on Broad street. It looks after all the partygoers at the weekend and business people during the week. The building reflects this no nonsense approach.

10 – Central Travelodge

Next up is the Travelodge and I know this one is correct as I have the card. The Travelodge is starting to show its age and the facade is crumbling. I remember when it was built. there was excitement on Broad street about the hotels and nightlife. The Travelodge was part of the new beginning. Over the years there has been a shift in the Birmingham scene from Broad Street to the Eastside and Digbeth. The hotel reflects this shift. Maybe the tram will bring about a new lease of life to this side of town. We wait and see.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Travelodge – 10 of Spades
The love of Concrete photomeet
Moody Concrete

Jack – Jury’s Inn

Behind the Travelodge is the Jury’s Inn which must have asked for a double helping of Concrete when it was built as it has spilled over to the car park. There is such a repetitive feel to the outside structure which I hope my black and white picture captures. I have not stayed in any of these hotels but I have been into the foyer of Jury’s and even been to a Christmas party here. My memories were that it was comfortable and inviting. In contrast, the outside is not that inviting.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Concrete repetition
The love of Concrete photomeet
Please be quiet for the concrete

Queen – Quayside Tower

Rosies nightclub and those pretend concrete designs. Not sure what they are tying to say but they are Ugly – hold on the pub/restaurant is called Cayote Ugly do they know something already. The concrete designs seem to be telling a story or are designed about something deep and meaningful. It would be interesting to know their history. Meanwhile here are a few pictures of them.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Concrete designs
The love of Concrete photomeet
Ugly – surely not

King – The Rep

I got this totally wrong and wished I had stayed with someone in the group to check what I was doing. After the Queen stop, I looked up and thought that the concrete King was the International Convention Centre – Wrong – very wrong it was the Rep. So I missed this photo opportunity but i did get a lot of good pictures of the ICC! I could look in my back catalogue and find a picture of the Rep! I am annoyed as I realise that this means I miss out on the Spaceplay prize.

The love of Concrete photomeet
No the King was not the ICC it was the Birmingham Rep. Its behind you!

BUT I just want to say to all those reading this that I had a fantastic time in spite of getting one totally wrong (there may even be others in the blog but not to worry). These photo-meetings are a great opportunity to improve your photography, meet new people and get involved in projects that you would never have thought about doing. So thank you to WestMidlandsPhotoCollective and Space.Play for your organisation. Everyone who goes on these walkabouts are friendly and helpful as well. Sorry I could not meet you all in the pub after the event but I was needed back home. I am so looking forward to the next meeting that gets organised.

Finally reflections on the day. Concrete is King ! (and so is Queen, Jack, 10 to Ace).

I am sure there are some word puns on Diamonds, Clubs, Spades and Hearts. Here goes! There is always money in concrete (Diamonds) and then a building gets built from the ground upwards (Spades). What was once loved (Hearts) falls out of favour with time and there are fights amongst developers (Clubs) to build bigger better concrete buildings to replace what has gone before.

Concrete is King!

*****
All pictures taken either with my FijiFilm x100v or the iPhone13

Epilogue
Here is a picture of the final Love of Concrete building taken after the event. This is now a complete set of playing cards for the Blog.

The King – The Birmingham Rep Theatre.

Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021

Our last visit to Kenilworth castle was in 2019 when the grandchildren were much younger. A revisit was needed now that they were in a “run about mode”.  The weather was kind and ideal for outside activities.  We arrived and the children were very excited.  I brought my x100v with me plus I activated the flash on the camera at around 1/64.  I knew that I would be taking lots of pictures often in dark areas of the castle. The children ran to the far end of the castle and we were led straight to the Elizabethan garden. This was immediately followed by the Norman keep.  It was difficult keeping up with them.  However it made for some interesting photography as you are constantly trying to adapt and keep up with their sudden movement!  The ruins have many nooks and crannies which are ideal hiding places for children. Sometimes we really thought we had lost them.  There was a path that went upwards to the battlements. No sooner had we reached the top when it was back down into the Great Hall. After all this expended energy, it was time for lunch.  Near to the Tudor stables where the tearoom is situated there are the ruins of the chapel. These make great stepping stones for the children. 

Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021
Warwickshire Bear
Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021
Leicester’s building

After lunch it was to Leicester’s building and English Heritage have constructed an internal staircase which allows you to climb to the top of the tower.  As we were looking out onto the adjacent fields, we saw a wedding party moving through the footpath.  This is where I would love to have the telephoto lens attachment. It was great to see a local celebration happening around the castle.

Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021
View of the Castle

The pictures show the fun that we had at the castle and with the grandchildren growing up it is so much more enjoyable visiting such places. You can compare this to my last blog about the castle in 2019. We loved it so much that we joined English Heritage and now have them alongside the National Trust for places to visit.

Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021
The gardens with Leicester’s Gatehouse in the background
Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021
Statue in the Gardens
Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021
Light on the bricks
Kenilworth Castle Sept 2021
Wedding party at the walls of the Castle

Tysoe Windmill sunrise

I am always on the lookout for different places to visit in my locality. Reviewing local tags on Instagram pages highlights the beauty of the surrounding area and reveals a range of places to visit.  Recently, I was given the opportunity of selecting a picture for the #igerscoventry #igerswarwickshire Instagram site.  A black and white picture of Tysoe Windmill in South Warwickshire caught my eye.  This was a place that I had not heard of before and the picture got my vote. Immediately I set about researching the windmill and looking at pictures that other photographers had taken.  It looked interesting, and I planned a morning sunrise whilst we were enjoying good September weather. 

Tysoe Windmill sunrise
A foggy start

Getting up early is not so difficult in September but there was the problem with the national fuel shortage. Luckily the 24-hour garage near to us had petrol and I was able to set off.  The conditions were initially clear and then when I left the M40 it became very foggy as I travelled through Kineton village.  I was excited as the conditions were shaping up to be excellent for the sunrise.  I passed through the villages of Tysoe and then saw familiar landmarks from my Google maps research.  I found the country lane and parked up the car.  The fog was swirling around with the sun occasionally showing through.  The Windmill is situated on a high hill.  My approach on the public footpath took me up some wooden steps, many of which were broken.  I did not see the windmill until I was almost at the top.  The fog was still around and a picture of spiders’ webs on the gate with the windmill in the background set the scene.  The picture also did well on my social media.  Looking back down the hill, the fog was lying in pockets on the landscape.  There was that lovely saturation of the sky that happens before the Sun is in the sky.  Sunrise was nearly upon me.  I followed the footpath around the south side of the hill before entering via a gate onto the hilltop with the Windmill.

Tysoe Windmill sunrise
Spiders’ webs at the entrance to the Windmill
Tysoe Windmill sunrise
Looking at the early morning landscape prior to sunrise

The restored windmill has a commanding presence.  The structure has weathered brickwork and is rather tubby looking around the middle.  It has a wooden box where the Windmill mechanism protrudes away from the sales.  I have done a deconstructed view of the windmill showing all my various observations.

Different views of the Tysoe Windmill

Back to the sunrise.  It was lovely to see and whilst there were no clouds in the sky to provide any colour variations, the light was still beautiful.  I took plenty of pictures which included the long shadows of the trees, spiders’ webs highlighted by the morning moisture and landscapes showing the last remnants of the foggy conditions.  There was no one else around bar the cattle in the fields and the crows flying around.  Then the sun became much stronger, and the conditions slowly changed.  Reluctantly I made my way down the hill and back to the car.  There were still a couple more pictures to take before I was back on the road home.  Next time I will visit in the evening and see how the sunset shapes up but until then I hope you enjoy these pictures.

Tysoe Windmill sunrise
Sunrise at Tysoe Windmill
Tysoe Windmill sunrise
Landscape view from the hill
Tysoe Windmill sunrise
Tysoe Windmill and its sails

The Photography Show 2021

The Photography show turned out to be a great event.  I was worried prior to the event as what it may be like especially as it had been put back after a few false starts due to Covid19.  The show was held in Halls 1 and 2 at the NEC and when you walked in you noticed that the stalls were set more apart than normal providing a feeling of space.  There were wide walkways and amble space to pass people.

Sunday was my first day and it appeared relatively quiet.  This gave me the opportunity to linger at several stands and return to take several looks at the cameras on display.  I had not booked into any talks, and those that I did attend for did not live up to their titles.  The quality of the PowerPoints was surprisingly poor. One talk that I did enjoy on the Sunday was by Claire Luxton.  Her artwork was spectacular with wonderful attention to detail.  The way she produced the photographs involved a great deal of planning.  She was also a very enthusiastic speaker, and I enjoyed her presentation style. 

The Photography Show 2021
Models at the Fujifilm stand

On the stands, I handled several cameras, fell in love the Canon R5 but it is out of my price range and unlikely to be a camera that I would use that much to justify the price.  I liked the new Z fc series from Nikon with its retro design but it would have to do well to be a better buy than my Fujifilm X100V.  The Nikon is an attractive camera and as the person who was demonstrating the camera moved it around, the dials caught the light and it did look very attractive.  There were also some very nice Fujifilm cameras that I was able to pick up and try out.  The Cewe book stand display was lovely to browse through and I will use them for my 365 printed project. 

The Photography Show 2021
Walls of Pictures

during the show I met up with Photography friends Martin Kelly and Ian Lewis.  We found a quiet spot and did a recording of the Photo show.  It was different undertaking a live recording and not having to do a zoom.  After it was finished, I went and looked at the action area where there were displays of Bike jumping, juggling and breakdancing.  Once again my FujiFilm camera did a great job.  The evening finished with a few drinks in a local pub and then a get together meal at a local hotel.

On Monday I was back at the show, this time to take part in a Digital Camera magazine walkabout.  I had been long listed in a Garden flower competition on the Digital Camera Facebook page.  Although I was not a winner, Niall Hampton the editor of the magazine inquired who was going to the Photography show.  I mentioned that I would be there so he dropped me an email and I was selected for a walkabout around the NEC taking pictures for a feature in the magazine.  I will cover this more in a future blog. 

Walking around the National Exhibition Centre
Walking around the National Exhibition Centre

Whilst I was waiting, I took the opportunity to walk around the lake and was taken in by the attractiveness of the place.  It did surprise me that such natural beauty existed within the concrete jungle of the NEC.  I also did a walkabout in the NEC itself covering the skywalk to the far reaches of the Exhibition Centre.  I have some examples of the pictures that I took. 

All Monday’s pictures were done with my Canon D5 with the 24-105 lens except one picture that was taken with my iPhone.  This one picture made the picture of the day on BBC Midlands today. In summary the Photography show was worthwhile, I enjoyed the two days as each was different in what I saw and participated in.  There were a few big names missing but the ones that were there such as Canon and Nikon more than made up for it.

Walking around the National Exhibition Centre
BBC Midlands – Picture of the Day