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Gratitude public art

This amazing exhibition of sculptures pays tribute to the sterling efforts of the NHS and key workers during the pandemic.  The 51 sculptures, each with their own unique take on the days of the pandemic, is on tour around the country.  The first stop was Chamberlain Square Birmingham.  Several artists came together to illustrate each sculpture with a particular theme.  The overall creative ambassador was Dame Zandra Rhodes and there were many different art organisations collaborating on this public art project.  Much of the information is on the Gratitude web site.

The sculptures from the Gratitude public art.
The sculptures from the Gratitude public art.

We had tickets for the August Bank Holiday.  Arriving in the square, the sculptures are placed towards the back.  They are arranged in rows and have a mirrored backdrop.  The challenge was to take photographs that no one else had taken.  I had previously looked on social media and seen all the different variations.  I enjoyed the story telling aspect on each Sculpture.  I want to say statues but that would not do justice to the explosion of art that is on view.  They are fun to wander around and see people’s reaction. 

Gratitude Public Art
Faces of Lockdown or “The Boris Johnson Sculpture”

The Faces of Lockdown referred to as the Boris Johnson statue is an immediate favourite although there are many others included Hans inspired by the Clap for the NHS and my personal favourite Creative Resilience which features a dancer, and her stare is penetrating, grabbing your attention.So here is my photographic record of Gratitude and I have put a caption with each picture to provide a background to the experience of seeing the sculptures. All pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100v

If you found this post interesting then please visit my account of In Memoriam by Luke Jerram which was exhibited near to Aston Hall

For more information about Gratitude please visit the following pages. There are several websites includint the official Web site, Wild in Art and NHS charities together.

Gratitude public art
There is genuine excitement and interest in the stories behind each sculpture.

Poppy Fields

Poppy field season is upon us and after a very damp May, it is noticeable that many plants and flowers are delayed in making their appearance by around 2 to 3 weeks.  The recent bout of sunshine has had a dramatic effect on everything, stimulating the countryside into life.  It is lovely to see all the flowers in full bloom.  But back to poppies, each year one finds it increasingly difficult to find these elusive flowers.  Farmers appear reluctant to let their fields turn into a sea of red for fear of the unwelcome attraction it brings.  For photographers such red carpets are a heavenly delight designed by the supreme being to bring joy to anybody who loves taking a picture.  Keeping to the sides of the field and not trampling the delicate flowers into the ground is part of our photographic code.  We too are horrified by the poor regard some members of the public have for poppy fields which in turn make it difficult for others. Therefore if visiting such places then respect the countryside.

Poppy Field
A carpet of red

I got the call (via Facebook) from my Photo Buddy, John Bray, informing me that a Poppy Field had been sighted just north of Leamington Spa.  It had already been announced on the local Facebook pages.  The field is not that accessible being surrounded on two sides by a country road that is better described as speed test track for the locals.  The partially hidden gate leads into the field which has a gentle westerly elevation.  Taking care not to trample more vegetation than is absolutely necessary, we slowly navigate ourselves to the top of the field taking pictures along the way.  We arrived at the field at 7.30pm and then by 8.45pm we had filled up our photocards with red poppies.  There will be some serious editing of the numbers of pictures taken when I get back home. 

Poppy Field
Making sure to stay to the paths around the field

When you are in a poppy field there is the intense red of the flower petals and then there is the gentle swaying of the stems in the breeze.  It is most restful and soothing to gaze over the red rippling petals of the flowers.

Taking pictures of poppies is one of personal taste.  I like the distant telephoto shots where the flowers are compressed, and you are able to convey the carpet of red.  For many of the pictures. I placed my polariser filter on the lens so as to pick out the reds.  Also concentration is needed so that the horizon does not go wonky or there are any unnecessary distractions inadvertently included in the picture. 

Poppy Field
Some poppies are higher than others
Poppy Field
The Poppy Field set in the surrounding countryside

There was strong sunlight, so I was able to use it to my advantage to back light the stems of the poppies.  This makes for an attractive look and highlights the spikey hairs on the stems. 

Poppy Field
Back lit poppies

There is also the “kitchen sink factor” where I wish I had brought all my lenses including my wide angled lens.  I should also have brought my graduated filters.  What I did bring that still surprises me with its quality, is my Fujifilm x100v and of course I did have my iPhone.  But the workhorse of the evening was my Canon 5D mark IV with both 24-105mm and the 70-200mm lens.  And the all-important tripod.

Poppy Field
Captured in a mini world

I also brought my lens ball.  I never know when it is going to be a good picture when I use it.  I was happy with the result of this picture with the poppies even though it was hand held.

Poppy Field
Deep red poppy colour

Decision time!  Where is the best picture for that sunset view?  There is a hint that we may get a colourful sunset, so we had to find the ideal place.  This is where you get an adrenaline rush and we pushed to the back of the field.  There was dense overgrowth but luckily there was a path on the perimeter that allowed us to get a view of the sunset radiating over the field.  We were happy with the position of our cameras on for the photographs.  Taking pictures of the sunset can be tricky and without my graduated filter (mental note must remember to bring this in future trips), I took several bracketed shots with the intention of building up a HDR picture later.  As the light dropped it was possible to compensate for the exposure.

Poppy Field
Sunset clouds and poppies

Then the sunset came into its own and the sky turned a pinky red.  Remember earlier that I said that there is someone up there who enjoys seeing a good photograph.  Well he or she decided to turn on the light show, and it was very much appreciated.  I just retreated into a happy world of taking pictures.  Surfacing around 10 o’clock it was dark, and we had filled our cameras with enough poppy pictures for the evening.

Poppy Field
Beautiful sunset complimenting the poppies
Poppy Field
Yellows and reds of the sunset
Poppy Field
A yellow sky
Poppy Field
A line of red holding up the sunset

Walking back to the car I turned back for one last look and there was the crescent moon in the sky with the embers of the sunset still illuminating the red poppies.  I reflected positively on the evening and John said it had been “A perfect antidote to a crazy life”.

Thank you, Poppies.

Poppy Field
The moon over the poppy field

If you enjoyed reading about this poppy field then you may wish to read my previous blog on Poppy Fields and my other entries on the Cotswolds Lavender fields


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.

Working Canal Boat

There are places to go that always reveal new view and interesting pictures.  I just love walking along the canal from Lapworth near to Packwood House onto Kingswood junction. There has been so much rain that care has to be taken on the towpaths in case you either land in the mud or even fall in the canal.  Luck would have it that the sun was out and the sky was blue.  The puddles made for great reflections and there were even a few boats passing through the locks.  I had my Fujifilm camera with me and once again it provided some good photographic points of views.

Whilst I was on the locks someone stopped me and asked if my camera was a Leica.  No I replied just a Fujifilm masquerading as one.  However, I felt good after that as my camera was looking cool.  A word of caution is that I also need to be careful that no one attempts to steal it from me either, as it looks attractive.

Reflections of canal lock
Reflections of canal lock
Canal boats together
Canal boats together

There is a bridge on this stretch of the canal called the “Bird in Hand”, if a canal boat is moored in the right position and the light is just right then there is the chance of reasonable picture.  I stood on the locks and took care not to lose my footing.  The water was very still and the framing needed to get the semi-circle of the bridge extended into a circle.

Bird in hand canal bridge
Bird in hand canal bridge
Canal basin at Kingswood junction.
Canal basin at Kingswood junction.

The area around the lockmaster’s cottage was difficult to negotiate due to all the rain that had fallen.  One of my pictures taken with my iPhone made the BBC Midlands weather bulletin at 7pm as shown in the blog.  Another plus for the day. 

Always fun to get your picture on the Weather bulletin

As I retraced my steps to the car I caught up with a boat going through the locks.  It was a working boat with a cargo of wood fuel sacks.  So that was my third and final plus to the day!

Signposting
Signposting

Phototip
All the pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100v.  The weather bulletin picture was made with my iPhone as I was able to get low into a water puddle on the tow path.  A quick edit with Google snapspeed included lowering the highlights and upping the shadows.  A bit of saturation and then uploaded to the BBC weather watchers’ site.

Further information
Canal and River Trust – the North Stratford Canal
Kingswood Junction
Previously on my Blog
Days out on the canal
Peaceful pictures


The pool in Brueton Park Woods

When the snow first fell the skies were overcast and whilst there was a some beautiful snow scenes, I longed for a blue sky to provide some colour. The next day the sun shone and there were no clouds in the sky. I planned my walk to take me over fields to Widney Road allowing me to approach Brueton park and the nature reserve from the west.

Lea Wood in the snow
Lea Wood in the snow

My first stop was Lea Wood nature reserve which I had not visited before on my travels. The wood used to be a tree nursery and the trees now fully grown are aligned in lines. This creates many leading lines along the paths in the wood. There were several walkers in the wood so I was able to compose some eye-catching pictures with leading lines towards the silhouettes of people . The low level of the sun also produced lovely light that I was able to shoot towards the sun with the trees as a backdrop. I hung around for some time fascinated by the trees and the patterns caused by the light.

Sunlight in the woods
Sunlight in the woods
Sunlight on the tree branches
Sunlight on the tree branches
A leaning tree
A leaning tree
Snow on the trees
Snow on the trees
Trees on the way to Breuton Park
Trees on the way to Breuton Park

Finally I moved onto Brueton Park proper. It was very muddy despite the frozen ground. When I got to the river Blythe, I made the decision to go into the old Wood on the west bank to the River Blythe. The place was deserted and following the muddy path, I threaded my way deep into the wood. I arrived at the north end of the water pool which interestingly is unnamed on the map. The sun was shining brightly but the thick canopy of the trees diffused the rays. The path led around to the south side and here I was able to get close to the water’s edge. With the light low, bright and just right a beautiful scene opened up. I was so pleased with the pictures of the water and the framing from the trees. It was a richly rewarding photo walk with many different variations of the snow lying on the ground reflecting the sun. It was a much different day than yesterday and very productive.

The river Blythe
The river Blythe
Path around the pool
Path around the pool
The pool in Brueton Park Woods
The pool in Brueton Park Woods

Photo tip. Don’t be hasty in taking your pictures and try and slow down. I was very excited at first especially in Lea Wood. Then with time I started to enjoy myself in the woods and came away with many different pictures. I had my iPhone, large Canon camera with lenses plus my Fujifilm x100v. Yes it was a bit over the top in terms of photographic equipment but I was glad that I had all of them with me.

More pictures of local parks can be found on my blog
The photographic delights of Umberslade Park
Coombe Abbey Country Park during the Golden Hour
Watching the sun go down by Bracebridge pool, Sutton Park

More information
Brueton Park and its sister, Malvern is on the Solihull Council Website
Malvern and Brueton Parks
or check out Trip Advisor



Christmas Tree - Great Western Arcade - Birmingham

There are many lovely Christmas trees around Birmingham this year. They are more prominent as they are not competing with other decorations or events where there are crowds of people such as the German Market. However, they do look lonely as the numbers of people in the City centre are down and the Christmas trees are left to look after themselves. I have taken pictures of those trees I have seen on my travels including the one in Knowle where I live. Merry Christmas Everyone and hope you have a lovely time over the next few days.

Christmas Tree - Victoria Square - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Victoria Square – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - St Paul's Church - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – St Paul’s Church – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Great Western Arcade - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Great Western Arcade – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - The Bullring - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – The Bullring – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - St Phillip's Square - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – St Phillip’s Square – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - St Phillip's Cathedral - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – St Phillip’s Cathedral – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Mailbox - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Mailbox – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Mailbox - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Mailbox – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Knowle - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Knowle – Birmingham

During October, my daily commute starts when the morning is dark. Likewise in the evening if I am working late or at a function in the city then I am travelling again in the dark. It has also been raining many of the days and in spite of the gloom the conditions provide reflections of the lights on the pavement or in the shop windows.

Speeding Tram (featured on BBC Midlands Instagram page)

This is a selection of photos taken last week in the dark. There is a mixture of long exposures and opportunistic street photography of people interacting with both the City and the conditions. There are a couple of favourites in here and they have been picked up by other social media outlets. One was In Explore on Flickr for several hours. During this time it clocked up over 35,000 views and many likes and comments. The picture of the blue tram in slow motion was featured on the BBC Midlands Instagram site. It has been a fun week for photographing Birmingham in the dark.

This picture titled “Rainy City” clocked 35k views on Flickr
Cars and Pedestrians at Grand Central
The Zebra crossing to towards the Mailbox
More Trams taken with a long exposure
An umbrella is needed to brave the conditions.