Loading...
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.


The celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Birmingham Canal Navigation Network took place during the first weekend in November. I took Sandy and Noah, my grandson, along to see the flotilla of boats that were to parade around the canal network passing by the NIA onto Brindley Place and the Mailbox. I am not sure what it was like 250 years ago but Saturday was cold. Luckily the rain held off and there was some occasional sun but it was a case of wrapping up ward. When we arrived there was little activity taking place although there were a few boats moored up on the bank. We made our way to Brindley place where there was a drum trope called “Someone at the Door”

They were very energetic and enthusiastic. My grandson loved the drumming and rhythm so much so that he was tapping his feet in the pushchair. After asking Peter, a nice Canal and River Trust representative what was happening, we knew that we had to head up the Old Canal Line where the boats were getting ready for the off.

The boats are getting ready
…..and they are off.

As the boats made their way into Birmingham there were sounds of hooters and bugle horns from the boats. There was much excitement as they reached the National Indoor Arena where they paused to let the boats go through in an orderly parade down into Brindley Place.

A short pause
Then we are off again
A few more boats head of for Brindley Place
Going another way and I spy a photography friend on the tow path.

I loved the personalities and this is captured in the pictures that show the people involved in the flotilla.

Playing the Bugle
What’s happening?
Checking all is going well
It could be 1769

Sadly it was getting cold and we had been there a few hours. We had other engagements to move onto so it was a few more photographs and then time to leave goodbye. However I do know it is not going to be my last time to join in the celebrations of the BCN 250th Anniversary but that has to wait until another post.

Traffic jam on the water
Water taxi
The Library of Birmingham looks down on the boats
The colour of the boats
The detail on the boats