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Tag Archives: Birmingham Canals

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.


Gas Street Basin

Now I am back in a work routine, I take the opportunity to park in the city around 7am and stay until 8am just before the car parking charging begins.  I set myself an area to walk around and aim to come away with 4 to 5 pictures that I can use over the coming days.  These may be for my 365 project or pictures that I can post onto Twitter and Instagram.  Gas street basin is a changing place and there is always something to photography during a walk on the tow paths.  On this visit, it was very still and quiet and there was a hint of mist.  The water in the canal was so still that it provided perfect reflections for my photography.  I had my trusty Canon 5D mark VI and my ‘go to’ lens EF24-70mm with me.  Initially I did not think I would get particularly good photographs but then as I got down low I started to see the photographic possibilities.   

Reflections in Gas Street
The still waters reflect the buildings of Gas Street Basin.
Birmingham - new vs old
Showing the new versus the old in Birmingham
Gas Street Sunrise
Golden buildings in the sunrise

With the reflections of the buildings, I saw that there were many different views.  I took around 20 to 30 pictures and then carefully selected around 6 photographs.  A selection of 4 posted on Twitter took off with many likes. At the last count it was over 20 thousand views.   I see so many excellent pictures of Birmingham and I am not here to say that mine are any better.  These pictures are my own personal view of the area and I am pleased that they make people happy.

Brindley Place
Venturing into Brindley Place for the reflections of the canal waters

Port Loop

Running was and still is a big part of my life. When the dental hospital was operating out of the Queensway site then we used to take the opportunity to run up to the Soho loop along the Birmingham Canal Old Line. I took my camera with me to revisit the area and my start point was Port Loop on Rotten Park Street. Nothing rotten about it and an amazing housing development is going up. I took several pictures around there, chatted to a local developer who was commissioned to take pictures of the old buildings and then made my way to the canal.

Port Loop development
Port Loop development, Birminghamn
To be developed
To be developed, Port Loop

There were so many people running, cycling and walking and as the Canal and River Trust say #lifeisbetterbywater. I strolled up and down the old line and lingered around the junction with the Soho loop. I enjoyed seeing the city from the distance and the graffiti was very colourful adding to the enjoyment of the photographic opportunities. There were lots of different activity happening and I caught different activities including trains, bikes and boats. I look forward to seeing the area develop over the next few years.

Start of the Soho loop
Start of the Soho loop.
View of the City along our canal
View of the City along our canal
Just talking
Just talking
Quiet Saturday morning
Quiet Saturday morning
Colourful surroundings
Colourful surroundings

Finally the added bonus was taking a short drive to see the Two Towers. Edgbaston Water Works and Perrrot’s Folly are both seen as inspirational in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers are in walking distance of the Oratory which is where the young Tolkien went to Church and is a subject of another of my blogs.

Edgbaston Water Works
Edgbaston Water Works, the Two Towers
Perrott's Folly
Perrott’s Folly, The Two Towers

Here are some links
Urban Splash
Canal and River Trust
Birmingham City Council
Places for people

My links on canals
Down by the canal
Night on the canals
Canals and Waterways
Winner BCN 250


You will have gathered that one of my favourite places is the area under the arches of Snow Hill Station.  I usually get to wander around Birmingham early in the morning and I finds this time the most inspiration for photographing Birmingham.  I planned my visit by not getting off the train at Moor Street but waiting till Snow Hill.  I then used the Livery Sgreet entrance and made my way down to the arches.  The city council have installed lights that illuminate the subterranean space.

There are gated arches overlooking the canal where I presume they used to keep horses.  The iron gates are designed with bars that create geometric patterns as they are lit from the inside.  The light casts interesting shadows onto the wide tow path by the canal.  

A cyclist makes their way through the area which resembles a giant eye.

To access the area, there is a unique white iron staircase that leads down to the tow path.  It is very quiet there in the morning and in spite of the bright lights you do feel quite vulnerable.  There are the occasional runners and cyclists who make their way through the area.  There are also commuters starting to pass over the bridge that crosses the canal.  The area has graffiti and evidence of habitation by homeless people.  

On one wall is the word ORALE which someone explained to me is an exclamation in Spanish which is used to express approval or encouragement.  Very fitting for the scene that greets you in the morning.

The word ORALE

Down to Photography maters.  I had my normal camera set with me.  I carry my iPhone for the quick picture and also my Sony DSC-RX100M5 camera which is very quick.  I generally have my Sony on a program stetting to ensure that I get a quick picture.  I do use on manual when I am after slow motion pictures but the program feature is very useful.  For this morning, I also had my Canon 6D with a prime 40mm lens attached.  This provides a crisper picture and brings out more detail.  

Having said that the iPhone and Sony do produce some very good quality pictures in their own right.  The prime lens makes me move around and this makes me “see” different views and angles.  The Sony has a flip screen and this helps with those shots where I need to get down low.  Not only do my bones creak nowadays but the tow path floor is dirty and muddy.  I moved out to get a picture of the total reflections and it did give the appearance of a large eye. 

The larger picture of the area

A nice set of photographs which gave many people much enjoyment when seeing them on my social media channels.  Always worth a look and the post code is B3 1HA if you wish to visit yourself.

Finally the cover picture was selected for England’s Big Picture which was a nice conclusion of my early morning visit to this interesting place.

In no particular order here are 11 pictures that I entered into a competition. I was surprised that I was entering most of them into the Architecture or Landscape categories. An eclectic mix which I hope you enjoy.

Picture No 1

Sunrise in Suburbia

This is taken on a short walk from home to Dorridge train station near Solihull of around 20 minutes. The walk is uneventful, but on this December morning, there was a colourful sunrise developing. We have also had a large amount of rain and I saw a large puddle to the side of the road. I knelt down close to the water orientating the phone so the lens was close to the water |(It is a good that the new iPhone is waterproof) . Two people passing by were intrigued but kept walking. The leaves and the resulting reflection gave the view added interest. There is a sense of moving towards the sun on the cold morning, It shows that a great picture is never far away even in the most unlikely of places. I am glad that I walked to my local station that day.
Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

Picture No 2

The Black Sabbath Bridge

The autumnal sun streams in and lights up the tunnel that connects Brindley Place with Gas street basin. This bridge has recently been renamed “The Black Sabbath Bridge” and on the busy road above there is a bench honouring the band. Also this year is the 250th anniversary of the Birmingham Canal Navigation and this canal tunnel sits in the centre of the network. I used my iPhone to take the picture as I saw the way the people lined up in the picture and the sunrise lighting up the interior. I wanted to capture how this bridge still reflects and impacts on people. This picture portrays not only the memories of the past but also shows contemporary life in Birmingham.
Camera – iPhone 8 back camera 3.99mm f/1.8

Picture No 3

Silver and Gold

A long exposure picture of the Railway Bridge and Cathedral in Cologne before Christmas. The contrasting gold and silver colours of the bridge and the Kölner Dom are highlighted. I set up my camera to take the “classic” view of the cathedral as you look back over the Rhine. I used my Sony DSC-RX100M5 on manual to take the picture. I rested the base of my camera on my handkerchief as there was a low stone wall to use as support. The slow shutter speed allowed for the intercity train moving over the bridge to blur and line up with the other leading lines of the bridge. The water from the Rhine began to have a slight silky appearance to it. The contrasting colours came out well with the silver of the cathedral and the gold of the steel bridge.
Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5 – Long exposure

Picture No 4

Into the Heart of the Cube

This picture was taken with my mobile phone whilst at a Christmas party in Birmingham. I remember that it was a bitterly cold night and I went out for some fresh air. I knew that on a clear night that you can can often capture some good cityscapes from the high vantage point. However my gaze was drawn to the interesting colours and shapes as you looked down into the heart of the building. I held onto my iPhone as I did not want to drop it and took the picture. There is little editing and people who have seen it get drawn into it even though it is off centre and does not follow a normal composition.
Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

Picture No 5

Blue tram going to Pink station

October brings dark early mornings and this picture shows a tram in Birmingham speeding into Stephenson Street towards Grand Central train Station. The colours created by the neon street lights add to the dramatic feel of the picture. It was raining and protecting my camera was uppermost in my mind. I rested it on a wet railing and waited for the tram to arrive. The use of long exposure creates the motion of speed whilst in fact the tram has to slow down for the corner. The tram stop on Stephenson Street is lit up in pink due to a neon advertising screen. The timing of the lights and the arrival of the tram made the picture possible in spite of the rain. It also shows the “new” Birmingham and the changes happening in the city.
Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5 – Long Exposure

Picture No 6

The University of Birmingham has undergone many changes over the last decade including opening up the centre of the campus creating a “Green Heart”. A few years ago this view of “Old Joe” clock tower from the North Gate, would not have been possible. Rain is a photographers friend and puddle reflections assisted in the composition. I settled my Sony camera into a rather large puddle formed overnight. The picture captures the new north gates that lead into the green area of the campus. The reflections have created longitudinal lines that incorporate the old gate house. Even the parking sign creates a complimentary line. The picture makes the viewer wish to walk towards the Chamberlain Clock tower and they will not be disappointed.
Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5

Picture No 7

Selfridges Lips

The Selfridges building is so often photographed that it is difficult to find a different perspective of the building. The iPhone is very versatile and allows you to get close on reflective views. As I am often looking up for a photograph, I saw this reflection on one of the outside entrances. A simple conversion to Black and White makes it look like an eye or a giant clam.
Camera – iPhone 8 back camera 3.99mm f/1.8

Picture No 8

Snow Hill Vista

This is a picture of two trams moving in and out of the City of Birmingham. They are a leading line to the development at Snow Hill. This is taken early in January and I used the railway bridge wall as my tripod. This was taken with my 40mm prime lens. It annoys me because I have to work at getting the picture I want from it not the picture it shows me. It is very frustrating as I have to move around to get the better angles. Why do I use it? As a prime lens, it can take a crisp sharp picture. After all that work, I am pleased with the picture as it shows the Birmingham Metropolis in all its glory.
Camera – Canon EOS 6D with EF40mm f/2.8 STM

Picture No 9

The Swirl of the City

This is taken at one of the entrances at Grand Central Station Birmingham. The reflective ceiling provides different possibilities and on this morning the person sitting on the phone and the man walking down the stairs are lost in their thoughts. The ceiling looks as it is swirling around caused by the reflections. there are several lines pulling you into the picture. The iPhone allowed me to quickly capture the picture of everyday life.
Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

Picture No 10

Tree

I was walking in fields around Berkswell, Solihull when a single tree sitting on the landscape caught my eye. There was an abundance of colour in the picture but I when I went for black and white, the solitary nature of the tree stood out. I find the view fascinating as the landscape is stripped away to a line with the Tree central to the picture. It was a bright sunny day and I did not have to use a tripod for the picture allowing me to take a spontaneous shot.
Camera – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Picture No 11

Guardian of the Sunset

Chesterton Windmill in Warwickshire is an ideal place to clear the mind. The windmill is well known locally and has been photographed many times. My picture was taken with the tripod low to the ground to give a slight upwards view to the sunset and the architecture of the structure. I used the wide angled lens to capture as much of the multi coloured sky. I looked to get the blades of grass into focus as they shimmered in the hues of the sunset. The Windmill stands as a guardian to the weather around it. I do find the place inspiring and if I am feeling down then a view of the windmill always makes me cheerful again.
Camera – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Taken inside Ashted Canal Tunnel and holding onto my camera every so tightly over the water

Another view in Ashted Tunnel

The area around the locks looks derelict but not for long

There will be many new buildings going up in this area.

Curzon street tunnel which takes the canal under the new HS2 rail link to London.

A view of the city from the Digbeth canal branch of the Grand Union Canal

Interesting Graffiti under the bridges

Old canal buildings along the canal

Quiet morning reflections along the canal

Following on from the recent blog post Go West. I decided to feature the canals network on Eastside where there is a great deal of regeneration occurring mainly fuelled by the location of the HS2 at Curzon street station. Millennium point was the start of the development and with Birmingham City University building in the area, it has led to further developments. These include student accommodation and other small business enterprises. This is taking place in an area that was left derelict and the canal system still retains the grandeur of former days. I wandered around here with my Canon 6D and a 40 mm lens plus my Sony Camera. The 40 mm lens does make you think about your picture taking and you do have to move to get a good picture. The graffiti adds colour and may not to be everyone’s taste but I do like some of the local artists that paint in the area. There is still more development happening which is exciting to see although some of the old history may get eradicated in the process.
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The canal system around Birmingham provides terrific photographic opportunities.  If you have the combination of a nice day and the time to wander along the canal network with your camera then there are few places that can match the views that you can find.  Here is an early Monday morning walk along the Canal Network.  Thank you to the West Midlands Branch of the Canal and River Trust for their work in maintaining our canal network.