As you hurtle down Great Charles Street, Queensway, heading south out of the city, you will emerge from one of the tunnels keeping your eye on the traffic filtering in from the left. As you are concentrating on the road ahead, you will most likely miss the blue footbridge crossing the road. Constructed from concrete and steel this pedestrian bridge links Church Street and Ludgate Hill. When you stand in the middle of the narrow bridge, you can feel the structure vibrate from the traffic pounding the tarmac below.
The bridge is best visited at night especially if you are a photographer. There is a super opportunity for a long exposure as you look south. The symmetrical road structure with the tunnel ahead of you makes for an ideal canvas for car light trails. Cars peel off to the left and if you time the traffic lights correctly then cars filter in from the right. Using my x100v resting on the flat metal railing, I am ready for the long exposure. Camera settings of ISO160, f/16 and shutter speed of 30seconds will give good results. The north view is also interesting but does not have the same symmetry as the south.
Whilst I was taking photographs, a group were running over the bridge and this allowed me to take a few street shots as they came down the ramps. I am sure there will be plans to replace this metal structure with a larger one and a search on the web mentions this is being explored. Until then, it remains a great place for those long exposure pictures.
If you fancy a walk around Birmingham then be sure to follow more of my blog entries. The link below is a good starting point.
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) organise a Photographic competition every 2 years. This is a very prestigious photographic exhibition, and the judging is very competitive. Two years ago one of my Lockdown photographs was selected and I was very pleased to have been selected. This year my picture of Alder Lake in Washington State, USA was selected. The picture was also given a good “hang” meaning it was in the centre of the room and therefore more accessible for viewing. Although I did not make the final prize selection, just being selected means a great deal. I am only now, at a late stage in my life, making the most of my photography and I am enjoying every moment. There were several other photographers and friends that I knew at the private view in the gallery which made the evening more enjoyable as well.
You can learn more about the work of the RBSA on their website.
More pictures from my time in Washington State that include the picture are included in a previous blog entry.
Looking back, my last entry in the RBSA competition was ‘Mystery in the Fog’. The photograph was one of several photographs that did well in 2021.
Venturing into China Town Birmingham to celebrate the Chinese New Year was a colourful affair. Hurst Street was set up with a stage and there were a number of market stalls set up along the street. The main action when I arrived was down in the Arcadian where the dragon dancers were in residence. The dancers put on a great show and these are a few pictures of the costumes and people that were in Chinatown to celebrate the New Year.
Each year photographers share their top photographs and I am no exception in doing this. I wrote a blog about my personal favourites for 2021. Now it is the turn of 2022 and I have limited to my top 4. Why four? Well the arrangement works well for Instagram and I am not such a fan of the Top 9 where the pictures are even smaller. The four pictures that I have selected all have a story to tell. The picture may have done well in national or local competitions. There may have been some nice comments about the style and composition that were pleasing to hear. I hope you enjoy the selections.
Broken Life I am not very good at Still Life photography and it was one of my assignments in a 52 week photography group that I belong to on Flickr. I am not sure why I went for this picture approach and it was well received on the Weeklies. It was my only shortlisting last year for #wexmondays. I am going to do more photography like this for 2023 so watch this space. Also read my blog about how it came about.
In January 2022, I spent the morning walking around Gas Street Basin. The area was bathed in beautiful sunshine and I took several photographs with my Fujifilm x100v. Several of the photographs came out really well. I was lucky with the light and the weather. Plus there were several people walking along the canal tow path. There were two stand out pictures that I took that day. The first was from outside the Tap and Spile public house on the west side of the basin looking towards Regency Wharf. This picture was highly commended in the urban view category of UK Landscape Photographer of the Year. I also took pictures on the other side of the basin. One part of the basin that used to be difficult to access is The Wharf which has access to various offices including the Pakistani Consulate. On that morning I found that the barriers had gone and there is now public access to the area where you can access the canal bank. This gives you a great view of the Bistrot Pierre restaurant building. The morning was still and quiet providing excellent conditions for reflections of the restaurant. As luck would have it, a passerby came into the picture and looked backwards. I snapped him and found that he was centred perfectly. The picture turned out well and did not need much adjustment post processing. There was a good reaction on social media when I posted the picture. Therefore when the Westside BID calendar competition came up then I entered this one along with several others. I was pleased to learn that I was the overall winner for the competition with my Bistrot Pierre picture and my prize was £175 vouchers for the Craft restaurant in Brindley Place next to the ICC. There was also a cheesy write up of my win which I include here. The title was “Dentist ‘reflects’ on top prize in Westside BID’s 2023 calendar competition”.
On a cold but very bright January morning, I went into Birmingham with my camera. I planned to walk around the City, with a focus on Brindley Place and Gas street Basin. The sun was low and there was an intensity about the light. By mid-morning, I found myself in Gas Street basin outside the Tap and Spile pub. I looked across to the imposing red-bricked building displaying the large stencilled letters, Regency Wharf. The scene looked as if someone had suddenly turned on a bright spotlight. The basin was lit up and the building was radiating the light. The water was perfectly still, allowing mirror like reflections. A person was walking on the tow path towards the canal bridge. I could see that his route would take him in front of the Regency Wharf sign. I lifted my camera, looked through the viewfinder and took several shots of the lone person moving along the path. I was thinking how these pictures would turn out but then quickly moved on as more interesting scenes were developing around me. I took more pictures in and around the area all of which did very well when posted on my social media channels.
Regency Wharf – Damien Walmsley
Camera settings for the picture
The picture was taken on 11th January 2022 at 11.06 The camera was the Fujifilm x100v Focal length – 23mm Exposure was 1/10000, f/4, ISO160
The RAW file (Fuji – RAF) was opened in Lightroom and the light was so good that there was not much that that needed to be done to the image. I brought out the shadows and reduced the highlights. There was a small amount of saturation added. Once these basic adjustments were done, I took the image into Photoshop and made the decision to crop the picture to highlight the centre of the image. It may be argued that in the original the background to the Regency Wharf building, highlights the new buildings of Birmingham. However, my crop aims to highlight the legacy of Birmingham with a hint of what the future holds.
As I wanted to quickly upload the picture onto Instagram, I used an unsharp mask and then levels on the picture, but it was minimal editing. The light was so strong that the reflections in the water were excellent.
My personal reflections of LPOTY
I submitted 5 photographs for the LPOTY competition. in early summer, I was taken aback when several people on social media shouted out that they were no longer progressing in the competition. I had not received such a notification and on the website, it was asking for submission of a high resolution picture of one of my pictures. There was a mixture of anticipation but confusion. Eventually, I found my email informing me that I had been shortlisted. It was in my spam filter! The RAW files and more detailed explanation of the processing of the picture were submitted to the LPOTY team. There was another long wait. The FAQ on the website said that if I had not heard anything by October then my entry was unsuccessful. As there were no emails in the first 2 weeks of October, I was just happy that I had been shortlisted. It was on a train journey on the Tuesday afternoon prior to the Sunday announcement that I got the email saying that my picture was Commended in the Urban View category. I was so pleased but the rub was that I had to keep it confidential until now. My family are pleased for me and my friends who have been on my photographic journey were happy as well.
People reading this blog will want to know what it takes to be successful in the competition. Several things spring to mind. Always believe in your picture taking and be content with your own work. Social media is not necessarily a good barometer of a successful picture. Be resilient, this was my fourth attempt since my first entry back in 2018. Listen to constructive criticism and research into how others take their photographs. Always be ready to learn and never take rejection of your pictures personally. Pick yourself up and take the camera on a walk. I will be entering again in 2023 and I know it will be just as competitive as ever. However, I will see what happens and happy to enjoy the experience of entering again.
The IgersbirminghamUK team were invited to view Orelle, the newly opened restaurant situated on the 24th floor of 103 Colmore Row. Three of the Igers team, Lena, John and myself arrived at the Orelle Cafe on the ground floor where we received a warm welcome from the staff and then we took the lift up to the 24th Floor. Once again we were greeted warmly by the staff working in the Restaurant. This week, the restaurant was undergoing a soft start and the official opening was still to take place on the Friday. We were shown to the private dining room and served a glass of champagne. We had the room to ourselves and we duly obliged by taking lots of photographs. The sun was setting over the city and whilst the sunset was not a spectacular one it still threw up some lovely colours.
Having exhausted all the possible photographic opportunities we could think of in the private dining room, we moved into the main restaurant area. There are several aspects to Orelle’s that set it apart from other similar places I have visited. First the views are spectacular and the sunset followed by the blue hour made the surrounding landscape stand out. Second the restaurant is well designed and the ambiance and design is very easy on the eyes. Finally the staff are so pleasant and enthusiastic. They are proud of the place. This showed in their willingness to chat about the restaurant and discuss what it was like working there. I talked with Bart, one of the waiters, who described the menu options. They sounded delicious. I wish Orelle restaurant every success and hopefully I will return for an evening dinner along with another sunset.
The Bull enjoyed an intense period of adulation during the Commonwealth Games as the Birmingham Public took the Bull to their hearts. Standing tall next to the Central Library, the Bull became the main attraction in Centenary Square. I visited the square several times with the family. Whether you were young or old everyone loved the Bull. However, rumblings about its future began to surface as we learnt that it was not going to be a permanent fixture. There was an open debate what would happen after the Commonwealth Games were over. My blog account of that first day when the bull was moved to Centenary Square after that amazing opening ceremony, shows how much it was loved. There was much discussion about the future and the decision was to keep the Bull on show till the end of September.
On the hour during the games, there was an amazing display from the Bull. The animatronics included leg movement, shaking of the head and smoke coming out of the nostrils. All this ceased as the team who operated the internal levers and controls moved onto other contract work in the UK. The Bull remained standing proud and was admired by the many visitors who came to Birmingham. Then not quite at the end of September, the Bull was moved from the square. It quickly transpired that its new home was a piece of waste ground in Ladywood near to the Birmingham canal navigations. There were coverings over the structure to protect it from the elements. Protection is needed as the Bull is of mixed construction with a metal outer skin, but internal organs made of foam and electronics. Within its centre was a telehandler, a type of tractor that enabled the bull to be moved around.
So how is the Bull these days? My pictures reveal life as a Bull in Birmingham after the Commonwealth games. The Bull stands alone by the canal behind barbed wire, covered with a tarpaulin. There is a single security guard on duty. My pictures show it is lonely and that people do not know it is around. My picture of the lonely bull with the couple passing by captured the imagination of Instagram and it was featured by BirminghamLive bringing its plight to the attention of the whole of Birmingham.
This was one venue that I was not able to book onto during the #keytothecitybrum project and therefore my visit was a few weeks after the Commonwealth Games.
Simon Topman, managing director of 150-year-old ACME Whistles greeted our small group with the words “You are part of the leftovers”. No, this is not a reference to a meal or a restaurant, rather Simon was referring to the “Key to the City”. During the festival, the Whislte tour only took place on Wednesdays, and as I was soon to realise, only small groups could be taken around the factory premises. Therefore, I was one of many that could not get on a tour during the Key to the City dates. I was determined to complete the full set of venues with my key and so I was more than happy to attend and proud to be one of the “leftovers”.
Whilst we waited for Simon to appear for the tour, we had coffee and biscuits in the upper meeting room. The place reminded me of my grandmother’s sitting room with so many fascinating memorabilia on display. There were items from the two wars, recent links to the England football team and the late Queen’s Jubilees. The furniture was wonderfully luxurious, and the focus was all about whistles.
There are several accounts on the Internet about the ACME whistle tours led by Simon, and these have elevated the experience to a legendary status. What does this account add to a thoroughly entertaining 2 hour tour of the factory? To start with, Simon is a first-class raconteur and a master of storytelling. We learnt about the history of the whistle and how the business started. It all began with Joseph Hudson and his invention of the police whistle in the 1870s and the company have not looked back since.
For a photographer, the tour was a delight and I had fun taking pictures of the various factory scenes that unfolded. At the start of the tour we surveyed the bomb damage in the ceiling from WWII. Then we entered the working factory. Each area provided an interesting viewpoint of the making of whistles. What was intriguing was how the light changed throughout the grand Victorian building. The shiny surfaces of numerous whistles resulted in a host of pictures. There were several macro-opportunities of the whistles themselves. The people who worked at the factory were the stars and I hope they did not mind being photographed as their contributions to the manufacture of the whistles was interesting. I took pictures of the different processes that took place in the production of both the metal and plastic ACME whistles. I took the opportunity of photographing Simon and was taken aback when he informed me that not that many people ask to take his photograph during the tours. But like a professional actor, he quickly posed with both whistles and rackets. I would love to spend the day photographing all the people working in the factory. There is so much that is happening that deserves to be recorded.
Then the tour was over. I looked at my watch 2 hours had sped by. The fee for the tours goes directly to charity and the factory has strong links with a local school for children with special educational needs. I brought one of their silent dog whistles and three of their authentic Titanic whistles which is another story that Simon tells so well. It is worth just booking on the tour to hear about how the original whistle was used on the Titanic and its reprise in the successful film.
I left by the front door, admiring the beautiful tiling and other tokens of a long successful business in the world of whistles. Outside the Victorian building looks resplendent and has seen many events during its lifetime. Simon informed me that the front street was to feature in the new ITV series written by Lenny Henry called “Three little birds”. I forgot to mention to Simon that this was an opportunity to market a new whistle to commemorate the Influx of immigrants from Jamaica. Such a whistle would prove to be very popular at carnivals and other celebrations!
There are many accounts on the Internet about the legendary Whistle Tour led by Simon Topman and I have put some of the links below.
Aston Hall is a beautiful Grade 1 listed building near to the Aston Villa football ground and is considered to be a leading example of a building from the Jacobean era. When I arrived at the Hall, a wedding party was setting up. Two Lamborghinis drove up and parked outside the hall. They provided great photographic opportunities.
I went into the house and as it was an early Sunday morning I found that I had the place all to myself. I have been to the Hall several times and always find it fascinating. So many highlights including the room where King Charles 1 stayed during the Civil War. The staircase where there are the remains of cannon ball damage in the wood which have not been repaired. The Long Hall always takes your breath away with its simple magnificence. I made my way to the staircase which leads up Dick Garretts room. Dick Garret was a servant accused of stealing food and then took his life in the Attic room named after him.
Just before Dick Garretts room there is a grandfather clock and to the left a door followed by another door which has a lock. My key opened this door which opened quickly and noisily. Once through the door, there are several rooms that you are able to access. You enter the first two which are unfurnished and then the last one that is furnished with bed, mirror and writing desk. I realised that I was all by myself in this secret area. Aston Hall is supposed to be the most haunted place in Britain. Not only is there the ghost of Dick Garret but a Grey Lady that is seen around the Hall. Fortunately, I did not encounter them or any other ghosts.
Or was the ghost already there, I will never know?