I have been documenting the Lockdowns over the last year and we are a few days away from April 12th when shops will reopen. My last blog entry was all about Digbeth. I was interested to see what the city centre looked like and therefore, after taking pictures in Digbeth, I walked into Birmingham city centre. As expected, It was quiet except for all the ‘Just Eat’ guys on the steps eating during their lunch break. Their bikes were all strewn around the concourse overlooking St Martins church. Other pictures taken on my walk included some headline photographs of the Electric Cinema looking sparkly from nearby reflections, trams and masks in Birmingham and the covering of the Selfridges store. Here are a few highlights of that stroll around the centre.
I love a long walk and during lockdown 3, I have found some good places to visit as I have ventured further afield than in the previous ones. There is one walk that takes me out of Knowle village along the main road to Balsall Common. Passing Knowle locks, the main Kenilworth road (B4101) is full of twists and turns. It is an accident-prone road so being away from it is preferable and there is a public footpath that can be accessed just after a majestic building called Hedge House. On the market for 3.5 million pounds, it is a converted barn. The estate agents description shows the expansive interior and outside it demands your attention.
Once on the public footpath, it crosses over the fields to the edge of Springfield House and from here, it is possible to cross the main road to Cuttle Brook Wood part of the Woodland Trust.
It is a young wood with a direct diagonal line through the property and it leads onto Cuttle Pool Nature reserve and a brook which forms one side of the property. The road bridge forms a boundary to the private Temple Balsall nature reserve. The area has many birds and wildlife abound. There are otters back in the brook and the area is interesting to visit. Going underneath the road bridge it is possible to take a picture of the entrance to the private nature reserve. The featured black and white picture generated international interest on social media. The monochrome brings out the shapes of the tree branches as they are reflected in the water.
Making my way safely across the road bridge, it is possible to access Temple Balsall via the humanist burial ground and move into St Mary’s church graveyard. Harry Williams is buried at the church and his grave is situated to one side of the property. Williams along with Jack Judge wrote the song ‘It is A long way to Tipperary’. There was controversy over the ownership of the song but here the area is peaceful and the grave points towards the path that leads onto the church.
The church and the surrounding houses are picturesque and the path leads further onto the Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson which runs a school and also cares for the elderly. A direct footpath leads back via a bridle path to the Black Boy. There are a couple of turns and the main Warwick Road to negotiate but once on the canal towpath then it is simple walk back to Knowle. Civilisation returns with canal boats and cyclists. There is a canal boat wharf with colourful boats and in spite of lockdown some activity happening.
The canal side pubs are still shut with stacks of chairs and tables lying empty. Not long now that we return to some normality. The walk started and finished at Elderberry black café and a bacon sandwich is purchased. A well deserved rest on a local bench in the centre of the village Coffee in one hand and sandwich in the other make for a sense of achievement.
Do you want to know more about the Woodland Trust then there is much to read about the Cuttle Brook Wood
Here is a Wikipedia link about the controversy surrounding the song “It is a long way to Tipperary”
More posts about Knowle and the surrounding area
– Winter wonderland in Knowle
– Up close in Knowle
The Instagram algorithm is often blamed for not giving your photographs sufficient exposure. In reality it is how you engage with Instagram that brings success. I find the Flickr algorithm just as fascinating. This year I have had three pictures “In Explore” compared to the same number for all of 2020. All algorithms require you to constantly interact with your social media feeds. Flickr Explore is no different. In Instagram, the algorithm relies on several easily identifiable factors. Searching the web will immediately provide tips on how to improve your Instagram likes. They are not rocket science and are generally in relation to timing of posts and the interest in your photograph. Of course this is social media and the secret is keeping your audience happy with liking and commenting on their pictures as well. That is not a secret I hear you say! The Flickr Algorithm is just the same and it is about interacting with the people who are posting the photographs. They term the algorithm interestingness and on many occasions it is not necessarily a great photograph that gets into explore. However taking good photographs does help to get your photograph noticed in the first place. Amassing a large number of likes is so intoxicating and being on Explore is a popularity contest. I find that with the Flickr app my phone starts flashing first thing in the morning and then continues during the day with all the likes tumbling in. It is not uncommon to receive in excess of 40k likes for a highly placed picture in the Flickr top 500 of the day.
The three photographs featured here received around 4k in likes plus invites into different groups. Someone told me that Flickr is dead in the water. I tend to disagree as when a picture gets into explore it feels like the site is truly alive and kicking. The three pictures featured offer nothing different to my other photographs on my Flickr feed but each has its own story. The first one featured this year is a canal boat in the snow and is a particular favourite of mine. I deliberately took the picture side on and wanted to layer it so that the lower third featured the boat and then the eyes move upwards to see the snow covered trees. It provides that snowed in feeling and it also looks very cold. The question is whether there are people living in the boat and are they feeling the cold as well? There is a sense of isolation. This picture was taken during Lockdown #3 so isolation is very much on the viewer’s mind.
The second picture was in Knowle park. The back story was that there have been many dull days during this third lockdown and on this particular evening I was desperate to get a great sunset. Early in the afternoon, it looked promising when I set out and then when I reached the park the clouds closed over. I was so annoyed and started to make my way back home. Suddenly and to my joy, the clouds parted once again for around a minute. I saw a walker and aimed to catch him in the image but by the time I had lined him up he was far to the right of the picture. When I got home I was still not impressed with the photograph so I went to work with the sliders. I was a bit slap dash in my approach although it did look pleasing to me. The Flickr algorithm picked it up and the likes and comments followed.
Once you have been on Explore you cannot get back on for around 9 days. If you are in favour with the algorithm then after this time you can anticipate when the next selection is about to occur. I had a large spike in likes for one picture but no explore and then two days later this woodland scene went into explore. I took the picture in Clowes Wood near Earlswood reservoir. All the trees in this part of the wood were straight and in the foreground there was this one crooked tree. It had eventually found out how to be straight when placed against its siblings in the background. Again I played around with the photograph in post production and whilst it was misty, the fog was not that evident. I went for a Silver Efex Pro 2 filter and used the Hi Key feature. It looked good so I posted it on Flickr – once again there was a great response to the picture.
I have done a colour version and for this one I used the Skylum AI filters which also gave a nice effect. You can judge for yourself which you feel makes the better picture.
Many people now look down on Flickr and have drifted off to Instagram but the SmugMug team have updated the Flickr algorithm and made it more relevant to present photography users. Therefore I would advise, people to give Flickr another chance.
I will leave a discussion on the Instagram algorithm for another blog as it is slightly different approach but again the key as with Flickr is interacting with your audience.
So you want to know more!
Here are the Flickr Explore links
– Flickr Explore which is the official link for the top 500 photos of the day
– Although I do like the Fluidr display which is retro and cool
– Here are all my pictures that are in Explore
Some previous posts on my activity on Explore
– In Explore from 2019
– “In Explore” from 2017 (I have been blogging for some time!)
Finally if you want to get yourself noticed on Flickr then have a read of this article by Jeff Sullivan
My take on Instagram will feature soon!
The foggy weather and the cold have led to some excellent conditions for atmospheric shooting. I have been taking out my cameras to get the best range my compact and big camera. I just don’t want to miss the perfect shot but then again I have the confidence in my picture taking that I will come away with a picture that suits the camera.
This walk took me along the river Blythe into Brueton park and along the way the bare trees cast wonderful reflections in the river. I also saw lone trees and traffic streaming along the M42. The sun came and went and most of the colours were drained from the day. So it leant itself to black and white photography. I went for some low and high key processing of the pictures.
PhotoTip – black and white photography can certainly bring out the contrasts and character of the subject. On a foggy day, the colours are drained and therefore black and white becomes an obvious choice. Some of these pictures may have stayed as colour and these are shown side by side to give an example of what they may have looked like.
If you like Black and White Photography then I have done some other blog posts that you may like.
Black and White – featuring pictures of Birmingham
Black and White at the Mill – featuring pictures of Chesterton Windmill
Another visit to Burton Dassett during December gave me the chance to explore new parts of the park and rediscover new views of familiar landmarks. I was here with my grandchildren and they were very adventurous climbing both Windmill and Magpie Hills. I went up the steeper incline of Harts Hill to get beautiful panoramic views of the area. I paid the price for clambering up the hill as I slipped on the muddy incline on the way down and was rewarded with a muddy backside.
My new explore with the family was Fox Covert a walk through a small wood. The path is just over a mile long and was not too muddy. The afternoon light was streaming in through the branches onto the path providing many different patterns on the forrest floor. In the hollow was a picturesque brook which was spoilt by a car tyre sitting in the water. How it had got there is anyone’s guess. There was a beautiful patch of trees that was lit up by the sun. Try as I could, my pictures just did not work out the way I wanted them to. Frustrating that I could visualise the scene but not capture it to my satisfaction. 🙁
On the way up from the hollow, the path meandered slightly and then the sun caught the trees and cast long shadows. I took the picture and it looked almost how I wanted it to. Post processing in black and white gave me the result I wanted. The monochrome treatment provided a beautiful rendition of the light that I saw. It was pleasing to find this small (undiscovered by me) part of Burton Dassett. I will be back in the spring to rediscover Fox Covert when spring is in full swing. These pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100v.
Photographic tip – Follow the light and look around for interesting scenes. I like shooting into the light but be careful and don’t look directly at the sun. I got hung up on one particular spot which did not produce many pictures. A few steps away was a really spectacular scene, so keep moving and be ready for all eventualities. Also processing the pictures interested me. I choose black and white processing, Why? It just seemed to look better for some of the scenes.
More Burton Dassett pictures from previous visits are on my blog.
– Burton Dasset Hills Country Park – Escape to the Countryside
– A Glorious Day
If you want more information then follow the Warwickshire County Council site which is packed full of information.
– Burton Dassett Hills Country Park
Warwick is a sleepy market town which is most famous for its castle. The town itself has many interesting streets and buildings. On a sunny Sunday morning, I parked up near to the high street and took a few “classic” pictures of the castle and the town centre. I had my Canon 5D and my Canon 24 -70mm lens which always gives good results. Take a look below at the results. My favourite picture of the walkabout is of St Mary’s Church and I enjoyed the black and white processing. I took this picture looking up Castle St towards the Church.
Further links – Lord Leycester Hospital
Visiting Chesterton Windmill has been good for my spirits since the tough lockdown measures were lifted. As we visited the Windmill on a cold June Saturday morning, I wanted to do something a little different. This must go through the mind of all photographers as come back to places they have photographed on numerous occasions. So armed with both my 24-105 mm and 70-200mm telephoto lens I went to work. Interestingly both these are my goto lenses as well. So I add more photographs to a structure that has already been photographed many times.
I have been to Brussels many times but never to the Atomium and it is one of the places on my travel bucket list. We were in Brussels for an intensive feedback with Marie Curie funding at the European Research Council. Our visit was not helped by delayed and cancelled flights with Brussels Airlines. When we eventually arrived, the conference went well and we were able to catch up with the program. Once the day was done we took a taxi to the north of the city and walked up to the Atomium.
The Atomium was part of the world’s fair held in Brussels in 1958 (the year I was born) and consists of nine iron atoms in the shape of an iron crystal. This is magnified over 165 billion times. It is an impressive structure and immediately commands your attention.
They were getting ready for the start of the Tour de France so it was not possible to get a “clean” view of the front of the structure. There was fencing around the front of the structure with tents ready for the cyclists. However it was a warm evening and the sun was out. There were reflections on the metal structure of Atomium and with the low sun I was excited to be taking photographs. We arrived when the building was shut but it was still possible to wander around and enjoy all those wonderful photographic angles. It is a place where the locals gather and there were many people wandering around. I converted many of my pictures to black and white so that the lines and metal texture came through. Once I had done my photographs all taken with my Sony RX100v5, we headed back to the City for dinner. I was happy to have finally seen Atomium.
On the website the copyright of pictures is outlined as the creator of Atomium, the late engineer André Waterkeyn protected his design. So please be aware if you copy any of my pictures which are being used on my website for personal reasons only .
This was a special day. As soon as I arrived in Vancouver I started posting pictures on my social media accounts. These were picked up by the Meet in Vancouver convention bureau team. They messaged me as they found out that I was both a runner and a photographer. They delivered two wonderful gifts to my hotel. One was a special pack of natural products for the after run experience. I also received a trip for two with Electric Harbour Tours around the bay.
On the last day I took up the offer of the boat trip. Captain Spencer was my guide and we set off in our boat around the bay. During the trip, we saw the harbour seal who scavenges around the left overs in the harbour. We got close up and personal with the harbour air floatplanes. We also got views of derelict structures with wonderful barnacles growing on them. There was lots of history about the bay and tales about the boats in the marina. Captain Spencer kept me amused with his stories. There were fantastic sea views and amazing skyscrapers to view from the relaxing voyage of the eclectic boat. It was a great finish to the conference.