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Tag Archives: Canal and River Trust

City of Culture 2021

Coventry is the City of Culture for 2021.  This prestigious title runs from  May 2021 to May 2022 and it follows on from Derry/Londonderry in 2013 and Hull in 2017.  Taking my first train for over a year, I set off from Leamington to Coventry.  So let’s be brutal, Coventry is not a place you would first associate with culture but do a little digging and you will be pleasantly surprised.  The home of the Specials and Ska music offers up several delights.  Autumn 2020 was my last visit to the City.  Then my pictures were taken around the two Cathedrals and a brief stroll around town.  This visit began at the train station and we moved through the city to the Canal Basin.  The train station is sixties architecture which has seen better days.  Leaving the station area we moved into the Plaza towards the much loved Trigger statue.  Trigger, a metal horse, was put together by Coventry University student Simon Evans in the 1980s using scrap materials.  Lots of photo opportunities around Trigger whether it is close up details or the interaction of people around it.

Trigger
Trigger, the metal horse
City of Culture 2021
Bustling Street Scene

Moving on through towards the shopping centre, next stop the rainbow street or better known as Hertford Street.  Here the Coventry City of Culture offices are situated.  I asked the volunteers if they did not mind having their photograph taken to which they were a bit taken aback.  I love their jackets!  The street is colourful and a haven for Streetphotography as you will see from my photographs. I had my polariser filter on the wide angled Canon 5D which brought out the colours as people wandered past.  We could have spent hours there but we moved on into the central shopping area. 

City of Culture 2021
City of Culture 2021
City of Culture 2021
Rainbow colours

We took a look at Pepper Lane that had been spruced up with colourful paint.  The street art mural by @mattchuuk dominates the far end.  The mural is a past, present and future dreamlike composition representing the spirit of Coventry.

City of Culture 2021
Pepper Lane with the mural by Matt Chu
City of Culture 2021
Matt Chu’s mural representing the past, present and future looks onto the Holy Trinity Church

Moving on to, through and past the Cathedral Square. We hit upon the tired and brutal architecture of the Britannia Hotel and moved swiftly onto the Whittle arches around Hale Street.  Their imposing shapes fits in well with the surrounding area.  Everything is blue including the buses and the spiral overpass into Lady Herbert’s Gardens and Volgograd place.  So good to take pictures and another place where you could spend a great deal of time people watching and taking pictures. 

City of Culture 2021
Reminder of Brutal Coventry
City of Culture 2021
Blue bridge and cyclist
City of Culture 2021
Old and new of Coventry
City of Culture 2021
On the bridge

Moving on our next destination was the Coventry Canal basin.  I warned my photo buddy not to expect much as at my last visit, there was not much to see.  I was glad to be proved wrong as there was activity around the basin and a few long boats were moored up.  By chance I noticed people sitting outside a café near the canal bridge.  Playwright’s café turned out to be a hidden gem.  Scones were lovely and the coffee just right.  Great service from the owner as well.  So my opinion of the area is changed now! 

City of Culture 2021
on the way to the Canal Basin
City of Culture 2021
Coventry Canal Basin

Time to make our way back through the City to the train station.  So lots to like about Coventry in its new clothes as City of Culture.  There is still the awful Brutalist buildings, the bad architecture but there is also a sense of optimism around the place.  The Specials sang in 1981  “This town is coming like a ghost town”, to which I would have agreed a few years ago.  Now “the good old days before the ghost town” are slowly returning.  I really hope so!

City of Culture 2021
No Ghost Town on the left but maybe on the right

Here are some more pictures from our walk

City of Culture 2021
My good friend and photo companion, John Bray

Hillmorton Locks

Look up any reference on Hillmorton Locks and they are quoted as being the busiest along all of the UK canal waterways.  Found on the outskirts of Rugby, they are a hidden gem as accessing them is not straightforward.  From the south, the locks are approached via a narrow entrance tunnel under the West Coast Railway line.  Once through this, then there is parking available at the local parish church St John the Baptist.  There are three sets of locks and the lower lock has a workshop and a few bridges.  Nestling on the banks of the canal was a small inviting coffee shop which is getting ready to open. 

Hillmorton Locks
Hillmorton Locks

The locks themselves are unusual in that there are two side by side.  This was to ease congestion due to its position on the canal network as being the main highway south to London.  The second of the locks is after a gentle curve in the canal and this is different as the lock beams have letters carved into them.

Hillmorton Locks
inscriptions on the lock gates

Locklines consists of a poem of which four lines are on the lock gates at Hillmorton.  At first I wondered why they had been placed in the gates but then it made sense reading the article on them.  They are interesting lines

WORKING WATER
CAPTIVE FOR A WHILE
CLIMBS CAREFULLY DOWN
THIS DOOR MAKES DEPTH

There were three poets involved and one designer and the weblink provides more details on how it all pieces together.

Hillmorton Locks
Looking down from the upper lock

It is then a straight walk up to the third and final lock.  This provides nice views back down the locks and the criss cross pattern of the gates makes for some nice pictures of the canal.  The canal then moves onto run past a new housing estate that is built on the old radio masts that used to be a feature of Hillmorton.  I remember both as a boy and young man taking the train down to London and passing the Rugby antenna masts that were tall structures in the Landscape.  Little did I realise that many years into the future that I would be passing them again but under different circumstances.  Walking back down the locks provided different views including glimpses of the Church of St John the Baptist which were especially pleasing to photograph with the locks in the foreground. 

Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hillmorton Locks
Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hill Morton Locks
Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hillmorton Locks

I am glad that I lingered around the middle lock as my attention was caught by a signpost that had the directions Vaccine and New Normal.  There was even a strange red ball structure on the top that I realised was meant to represent a corona virus.  Further investigations revealed that there was a third sign with Way Out.  Clambered over the gate I looked around to see where it led.  Nothing to see until I turned around.  The back of the sign was inscribed with different lines about the Covid19 pandemic and these included

No Hugs
Mask uo
No PPE
2 metres
Clap NHS
Rule of 3
Bubbles
Home workers
Pubs shut
…..plus many others. 

The whole list maybe seen in the photograph and I have highlighted the post for clearer viewing.  It is great fun and it is still continuing I expect.

Hillmorton Locks
The post with a record of the pandemic written down.

Finally I had a quick look at the Church which was quietly sandwiched between the railway line and the canal.  Spring is starting and the blossom was just opening.  I will revisit when the leaves are fully on the trees and the lovely café is open for a cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy the pictures!

Hillmorton Locks
Church of St John the Baptist

More information
Locklines tells the story how the poem was put into the lock gates
The Canal and River Trust have lots of information about the area
My previous blogs on the Canals in the West Midlands
Walking along the North Stratford Canal
– Lockdown 3 walking along the Grand Union Canal


Thumbnails for explore

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.

20210124-Snow on the canal

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.

20210208_Knowle Park in the winter

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.

20210303 – Clowes wood

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.

Clowes Wood in Black and White

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!

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


Red post and telephone box in the snow

It snowed! Furthermore, we had several centimetres of the white stuff. I missed the beautiful sunrise as the weather front came across the region. For a time it looked like the sky was on fire and it only lasted around 10 to 15 minutes. However that was only a prelude to what was to fall from the sky. It snowed most of the morning and the decision was to plan my walk whilst it was snowing. Also getting out earlier meant that I missed the crowds in the park. The village looked beautiful in the snow and one of my favourite places to take pictures is Knowle High Street. The red letter box and the old telephone box are bright red. They make a great contrast with the white snow.

Knowle High Street in the Snow
Knowle High Street in the Snow
The high street in the snow
The high street in the snow
Knowle Church in the snow
Knowle Church in the snow
Snowman with a facemask
Snowman with a facemask

Heading up the street, there was a snowman outside the One-stop convenience shop. The shop assistant had made the snowman just outside the entrance. She was putting on a face mask for the snowman but it could not cover the carrot nose :). Knowle church looked wonderful in the snow and then it was down Kixley Lane to the canal.

Gate in the snow on Kixley Lane
Gate in the snow on Kixley Lane
Kixley Lane Canal Bridge
Kixley Lane Canal Bridge

The water was frozen and the branches of the trees were white and made for some great photography. I walked up the canal to Knowle locks to take pictures of the area. The boats were covered with snow that had blown onto their sides giving a rippled look to them. The contrast with the trees gave them an ethereal look.

Canal boat with snowy trees behind it.
Canal boat with snowy trees behind it.
Trees along the canal in the snow
Trees along the canal in the snow
Knowle locks in the snow
Knowle locks in the snow
Overlooking the canal in the snow
Overlooking the canal in the snow

I lingered around the locks for a while and then traced my steps back through the village making my way back home through the park. By now it was 12 o’clock and the place was full of snowmen and people enjoying themselves 🙂

Knowle park in the snow
Knowle park in the snow

Photographic tipFor snow I put my camera on manual and checked the exposure dial to ensure that the snow did not overwhelm the sensor. I shot the pictures in RAW so that I could play with the sliders in Lightroom and PSP. I was able to reduce the blue colour but made sure it was not to yellow either. My camera was weather proofed so that it braved the snow and water with no ill effects. A very enjoyable walk and the photographic experience of shooting in the snow was enjoyable.

Other snow links
Take a look at my last post on the Snow in Knowle back in 2017
Remember the week of the beast from 2018?

Snow Photography
Here are some tips if you are interested in learning more

Finally you can always come and Visit Knowle to see a beautiful English Village at its best.


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


Having done Digbeth, I felt brave enough to go into Birmingham again and look around both Gas Street Basin and Centenary Square.  My first difficulty was parking as car parks and on street spaces were either shut or there were traffic cones preventing you from parking.  I found a place and wandered down into gas street.  What I noticed was how many runners there were out and about plus cyclists using the tow path.  It is wide enough to do social distancing and it was being patrolled by two police officers as well.  

Some parts are locked up
The basin is still colourful
Many runners around

After Gas Street I went to Centenary Square and I had brought along my lensball as I thought it might give me some different and creative photography.  Sometimes the lensball is frustrating as it just does not add anything more to the picture.  In this situation, the shallow pool of water allowed you to place the crystal at the water’s edge and then lie low to line up a picture.  I was pleased with the result and it was well received on the social media.  I also noticed that whilst Broad Street is undergoing changes for the metro tram, there are social distancing notices all over the pavement.  The virus is still around and although walking around the streets of Birmingham has a normality about it, you do realise that we are sill in a state of crisis.

Work on the tram makes for lockdown pictures of the Library
The lensball likes being reflected
When will the Rep open for performances?
Centenary Square is quiet
Evidence of neglect on Broad Street
Changes and more Changes on Broad Street
It is a difference world
Social distancing on Broad Street

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