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Reflections in Birmingham

There have been many opportunities over the last couple of weeks to take pictures that rely on reflections. Surface water from all the rain leads to puddles on footpaths and pavements that are a good source for taking reflective pictures. Modern cameras have a flip screen that allow you to get low and take the picture without having to get too uncomfortable on the floor. The placement of the lenses has to be very low to take advantage of the reflective split. On the iPhone 13, the positioning of the lenses allows you to get closer to the water. However take care as in doing this you will find your mobile phone getting a little wet! Straight after the rain, I am always looking for a new angle for my photography using reflections from the water and here are a few examples. Most of them are taken with the iPhone camera. However during the visit to Upton House near Banbury, I discovered a very large reflective pool in the garden that provided a wonderful opportunity for a reflection.

Upton House March 2022
The reflecting pool, Upton House and Garden.
This was featured on the lunchtime weather news of BBC South.

There was some local and national successes with several of these pictures being picked up on Instagram by both National Geographic Traveller and BBC weather watchers. Some were successfully featured in local instagram pages. There are explanations behind all the images shown and whilst you are reading this blog post, I am still on the look out for reflections.

Reflections taken in Birmingham
Taken on a wet night in Birmingham looking up towards the Bullring.
This was featured on the Birmingham.City Instagram pages.
Reflections at Umberslade Estate
The line up of trees at Umberslade Estate becomes the perfect setting for a puddle reflection.
Reflections at Moor Street Station
Waiting for the train home and I happened to catch these puddle reflections which were perfectly placed for the picture.
Reflections in Birmingham
A classic view of the IKON gallery in Oozells Square. The “river” of water provides the reflection.
Reflections in Birmingham
A puddle in Gas Street Basin provides a great reflection. He looks like he is walking on water.
This was featured on the National Geographic UK traveller Instagram pages.

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.


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.

I am so pleased as when the email came through I found out that not only did I win first place in the Birmingham Canal Navigations photo competition but I also came third! After entering so many competitions and being both long and short listed, it is a lovely feeling to have won one at long last. My prize was presented at a large gala at the Birmingham Council House celebrating 250 years of the Birmingham Canal Navigations. Included in the prize for first and third was £200 in camera vouchers plus a canvas print of my winning photograph. I have included the press release below together with the 1st and 3rd pictures. I was delighted to see that my picture featured on the front of the programme that was printed out and placed on all the tables for the evening. A night to remember!

!st Prize – Running under Snow Hill Station
3rd prize – Sunrise over Brindley Place

PRESS RELEASE

21 November 2019

Winners of Birmingham Canal Navigations photo competition announced

The charity, Canal & River Trust, working in partnership with the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society, has picked the winners of a photo competition which celebrates the 250th birthday of Birmingham’s canals.

Over 300 photos were submitted as part of the competition which aimed to capture the unique beauty of the historic waterways across Birmingham and the Black Country. Budding photographers were encouraged to snap a wide variety of waterway images such as colourful boats, waterway wildlife, historic canal architecture or pictures of people enjoying spending time on their local canal.

The winners are:

  • 1st place: Damien Walmsley with his picture titled ‘Running under Snow Hill station’
  • 2nd place: Michael Landelle with his picture titled ‘Lazy Sunday afternoon’
  • 3rd place: Damien Walmsley with his picture titled ‘Sunrise over Brindleyplace’

As part of the prize the winners were invited to a special VIP celebration event at the Council House in Birmingham where they were presented with their prize by The Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Mr John Crabtree OBE and Allan Leighton, chairman at Canal & River Trust.

Adnan Saif, director of West Midlands at the Canal & River Trust, said: “It’s wonderful that so many people took part in this photo competition. The pictures really showed how lovely the canals in Birmingham and the Black Country are and how lucky we are to have this wonderful network of canals right on our doorstep.

“I hope these pictures will encourage more people to come and discover their local canal as research shows being by water makes us happier and healthier.”

Michael Smith-Keary, from the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society, said: “It was great seeing so many wonderful pictures of the Birmingham Canal Navigations. There was a real mixture of photos from beautiful rural canal scenes, wildlife, boats and pictures that highlighted our urban waterways.

“All of the photos highlighted just how popular our canals are with local people and that nowadays they are being used for boating and so much more. Now they are very much about creating green spaces that are used for leisure and living – playing a vital role in our society for another 250 years.”

For more information on the work of the Canal & River Trust including how you can volunteer or donate money to support our work visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

-ENDS-

For further media requests please contact: Sarah Rudy at Canal & River Trust on [email protected] or call 01908 302 584 / 07788 691 219 

Notes to Editors

The Canal & River Trust cares for and brings to life 2,000 miles of canals and rivers across England & Wales.  We believe waterways have the power to make a difference to people’s lives and that spending time by water can make us all healthier and happier. By bringing communities together to make a difference to their local waterway, we are creating places and spaces that can be used and enjoyed by everyone, every day.

www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

A day out in Amsterdam sounds exciting but this was for work and I spent most of the day in meetings. We were based at the Amsterdam Medical Centre and then we moved into the city centre where the University central administration resides.  During the taxi ride the sites of Amsterdam revealed itself out of the window.  It was a sunny warm day and the toursists were out.  The taxi stopped on the Rakin Canal and then we made our way up Spui to the Maagdenhuis of the University of Amsterdam.  When we got out of the taxi, it was if we were plunged into a summer holiday.  The place looked beautiful with people moving around by foot and bicycle.  I got the camera out and started snapping.  I was also lucky as part of the delegation arrived late, so I was able to wander around the square outside the Maagdenhuis and take some photographs. All on my Sony RX100v5 and all taken within a few minutes of each other.

Rakin Canal in the Sun
Maagdenhuis, University of Amsterdam
The square on Spui street
Amsterdam

This has been a week of rain and the days have been dull. Even though it is wet there are still great opportunities to go out and take photographs.. My early Wednesday walk from Snow Hill took in the canals that run underneath Snow Hill. The arches under Snow Hill are a favourite haunt of photographers and one can always find a good place for a picture. With the rain there had been condensation with rain collecting on the tow path near to the ornate gates which used to hold horses. Now the activity on the tow path is bikers commuting into work and runners making the best of the early mornings. I settled my camera down on the dirty floor at the edge of a puddle and started to take some pictures. It was difficult to control the bright light of the centre of the picture and the dark recesses of the tunnel. I could see on the first few shots that there was a perfect reflection that made the exit look like an eye onto the outside world. Just then a runner came past. It gave me an idea and by trial and error I set the camera at a shutter speed of 1/100 and f/6.3. I hiked the ISO up to 640. I set it for rapid shooting and then waited for the next runner. Soon enough one appeared and I took my pictures. I had to pick up the shadows from the RAW picture and also do a bit of dodging of the runner. The picture came out very well and was well received on social media.

The train station over the canal

After this I wandered over to St Paul’s square and took a few pictures of the Church and the tree lined paths that criss cross the square. The early commuters were oblivious to the camera and I took several pictures of the area. The black and white treatment suited the day, my ideas for the pictures and set off the charm of that particular area of Birmingham. Here are a selection of the ones that I took.

St Paul’s Church
The paths around St Paul’s Church
The Jam house with 3 Snow Hill towering over it
Commuting down Ludgate Hill to the City

I have started to take my wide angle lens out with me when wandering around Birmingham. I usually do this on a Wednesday morning as I have a clinic in the City Centre. I plan different routes around the city but today I went for a route from Snow Hill to Brindley Place. Along the way I took several pictures and at around 7.30am arrived at the NIA. The Iron bridge over the canal is a photogenic leading line and I started experimenting. It was then that a noticed that a colourful sunrise was starting to happen. I overcame the lack of tripod by using the canal wall. The manual settings of the camera were as follows shutter speed 1/13, aperture f/20 and ISO 400. I use live view to check the scene. I also ensured that I focused part way into the picture to find the hyperfocal length thus ensuring all would be in focus. I took a few more pictures and then went to one of my favourite coffee houses Tom’s dinner in the Mailbox. Browsing through the pictures and this one caught my eye. Processing is a mixture of Lightroom – up the exposure, drop the highlights, touch the shadows and a heavy vignette. I use a LUT (Lookup Table) add on to bring out the cinematic effect. Then into Photoshop where I use an unsharp mask followed by adjustment of the levels as the final adjustments. The picture looks good and I have also included some of the other pictures that were taken on my walk.

Cube spotting
Another view of the sunset
Bridges
Long boat and windows

I had great fun photographing the Dragon Boat Racing in Brindley Place Birmingham today.  Lots to see and do.  It was also possible to get close to the action allowing me to get some close up pictures.  There were Romans, Star Wars, Egyptians and Disney Characters amongst the crews.  There was even a capsize of a couple of boats but I missed that unfortunately as I was checking my pictures.  Lesson learnt 🙂   It would also be good to get involved with it as well.