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Knowle High Street in the snow

The snow started falling on a Saturday morning and it was settling on the ground.  Seeing the conditions, I gritted my teeth and decided to head out in the cold.  There could be some good pictures of Knowle village in the snow. Venturing out in the windy cold conditions was not fun.  Being cold and wet, I took my Fuji x100v which is weather proofed and wandered around the High Street taking pictures.  Even though I had camera gloves on, with only the tips of the thumb and first finger exposed, I was getting very cold.  However it was disappointing as the snow had turned to rain and there was little of the white stuff around.  I decided to call it a day and when I got back to my car, I was soaked. Sitting in the car, I noticed that a thick snow blizzard had started.  I decided to be brave and I returned to the High Street for a second time. My decision this time was to use my iPhone13. Going to the northern end of the High street, I started taking pictures and slowly advanced towards the church at the opposite end of the road.  The temperature had dropped and the driving swirling snow was making it difficult to see what was happening. My finger tips were numb so it was difficult to know whether the camera had taken any pictures. I was also shivering and the iPhone was continually slipping out of gloves. I returned to the car more soaked than before and came home. 

Knowle High Street in the snow
Snow swirling around the shops
Knowle High Street in the snow
Little traffic and the pictures take on a timeless quality.
Knowle High Street in the snow
Knowle Church in the Snow

When I saw my iPhone pictures, I realised that I had captured some magical Christmas card snow scenes.  I did have some camera shake on one or two of the pictures but the majority were good.  The reactions on social media were very positive.  I made the long list of #sharemondays2021 and await the results of several other competitions where I submitted the pictures. I am really glad I did brave the conditions!  Seeing the pictures made it all worthwhile!

Knowle High Street in the snow
Without the cars, this scene could be from the Dickens Christmas Carol period.

Some other pictures of Knowle are on my blog including a walk around the area and snow that fell in January 2021


Fog Knowle Park

Waking up on a Friday morning, I was excited to find that it was foggy. I was keen to get down to the park and take some atmospheric pictures of the conditions. There were not too many people around but I was still able to get some nice pictures with my Fujifilm x100v. I processed the pictures with Silver Efex pro3. My favourite ones range from the neutral filter to using high or low key processes. Some of the combinations such as push processing and using a harsh or soft finish all work well. My trouble is that I see a good picture in all of them. There was the addition of a vignette and then an unsharp mask on the pictures. Take a view and I am looking forward to some more foggy starts!

Fog in Knowle Park
A lone figure framed by branches
Fog in Knowle Park
The Fog rolls in over the Park
Fog in Knowle Park
A lone dog walker keeps to the path
Fog in the village
Knowle village with a foggy start

Knowle

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.

Temple Balsall
The brook on the edge of Cuttle Brook Wood

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.

Temple Balsall
Entrance to private nature reserve showing a fallen tree

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. 

Temple Balsall
The grave of Harry Williams, writer of It’s a long way to Tipperary
Temple Balsall
Churchyard of St Mary’s church
Temple Balsall
St Mary’s 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. 

Knowle
The canal next to the Kings Arms on the Warwick Rd

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.

Knowle Locks
Union Jack flying at the bottom of Knowle Locks

Further information
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


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.


Travel agent working from home

Keeping life varied is the key to getting through the Lockdown and night time walks add a difference to the routine.  I am fortunate to live in a typical English village with a high street and local shops. During Lockdown the traffic flow has decreased although the cars do travel through at speed.

Knowle High Street at Night
Knowle High Street at Night
Car lights in the High Street
Car lights in the High Street
Waiting for someone
Waiting for someone
Bus with a few passengers
Bus with a few passengers

Many of the village shop lights are on and there are a few people moving around.  The busiest places are the chemist, the 24 hour convenience store and Tesco.  All the restaurants are offering takeaways.  A click and collect meal may make a difference to breaking the monotonous existence of lockdown.  However, it is an expensive one, compared to making your own meals at home.  A feature of the weather is the amount of rain that we have been having. The rain has been intensive leading to major puddles in the street.  My new camera has a tilting screen making it easier to take photographs with when bending down.  The iPhone does a great job but with absence of a flip screen you have to get quite low to see the screen.  These days I find one of the problems is getting back to a vertical standing position after crouching down. 

Picking up a takeaway
Picking up a takeaway

The shop windows are pretty, and some still have the Christmas decorations in them as people are not inclined to do much during the pandemic.  The lights at night are fun to photograph and some of the shop windows like the travel agent remind you of times gone by.  I also walk towards the level crossing at Bentley Health and the footbridge is a perfect place to take pictures of the trains going into Birmingham.  I tend to go out walking with the dog and he does not always appreciate the waiting around for the trains to go by. The picture I took was of a train into Birmingham.  The term “Night Train” came to mind and I saw that Steve Winwood had a song by that name on one of his albums. 

Footbridge over the railway
Footbridge over the railway
The night train to Birmingham
The night train to Birmingham
Train approaching the level crossing
Train approaching the level crossing

There was a picture that I saw on Instagram from one of my contacts taking pictures of petrol stations and wondered why would they being doing that?  Here I am taking pictures of the Shell petrol station at night. 

Esso Petrol station at night
Esso Petrol station at night

I have to say it does have an interesting almost timeless atmosphere about doing such photographs.  The bright lights against the black sky give it importance.  A staging post of interplanetary travel maybe?  I found the change of time for my lockdown photography made the difference.  It was a different challenge taking the pictures at night. No light trails in this set of photographs but I will look to do some later in the month.

Photographic tipThere were two or three pleasing photographs.  The reflected puddle one was interesting as the woman came out of nowhere and made the story.  I am not sure if she did have the takeaway with her.  The night train picture was after a lot of hanging around waiting for the trains to appear.  The petrol station was an idea that I copied from someone else.


Stay Safe from a canal boat window

This is the first post of the first day of Lockdown £3. For Lockdown #1, it was new and we all stayed at home. We came out of that Lockdown and summer drove the virus underground but it was still around. Lockdown #3 was called when the devastating extent of the virus re-emergence became known. During Lockdown #2, I was working so I stopped off in the city to do some daily exercise before moving onto Pebble Mill. This time I am not at work for the main part of the week and only do one day. Almost all of my work can be done from home. So in a similar way to Lockdown #1, it is a stay at home except for the one exercise a day.

Black Boy Marina
Black Boy Marina
A picturesque but empty Kings Arms Pub
A picturesque but empty Kings Arms Pub

With this Lockdown #3, I am looking for more imaginative walks from home. This time I walked along the canal down past Knowle locks with several of the boats displaying “stay safe” signs onto two of the canal side pubs, the Kings Arms and the Black Boy. (The latter pub name comes from the appearance of King Charles II who had a dark complexion). Both the pubs were closed and had a very empty look about them. Even in January the car parks would be full and people would be visiting. Nothing was happening.

Empty Black Boy pub
Empty Black Boy pub
Empty seats
Empty seats

There is a canal Marina between both pubs which was also very quiet. I did have a heron as company which is another story in itself. A strange day with a heavy presence around the canal. A solemn quietness hung in the air as the place seemed to know that this was the start of another Lockdown.

A colourful scene at Knowle Locks
A dramatic scene at Knowle Locks

The tow path was very muddy and difficult to negotiate but the canal boats had their log fires burning. The smell of the wood burning was pleasant to breath in as I returned the way I came and made my way home. When I got to the top lock at Knowle, there was a bright end to the day which lifted the spirits. There are going to be a lot more walks to do before this current Lockdown is over.

Changeable weather
Changeable weather with clouds, sunshine and reflections
The smell of wood burners as you pass the long boats
The smell of wood burners as you pass the long boats

Photo tip – Story telling always helps with your photography. This is about the lockdown and it has pictures of the rainbow and stay safe symbol in the window of one of the boats. We move onto the pubs which should have full carparks and people moving around but there is little happening. Therefore the story concentrates on the weather and the muddy journey with lovely skies.

This was the first day of Lockdown #3, here are my other first days of the previous lockdowns.
Lockdown #1 – Lockdown begins
Lockdown #2 – Birmingham Lockdown #2 – a photographic journey of the first morning

Follow my encounter with a Heron during this Lockdown #3 walk


Christmas Tree - Great Western Arcade - Birmingham

There are many lovely Christmas trees around Birmingham this year. They are more prominent as they are not competing with other decorations or events where there are crowds of people such as the German Market. However, they do look lonely as the numbers of people in the City centre are down and the Christmas trees are left to look after themselves. I have taken pictures of those trees I have seen on my travels including the one in Knowle where I live. Merry Christmas Everyone and hope you have a lovely time over the next few days.

Christmas Tree - Victoria Square - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Victoria Square – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - St Paul's Church - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – St Paul’s Church – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Great Western Arcade - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Great Western Arcade – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - The Bullring - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – The Bullring – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - St Phillip's Square - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – St Phillip’s Square – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - St Phillip's Cathedral - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – St Phillip’s Cathedral – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Mailbox - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Mailbox – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Mailbox - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Mailbox – Birmingham
Christmas Tree - Knowle - Birmingham
Christmas Tree – Knowle – Birmingham
Knowle Park after the storms

The months of August are hot during the day and often very muggy at night. We have been through a spell of very hot weather and experienced some dramatic thunderstorms at night. Unfortunately I slept through the worse ones even though I had my camera set up to take some pictures. The next day I was up early and when I got to the park, I was not disappointed as there was a mist over the area. There were were also layers of colours present. What was remarkable was the continual change as the sun rose higher burning off the mist. The mist provides opportunities for rays of sunbreaking through the clouds to be highlighted. With my trusty iPhone I was able to take several photographs of the scene. These were immediately given some post processing via Snapspeed and then uploaded onto the BBC weather site. When I got back home all the pictures were run through Lightroom and then put up on Twitter and Instagram. I received a great deal of acclaim and lovely comments on the pictures and also featured no BBC Midlands weather.

Knowle Park
Knowle Park after the storms with a lone dog walker
Knowle Park after the storms
Magical mist, Sun and light
Knowle Park after the storms
The clouds were very dramatic
Knowle Park after the storms
This picture was shown on BBC Midlands weather
After the storm Knowle Park
This picture was popular on Instagram

I like taking pictures as you gather and I needed some inspiration to make the daily exercise more interesting. When the Visit Knowle site published a close up of one of the buildings in Knowle then I knew this was an avenue I could explore. So we have a series of images below all taken in the village of Knowle near Solihull. I hope you like them and you might even want to guess what some of them are if they are not that obvious. The lesson learnt from photography is always try and look at everyday objects with a different eye. You will be surprised what you get to see. There are examples of textures, materials, architecture and decay. All give a different but also uplifting views of my home village. The pictures are here to provide some of the character old and new of the village. I also found a reflection picture of the local church which was pleasing.

There is a sense of achievement when BBC England select your picture to be included in the England’s Big Picture Gallery. This is the second one selected this year. It had quite a reaction on social media amassing lots of likes, if that is a good indication these days 🙂

This picture is taken during my exercise walk in Knowle, Solihull.  It had been raining the night before leaving some puddles on the path.  I bent down and dipped my iPhone into the puddle and got this reflection of the trees in front of me illuminated by the Sunrise. 

If you click on this link you are taken to the BBC England site where my picture is included for pictures taken from 30th March to 5th April