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Tag Archives: long exposure

Brum through a lens at Night

When the call goes out on Instagram for night time photography organised by the WestMidlandsPhotoCollective then you know it will be a good event.  Unfortunately, it was limited numbers, and I was unsuccessful. I put my name down  on the waiting list and promptly forgot all about it.  A day before the event, a call came through saying someone had dropped out and was I still interested?  No difficulties in saying yes.

Brum through a lens at Night
Brindley Place with reflecting lights on the Canal

We met at the Roundhouse Birmingham which is where the horses that pulled the canal boats were kept in the early days of the industrial revolution.  After a period of falling into despair, the Roundhouse is now restored to its former glory. With funding from the National Lottery Heritage fund, a partnership formed between the Canal and River Trust and National Trust has led to a community-based centre offering new purpose for the building.  Check out their web site to see what is on offer.

Brum through a lens at Night
Classic viewpoint of Gas Street Basin.
Brum through a lens at Night
Gas Street Basin looking towards the Black Sabbath bridge.

Jim and Sarah from the WMPC met us and outlined the walk.  We followed a community route called “Brum through a Lens”.  We were armed with our tripods and set out along the canals to Gas Street Basin to start taking our first set of photographs.  It is one of the highlighted stops on the Brum through a Lens walk. This classic view is immediately under the Cambrian Wharf wall, looking out over the basin towards the Cube.  I started having tripod malfunctions and struggled to get pictures.  By the time I had freed up the tripod, it was time to move on to the Cube.  On the way we passed under Holliday Street Aqueduct.  This looked an ideal spot for light trials and I lingered around the place taking what turned out to be my best picture of the night.  Several cars came through at once and I had the camera on the long exposure settings (25s, f22, ISO 100). 

Brum through a lens at Night
Light Trails under Holliday Street Aqueduct

Catching up with the group, I took a picture of the Mailbox.  Trying something different I went low and illuminated the train tracks with my torch.  The long exposure gave the water a milky texture and the background was the bright lights of the Mailbox. 

Brum through a lens at Night
Mailbox with old tracks in the foreground.

The final stop was Centennial Square with the Big Wheel and the Star Flyer.  I looked around for a vantage point.  Many of the photographers were setting up underneath the Star Flyer and I saw their pictures after the event.  It was a unique viewpoint.  I decided to stand back and get a good vantage point with both attractions in the viewfinder.  After a while I got an idea of how the Star Flyer was moving up and down.  I had a few efforts with the long exposure and then there was one session where I captured the movement from top to bottom.  The flyer had illuminated struts with people suspended in chairs out into the heights.  It looked quite scary and the movement made a good subject for the long exposure. There were also plenty of screams as well to accompany the long exposure.

Brum through a lens at Night
The Star Flyer looks like a lollipop after the long exposure treatment.

The group moved back to the Roundhouse to take part in some light painting.  Both fairy lights and long neon tubes were used for the light sources.  It was a different light display and made for some dramatic effects as shown.  The circular structure of the roundhouse allowed it to be very dark with little stray light.  An ideal location for light painting.

All the walking combined with the photography made for thirsty work.  The remaining photographers made their way to the Distillery pub for some well-earned refreshments.  There was talk about those pictures that were successful and those that got away.

Thank you to West Midlands Photo Collective for organising the meeting which was very enjoyable giving many of us an opportunity to wander around the City. Being in a group reduced concerns about our safety with all of our equipment and we were able to concentrate on the photography.

All these long exposure pictures were taken with a Canon D5 on a tripod. I used a fast zoom lens 24-105mm. The camera settings were on manual with an ISO 100. The aperture was set at either f/11 to f/22. The timings were around 30 seconds for the light trails and the Star Flyer. At the Roundhouse, I adjusted the timings to be around a few seconds due to the intensity of the light.


There are many photography projects to do during the Lockdown and Star Trails is one that I fancied doing. I have an App on my phone called Star Walk and it shows the sky at night. There are many stars out there but with light pollution is not possible to get particularly good images. I have always liked seeing the stars and wondered if there was a simple project to get started in this area. Star trails looked just what I needed. Using a long exposure technique it is possible to record the moving stars. I read my Digital Photographer magazine and also looked over several articles on the web. I discovered that my Canon 5D had an auto setting that would continuously take pictures. So I set up the camera on a tripod and using the Star Walk App located Polaris the North Star. I took my wide angle lens Canon EF 16-33 mm and used the largest aperture of f/4. The focus was set at infinity. The camera was pointed directly towards Polaris and the neighbour’s house and my Magnolia tree were used to frame the picture. The exposure was set at 30 seconds. Also the auto was set to take a picture every 30 seconds. There were a few false starts and then once I was happy, I let the camera run on automatically. Then 167 pictures later it was time to go to sleep so I processed all the pictures in the morning in a program called StarstaX which blends them together. I learnt a new synchronisation technique in Lightroom as well. The final picture was very impressive although there is still a lot of light pollution around as the trails should be more intense. The picture got a lot of interest on Social media and I was pleased with the final result. I will have to go out again and do some more picture taken of the stars!

I was asked to a conference in Cologne and whilst doing the necessary preparation for work, I also get ready and planned my photographic journey for the trip.  When researching photographs of Cologne a few areas were highlighted.  The Cathedral and the River Crane Buildings were prominent in the Google pictures search.  The journey fro Birmingham was plane to Dusseldorf and I arrived into Cologne over the railway Bridge that spans the Rhine.  As the train passes over the large steel bridge into the station you get glimpses of the cathedral and the markets.  As soon as you leave the station, you walk into a square and the camera has to be taken out. The cathedral takes your breath away with its grand structure.  

There were Christmas markets around the Cathedral.  These were very pretty selling many different gifts from stars to wooden puppets.  The markets were lively with music, laughter and singing.   They are nestled in pockets around the narrow streets of the city.  

Having has a brief look in the cathedral where mass was taking place, I headed out over the steel railway bridge looking for the classic view of the city.  A feature of the bridge is all the padlocks that have been added to the fencing between the railway tracks and the pedestrian footpath.  It is a twinkling mass of brass and quite something to see.  Eventually I arrived at the promontory on the far bank where there is a large statue of Keiser Wilhelm I.  It is here where I set up my camera to take the “classic” view of the cathedral as you look back over the Rhine.  I used my Sony DSC-RX100M5 on manual to take the picture.  I rested the base of my camera on my handkerchief as there was a low stone wall to use as support.  

The settings were as follows

  • shutter speed 10 seconds
  • focal length of f/2.5
  • ISO 100

The slow shutter speed allowed for the intercity train moving over the bridge to blur and line up with the other leading lines of the bridge.  The water from the Rhine began to have a slight silky appearance to it.  The contrasting colours came out well with the silver of the cathedral and the gold of the steel bridge.  I was pleased how it turned out.

The conference took place at the University of Cologne and after two days of an intensive workshop, we had a few hours spare before travelling back to Dusseldorf airport. First off it was the cathedral and the inside architecture is a sight to see. The long imposing nave leads to the Relics of the Three Kings. It is difficult with the camera to do justice to all the wonderful stained glass windows and other structures that are present in the cathedral. I will have to return again.

Impressive interior
Cologne Cathedral
Relics of the three Kings
Relics of the three Kings
Cathedral details
The beautiful entrance door

Also I wanted to see the three skyscrapers on the Rhine called the River City Cranes.  They looked spectacular from pictures on the web.  They were half a mile south from the train station but well worth the walk.  On the way I passed another Christmas market as well with all the people activity going on.  Getting close and personal to the large structures allowed for some great architectural views of them.  They reminded me of a Star Wars troop carrier with the anterior leg supporting an outstretched flat structure.  There were many opportunities for pictures and the wide angled view from the iPhone allowed for some rather good distorted views.  I walked out onto the nearby bridge to get a better view of the structures.  They were fascinating.  

The Riverside Crane Buildings
Pictures on a bridge
Traffic on the Rhine

Then it was back along the riverfront to take pictures of the picturesque houses with various local people taking in the end of the day.  The houses were set back from the river and the cathedral spires over looked them. They were a popular place for locals to stroll along the river or sit back and people watch others.

The locals walking by
Cathedral, Churches and houses
Relaxing by the waterfront
Sidestreet view

Overall verdict, an interesting city to photograph and one to which I will return.


During October, my daily commute starts when the morning is dark. Likewise in the evening if I am working late or at a function in the city then I am travelling again in the dark. It has also been raining many of the days and in spite of the gloom the conditions provide reflections of the lights on the pavement or in the shop windows.

Speeding Tram (featured on BBC Midlands Instagram page)

This is a selection of photos taken last week in the dark. There is a mixture of long exposures and opportunistic street photography of people interacting with both the City and the conditions. There are a couple of favourites in here and they have been picked up by other social media outlets. One was In Explore on Flickr for several hours. During this time it clocked up over 35,000 views and many likes and comments. The picture of the blue tram in slow motion was featured on the BBC Midlands Instagram site. It has been a fun week for photographing Birmingham in the dark.

This picture titled “Rainy City” clocked 35k views on Flickr
Cars and Pedestrians at Grand Central
The Zebra crossing to towards the Mailbox
More Trams taken with a long exposure
An umbrella is needed to brave the conditions.

The canal through Knowle is one of my favourite places to visit. If it looks as if the light will be good then I look for the opportunity to visit. There are always boats on the canal and the sun sets nicely on the top of Knowle locks. There are some water reeds at the top lock and for a few minutes as the sun sets, the light catches them nicely. I used my Canon 100-400mm lens to save me having to cross over the lock with all my camera equipment. Once that picture was done then I settled back to catch the sunset over the water. I always enjoy the picture taking here and also used my Big Stopper to see if that would give a nice effect.

Ripples, reflections, long boat and the tow path
Locking towards the bridge and Knowle Locks
Peaceful evening
Long exposure of the sunset
Sunset over Knowle Locks

The sun came back after a really dull week and so I jumped into the car down to one of my favourite locations for photographs.  Kingswood Junction is near to Lapworth and is where the Stratford-upon-Avon canal meets the Grand Union canal via a small connection under the railway bridge.  I played around with long exposure, long focal length lens and an old fish eye lens that I have.  All good fun and long may the sun shine.

A small boat in the marina

Which way?

Via the Grand Union

The connection between the two major waterways

Long exposure

Long exposure with black and white treatment

The Fish eye view

A pleasant sunny day