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View of the City May 2021

Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac.  With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me.  New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site.  It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.   

The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on.  It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town.  I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety.  Still the lure of  taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through.  I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings.  After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting. 

Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two.    I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside.  The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.

It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour. 

This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography.  The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated

On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema.  I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham. 

So enjoy the pictures and it is good to see Birmingham as it emerges from the pandemic.  The only down side is the weather which is atrocious rain and so unlike May.


Tree reflections

Everyone loves a picture that shows a reflection. The unique view is fascinating, and it gives a different view of the world by suggesting further new worlds. Unusual angles or taking the picture from a low viewpoint. There is symmetry around a reflection that everyone loves to see. This may be caused by mirrors, a shop window or a puddle formed by the recent rain fall. The iPhone is great for taking pictures of reflections and you can get quite low or even dip the phone into the puddle to get that perfect shot. Care is needed with the exposure as the reflected light from the puddle is less intense than the direct light from the unobstructed area above the puddle. Even on some of my best loved pictures there is overexposure of the upper part of the picture. If I had my large camera with me then I may be able to put a filter on it to stop down the light but then I may not be able to get as low as you can with the iPhone. Adjusting the exposure is easy when you are standing up but not so straight forward when you are crouching down. Probably the best idea is to lie down so you can control the exposure at your leisure. You certainly get some funny looks if you do get down low.

Selfridges reflection
Selfridges with reflection of covering whilst the discs are being replaced. It is designed by Osman Yousefzada

So I have put together some reflection shots for you. My tips are to get down low and either bend the knees if you can or even lie down to get a different view. Always try and think differently as that is what will make the photograph attractive to the viewer. They will have some familiarity with the scene but will also be intrigued with the reflection and part of the fun is to work out what they are being given to look at. Once you start getting into reflections then you will see them everywhere and your photography will take on a new life.

Red canal boats
Red boats on the Canal near Knowle (featured in Birmingham Live Instagram post)
Black and White view
Black and White view from Knowle Church to Elderberry Black Cafe
Trip to the Curry House
Trip to the Curry House (featured in Amateur Photographer)
This reflection of Selfridges was liked by the designer of the scaffolding multidisciplinary artist Osman Yousefzada and was featured by @IgersbirminghamUK on Instagram

Finally Englands Big Picture featured the headline reflection of the small park in Knowle, Solihull

Tree reflections
Tree reflections (featured in BBC’s Big England)

Digbeth

Lockdown 3 is easing and in early April, I found myself back in Digbeth to take a look at what was happening.  One reason was to look for the new Street art project by @Fokawolf but more of that later.  I parked the car in Coventry street car park and made my way to Digbeth.  I love the Suki10cc artwork by street artist Gent 48 It features the up and coming black stars in Birmingham.  The house is so colourful and is great to photograph.  It was one of my pictures that was featured in my recent Amateur Photography magazine feature. This visit, I decided to do some unconventional pictures by getting close to the mural. 

Digbeth street art
Best in Birmingham
Digbeth Street Art
Meriden Street

Walking down Bordesly Street, I experimented with some street photography. It is my first venture out with my Fujifilm x100v and I was a little self conscious trying to use it.  However when I reached the Custard Factory, the camera comes into its own.  A few pictures on the bridge over the River Rea,  and then into Gibb street where there were a few people moving around. I took a few pictures of the colourful artwork (as you do when in Digbeth).  I was pleased with the one I took by the street artist 0707 as it was very colourful especially with the bicycle on the colourful bike rack.

Digbeth
Bridge over the River Rea
Digbeth
The Custard Factory
Digbeth
Street art by 0707
Digbeth
Colours of Gibb Street (so many street artists here, Philth, Gent 48, n4t4 etc)

My next stop was to see the artwork by @fokawolf.  It is a larger than life blown up picture of Pat Butcher from Eastenders and it is underneath the railway arch on Heath Mill Lane.  It is such a random bizarre mural.  The character is not associated with Birmingham and why it is placed here is not known.  What it does do is provoke comment and debate. That makes it all worthwhile.  My picture shows how tall the mural is with the couple next to it.  I also took a picture of the balconies on the Custard Factory and posted it on the BBC weather pages. The architecture always looks good especially when the sun is shining on it.  Fortunately for me, it was featured on the local BBC weather news.

Digbeth
Pat Butcher by Fokawolf
Digbeth
The Custard Factory as featured on the BBC local weather

Still in a wandering mood my next destination was Lower Trinity street taking pictures along the way of some of the more interesting street art. By the time I had reached Bordesley station, I thought it would be good idea to see the canals.  It is very quiet around there and I worry about my personal safety.  However it seemed ok so I carried on taking pictures.  I like the colour of the graffiti and in fact one of my favourite artists, Lucy McLaughlan‘s art work is under the Deritend road bridges.  My first attempt at a long exposure for 3 seconds with the Fujifilm x100v gave a pleasing result.  As I moved back into Digbeth along the canals it became much quieter.  I did meet a friend Mullerbiker from my Slack British Tech Network who happened (as he was) passing through the canal network.  After chatting for a few minutes, he left but then my courage failed me and I retraced my steps out of the system and walked along the road back into Digbeth again. 

Digbeth
Purple umbrellas
Digbeth
No Parking
Digbeth
The Night Owl
Digbeth
Thinking I should be somewhere else
Digbeth
Life and Death
Bordesley
Bordesley station in the light
Bordesley
Lucy McLauchlan Monochrome in long expsoure
Digbeth
Grafitti on the canals
Digbeth
In Digbeth
Digbeth
Custard Factory

Do you want to read more about Digbeth
Digbeth Lights
Digbeth Art
Lockdown in Digbeth


Sunrise at the BullRing

Thursday 5th November was the start of Lockdown #2. As I pass via town on my way to work, I took the opportunity of getting my camera out to record events on this particular day. I was near to the Bull Ring and as luck would have it the sunrise was spectacular with a pinky orange tint to the clouds. I was never in Birmingham for the last lockdown so I wanted to capture the atmosphere of this event. First there were people around, not many but I suspect more that there were in March/April. There were more pigeons than people and i am not sure if it was my imagination but there was a feeling of acceptance to the new restrictions. It was quiet and people moved briskly through the area.

Sunrise over Selfridges
Sunrise over Selfridges
People going to work oblivious of the sunrise.
People going to work oblivious of the sunrise.
The Bull is still there
The Bull is still there
Single Figures move through the empty passageways
Single Figures move through the empty passageways

My pictures were around the Christmas tree outside St Martin’s Church, up to Selfridges and then past the Bull and down onto New Street. I myself did not linger very much as I was very conspicuous with my Canon D5 camera. Whilst I love my IPhone camera, the time is coming to invest in a new compact camera that does not draw attention.

Empty platforms at New Street
Empty platforms at New Street
Reflections in the passageways
Reflections in the passageways
Catching the tram
Catching the tram
On their way to work
On their way to work

On my way back I saw two young people by Selfridges. The pictures show some form of tension between them and the surroundings, especially the picture that is looking upwards towards them. Finally I also saw that the scaffolding is going up around Selfridges and there will be some new photographic opportunities of the specially designed covering going up.

Waiting and watching
Waiting and watching (buy a copy)
Waiting and watching
Waiting and watching
Last word from the pigeons
Last word from the pigeons LOL

Over the last week of January the Bull Ring area of Birmingham held a Festival of Light. There were several themed light shows and shoppers flocked to the display. There was a Chinese New Year display but I was unable to get to see that particular event. I did see the display over three nights on my way back from work. Taking photographs was not easy due to the number of people around the event and I was by myself. It did mean I could not do any particularly good selfie photographs. I took different cameras to the event and needed to rely on a high ISO as no tripods were allowed near the interactive exhibits. The light show also was either very bright such as the Neon Angel Wings or unpredictable in when the lights came on. It required a lot of anticipation on the part of the photographer.

There were five installations

Talk to the sky – This was in St Martin’s Square and similar to all the others was interactive in nature. When you talk to the lights your voice is converted into light and sound pulses that were sent up into space.

With Love – This was a bright red inflatable heart that senses the light, the temperature and the atmospheric pressure around it, and turns into a red heartbeat with sounds.

Neon Angel Wings – This installation was designed by the neon light artist, Carla O’Brien. It consisted of a pair of neon wings where you could get a selfie taken. It was a very bright installation and tricky to photograph.

Pulse – St Martin’s Walk up to Rotunda square had a series of circular structures that you were able to walk through. As you did there was an electronic sound track with a pulsing light

Birds Fly Around With You – This final light show in Rotunda Square was an interactive flock of birds. When you entered the circle then the birds starting to light up and fly around you in a circle.

I am very pleased as one of my pictures featured in the wexmondays shortlist (January 21st 2020). This weekly competition requires you to tweet just one image that was taken in the previous seven days. You need to use the #wexmondays hashtag.

I have been attempting to get onto the shortlist for the last 3 years with little success. My image was neither a milky long exposure nor was it a spectacular landscape photograph. I quietly dispaired that I would ever reach the dizzy heights of being shortlisted. In my line of work, I know that you have to have lots of perseverance and keep putting the work in and perfecting your photographs. It is not easy and many times I have thought of giving up. Therefore today I am very happy to be shortlisted for #wexmondays and will bask in the glory for a couple of days. However I know that you are only as good as your last photograph and so I will try again to see if I can get on the coveted shortlist. I hope you enjoy the photograph as well.

I was in transit from work in the City centre back to my Pebble Mill base. It was a glorious day and before jumping on the bus, I decided to go to Selfridges and see if there were any good shots of the Birmingham Icon, Selfridges.

Black and white suits this photograph
(You can see a missing disc which has been a recent problem with the structure)

There are two entrances that overlook St Martin’s church and I approached the deck around the upper one. I immediately noticed the puddles and then the bright sun. I knew that there would be some good pictures to be had. The pictures are a mixture of my Sony and the iPhone. As you will gather the iPhone gave the best picture as it was possible to get the lens down close to the water in the puddle. It only took a few minutes but the sun and the puddles combined to give a great set of photographs.

The clouds add mystery to the picture
Some great reflections in the puddles
Discs rising out off the ground
The iPhone picture that went mad on my social media

In no particular order here are 11 pictures that I entered into a competition. I was surprised that I was entering most of them into the Architecture or Landscape categories. An eclectic mix which I hope you enjoy.

Picture No 1

Sunrise in Suburbia

This is taken on a short walk from home to Dorridge train station near Solihull of around 20 minutes. The walk is uneventful, but on this December morning, there was a colourful sunrise developing. We have also had a large amount of rain and I saw a large puddle to the side of the road. I knelt down close to the water orientating the phone so the lens was close to the water |(It is a good that the new iPhone is waterproof) . Two people passing by were intrigued but kept walking. The leaves and the resulting reflection gave the view added interest. There is a sense of moving towards the sun on the cold morning, It shows that a great picture is never far away even in the most unlikely of places. I am glad that I walked to my local station that day.
Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

Picture No 2

The Black Sabbath Bridge

The autumnal sun streams in and lights up the tunnel that connects Brindley Place with Gas street basin. This bridge has recently been renamed “The Black Sabbath Bridge” and on the busy road above there is a bench honouring the band. Also this year is the 250th anniversary of the Birmingham Canal Navigation and this canal tunnel sits in the centre of the network. I used my iPhone to take the picture as I saw the way the people lined up in the picture and the sunrise lighting up the interior. I wanted to capture how this bridge still reflects and impacts on people. This picture portrays not only the memories of the past but also shows contemporary life in Birmingham.
Camera – iPhone 8 back camera 3.99mm f/1.8

Picture No 3

Silver and Gold

A long exposure picture of the Railway Bridge and Cathedral in Cologne before Christmas. The contrasting gold and silver colours of the bridge and the Kölner Dom are highlighted. 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 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.
Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5 – Long exposure

Picture No 4

Into the Heart of the Cube

This picture was taken with my mobile phone whilst at a Christmas party in Birmingham. I remember that it was a bitterly cold night and I went out for some fresh air. I knew that on a clear night that you can can often capture some good cityscapes from the high vantage point. However my gaze was drawn to the interesting colours and shapes as you looked down into the heart of the building. I held onto my iPhone as I did not want to drop it and took the picture. There is little editing and people who have seen it get drawn into it even though it is off centre and does not follow a normal composition.
Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

Picture No 5

Blue tram going to Pink station

October brings dark early mornings and this picture shows a tram in Birmingham speeding into Stephenson Street towards Grand Central train Station. The colours created by the neon street lights add to the dramatic feel of the picture. It was raining and protecting my camera was uppermost in my mind. I rested it on a wet railing and waited for the tram to arrive. The use of long exposure creates the motion of speed whilst in fact the tram has to slow down for the corner. The tram stop on Stephenson Street is lit up in pink due to a neon advertising screen. The timing of the lights and the arrival of the tram made the picture possible in spite of the rain. It also shows the “new” Birmingham and the changes happening in the city.
Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5 – Long Exposure

Picture No 6

The University of Birmingham has undergone many changes over the last decade including opening up the centre of the campus creating a “Green Heart”. A few years ago this view of “Old Joe” clock tower from the North Gate, would not have been possible. Rain is a photographers friend and puddle reflections assisted in the composition. I settled my Sony camera into a rather large puddle formed overnight. The picture captures the new north gates that lead into the green area of the campus. The reflections have created longitudinal lines that incorporate the old gate house. Even the parking sign creates a complimentary line. The picture makes the viewer wish to walk towards the Chamberlain Clock tower and they will not be disappointed.
Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5

Picture No 7

Selfridges Lips

The Selfridges building is so often photographed that it is difficult to find a different perspective of the building. The iPhone is very versatile and allows you to get close on reflective views. As I am often looking up for a photograph, I saw this reflection on one of the outside entrances. A simple conversion to Black and White makes it look like an eye or a giant clam.
Camera – iPhone 8 back camera 3.99mm f/1.8

Picture No 8

Snow Hill Vista

This is a picture of two trams moving in and out of the City of Birmingham. They are a leading line to the development at Snow Hill. This is taken early in January and I used the railway bridge wall as my tripod. This was taken with my 40mm prime lens. It annoys me because I have to work at getting the picture I want from it not the picture it shows me. It is very frustrating as I have to move around to get the better angles. Why do I use it? As a prime lens, it can take a crisp sharp picture. After all that work, I am pleased with the picture as it shows the Birmingham Metropolis in all its glory.
Camera – Canon EOS 6D with EF40mm f/2.8 STM

Picture No 9

The Swirl of the City

This is taken at one of the entrances at Grand Central Station Birmingham. The reflective ceiling provides different possibilities and on this morning the person sitting on the phone and the man walking down the stairs are lost in their thoughts. The ceiling looks as it is swirling around caused by the reflections. there are several lines pulling you into the picture. The iPhone allowed me to quickly capture the picture of everyday life.
Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

Picture No 10

Tree

I was walking in fields around Berkswell, Solihull when a single tree sitting on the landscape caught my eye. There was an abundance of colour in the picture but I when I went for black and white, the solitary nature of the tree stood out. I find the view fascinating as the landscape is stripped away to a line with the Tree central to the picture. It was a bright sunny day and I did not have to use a tripod for the picture allowing me to take a spontaneous shot.
Camera – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Picture No 11

Guardian of the Sunset

Chesterton Windmill in Warwickshire is an ideal place to clear the mind. The windmill is well known locally and has been photographed many times. My picture was taken with the tripod low to the ground to give a slight upwards view to the sunset and the architecture of the structure. I used the wide angled lens to capture as much of the multi coloured sky. I looked to get the blades of grass into focus as they shimmered in the hues of the sunset. The Windmill stands as a guardian to the weather around it. I do find the place inspiring and if I am feeling down then a view of the windmill always makes me cheerful again.
Camera – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM

I just thought I would share four of my recent photographs that I have taken so far in January with a story of how they were taken

Another perspective  – The family went for a cup of coffee in San Carlo Gran Café in Selfridges. (Incidentally the coffee there is very nice). I went outside with my grandson and looked up from the entrance to the top of the building. I saw a reflection. After a few goes I realised that the iPhone camera would give the best view. After posting the picture I received so many likes that I knew it was a popular photograph.

I called this the Selfridges Clam although others likened it to a pair of giant lips or a smartie

Metropolis – fun title for this picture of a West Midlands travel tram ready to go into Birmingham. There is another tram coming out of Birmingham and in the distance you can see the latest Snowhill building No3 and the rest of the city. I used my 40mm pancake lens on a Canon 6D. The lens makes you work for the view and it also gives a very crisp image.

The light from the St Paul’s station on the tram contrasts with those form the City

Sunrise over the Green Heart – The Green Heart is a spectacular open area in the centre of campus. This picture was taken on my iPhone and I wanted to catch the colours of a sunrise with a new view of the Chamberlain Clock Tower. The lights from under the benches provided a nice touch so much so that the picture will be featured by the University.

A new view created by the open space of the Green Heart.

Two sides to every picture – The Edgbaston tunnel on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal has been recently renovated and the towpath widened. Taking the photograph meant leaning over the railings and carefully holding the camera to get the picture. Picture taken with the 40mm and Canon 6D. The picture looks as if it is in two halves almost split down the middle.

20160930_sainsburys-car-park

The changing nature of the weather is so fascinating. The colours at dawn and dusk can be amazing. During the day there may be storms, rainbows and even sunny weather that just has to be captured. I regularly post to the BBC Weather Watchers page as it is always fun to get your picture on the Television. The Weather watchers page will tag your photos with “Editors Picks” and then you will know thet the picture has been featured on the television. I was one of the first weather watchers to be selected as a feature of the pages and able to share my experiences of taking pictures of the weather. I also contribute to the Yahoo Weather Project for the mobile phone where your photographs are selected from the Flickr Group.

Dammo’s Weather Watchers Profile

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