The restrictions will be lifted on the 19th July but we are not coming to the end of the pandemic. We are entering a new age of living with the virus. The discussion about mask wearing continues, the sun is shining and society needs to open up. Is this a good time? Vaccinations are high and therefore the government is confident (if this is the right word) that the restrictions can be lifted. For my photography journey. I wanted to catch life during the final days of the restrictions. I was in Solihull to collect my glasses in Touchwood. I was armed only with my iPhone. The following black and white pictures give a brief insight into the mask wearing and restrictions that will soon be a thing of the past. Let’s just hope so!
With this Lockdown, I am planning more varied walks. Openmap is a clever tool as you can draw a radius on the map . I am exploring what I can within 5 to 6 miles of where I live. This is a distance that I can manage walking. The weather has been cold and damp for most of the week and I planned an early morning walk into Solihull. Having my camera with me, the aim was to capture the centre of Solihull and then compare this to the previous Lockdowns.
My planned route took me via Widney Manor Rd into the town centre. At the back of Touchwood shopping centre, I took a picture of the derelict building that used to be Rosie’s nightclub. A delivery driver passing by wanted to know why I would be taking a picture of it. Interesting conversation on why I was taking pictures of buildings in Solihull.
I moved through the main shopping streets Into Mell Square. Here I found that there were many people just sitting around. Some were chatting over cups of coffee, whilst others were just sat around starring into space. Surely the present lockdown guidelines are not to linger and to treat the time you leave your house as exercise. The place looked drab and people were listless. The Angel murals lightened my mood although there was no one around to photograph by the mural. I will come back to take one when life is normalised.
I moved into Tudor Grange park where it was much brighter as the sun started to break through the clouds. I took several pictures here including one of the duck pond. The reflections of light made it look very attractive and the picture I took made the Midlands today weather bulletin. The change of mood was palpable and there were more people moving around.
Feeling more cheerful, I made my way back home through the Monkspath housing estate and then onto footpath over the M42. During this lockdown, I am being more adventurous with my walks and seeing more of the countryside. It was an experience seeing the town centre and how people were coping with the lockdown. With my camera, I hoped that I documented a day of Lockdown what I saw in Solihull was not pretty and was depressing. However the parks and the countryside part of the walk cheered me up.
Photographic tip. Documenting the lockdown is not easy. You can get drawn into what is happening around you. I took the pictures carefully and tried to ensure that people were not identifiable. I did also want to convey the difficulties that people find trying to keep to the lockdown.
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.
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.
The Corona Virus has rapidly engulfed us. Pubs, bars, restaurants and Gyms were closed on Friday (20th March) with full lockdown announced by the Prime Minister on Sunday (22nd March). We can go out for one form of exercise, food shopping and essential medication. I have got into a routine of going for a walk just before the sun rises and I have put down a selection of pictures from Knowle village and the places I walk around in the morning. These are very strange days as you will see.
Restaurants, Bars and Shops are closed except for the convenience store
If you go shopping then you must keep your distance and this is done by yellow crosses on the floor.
STAY AT HOME
By far the most sensible and safest activity that you should practice is Stay at home. Here Sandy shows how it is done.
September is always full of surprises and this year it has been no exception. But we now reach the last days of the month and autumn is around the corner. I am training for the Great Birmingham Run half marathon and I use the canal towpaths for my training runs. The bridge on Kixley Lane is a picturesque place and I noticed that the trees has started to turn colour. I decided to go back in the evening when there was enough light shinning on the trees. I packed all my lenses and I had a window of 30 to 40 minutes. I got some good pictures. The people on the long boat passing through asked if there was a photographic competition as they had noticed many people taking photos. I asked if I could show their picture on my photographic site and the man said jokingly yes I could if I cleaned his boat!!!!
Let me take the opportunity of describing my photographic week in January
SUNDAYThe End of a Perfect Day
On SUNDAY, I went out to take pictures of wildlife as I have access to a 400mm lens. My runs along the canal nearby had revealed that a heron had made its home there. So I set off with certain pictures in my mind. I went up the canal bridge near to where I knew I had seen the heron. The day was cold and bright. The time was right as well, as it was coming up to around 4pm and the golden hour was almost upon me. Then I discovered that several walkers passed me on the bridge and went into an adjoining field. I went to investigate and the view was idyllic. Path, farm house, setting sun and lovely colours. I switched lenses to my 24-70mm and set up the aperture to see if I could get a sunstar. I used my camera view and upped the ISO. A couple of shots and I got a result that I was happy with. Some minor editing followed in LR and PS. The heron? I managed a few shots but none of the shots were as good as this scene of winter’s setting sun.
(postscript – as a bonus it was selected for publication in the Birmingham Post and Mail)
Camera settings – f-14, s-1/60, FL-24mm, ISO-250
MONDAYThe IKON gallery in Birmingham
MONDAY and I was at a reception hosted by the University of Birmingham at the IKON Gallery. I have a camera with me at all times and the Sony RX100 is an ideal camera to have for pictures on the move. It is very versatile and packs a lot of features into a small camera. The evening was busy and there were few opportunities during the reception and the meal with presentations. I was patient and at the end of the evening there was the opportunity to take an outside picture of the ICON gallery. This place is photographed many times especially in Spring when the cherry blossom arrives. This picture is processed in black and white. The channel leads the viewer to the central building. I did notice that it was odd to see umbrellas/parasols set out in January but they make the picture look good with them set neatly in front of the lit windows.
Camera settings – f-1.8, s-1/30, FL-8.8mm, ISO-2000.
TUESDAY morning and I was working at the University campus. I have some time to take a detour around Brum before I jump on the train to the University Station. I take photographs of what I like and I had some good ones of the Cathedral in the light. This telephone box does nothing really and just stands near to the Cathedral. It does feature in many pictures around Birmingham and the light from the street lamp makes it stand out from the dark morning. In the days of mobile phones it is a remnant from a different era. It was this photograph that I selected over the others.
Camera settings – f-2.8, s-1/40, FL-10.6mm, ISO-2500.
A meeting in London always opens up new possibilities for taking photographs. I had a few ideas and when I got to Baker St, I used the underpass that goes under Marylebone Rd. You have to love the red stripes and the surreal angle that they are set at. It just cries out to be photographed. I was also pleased to see that I had caught the people on the different coloured stripes which is a bonus. I also took lots of other photographs but I discarded them in favour of this one.
Camera settings – f-4, s-1/160, FL-8.8mm, ISO-2500.
A cube view
THURSDAY was a day of teaching and meetings. I was taking it slow making my way to a meeting at the Mailbox only to learn on the way that it was cancelled. I went slower and decided to take the towpath back into the City Centre. I am glad I did as the little bit of sun we had lit up the Cube and its reflection in the canal. I had inadvertently left the ISO at 2500 but this did allow a good capture of the cyclists on the left. A bright moment in an otherwise dull day.
Camera settings – f-4, s-1/320, FL-11.3mm, ISO-2500.
Thank God its FRIDAY. I was not having a great deal of luck with taking a photograph today. It was a dull day and many of my pictures looked dull and boring. This was taken going home from Platform 1 of Moor St station. You can see the dull sky in the centre against the relatively warm lights of the station. Taken with my iPhone and it constantly amazes me how it takes a reasonably good picture under different lighting conditions. A bit of touching up done in Google Snapspeed.
Camera settings – ƒ-1.8, s-1/6, FL-4.0 mm, ISO 100
It is SATURDAY and at long last I get to use the Telephoto lens. I went to Brueton Park, Solihull, where the Warwickshire Wildlife Centre is based. There was some wildlife around and for about 10 minutes there were two Goosanders in the large pond at the nature centre. It is not easy to compose pictures and this is one of the better attempts of many I took during the morning. I need to tweak the settings a bit. This particular picture caught my eye due to the ripples. Wildlife photography is not straightforward and requires a lot of patience. I will have a few more attempts over the coming months.
Camera settings – f-5.6, s-1/100, FL-400 mm, ISO 500
And that was a typical week in January.
I have always used my photography as a diary and looking back at family pictures is always fun. However, when I learnt about 365 projects in 2011 then I thought I would have a go at it. The family said it would not last and it would be a passing fad. Certainly the first year was often a challenge and I thought I may miss a few pictures. Fast forward to 2018 and here I am entering my eighth 365. It has become a diary of my life. Even today I used it as a record for my professional CPD for 2017 as I sought to remember where I had been for research conferences and examining duties connected with work. As a family dossier, each year is loved by the family and we regularly check what was happening. WE even use it to remember which plant was flowering and whether it is early or not. Tasha, one of my daughters, delights in making a year book featuring her favourite pictures. A calendar is made for the family as well. Not content with a 365, I also do it adhoc on Instagram, a 52 week project on Flickr and a monthly themed competition for the British Tech Network. It does require a little bit of discipline in the evening and it is now a routine. So to start this year’s 365 off, I include all the 1st January pictures since 2011 🙂 BTW if you want to keep up with my 365 then follow my Flickr account.
It snowed. Also it was very considerate that it snowed on a Sunday morning as well. It was a heavy downpour and I donned many layers before I set off for a journey through Knowle Village. There were many people in the park and activities ranged from sledging to snowball fights. There were very few cars around and several had been left on the side of the roads. Even with my polariser lens filter, snow is very difficult to photograph. My favourite picture was of the red letterbox and mailbox. They have been in Knowle High Street for a very long time and were there when I arrived. Hope you like the pictures and it is starting to look a lot like Christmas now.