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Charlecote park

So many photographers talk about their 3.30am starts, getting up early so that they are able to catch the sunrise.  This got me thinking that it was time I looked for a good place to visit for a sunrise with a difference.  Amateur photographer had a recent feature on places to visit in the UK whilst interesting, they were a long road trip away, so I searched on the Internet for more suggestions closer to home.  On my search, a 2016 AP article came up from Stu Meech who lives near Charlecote park, a National Trust property in Stratford upon Avon.  What a great read and Stu advises where to park and how to access the public footpath in the park.  So I got ready, packed the gear and went to bed early.  I woke up before the alarm went off at 3.30am and got dressed.  The dog took a while to settle down as I had woken him up, but I eventually got out of the house but silly me, I made the decision to go down on the M42 and M40.  It was the fastest route, but I had not factored in night time roadworks. Eventually I got off the motorway and then the misty wonderland was all around me.  The village of Barford looked marooned by an eerie white carpet which was flowing around the old bridge.  I nearly stopped but Charlecote awaited. 

Charlecote Park
The early morning mist in Charlecote Park
Charlecote Park
Mist and a sunrise in Charlecote Park

Passing through the village of Charlecote, eventual I came across the lay-by described in the article about 50 metres away from the West Gate to the park.  Time 4.35am and all looking good so far.  Once through the gate, there is a recent sign that informs you that you must rigidly stick to the footpath and not to enter other parts of the park.  You may only do so if you have registered with reception (which opens at 9.00am).  Not possible this early in the morning so sticking to the public footpath is the only option.  Everywhere I look the park has a beautiful carpet of mist.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement and a herd of the resident fallow deer have picked up the noise that I am making.  Do I stay here, do I take pictures of the deer or do I move on?  Moving on has to be the best option and I eventually come to a hollow where the path opens up to show the beautiful Charlecote House. 

Charlecote Park
Sunrise through the trees
Charlecote Park
Charlecote House in the mist

The sun is impatient and already the beams of light are pressing through the mist.  I find a good spot as the intensity of the sun increases.  Excitement rises.  Do I put a filter on such as my half grad filter. Wide or telephoto lens? Decisions, decisions.  Settling down I switch my lens and filters as I see sunshine hitting the tops of the trees.  Then it starts to lower gradually becoming stronger and stronger.  I place the sun behind a tree, close down the aperture for a potential starburst and take pictures.  The light is magical.  Whilst this is going on, there is a procession of deer and goats passing through my line of sight.  There is too much to take in and I take as many pictures as I possibly can.  My kit bag falls over spilling lenses etc on the dewy grass but luckily, no damage done (I thought).  It was about 6:00am and I had been taking pictures since sunrise at 4.45am. 

Charlecote Park
A misty scene in Black and White

I moved further along the path and then looked over to some trees and saw the deer frolicking in the mist.  Telephoto lens on and more pictures.  One of the pictures of a deer in the mist got a big reaction on my social media. Reflecting I should have brought my 100 to 400mm lens but then I could have brought the kitchen sink as well! Photographers are never happy.

Charlecote park
Morning mist and deer in Charlecote Park

My next steps were to follow the footpath towards the village of Charlecote.  Everything was very quiet in the village and entrance gates to the park were locked.  The church was catching the sun and there were some super photos to take which normally I miss when you are rushing to park and get to the house during a day visit. 

A black and white path with sun and mist.

Then it was time to slowly retrace my steps back to the car.  There were a few more photographs but the mist was gone, having been burnt away by the sun.  The time 7.00am and the day was starting.  An enjoyable drive back home through Stratford and Henley in Arden.  The only drawback was that I left my lens hood in the park.  It was broken and loose on the camera so no regrets.  Leaving bits behind is a photographer’s lot in life but what I took with me was some wonderful pictures of the park.

Did you enjoy this article. Then please follow these links for other articles of taking pictures in the mist and fog. Please comment if you liked it too!
The Fog creates a Black and White Landscape describes a walk in the fog with my camera
Mist at Packwood is about a misty morning at this local National Trust Property

…..and if you go remember to stick to the footpath.

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

Gas Street Basin

Now I am back in a work routine, I take the opportunity to park in the city around 7am and stay until 8am just before the car parking charging begins.  I set myself an area to walk around and aim to come away with 4 to 5 pictures that I can use over the coming days.  These may be for my 365 project or pictures that I can post onto Twitter and Instagram.  Gas street basin is a changing place and there is always something to photography during a walk on the tow paths.  On this visit, it was very still and quiet and there was a hint of mist.  The water in the canal was so still that it provided perfect reflections for my photography.  I had my trusty Canon 5D mark VI and my ‘go to’ lens EF24-70mm with me.  Initially I did not think I would get particularly good photographs but then as I got down low I started to see the photographic possibilities.   

Reflections in Gas Street
The still waters reflect the buildings of Gas Street Basin.
Birmingham - new vs old
Showing the new versus the old in Birmingham
Gas Street Sunrise
Golden buildings in the sunrise

With the reflections of the buildings, I saw that there were many different views.  I took around 20 to 30 pictures and then carefully selected around 6 photographs.  A selection of 4 posted on Twitter took off with many likes. At the last count it was over 20 thousand views.   I see so many excellent pictures of Birmingham and I am not here to say that mine are any better.  These pictures are my own personal view of the area and I am pleased that they make people happy.

Brindley Place
Venturing into Brindley Place for the reflections of the canal waters

Sunrise and boat

The village of Kardamena was not far from the hotel where we stayed for Natasha and Rob’s wedding.  It is a small resort with an attractive harbour and a big heart.  I was very impressed with the place.  It has many backstreets which are pleasant to stroll through and are relatively cool in the midday sun.  The harbour front contains many bars and restaurants which come alive in the evening.  Every morning, I ran into Kardamena and took many iPhone pictures which often included the sunrise.  This did depend on whether I got up in time. 

Table in the sun
A breakfast table in the sun
Church on the Road
A small Church on the Road that I ran past every morning.
Church and sea
Church and sea
Boat in the harbour
Boat in the harbour

The light on the Island is best in the early morning when the first rays break though over the waters.  At night the sun sets behind a small mountain ridge but some of the last rays of the day still make for a pleasant picture.  In the town we ate at several restaurants and the food was always tasty and delicious.  It was also good to drink Retsina again which I know is an acquired taste but it brings back memories of my time Greek island hoping when I was a student.  These are some of the pictures that I took which are all on my iPhone. It was not practical to bring the grown up camera out on either a run or in the evening when alcohol was flowing.  However I know that I will visit Kos again taking my cameras to catch the beautiful light. 

Sunrise at Malibu Beach
Quiet streets of Kardamena
Bike in the sun
Bike in the sun
Main Church
Main Church
Greek Meze
Greek Meze
Boats in harbour
Boats lined up in the harbour
Sunrise and boat
That boat again on the final day of the holiday

The final picture is not in Kos but taken at the Sunset Taverna in Zia on the mountains.  It was an adventurous journey in the mini bus up and down the steep mountain roads from Kardamena to Zia but as the picture shows is was worth it for the sunset. This was taken with my Canon 5D with two pictures stitched together.

Sunset at Zia
Sunset at Zia
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

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

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 am fortunate that I am able to visit different places and one such place is Berlin.  It is a city that cries out to walk around and I did one better by doing a lot of running around the city.  I ran to the Brandenburg gate, Reichstag and along the river.  When not running photographic opportunities presented themselves on the conference river cruise and next to the bus stop.  What I particularly enjoyed were the sunrises which were particularly spectacular.  Most of the photography was done with my iPhone whilst running or using my Sony compact camera which is still working well in captured the moments of the city.

View of a tram from my hotel room
Early morning runs had added benefits such as lovely light
Abstract shapes and reflections
View from the boat trip
The Brandenburg gate with the early sunrise

A misty start is a great opportunity for photography. The last Saturday in March provided both the sunrise and the mist so I headed it out. I planned to go to the canals but passing through Packwood House, the combination of the sun and mist caught my eye. I stopped and started to take pictures. The line up of trees leading away from the house provided some good pictures. A couple of early morning walkers provided suitable inclusions in the pictures that I took.

I also discovered the “Welly Walk” around the grounds. By this time the mist was disappearing but there were still photographs to be taken. One of the sun streaming through the trees, a spiders web and some lambs taken in the sun. It was a magical hour of photographing in ideal conditions.

The Golden Morning light
The gates of dawn
The  eerie mist
The sun in the trees
A walker in the mist
A figure approaching the gate
Packwood House
Towards the gate
Beyond the gate
Morning light in the woods
Spiders Web
The Warwickshire Countryside
A friend on the walk

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