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.

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.

At last I get to update my blog and these are a few pictures taken on a walk from the Mailbox along the canal to the University train station.  It was a warm morning but I took along my Canon 5D mk4 and my EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens.  I usually do little to the pictures other than keeping an eye on the exposure and using an unsnarling mask to finish the picture.  On this walk I did play with some of the pictures in Google Nik.  I also used black and white.  I just have a sense when a picture suits black and white treatment.  My favourite picture of the day was the cyclist and the train although it was fun taking pictures in the canal bridge just before the University Residence Park.

Playing with filters and you can often forget what the original looked like

Some soft focus

The application of tinted filters

This is the original !!!

The canal walk brings out nice light and shadows

Graffiit under the bridge

A silhouette in the Edgbaston Tunnel

A non functional pier adds some charm to the scene

Man versus machine and I do like this photograph

Another favourite view which you start to see as the curve of the canal opens up

You have reached your destination

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.

TUESDAYTelephone Box

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.


Moor Street Station

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.