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Tag Archives: University of Birmingham

UoB Exchange IgersbirminghamUK

The University of Birmingham has a major economic impact on Birmingham and the West Midlands region.  The University educates students, is a major employer, a research leader in all sectors and a gateway bringing in global connections that benefit the city. Even though the University has a beautiful campus at Edgbaston, a physical footprint in the city centre has long been on the University’s wish list.  The old Municipal Savings Bank began to look an interesting project.  Especially with the location of the bank on the new look Centennial square.   

Produced by the University of Birmingham

The former Municipal Bank is a Grade II listed building and has historical links with the University.  Joseph Chamberlain was founder and first Chancellor of the University of Birmingham.  Neville Chamberlain, the son of Joseph Chamberlain was behind the building of the Municipal Bank on Broad Street.  It was first opened by Prince George in 1933 and has a long history of underpinning the wealth of an ambitious city.  However, the bank closed at the turn of the century and the last 20 years has seen the building empty with no tenants. It was famously portrayed as the AC-12 base in the BBC series ‘Line of Duty’.  The iconic safe deposit boxes in the vault were used in a Chanel advert amongst the various roles that the bank filled in these barren years.  In 2018, the University negotiated a long lease of the building with Birmingham City Council and the renovations began.

I was fortunate in my University of Birmingham role to see these renovations firsthand in October 2019 before the pandemic.  During my visit, I took a series of pictures on my iPhone.  I had no idea which room I was photographing, although I remember the vaults where the safe deposit boxes reside.  They are so interesting to see.  Rows and rows of metal doors with numbers on them.  One can only begin to imagine what was contained within them.  The building was being gutted and there was so much to do from floor to ceiling in each room.

UoB Exchange
Banking floor

Fast forward to October 2021.  Hasan Patel who is part of Communications Team at the University of Birmingham invited me to coffee at the Exchange after his Marathon Run. (Follow Hasan on Twitter to learn how to sponsor him on his running diary). We spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting the world to right.  Hasan introduced me to the University team at the Exchange and we visited several rooms in the building. 

Not long after my visit with Hasan, IgersBirminghamUK announced an Instameet at the Exchange.  Immediately I signed up and went along.  This Instameet is a friendly collection of photographers.   We were given access to all areas including the Board room and the former bank managers office which I did not get to see on my first visit.  The other interesting feature is the balcony where the bank manager opened the doors and looked out onto the banking floor to check that the bank was running smoothly.  During the Instameet, this was a favourite spot for all the photographers.

Whilst we were in the vault, we were also given access to a utility room where many of the safety deposit boxes were stored.  Now many of the boxes are placed strategically around the building and are a feature of those rooms which are used as teaching spaces and meeting areas.  This basement room had many of the old boxes and proved to be a fantastic place to take photographs.  There were still some stickers remaining and on one of the boxes the notice stated that this box could only be opened in the presence of a solicitor.  Once again one could only imagine what was kept in these boxes over the years.

We finished the tour and adjourned to the Distillery Pub next to the Roundhouse.   This is another interesting place to visit and includes a wall mural of a canal horse painted by one my favourite street artists, Annatomix.   The Roundhouse was used to care for the canal horses that pulled the boats and has been renovated as a historical place of interest. There is even one of the horse stables on view.

This was a day taking pictures of historical buildings that have been brought up to date in a city that is rediscovering its roots and moving forward.  Thank you to the team at IgersBirminghamUK for organising the tour and The University of Birmingham for opening the Exchange for this Instameet.

I have also included a blending of the old and new photographs in two of the rooms to show how the building has been modernised between my two visits.

Pictures taken with iPhone 11 and 13, camera Fujifilm x100v

If you are interested in joining an IgersBirmingham Instameet then please follow them on Instagram. An account of a previous IgersBirmingham Instameet at Moseley Market is also available on my blog.


University of Birmingham Sunset on campus

These are surreal days on the University Campus as a term is in full swing but many of the students are sitting in their halls of residence. I work on a Tuesday and Thursday based at the Dental School and have only ventured onto campus once or twice. I took a hunch that it was going to be a nice sunset. You never know if it will or not but the clouds were lingering and at about 5pm I drove up to the campus. My swipe card did not let me on the campus but it is now so quiet that I found a space near the main ornamental gates at the North entrance.

Autumn on Campus
Autumn on Campus
Old Joe in Golden Hour
Old Joe in Golden Hour

I saw that the clouds were still around and the sun was low. Campus was quiet. A few pictures on the way down to the Aston Webb building and taking in some nice pictures of Old Joe. I then positioned myself on the steps by the University Crests and waited for the sun to go down. I was not disappointed as the colours of pink came out in the clouds. I go for symmetry and I enjoyed the pictures that I obtained with Old Joe framed by red clouds.

Sunset and red clouds around Old Joe
Sunset and red clouds around Old Joe

After nearly half an hour the clouds darkened and I made my way back to the car. As I looked back through the gates, I saw that the clock face was illuminated pink for breast cancer month. I caught my final picture through the gates looking back at Old Joe.

Old Joe framed by the North Gates
Old Joe framed by the North Gates

For the first time since mid March, I am back on campus and it was a lovely morning. There were very few people around and I had brought my camera along. The Campus looked beautiful and the lack of cars certainly allowed unhindered views of the buildings. I did like the area where the wild flowers were near to the University gates. This series of pictures of the University shows it off and makes it look glorious.

Wild flowers and Old Joe
Wild flowers and Old Joe
Lovely light on campus
Lovely light on campus
View of the Green Heart
View of the Green Heart
Old Joe in the morning sunshine
Old Joe in the morning sunshine

As the University of Birmingham locked down so did Winterbourne house and gardens. There was still a small team of gardeners tendering the gardens during lockdown. As the restrictions eased, the gardens reopened to University staff on the 6th July. It is one of the perks of working at the University that you have free access to the Botanical gardens. I took the opportunity on a Friday afternoon to visit Winterbourne and it coincided with a break in the weather. Yes, the sun was seen in the sky! I brought along my macro lens and decided that it was going to be a close up day photographing the flowers and some of the friends that visit them as well.

A zoom of colour!
Nature’s helper
Prickly
Summer in full swing

I realise now that what I enjoy about garden photography is the symmetry of the flowers. Also I like the asymmetry that is overlayered on the symmetry. The colours and the flower arrangements right down to the petals play a part too.

Symmetry and colours
A busy bee
Lilies in the sunshine

Winterbourne has different areas to it and there is a brook at the bottom of the hill with an Japanese oriental garden. On the way down, there are many flower beds and open spaces. Towards the house there is the walled garden and glasshouses that have a large variety of interesting species.

Can you spot the spider?
Lovely colours
A play on light and colour

Why do I love Winterbourne so much? I think it is the range of plants that come from around the world. Part of my role at the University is Director of Global Engagement. The Winterbourne Gardens web site mentions that the plant collection is taken from countries such as China, North and South America and the Alpine areas of the world. Maybe this is why walking around the Botanical Gardens feels as if you are undertaking international travel in a short space of time and distance.

Temporary entrance with social distancing sign into the walled garden
The lime walk
Walkway through the garden
Symmetry in the onion vegetable patch

Finally, whilst I love taking pictures of the plants, I do not know many of their names. So if anyone is able to help so that I can name them correctly it would be very much appreciated 🙂

Winterbourne house

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 so happy that I have caught up with most of my pictures that I can concentrate on a few pictures taken this week. My first picture is from Winterbourne House where Autumn is really showing its colours. Taken with my Sony Camera, I was surprised how deep the red colours had started to show.

Lovely deep red colours from the maple leaves

The colonnade outside the University of Birmingham sports centre is often photographed so after a rather large down pour of rain there was the opportunity to take photographs of the reflections. Also there was an obliging figure that came into the picture

Reflections after the rain

The new Library offers great views over campus and I went to a reception on the 4th floor. After all the formalities and on my way out I happened to see this scene over towards the Medical School. I was showing it to a colleague and he advised a tight crop to bring out the details of the buildings. It did well on Twitter with over 5k of views and interactions.

The final picture is taken on my way into work through the Pebble Mill gardens. This is a wooden walkway that was lit up for the first time. I now realise that the mornings are getting darker and that many of my pictures will be taken under such lighting for the next few months. I think this picture grabs the attention due to the low view point. A good week of pictures and hoping for some more in the coming 7 days 🙂

The path to work (featured in Amateur Photographer)

Every year the end of the degree ceremonies is marked by a celebratory dinner in the Great Hall. This picture taken with my iPhone gives a glimpse into the grandness of the night. It is a showcase for the University and many local dignitaries are invited to the event. The Great Hall looks magnificent as the Chancellor, Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea CBE, the India-born founder of Cobra Beer, delivers the welcoming address. The iPhone has captured the colours of the night well. The picture made explore on Flickr and received 10k+ views and was rated the 82nd photograph of the day.

I had another chance to visit Dubai and see the Campus which is now open for business. The City is still fun to visit although as I mentioned in my last blog it is sand, concrete and steel. A year later and I noticed a lot more new buildings. In some cases the photographs I had taken in 2017 would not be possible now. Fortunately there were new possibilities available and a selection are shown in my blog. I took my trusty travel camera the Sony RX100v5 with me. As you can see it is very versatile and offers the ability to capture the sight and sounds of this amazing city.

This is an impressive view showing the mix of recreation with high rise living.
A view from a hotel window and the tint is the same one used in the new Blade Runner film.
I had to wait until it was clear of people taking selfies with this sign in the background
Capturing the moment of the dancing water show.
The beach at night
The University of Birmingham Dubai Campus entrance.
Looking up towards the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower at present in the world.

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