The alarm went at 3.30am and it was time to haul myself out of bed. I was going on a journey of 50 minutes to a field in Bewdley, Worcestershire. There were reports of poppies in the field near to Blackstone nature reserve. Sunrise was at 4:54am so I needed to get there promptly. I met up with an old friend and work colleague who I had not seen for several years. He was there armed with his camera ready to take pictures. The place was very quiet and the weather was on the chilly side. There was more cloud cover than my app “Clear Outside” was indicating. Will there be a good sunrise? Time to find out as we crossed the road and set off for the poppy field.
Social Media had left instructions of how to get to the field. This was from the Poppy and Flower finder Facebook page.
“Park at the (Blackstone) picnic site, walk across the road as there is no vehicular access. Follow the path to just under the old railway bridge and take the path on the right by the bridge and it’s there.”
The poppies were there in their glory and I spent the next two hours taking pictures in the field. The sunrise was fleeting although I was able to get a starburst as the rays broke through the treeline.
I took many pictures with one or two more memorable ones. Blue cornflowers added a blue dash to the red sea of poppies. There were some pops of white from cow parsley who were unsuccessfully trying to compete with the poppies.
I was starting to get cold standing out in the field and the cloud cover had smothered the sunshine. It was time to say good byes to the field and to my friend and head home to process the pictures. The early start to the day was memorable and I hope you enjoy the pictures that I selected.
Postscript – I learnt on social media that the farmer was out on his tractor and mowed the field that evening. Presumably he was fed up with all the photographers and other sightseers. The action set social media into meltdown as people vented their frustrations as they realised that would not be able to experience the field. I am not here to judge the action of the farmer who owned the land, I was just pleased that I had seen the poppy field in its prime.
I have been fortunate over the last few years to see several fields. In 2020, I visited the fields in Minworth, near Sutton Coldfield. The next year I was pleased that a poppy field turned up in Leamington Spa which was close to me. Last year, the field was in Churchill, Kidderminster and again was a beautiful summer experience. I have documented my poppy field travels below.
This was my first Birmingham Pride parade. I am not sure why I had not been before, and I suspect that I thought that it would be somewhat predictable. Far from it. The whole parade was a wonderful colourful spectacle with so many happy people around. These happy people were not worried about having their photograph taken either, which makes the event a photographer’s dream. Birmingham at the weekend has become a busy place. More so for the weekend of Birmingham Pride as there were many Coventry City supporters around making their way to Wembley. From Moor Street to Centenary square, there were street events starting up connected to the Pride Festival. The atmosphere was electric.
The day was going to be a warm one and already the sun was strong with no clouds in the sky. I had brought along my polarising lens as I was anticipating strong shadows with the bright light. In Centenary square, people were already congregating and the Exchange which is now part of the University of Birmingham was one of several meeting points. There were several colleagues from both the University and the dental hospital and people were looking forward to marching in the parade. The police and the fire service were taking part and both vehicles and people were already decorated with rainbows and colourful signs. Birmingham Hospice had a float and they said this was the first time they had taken part. Many other well-known companies and institutions were lining up their vehicles. Some of the decorations were very imaginative. I met Paul who was taking part by driving his prized possession. His VW camper was adorned with rainbow decorations, and he was happy to pose in front of the vehicle. As you see, I crouched down to get a dramatic picture. There were several other colourful people that I took portraits of in the square. As it was getting close to the start of the parade, I made my way down to the Town Hall to get a good vantage point of the parade as it headed towards New Street.
The next hour consisted of picture taking in one location and then moving swiftly forward to take more pictures further along the route. I was told by a friend that the turning point at the end of New Street at Waterstones Book shop was a good place for pictures. When I got there, I cheekily went into Waterstones and made my way up to the second floor. It was relatively quiet and so I placed myself behind the lift, where you could look out over the New Street junction. I got some good pictures of the parade from this vantage point.
After several more pictures, I then moved to the walkway that overlooked Moor Street Station. This was a good lookout on the parade as it went under the tunnel towards New Street. I moved around the road between the Primark store and Moor Street station taking many more pictures. I caught up with the University of Birmingham participants. There were also many dancers, free chocolate from the Cadburys float and people who were just happy to be photographed. The Drag Queens were very interactive with the crowd and very entertaining.
By now I was getting tired and I was needed back home. All the pictures that I had taken had to be processed and as I found out later, I had taken quite a lot. The time had been well spent. Sorry about the large number of photographs and you will be saturated with colour but that was the story of the Birmingham Pride Parade.
Reflections – the colourful parade is a great celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in the City of Birmingham. I was so pleased to experience the atmosphere and see all the people who took part. A big thank you for those who let me take their photographs for this blog.
More details of Birmingham Pride Festival can be found here.
As the weather improves and spring is well established, there are lots more opportunities to photograph gardens. One of the best gardens to visit in Birmingham is Winterbourne House. This Edwardian house and garden have a captivating charm. The House was originally owned by the Nettlefold family and has a long history. The House and Gardens are owned by the University of Birmingham. The house has been restored to what it would have been like at the time of the Nettlefold family. The gardens that surround the house are an example of Edwardian living and several acres are planned out to take advantage of the lay of the land. There are several areas including the walled garden, a lime walk, a rhododendron walk and a glass house area. At the furthest end of the garden is the Japanese bridge and sandstone rock garden. All through the gardens is the influence of the Edwardian approach to design and then there are quirky structures created by the University of Birmingham during its ownership.
Glass Houses and Alpine Garden
The house has been restored and the rooms reflect how an Edwardian family will have lived their lives in the building. There was ample opportunity to view the bedrooms and admire the collections of belongings including children’s toys.
More views around the Gardens
There were around 20 IgersbirminghamUK photographers and we all enjoyed taking the photographs and also meeting each other to have a chat and catch up on the world of photography. Many of us met at the terrace for a cup of tea and a chat before moving on to the rest of the weekend. These are a selection of my pictures and I would encourage you to view other photographers pictures which are posted on Instagram.
Follow the tags #igersbirminghamUk, #igbUk_meet_winterbourne and #winterbourneHG.
I have two other posts on Winterbourne one written before the Pandemic and the other when the house reopened after the Lockdowns. They give more insights into this wonderful place in Edgbaston.
You may have heard the news that there was a Coronation taking place in May. An event that has never happened for 70 years. The excitement was everywhere and it was not difficult to get caught up in what was happening over the weekend. My village Knowle is very active and keen to promote community based events. The place is very friendly and since moving here from the North West nearly 40 years ago, there has always been a community get together around major events. For the Coronation weekend the plan was to close the High Street for a day and let the community reclaim the streets. This event took place last year with the Queen’s platinum Jubilee and plans to repeat this successful venture were made for the King’s Coronation.
Visit Knowle were the champions of this Royal Coronation High Street celebration. As I walked the dog around early on the Bank Holiday Monday, the High Street was already closed and the contractors were putting up the stands and the stage. The weather forecast was not great and there were a few drops or rain around. I returned to the High Street at 11.30am to find it crowded and the party in full swing. The stalls were doing great business and many of the shops were open as well. The Mayor of Solihull was present plus a guest cardboard cutout of Charles III. The stage was in regular occupancy with all acts getting in a rendition of God Save the King somewhere in their routine. The idea of throwing a football into a toilet bowl attracted a lot of attention plus there were many other things to do. I did not get chance to go up the Knowle Church Tower or visit the inside display. There was just too much going on. Many people posted photographs and searching through the local social media sites confirms the success of the Celebrations and shows events that I missed.
I spent a good hour and a bit wandering around, meeting people I knew and enjoying taking photographs of the fesitvities. Oh and did I mention the weather? Well there was no rain when I visited and it held off for most of the day. How would we cope if there had been sunshine?
Epilogue – I won a basketball shirt in the basketball raffle winning a black top and red vest. A good result of the day. Pictures to follow.
You may like to see how the High Street looked last year during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
There is a tunnel in Utrecht that leads from the Ganzenmarkt to the Oudegracht wharves. I discovered the tunnel by chance after a late night in the town as part of the conference dinner. Walking back to my hotel, I passed by the restaurants and the bars. My eye caught a flashing light and I looked over the railing and saw colourful lights radiating out of a tunnel close to the canal. I walked down and found this colourful psychedelic tunnel. The lighting of the tunnel kept changing and there were three people dancing in what looked like a trance. They were oblivious to my presence and so I took some pictures and then headed home.
The next morning I retraced my steps to the tunnel. The location is a photographer’s dream site for pictures especially as the colourful lights are constantly changing on a regular cycle. The street art is colourful and the illumination provides a changing backdrop. I asked a colleague to return with me so that I could place him at the entrance then use his silhouette to provide a focus to the pictures. Enjoy the result. Sorry if it is somewhat self-indulgent but it was such a great place to photograph.
I had the opportunity to take pictures during a recent visit to the streets and canals of Utrecht
Utrecht in the Netherlands was the base for the Ultrasonics Industry Association conference. My research group were presenting at the international conference and I was there to support their activities. We stayed in the Karel V hotel which has a picturesque view of the adjacent canal. There were many opportunities in the early morning or during conference breaks to explore the streets and canals. This Dutch city is very photogenic and I had brought along my Fujifilm x100v to accompany my iPhone13 for the photographs. For the readers of this blog, I will just show a selection of the many pictures that I took during my short stay. At the end of the blog, I have provided some links to Utrecht which provide ideas for your travel to this ever-surprising city.
So many pictures of this city and here are some more from both iPhone and camera.
Who doesn’t love the sight of bluebells gently swaying in the breeze. Many of our ancient woodlands are at risk by the creeping threat of development and that is why I support the annual Bluebell Wood Fundraising Open Day in the Heart of England Forest. Conserving our woodlands for future generations is very much a priority. Great Alne Woodland is just off Spurnal Lane, and is a part of a Natural Burial Ground. The ancient wood has a stunning display of bluebells at the end of April and is open to visitors for two days.
My daughter loves visiting this quiet and picturesque woodland and there are so many good photographic opportunities. I brought along my camera equipment and found that the early morning light was perfect. The contrast of blue and green is a joy to see and photograph. My lensball was also put to good use for a few pictures. A useful photographic tip for maximising the benefit of your lensball is to use your macro lens for the pictures. This technique works a treat.
My 52 week project challenge was bokeh and the bluebells provided several opportunities to focus on the flowers with a wide open lens (f/2.8). This throws the background out of focus producing lovely Bokeh.
During my visit to the woodland, I met Toby, who is the organiser of this charity event. He kindly agreed to have his picture taken and be part of my 100 strangers project which is slowly moving forward on my Flickr pages.
The organisation of the day is excellent. The walk starts in the car park and takes you through the woodland with some well positioned spots for those important selfies. I noticed that the event is becoming more popular but via the use of ticketing, our family took part in the walk and did not meet many other people. For a short time, the woodland was ours to enjoy and we were able to take in the sights of those beautiful bluebells. My grandson loves the place as you can see from the following pictures.
My challenge for this week’s 52 weeks project was black and white photography. As I was in Birmingham for my research work, I took the opportunity to wander the streets of the city looking for pictures of buildings. Armed with my trusty Fujifilm x100v, I stepped off the bus at the O2 arena stop. On the opposite side of the road, there are new high raised buildings going up. All are aimed at the residential market. These skyscrapers are going up all over and the city looks unfinished or going places depending on which way you think.
My next stop was the square area of buildings that house the Holiday Inn, 3 Arena central and the Alpha Tower. Many shapes, angles and lines as the tall buildings are all clustered together. The Library of Birmingham and the Town Hall were also the subjects of my study on black and white architecture. Finally the rain, which had been falling heavily all day, got the better of me and soaked through, I headed towards Snow Hill Station for my train home. I still managed to get a few pictures of the Snow Hill skyscrapers.
My processing was a mixture of simple black and white or enhanced work with Silver Efex. The results were interesting and I was surprised that I captured so many buildings in different ways. I reflected all this was done without the need to photograph those iconic Birmingham buildings of the BT Tower, the Rotunda or the Cube. I will probably give the ones that I missed the black and white treatment another time. Meanwhile enjoy the ones that I have in this blog.
If you enjoyed this blog then how about a splash of colour with your architecture.
Using a ring flash in dentistry was second nature. Having learnt how to photograph the teeth and other structures around the mouth, macro was second nature. There were two good mentors to my macro photography. A medical photographer at Wordsley hospital. I can not remember her name and Wordsley hospital is no more. However she instilled a discipline and love of macro photography. Then there was Mike Sharland at Birmingham Dental School. He set up your camera and showed you how to gently rock back and forth using manual focus. The settings were Manual Flash half a second, aperture f/22, shutter speed 1/200s and an ISO 100. These are your go to settings and then you can experiment from here.
Gardens are just great places for macro weather you want to photograph flowers or insects such as bees and butterflies. I dusted off my macro lens with ring flash and wandered around the garden. For this series of photographs, I find the way that the subject is illuminated and the background is dark attractive. There is little in the way of distracting background around. Hope you enjoy these photographs of flowers. By the way, if you are like me and do not know the name of the flowers then there is a very good app, PictureThis, that takes a picture and hey presto the name of the flower is revealed.
The cemeteries of the Jewellery Quarter offer a fascinating glimpse into Birmingham’s past. There are two sites, Key Hill and Warstone Lane, with both cemeteries containing the burials of notable Birmingham people. The Friends of Key Hill cemetery and Warstone Lane cemetery work to maintain and protect these important historical landmarks. An @igersbirminghamuk Instameet was held in conjunction with @JQ_BID (Jewellery Quarter Business Improvement District). We aimed to start at Key Hill and then move to Warstone cemetery. As it transpired, we spent so much time in Key Hill that we agreed we must return for a Warstone Lane Cemetery tour later in the year. This blog is about our visit to Key Hill Cemetery.
Key Hill is part of the Jewellery Quarter and I have visited the area before. The sister cementery Warstone is more popular due to it being nearer to the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. Key Hill is often overlooked yet it has so much to offer in history and stories of people buried in the cemetery. As organiser of the meeting, I had arranged for people to meet at the Key Hill entrance near to the ring road, forgetting there is another entrance at Key Hill Road. Then a few people got mixed up with the 2 cemeteries. Luckily, we all found each other and the Instameet got started. Josie from the JQ_BID was our host and proved to be a knowledgeable guide. Her enthusiastic storytelling brought the past histories of the area to the present. We were very fortunate as Josie agreed to open the Catacombs for viewing. First she gave some fascinating insights into the background of the cemetery. There was the obligatory group photograph and then we congregated outside the entrance to the catacombs. The large cast iron doors were unlocked.
This was the first opening of the year and, as Josie explained, catacombs may work well in Mediterranean climates but in Birmingham the inside chamber was cool and damp. We used our iPhones for illumination and looked around the walls which included inscriptions of the people who were buried there. Picture taking was not straightforward due to the lack of light. The many iPhones helped bring some light to the dark interior. Some of the IgersbirminghamUK photographers did well with the low light levels and I encourage you to review their photographs on Instagram and other social feeds. The links are below.
Following the tour of the catacombs, Josie took us to several notable graves. The first was Constance Naden (1858 – 1889) who was a writer, poet and philosopher. Whilst Constance’s work was well regarded in her lifetime, there has been a resurgence of interest in her writings especially her ability to bring science and literature together. Learning about her life and legacy proved to be enlightening and she achieved so much in a short life succumbing to ovarian cancer at the age of 31.
Other notable graves that we stopped to discuss further stories included John Benjamin Tolkien (1784 – 1840) the grandfather of J.R. Tolkien and Thomas Walker. The grave of Thomas Walker has a brick design and the coat of arms of the City council. He had the idea of using highly durable blue engineering bricks for paving roads which led to better pavements and roads throughout Birmingham. We moved onto the family graves of the Chamberlain family which included Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914). As former Mayor of Birmingham and founder of the University, the city owes a great debt to Joseph Chamberlain but as Dr Matt Cole writes on the University of Birmingham web site “Chamberlain’s legacy is so broad and idiosyncratic that it likely to leave no-one in full agreement with him.”. As a group we discussed his legacy and then one of the IgersbirminghamUK organisers @James_never_jim noticed the adjacent grave of James Austin Gargory who lived in Bull Street. He was an optician but also brought in different engineering items and was also an enthusiastic photographer.
Other graves included the Martineau family which linked to our previous Instameet at Martineau Gardens. We also visited the grave of Alfred Bird, the inventor of Custard. An interesting grave was that of Shadi Mohammed who died during the Blitz, In an episode known as the “Sand Bag” deaths, Shadi, his wife and several others died when a wall of sand bags collapsed on them. There were many many more stories to be told.
The storytelling of Josie was excellent and we lost all track of time until she remembered that she needed to help at the JQ beer festival. The morning was eventful and many photographs were taken. We thanked Josie for hosting the meeting and we all made our separate ways. A few of us ended up in the Rose Taven in the centre of the JQ for a drink and a chat about the photographs we took and those that got away.
If you want to catch up on photographs taken by the IgersbirminghamUK community then please use these hashtags to search Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more pictures.
Whilst we were visiting, we could see many bluebells getting ready to bloom in the next few weeks. I aim to return and take some pictures of the flowers when they are in full flower. Hope to see you there!
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