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.
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.
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!
If you like this post then you may like the following blog.
This posting of oil and water photography brings you a selection of more colourful abstract pictures. Here are some more eye popping pictures from the colourful world of Oil and water. Make sure you stay for the links at the end as well.
If you enjoyed this then here are some more Oil and Water blogs including how it was done. I hope you liked the title that pays homage to the Deep Purple song, ‘Smoke on the water’.
It was a great year, despite the pandemic that was causing problems. These pictures have many memories for me and I hope you enjoy looking through them. Roll on 2022 and let us see what successes this year will bring. Wishing you all the best. Damien.
Welcome to my series on cameras, lenses, advice and taking those all-important pictures. So which camera do you use? This is a common question that I am asked when someone sees one of my pictures. It is if the camera took the picture not the photographer! There may be an element of truth in this, although there are a lot of factors that go into taking a picture and the camera is only one of them.
To kickstart this series, I am going to talk about my ‘go-to camera’ which is the Fujifilm x100v. The story is that I wanted to buy myself a new camera to replace my Sony RX100 V. My requirements were many. Simple to use but requiring the level of complexity below the surface when needed. Weather resistance was a desirable feature. I have had several compact zoom cameras over the years, and they have worked well. Often the zoom mechanism has not been robust despite the camera quality with grit getting into the zoom mechanism. Therefore, a fixed lens appealed to me. As I grew up on 35 mmm cameras, like many reading this blog, I love the idea of owning a Leica, but the cost is prohibitive. More realistically, I looked at alternatives and in early 2020, the release of the Fujifilm x100v came with positive reviews. I did my homework and researched it. My decision was made after I looked at pictures people had posted and read reviews on the camera in the photographic magazines.
The Fujifilm x100v was waiting for me on Christmas day morning. I unboxed it and started taking pictures. With a new camera, I oscillate between starting to take pictures and reading the camera manual. There are a few internet articles and YouTube videos that got me started. One of the first differences was the position of the buttons compared to my Canon and Sony. The tactile feel of the buttons gave me more control of my picture taking. The buttons are traditional analogue designs and not digital. Gradually I got the hang of the camera and then starting to use it in serious mode. I read the manual more and more discovering even more buttons!
I tried out the different colour settings and settled on the weak chrome colour. Using the camera in aperture priority, I worked through the options. My first pictures were a little hit and miss but the jpg quality began to impress me. My confidence grew and it started to come most places with me. In the morning whilst walking the dog, it proved to be a useful camera to record details on the high street especially during lockdown. It is not a replacement to the big camera (Canon D5-mkIV) but it certainly does its job of delivering remarkable pictures.
What I like In no particular order, here are my favourite things about this compact camera.
The flash settings are easy to use and understand. It gives good portrait pictures with the flash on. This is quite something considering it is a camera mounted flash. I use a manual setting of 1/64 sec often for a fill in. The flash does not create many red eyes either.
The exposure compensation button is easy to understand and is set up next to your thumb. I found this very useful and quick to select.
Some may consider it a gimmick, but the selective colour is so easy to set up and use. If there was one fun element to the camera then this is it.
The double exposure is straightforward and offers three settings depending on which picture you choose to be the main feature of the setting.
The jpgs are stand alone, high quality and need little adjustment.
The back controls are easy to use and the tilted screen allows for flexibility in the framing of the pictures you take. This includes being able to get down low.
Customisation The camera is also cool to customise. I added a thumb rest and changed the strap. I did add a shoot button but then found it much better for my shooting technique when the button was clear. The pictures also show a half case for the lower half of the camera body.
What I do not like
Connectivity is poor over the wireless and the app design is poor. So one is reaching for the iPhone if you wish to quickly upload pictures to BBC weather watchers or want to get that picture sent to family and friends as soon as possible.
It required an extra £100 to add the weather proofing and then I could not use the Fujifilm lens cover that came with the camera. So ended up having a black plastic cover! I wish I had brought the NiSi weather proofing as then I could have used the original silver camera cap that came with the camera.
It took time to work out the focussing and the switching between the settings. This is maybe the learning curve that I have got to get through including using the manual more.
My first picture that I published with the camera. It is a canal bridge in Acocks Green, Birmingham. Catching the two people under the arch added interest.
Hatton locks – All the lines caused by railings around the lock made for an interesting pattern in black and white. I did have the traditional picture of a boat going through a lock, but this was more intriguing.
Takeaways are doing well in the Pandemic and here is one customer on their way home. I was able to get down low for the reflections (the picture was published in the Amateur Photographer letters’ page)
The night train to Birmingham taken on a very cold night on the Dorridge footbridge. There is much to see and discuss and the colours and light add to the atmosphere. All picked up by the camera. The picture reminded me of the following song. Down on the night train, feel the starlight steal away, Use up a lifetime looking for the break of day Night Train – Steve Winwood 1980
The Support bubble of daughter and grandson and the camera produces some good details on portrait pictures
I was going to take a landscape photograph and came away with this dandelion clock. This is cropped from a much larger picture and then edited in Black and White. The effect is quite nice but the detail that remains after heavy cropping is amazing.
This picture is of the boats in Gas Street Basin and processed to bring out the colour. It is not designed to be a landscape camera but it manages such a scene very well.
Where did I buy it from WexPhotoVideo and their service is good. I am not receiving anything for saying this either!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac. With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me. New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site. It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.
The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on. It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town. I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety. Still the lure of taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through. I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings. After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting.
Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two. I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside. The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.
It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour.
This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography. The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated
On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema. I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham.
The British Tech Network is run by Ewen Rankin and started out mainly as a discussion network for computer enthusiasts. https://britishtechnetwork.com It is lovingly termed the BTN and the members discuss topics via the BTN Slack room. The network runs a weekly Mac Show and Big Show which is very popular with well over 20,000 subscribers. “The Photo Show” is also part of the British Tech Network. We cover news, kit and then discuss a topic. We have had guests on who have discussed subjects from wedding photography to portrait photography.
The Photoshow is also popular and has around 6,000 views. Whilst Ewen started off the Photoshow he has now entrusted the project to small team of 4 people who are all enthusiasts when it comes to photography.
Martin who is an amateur photographer and a brilliant pub quiz organiser. His pub quizzes kept Sandy and I going through the first Lockdown in April 2020 and we are still doing them in the 2nd Lockdown. Then there is Ian Lewis who is an amateur photographer from Cornwall and lives amongst the most amazing scenery. There is Doddsie (Neil Dodds) who lives in Nyon, Switzerland who also has beautiful scenery to photograph. Finally there is me who enjoys a picture or two.
We started off by ourselves and as we got more proficient, we invited guests. You will see in the recordings that both Luke Agbaimoni (@Tubemapper) and Sarah Longes have been on the show. Both were very entertaining, and Sarah has so much to talk about that we have made it into two shows. She covered such diverse topics especially mindfulness and dealing with adversity in your life. Even though she was shielded during the Lockdown, she still managed some amazing pictures.
The show is released as a podcast on a regular 2 weekly basis and is already receiving rave reviews for its content.