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Tag Archives: black and white photography

Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.

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.

Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
28 floors with 154 residential apartments being built on Essex street.

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.

Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
The edge of the Alpha Tower.
Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
Clustering of building lines.
Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
The Radisson Blu in Black and White!
Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
Surreal reflections of the Library of Birmingham.
Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
Tram stop in front of the Town Hall.
Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
Tram passing by the Snow Hill Buildings.
Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
Three SnowHill

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.

Black and White Architecture, Birmingham April 2023.
A conversation outside Birmingham Town hall.

If you enjoyed this blog then how about a splash of colour with your architecture.

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Fog in Knowle, Solihull

When the weather forecaster says there will be fog in the morning then I listen carefully. Fog and mist always add atmosphere to a picture. However, the big decision is where to go to get those great pictures in the fog. Several places sprung to mind but I went for the simplest which is to stay near home. The area you know well is always the best. There is a golf course near me, Copt Health, which provides spectacular sunrises as the rising sun creates patterns amongst the trees. The fog dimmed the sun and in turn provided some great atmospheric picture opportunities. I have featured my top five pictures which are all edited in black and white.

All the pictures were taken with the Fujifilm x100v and the pictures were edited with Silver Efex.

Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull
A tree captures the sunrise in the fog
Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull.
This group of trees can just be made out
Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull.
The rising sun between the trees.
Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull.
A temporary pool created by the recent rainfall reflects the sunrise.
Birmingham

I have been documenting the Lockdowns over the last year and we are a few days away from April 12th when shops will reopen. My last blog entry was all about Digbeth. I was interested to see what the city centre looked like and therefore, after taking pictures in Digbeth, I walked into Birmingham city centre.  As expected, It was quiet except for all the ‘Just Eat’ guys on the steps eating during their lunch break.  Their bikes were all strewn around the concourse overlooking St Martins church.  Other pictures taken on my walk included some headline photographs of the Electric Cinema looking sparkly from nearby reflections, trams and masks in Birmingham and the covering of the Selfridges store. Here are a few highlights of that stroll around the centre.

Walk to Birmingham
Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk into Birmingham
This is a cheeky street photo
Walk into Birmingham
Selfridges is slowly being covered
Birmingham April 2021
Texting but not just eating
Birmingham
More of the Just Eat Guys
Birmingham
Street
Birmingham
Just Eat again
Birmingham
Signs of the times

Do you want to read more about Lockdown in Birmingham
Birmingham Lockdown #2 – a visit to the Mailbox
Venturing into Birmingham

Knowle

I love a long walk and during lockdown 3,  I have found some good places to visit as I have ventured further afield than in the previous ones.  There is one walk that takes me out of Knowle village along the main road to Balsall Common.  Passing Knowle locks, the main Kenilworth road (B4101) is full of twists and turns.  It is an accident-prone road so being away from it is preferable and there is a public footpath that can be accessed just after a majestic building called Hedge House.  On the market for 3.5 million pounds, it is a converted barn.  The estate agents description shows the expansive interior and outside it demands your attention. 

Once on the public footpath, it crosses over the fields to the edge of Springfield House and from here, it is possible to cross the main road to Cuttle Brook Wood part of the Woodland Trust.

Temple Balsall
The brook on the edge of Cuttle Brook Wood

It is a young wood with a direct diagonal line through the property and it leads onto Cuttle Pool Nature reserve and a brook which forms one side of the property.  The road bridge forms a boundary to the private Temple Balsall nature reserve.  The area has many birds and wildlife abound.  There are otters back in the brook and the area is interesting to visit.  Going underneath the road bridge it is possible to take a picture of the entrance to the private nature reserve.  The featured black and white picture generated international interest on social media. The monochrome brings out the shapes of the tree branches as they are reflected in the water.

Temple Balsall
Entrance to private nature reserve showing a fallen tree

Making my way safely across the road bridge, it is possible to access Temple Balsall via the humanist burial ground and move into St Mary’s church graveyard.  Harry Williams is buried at the church and his grave is situated to one side of the property.  Williams along with Jack Judge wrote the song ‘It is A long way to Tipperary’.  There was controversy over the ownership of the song but here the area is peaceful and the grave points towards the path that leads onto the church. 

Temple Balsall
The grave of Harry Williams, writer of It’s a long way to Tipperary
Temple Balsall
Churchyard of St Mary’s church
Temple Balsall
St Mary’s Church

The church and the surrounding houses are picturesque and the path leads further onto the Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson which runs a school and also cares for the elderly.  A direct footpath leads back via a bridle path to the Black Boy.  There are a couple of turns and the main Warwick Road to negotiate but once on the canal towpath then it is simple walk back to Knowle.  Civilisation returns with canal boats and cyclists.  There is a canal boat wharf with colourful boats and in spite of lockdown some activity happening. 

Knowle
The canal next to the Kings Arms on the Warwick Rd

The canal side pubs are still shut with stacks of chairs and tables lying empty. Not long now that we return to some normality.  The walk started and finished at Elderberry black café and a bacon sandwich is purchased.  A well deserved rest on a local bench in the centre of the village Coffee in one hand and sandwich in the other make for a sense of achievement.

Knowle Locks
Union Jack flying at the bottom of Knowle Locks

Further information
Do you want to know more about the Woodland Trust then there is much to read about the Cuttle Brook Wood
Here is a Wikipedia link about the controversy surrounding the song “It is a long way to Tipperary”
More posts about Knowle and the surrounding area
Winter wonderland in Knowle
– Up close in Knowle


Thumbnails for explore

The Instagram algorithm is often blamed for not giving your photographs sufficient exposure. In reality it is how you engage with Instagram that brings success. I find the Flickr algorithm just as fascinating. This year I have had three pictures “In Explore” compared to the same number for all of 2020. All algorithms require you to constantly interact with your social media feeds. Flickr Explore is no different. In Instagram, the algorithm relies on several easily identifiable factors. Searching the web will immediately provide tips on how to improve your Instagram likes. They are not rocket science and are generally in relation to timing of posts and the interest in your photograph. Of course this is social media and the secret is keeping your audience happy with liking and commenting on their pictures as well. That is not a secret I hear you say! The Flickr Algorithm is just the same and it is about interacting with the people who are posting the photographs. They term the algorithm interestingness and on many occasions it is not necessarily a great photograph that gets into explore. However taking good photographs does help to get your photograph noticed in the first place. Amassing a large number of likes is so intoxicating and being on Explore is a popularity contest. I find that with the Flickr app my phone starts flashing first thing in the morning and then continues during the day with all the likes tumbling in. It is not uncommon to receive in excess of 40k likes for a highly placed picture in the Flickr top 500 of the day.

20210124-Snow on the canal

The three photographs featured here received around 4k in likes plus invites into different groups. Someone told me that Flickr is dead in the water. I tend to disagree as when a picture gets into explore it feels like the site is truly alive and kicking. The three pictures featured offer nothing different to my other photographs on my Flickr feed but each has its own story. The first one featured this year is a canal boat in the snow and is a particular favourite of mine. I deliberately took the picture side on and wanted to layer it so that the lower third featured the boat and then the eyes move upwards to see the snow covered trees. It provides that snowed in feeling and it also looks very cold. The question is whether there are people living in the boat and are they feeling the cold as well? There is a sense of isolation. This picture was taken during Lockdown #3 so isolation is very much on the viewer’s mind.

20210208_Knowle Park in the winter

The second picture was in Knowle park. The back story was that there have been many dull days during this third lockdown and on this particular evening I was desperate to get a great sunset. Early in the afternoon, it looked promising when I set out and then when I reached the park the clouds closed over. I was so annoyed and started to make my way back home. Suddenly and to my joy, the clouds parted once again for around a minute. I saw a walker and aimed to catch him in the image but by the time I had lined him up he was far to the right of the picture. When I got home I was still not impressed with the photograph so I went to work with the sliders. I was a bit slap dash in my approach although it did look pleasing to me. The Flickr algorithm picked it up and the likes and comments followed.

20210303 – Clowes wood

Once you have been on Explore you cannot get back on for around 9 days. If you are in favour with the algorithm then after this time you can anticipate when the next selection is about to occur. I had a large spike in likes for one picture but no explore and then two days later this woodland scene went into explore. I took the picture in Clowes Wood near Earlswood reservoir. All the trees in this part of the wood were straight and in the foreground there was this one crooked tree. It had eventually found out how to be straight when placed against its siblings in the background. Again I played around with the photograph in post production and whilst it was misty, the fog was not that evident. I went for a Silver Efex Pro 2 filter and used the Hi Key feature. It looked good so I posted it on Flickr – once again there was a great response to the picture.

Clowes Wood in Black and White

I have done a colour version and for this one I used the Skylum AI filters which also gave a nice effect. You can judge for yourself which you feel makes the better picture.

Many people now look down on Flickr and have drifted off to Instagram but the SmugMug team have updated the Flickr algorithm and made it more relevant to present photography users. Therefore I would advise, people to give Flickr another chance.

I will leave a discussion on the Instagram algorithm for another blog as it is slightly different approach but again the key as with Flickr is interacting with your audience.

So you want to know more!
Here are the Flickr Explore links
Flickr Explore which is the official link for the top 500 photos of the day
– Although I do like the Fluidr display which is retro and cool
Here are all my pictures that are in Explore

Some previous posts on my activity on Explore
– In Explore from 2019
“In Explore” from 2017 (I have been blogging for some time!)

Finally if you want to get yourself noticed on Flickr then have a read of this article by Jeff Sullivan

My take on Instagram will feature soon!

Black and white reflections in the river

The foggy weather and the cold have led to some excellent conditions for atmospheric shooting. I have been taking out my cameras to get the best range my compact and big camera. I just don’t want to miss the perfect shot but then again I have the confidence in my picture taking that I will come away with a picture that suits the camera.

Reflections on the River Blythe
Bridge over the M42
Bridge over the M42
A man walks past a tree in the fog
A man walks past a tree in the fog

This walk took me along the river Blythe into Brueton park and along the way the bare trees cast wonderful reflections in the river. I also saw lone trees and traffic streaming along the M42. The sun came and went and most of the colours were drained from the day. So it leant itself to black and white photography. I went for some low and high key processing of the pictures.

Low key processing of the foggy scene
Low key processing of the foggy scene

PhotoTip – black and white photography can certainly bring out the contrasts and character of the subject. On a foggy day, the colours are drained and therefore black and white becomes an obvious choice. Some of these pictures may have stayed as colour and these are shown side by side to give an example of what they may have looked like.

Comparison of pictures #1
Comparison of pictures #2

If you like Black and White Photography then I have done some other blog posts that you may like.
Black and White – featuring pictures of Birmingham
Black and White at the Mill – featuring pictures of Chesterton Windmill


The afternoon winter sun shinning through the wood

Another visit to Burton Dassett during December gave me the chance to explore new parts of the park and rediscover new views of familiar landmarks. I was here with my grandchildren and they were very adventurous climbing both Windmill and Magpie Hills. I went up the steeper incline of Harts Hill to get beautiful panoramic views of the area. I paid the price for clambering up the hill as I slipped on the muddy incline on the way down and was rewarded with a muddy backside.

Lily and Chloe look out from the top of Magpie Hill
Lily and Chloe look out from the top of Magpie Hill
Magpie Hill, Burton Dassett, Warwickshire
Magpie Hill, Burton Dassett, Warwickshire
Long shadows on Windmill Hill
Long shadows on Windmill Hill
The view of the Warwickshire countryside

My new explore with the family was Fox Covert a walk through a small wood. The path is just over a mile long and was not too muddy. The afternoon light was streaming in through the branches onto the path providing many different patterns on the forrest floor. In the hollow was a picturesque brook which was spoilt by a car tyre sitting in the water. How it had got there is anyone’s guess. There was a beautiful patch of trees that was lit up by the sun. Try as I could, my pictures just did not work out the way I wanted them to. Frustrating that I could visualise the scene but not capture it to my satisfaction. 🙁

Fox Covert with the sunlight streaming through
Fox Covert with the sunlight streaming through
A stream in the hollow (with discarded tyre)
A stream in the hollow (with discarded tyre)
Fox Covert woods
Fox Covert woods

On the way up from the hollow, the path meandered slightly and then the sun caught the trees and cast long shadows. I took the picture and it looked almost how I wanted it to. Post processing in black and white gave me the result I wanted. The monochrome treatment provided a beautiful rendition of the light that I saw. It was pleasing to find this small (undiscovered by me) part of Burton Dassett. I will be back in the spring to rediscover Fox Covert when spring is in full swing. These pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100v.

The afternoon winter sun shinning through the wood
The afternoon winter sun shinning through the wood

Photographic tip – Follow the light and look around for interesting scenes. I like shooting into the light but be careful and don’t look directly at the sun. I got hung up on one particular spot which did not produce many pictures. A few steps away was a really spectacular scene, so keep moving and be ready for all eventualities. Also processing the pictures interested me. I choose black and white processing, Why? It just seemed to look better for some of the scenes.

More Burton Dassett pictures from previous visits are on my blog.
Burton Dasset Hills Country Park – Escape to the Countryside
A Glorious Day

If you want more information then follow the Warwickshire County Council site which is packed full of information.
Burton Dassett Hills Country Park


Warwick is a sleepy market town which is most famous for its castle. The town itself has many interesting streets and buildings. On a sunny Sunday morning, I parked up near to the high street and took a few “classic” pictures of the castle and the town centre. I had my Canon 5D and my Canon 24 -70mm lens which always gives good results. Take a look below at the results. My favourite picture of the walkabout is of St Mary’s Church and I enjoyed the black and white processing. I took this picture looking up Castle St towards the Church.

St Mary's Church
St Mary’s Church taken from Castle Street
St Mary's Church
St Mary’s Church
Fun boats on the Avon
Fun boats on the Avon – looks like an important meeting
Warwick Castle on the Avon
Warwick Castle on the Avon
Market Street
Market St
Market Place
Market Place, Warwick
St John's Hous
St John’s House, Jacobean Manor
Warwick
The Eastgate and St Peter’s chapel
Warwick
Lord Leycester Hospital
Warwick
Council offices leading to St Mary’s Church
Warwick
Window flowers with St Mary’s Church in the reflection

Further links – Lord Leycester Hospital


Visiting Chesterton Windmill has been good for my spirits since the tough lockdown measures were lifted. As we visited the Windmill on a cold June Saturday morning, I wanted to do something a little different. This must go through the mind of all photographers as come back to places they have photographed on numerous occasions. So armed with both my 24-105 mm and 70-200mm telephoto lens I went to work. Interestingly both these are my goto lenses as well. So I add more photographs to a structure that has already been photographed many times.