Queen Mary University of London is on the Mile End Road and adjacent to the Regent’s canal. Part of the campus borders the canal and there is easy access from the University entrance. I was at QMUL for a conference but took the opportunity to explore the tow path. My first tow path walk was in the early morning and took me down to Limehouse basin and onto the river Thames. My second walk was northwards up to Victoria Park and took place in the late afternoon. Both walks allowed me to photograph people, boats, wildlife and buildings along the way. This is my photographic account from those walks.
From QMUL to Victoria Park.
There was a break between presentations and the evening dinner which gave me the opportunity of exploring the northern part of Regent’s Canal from the Mile End Road to Victoria Park. This was another busy stretch of the towpath and Mile End Park is also adjacent to the towpath. The first interesting feature was what is known as a portrait bench which features three well known figures. The statues are in cast metal that then rusts giving an authentic look to the artwork. There was a casting of Ledley King, a professional footballer who grew up in the area and spent his entire playing career at Tottenham Hotspur FC. Nearby is a statue to Sylvia Pankhurst, the suffragette campaigner who worked on improving living conditions for destitute mothers. Finally there was a canal horse commemorating the animals that towed boats along the towpath. The park was lit up in patches as the sun broke through gaps of the high living flats on the other side of the canal. There was more art work with the Bow Bottle and fish tail sculptures further along in the park. These random pieces of work are intriguing and add to the charm of the canal.
There was an interesting cut called the Hertford Union Canal. This short canal links up to the Lee Navigation in Tower Hamlets. The start of the canal looked attractive but my walk was to carry me past this canal to the nearby Old Ford Lock.
The area has been renovated and with the low sunlight highlighted the beauty of the place. I then encountered Victoria Park where many people were enjoying the sunshine on this hot September Day. Although I only touched briefly on the park, I came across the bridge at Bonner gate. The bright blue painting of the iron work contrasted with the greens and darker colours of the canal which was in the shade. Other interesting features I saw were the Dogs of Alcibiades and have a fascinating history. The statues were donated by Lady Regnart in 1912. I got lost in the history of the dogs that were described on the accompanying board. Victoria Park looked inviting but time pressed on and there was a conference dinner to attend. The park was also full of police as they searched for an escaped prisoner and so I left the beauty and the noise retracing my steps to QMUL.
To follow up this blog, please read my earlier accounts of my walks along the Regent’s Canal.
Queen Mary University of London is on the Mile End Road and is adjacent to the Regent’s canal. Part of the campus borders the canal and there is easy access from the University entrance. I was at QMUL for a conference but took the opportunity when time allowed to explore the tow path. My first walk was in the early morning and I followed the canal down to Limehouse basin and onto the River Thames. My second walk was northwards up to Victoria park and took place in the late afternoon. Both walks allowed me to photograph people, boats, wildlife and buildings along the way. This is my photographic account from those walks.
From QMUL to the river.
I was up early for this walk and was moving on the towpath by 6am. There were still many people out and about at this time. The day before had been hot and whilst there was a morning coolness temperatures were forecast to rise above 30oC. There was a slight mist around the canal which diffused the light. Several species of birds were moving around in the water. The canal was heavy with algae and the ducks made tracks in the green covering. There is a mixture of old industrial decay alongside both modern designs of buildings. I took several pictures of the juxta positioning of the buildings and where the canal was algae free caught their reflections in the still water.
On the streets there were abandoned hire bikes. Colours were appearing as the early sunlight started to reach the taller buildings. I soon reached Limehouse basin and this coincided with the sunrise. The area has lots to see and quick decisions were made as to the best place to stand for the photographs. I used my phone to take a few quick pictures that let me quickly see and plan the pictures with my Fujifilm x100v. One of my first pictures worked well and set the standard that I needed for future views.
After spending time photographing the sunrise , I made my way along the final part of the canal to the Thames. This area is very popular with local commuters due to its proximity to Canary Wharf. The quality of housing is of a higher standard than where I started in the Mile End Road. The journey does take you through a range of housing. The Thames looked good in the early morning light and I took several pictures around Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Kitchen restaurant. I followed the commuters as they walked along the road and then onto the pedestrian walkway next to the Thames. This was a chance to practice some street photography as sharp contrasts between light and dark were created by the sunlight rising between the buildings.
After a while, I realised that I had a conference to attend and I made my way back to QMUL following the Limehouse Cut. This took me past the Sea Mission and I eventually caught up with the Regent’s canal again. The light had shifted and therefore there were different takes on pictures that I had taken on the way down. One picture that I enjoyed taking was of two swans who were tucked into a recess of the canal wall. The picture with the reflections in the background shows the beauty of this canal.
My final picture is of black and white architecture. I saw this block of flats as the canal turned after a railway bridge. The reflections immediately caught my eye. I converted the picture to black and white and I was pleased with the result. I entered into the weekly #fsprintmondays competition organised by FotoSpeed on Twitter and the picture made the top 4 for that week.
If you enjoyed this blog then there is an earlier account of my photographic journey from Kings Cross to Camden along the Regent’s Canal. This waterway has such a varied landscape which makes it ideal to satisfy my love for photography.
Westside BID organised a celebratory evening around the photography competition for the 2023 calendar. We all gathered at the Flapper Pub near Cambrian wharf where we met our fellow winners and local business people. There were councillors from Birmingham City Council present as well. The pictures were hung around the room and the MC interviewed each photographer in turn. Then the food was served and there was a chance to meetest people. The evening sun shone over the canal allowing us the chance to soak in the warmth. The last few weeks have been very wet, so the sun was welcome. There were interviews to be done and pictures to be taken. My picture was the overall winner and is shown above, although any of the other ones could have won as well. The two videos plus the story of the night provide a great memory of the event. Thanks to Westside BID for the support of photography through the calendar.
I enjoy a photographic walk with my Fujifilm x100v camera around the streets of Birmingham. The early hours are best when few people are around and about. This series of photographs begins at Eastside where the HS2 works are taking place. Digbeth was next and I returned to Birmingham along the canal exiting again near to the HS2 works.
What is there to tell you about my walk? No surprises, as building in Birmingham has not finished and HS2 is still digging and putting up barriers. I took a few pictures and was interested to see BBC midlands covering the HS2 disruption in the evening news. Why is HS2 taking so long and why is there so much disruption? I do get upset with the blasé way they are undertaking the HS2 works. I am sure it will look wonderful when finished but is it worth the upheaval and time taken. The latest BBC item puts HS2 under the spotlight.
Digbeth was quiet for a Monday morning and since the pandemic there is less footfall during business hours. The nightlife is always busy but there is a definite change in activity during the day. My next observation is the encroachment of high rise living around Digbeth and the loss of character with the demolition and neglect of buildings.
There are several brownfield sites around the area that will become large skyscrapers. Other signs of change include the former Typhoo tea building which is starting to see activity around the relocation of the BBC to the building. Change may not always be positive and one of my pictures is outside what was the DigBrew entrance. Sadly this excellent brewery has ceased trading and artwork from the street artist Tempo33 marks the spot.
There is much chaotic colour around the streets of Digbeth and the morning sun brings out the light and shadows. The canalside is another area in Digbeth that is changing with several buildings undergoing renovation. How this change will progress will be interesting to document in future months.
My final picture was taken on my iPhone as I went past the Selfridges building. I went low and framed the iconic discs in the background. I was in luck as a woman walked past although she was confused by what I was doing. The picture turned out well but was also a reminder not to attract undue attention during my street photography.
Returning to the HS2 theme then there are more stories about the construction on my blog. I have been documenting 16 acre wood and the damage caused by HS2 around Balsall Common since 2020. Here is my account of this part of the HS2.
I had some time to visit the canal in North London and my starting point was just north of Kings Cross Station,accessing the canal from York Way bridge. Making my way north I passed Coal Drops Yard and under the railway bridges. There was a Canal and River Trust stand near to Gasholder park and whenever I see them then I always stop and have a chat. Abeselom was one of the three representatives from the Canal and River Trust on the stand. I struck up conversation with Abeselom and mentioned my 100 strangers project. I was told that all my subjects smile and an artist friend said that my strangers should look more interesting. So Abeselom provided a suitable expression for me causing some merriment.
A few steps on and I noticed some striking reflections of the boats in St Pancreas Canal Basin. The boats, trains and buildings made for some fascinating pictures. I move on along the towpath. There were interesting people, buildings and activity all along the route. It is a people thoroughfare. There was a photo workshop, people with suitcases and some intriguing buildings.
Eventually I reached Camden locks and browsed around the Market which linked underneath the railway arches. This was a great place to visit and the range and diversity of the shops was amazing. The place was great for street photography plus there were interesting statues and displays as you will see in the pictures below. Finally I moved down the road to Camden Tube station and made my way down to Fitzrovia where my meeting was taking place.
If you liked this then I have other blog postings that you may like.
Finally I recommend the Canal and River Trust web page if you want to know more about Walking along the Regent’s Canal.
Each year photographers share their top photographs and I am no exception in doing this. I wrote a blog about my personal favourites for 2021. Now it is the turn of 2022 and I have limited to my top 4. Why four? Well the arrangement works well for Instagram and I am not such a fan of the Top 9 where the pictures are even smaller. The four pictures that I have selected all have a story to tell. The picture may have done well in national or local competitions. There may have been some nice comments about the style and composition that were pleasing to hear. I hope you enjoy the selections.
Broken Life I am not very good at Still Life photography and it was one of my assignments in a 52 week photography group that I belong to on Flickr. I am not sure why I went for this picture approach and it was well received on the Weeklies. It was my only shortlisting last year for #wexmondays. I am going to do more photography like this for 2023 so watch this space. Also read my blog about how it came about.
In January 2022, I spent the morning walking around Gas Street Basin. The area was bathed in beautiful sunshine and I took several photographs with my Fujifilm x100v. Several of the photographs came out really well. I was lucky with the light and the weather. Plus there were several people walking along the canal tow path. There were two stand out pictures that I took that day. The first was from outside the Tap and Spile public house on the west side of the basin looking towards Regency Wharf. This picture was highly commended in the urban view category of UK Landscape Photographer of the Year. I also took pictures on the other side of the basin. One part of the basin that used to be difficult to access is The Wharf which has access to various offices including the Pakistani Consulate. On that morning I found that the barriers had gone and there is now public access to the area where you can access the canal bank. This gives you a great view of the Bistrot Pierre restaurant building. The morning was still and quiet providing excellent conditions for reflections of the restaurant. As luck would have it, a passerby came into the picture and looked backwards. I snapped him and found that he was centred perfectly. The picture turned out well and did not need much adjustment post processing. There was a good reaction on social media when I posted the picture. Therefore when the Westside BID calendar competition came up then I entered this one along with several others. I was pleased to learn that I was the overall winner for the competition with my Bistrot Pierre picture and my prize was £175 vouchers for the Craft restaurant in Brindley Place next to the ICC. There was also a cheesy write up of my win which I include here. The title was “Dentist ‘reflects’ on top prize in Westside BID’s 2023 calendar competition”.
On a cold but very bright January morning, I went into Birmingham with my camera. I planned to walk around the City, with a focus on Brindley Place and Gas street Basin. The sun was low and there was an intensity about the light. By mid-morning, I found myself in Gas Street basin outside the Tap and Spile pub. I looked across to the imposing red-bricked building displaying the large stencilled letters, Regency Wharf. The scene looked as if someone had suddenly turned on a bright spotlight. The basin was lit up and the building was radiating the light. The water was perfectly still, allowing mirror like reflections. A person was walking on the tow path towards the canal bridge. I could see that his route would take him in front of the Regency Wharf sign. I lifted my camera, looked through the viewfinder and took several shots of the lone person moving along the path. I was thinking how these pictures would turn out but then quickly moved on as more interesting scenes were developing around me. I took more pictures in and around the area all of which did very well when posted on my social media channels.
Regency Wharf – Damien Walmsley
Camera settings for the picture
The picture was taken on 11th January 2022 at 11.06 The camera was the Fujifilm x100v Focal length – 23mm Exposure was 1/10000, f/4, ISO160
The RAW file (Fuji – RAF) was opened in Lightroom and the light was so good that there was not much that that needed to be done to the image. I brought out the shadows and reduced the highlights. There was a small amount of saturation added. Once these basic adjustments were done, I took the image into Photoshop and made the decision to crop the picture to highlight the centre of the image. It may be argued that in the original the background to the Regency Wharf building, highlights the new buildings of Birmingham. However, my crop aims to highlight the legacy of Birmingham with a hint of what the future holds.
As I wanted to quickly upload the picture onto Instagram, I used an unsharp mask and then levels on the picture, but it was minimal editing. The light was so strong that the reflections in the water were excellent.
My personal reflections of LPOTY
I submitted 5 photographs for the LPOTY competition. in early summer, I was taken aback when several people on social media shouted out that they were no longer progressing in the competition. I had not received such a notification and on the website, it was asking for submission of a high resolution picture of one of my pictures. There was a mixture of anticipation but confusion. Eventually, I found my email informing me that I had been shortlisted. It was in my spam filter! The RAW files and more detailed explanation of the processing of the picture were submitted to the LPOTY team. There was another long wait. The FAQ on the website said that if I had not heard anything by October then my entry was unsuccessful. As there were no emails in the first 2 weeks of October, I was just happy that I had been shortlisted. It was on a train journey on the Tuesday afternoon prior to the Sunday announcement that I got the email saying that my picture was Commended in the Urban View category. I was so pleased but the rub was that I had to keep it confidential until now. My family are pleased for me and my friends who have been on my photographic journey were happy as well.
People reading this blog will want to know what it takes to be successful in the competition. Several things spring to mind. Always believe in your picture taking and be content with your own work. Social media is not necessarily a good barometer of a successful picture. Be resilient, this was my fourth attempt since my first entry back in 2018. Listen to constructive criticism and research into how others take their photographs. Always be ready to learn and never take rejection of your pictures personally. Pick yourself up and take the camera on a walk. I will be entering again in 2023 and I know it will be just as competitive as ever. However, I will see what happens and happy to enjoy the experience of entering again.
I planned my day to take in three locations of the Key to the City Brum around the West Midlands. Each venue is very different but they were linked by the way that I planned my visits for the day. I was to find out that these particular venues were very photogenic. Also each of the venues had wonderful stories connected with them. I started at Minworth Green Bridge and then moved over to Streetly Gate. Finally I drove to Washwood Heath to see St. Margaret’s Church. It was a memorable day and I hope I have captured not only my enthusiasm but those of the people I met on my journey.
Minworth Green Bridge
Minworth Green Bridge is on the boundary of the City of Birmingham. It is the furthest north of the key locations and the road bridge crosses over the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal but these are not reasons why it was chosen for the Keys to the City. On one side of the canal bridge is an iron barred door. Making my way down to the door, I came across a family who had just closed the door and were walking along the canal towpath. I got my key out and opened the lock. The opening of the door required some force and once inside there was a surprise. In the narrow long space behind the door, there were several hefty planks of wood. The Canal and River Trust had left an information notice about the use of these wooden planks. When the canal needed to be drained for repair, the planks are used to block off the water. There are grooves in the canal walls which house the planks. This practical solution to the maintenance of the canal was described in the door notice.
I closed the door and locked the padlock, making it ready for the next visitor. The family returned and they told me that they were on half term holidays and the Key activity gave them a chance to visit different places. For myself, there was the opportunity to take some pictures of the canal including a boat that was moored up by the bridge. I left reflecting on a peaceful spot with an intriguing door.
Gatehouse, Streetly Gate
This site was a treasure trove and when I arrived there were already people inside. I met, Ian and James, father and son, who were also visiting the place. For a small room, the Gatehouse at Streetly Gate near to Sutton Park has so much to offer. Ian and James were on their first key visit. They were very enthusiastic about the project and were keen to know about the places that I had visited. Ian and James are pictured in the Gatehouse. This project is a great way to meet new people and I explained to them that I undertake a 100 Strangers photographic project. Both were happy to be photographed in the Gatehouse for my project.
Once they left. I investigated the contents of the Gate house. The building was used by the park authorities for checking in visitors to the park. There were many items on display and the pictures and posters provided snippets of the history. Only now am I able to show these pictures, as at the time I did not want to spoil the visit for other key holders who wished to experience the excitement of learning what is inside.
When you visit somewhere that is just so full of atmosphere then it leaves a memorable impression. This describes my visit to St Margaret’s Church, Ward End, Birmingham. As a visitor to the community, I was given a warm welcome to the centre. This venue in the “key to the city Brum” was a hidden gem in more ways than one. The building is a Grade II listed former Church of England parish church in Birmingham. In the church are stained glass windows by pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. There is also a bust by Peter Hollins of 1848 that celebrates William Hutton (1723-1815) who provided the first account of the history of Birmingham.
There was a memorable encounter with Kaniz who is the Community Development Practitioner at the centre. She explained to me about the centre and the role it plays in the community. I was shown the “key to the City Brum” exhibit and provided with a cup of coffee and biscuits whilst I looked through the contents of the cabinet. Kaniz was a photographer but after the pandemic fulfilled her desire to get involved with the community. She was very keen to give something back and help others. Kaniz agreed to be in my strangers’ portfolio. The picture is taken in the hall where there is a community meeting taking place.
The contents of the cabinet had past parish newsletters and other historical mementoes. There was a celebration of Metro-Cammell, formally the Metropolitan Cammell Carriage and Wagon Company (MCCW). Metro-Cammell had a factory in Washwood Heath near to the church. The company manufactured railway carriages, locomotives, and railway wagons and with increased world wide competition the factory was forced to close in 2005. The cabinet contained models and books from the era that the factory was at full production.
I wandered around the church grounds and loved the architecture which was juxta positioned with the brutalist flats neighbouring the church. The #KeytotheCityBrum highlights places which have living history. Many of the venues inspires visitors and gives a background to the historical development of the City of Birmingham.
I visited Manchester as part of a PhD examination at the Univeristy, and it gave me the chance to see the city again. Manchester is part of my early life and as a dental student, I loved being in the city. In the seventies, life was very different, but the music scene was a big part of my life including Punk Rock, and the rise of Joy Division and the Buzzcocks. Manchester looks and feels very different today and I struggle to find the same landmarks in many parts of the city. Old buildings have been renovated. High rise living is everywhere. You can now stroll along the Rochdale canal rather than being able to walk on the water due to the rubbish.
These are the pictures taken on my walk from Piccadilly Station to the University of Birmingham and back again. I walked through the Gay Village along the canal and then onto Oxford Road. I varied my route the next day to take in a few more areas as I returned to Piccadilly station. Cities like Birmingham and Manchester are under constant change and all for the better in most cases. I hope you enjoy my view of Manchester.