Flash, Bang, Wallop Podcast

We are four photographers who got together during lockdown. We enjoyed chatting about photography over zoom and decided that we would love to share our experiences with other photographers out there. As friends we share a passion for taking pictures and as it happens we all photograph a diverse and varied set of subjects. Who are we? There is Martin Kelly our host, who does all the bits and pieces to get our zoom chats up on YouTube etc. Neil Dodd who is based in Switzerland and loves photographing sport especially Swiss Rugby. Ian Lewis who is fortunate to live in Cornwall and takes stunning pictures of the countryside in this beautiful part of the world. Then there is me, Damien Walmsley, who photographs the Birmingham cityscapes and the Warwickshire countryside (plus anything else).

Our Flash, Bang, Wallop Podcast is a monthly show and we cover news, gear and everything photography related including interviewing guests.

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Please get in touch and you can do this via our Website run by Ian Lewis.

My Top 4 pictures of 2023

Looking back on my photographic year, 2023 was an exciting one and there were several achievements including making the Landscape Photographer of the Year book. Two pictures were featured and these are described in my blog. Therefore I decide to choose four pictures that summed up my activity over the year. I love sunrises and sunsets in the golden hour. I have included a few of my favourite locations including Moor Street Station, Digbeth (including the Custard factory), Normandy Hill in Houlton near Rugby and the Lake District. My photographs have strong themes in the areas of Cityscapes and Street Photography. I do like a good reflection and trying to be different with my pictures. Let us take a look at my selection of photographs.

Sunrise at Birmingham Moor Street offers many street photography opportunities. Arriving early to take a picture of the sunrise, I looked around for a good view. The first London train was about to leave and another commuter train was just leaving. This scene made me think of the KLF song ‘Train to Trancentral’. The man pushing the button to release the doors, the sunrise and the golden train in the distance all came together at once. A very fortunate capture at Moor Street Train Station. (Taken with my iPhone 15)

Sunrise at Moor Street Station, November, 2023
All aboard, all aboard, whoa.

Normandy Hill is near Houlton in Rugby. The area of Hillmorton is nearby and the canal runs along the foot of the hill. The place used to have wireless masts for Rugby radio. The masts have been removed and the remnants of the bases are all that remain. When the conditions are right the hill has spectacular sunrises and sunsets. There are also views of the surrounding Warwickshire countryside. On a barmy night in July, I set up my travel tripod for my Fujifilm X100V. My camera settings were f/11, s 1/250 ISO 160. The sun was setting low and was just on the horizon. I pressed the button and realised that I had capture three people and their dog passing through the picture. The result was pleasing with the line up of the men and the sun outlining the shaggy coat of the dog. The rays of the sun were captured too. The atmosphere of the shot provides a permanent reminder of all the pictures that I have taken on Normandy Hill.

Normandy hill, Houlton, Rugby, July, 2023.
The last rays of summer sun on Normandy Hill.

Our family summer holiday was at Lowfield House in Little Langdale. Arguably, this spot is the heart of the Lake District and is the starting point for several walks. A place I wished to visit was Cathedral Cave, which is a short 45 minute walk from Lowfield House. Cathedral Cave is an impressive chamber. As a former slate quary, the cave is atmospheric with an open window in the wall allowing light into the cavern. There is a large slate cylinder that appears to be supporting the ceiling. There is a pool of water to the back of the cave which provided many reflections allowing one to appreciate the grand space of the cavern. Needless to say, I, like many photographers who visit this place, just wanted to take lots of pictures. The picture of Jim, my son-in-law, at the mouth of the cave proved to be a popular post on Instagram. Taken with the iPhone13.

Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Jim standing at the entrance to Cathedral Cave. The surface water provided suitable reflections.

I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon wandering around Digbeth, Birmingham and came across @mr_h0spitalflip and his friends on the side steps of the Custard Factory. They kindly let me sit in and take a few pictures whilst they were skateboarding on the steps. I knew this was the best picture as soon as I viewed the result on the back of the camera. I was not using a burst on the shutter. Just one picture and I caught the skateboarder in the light doing the “Custard flip”. Taken with the Fujifilm X100v, ƒ/5.6, s 1/500, ISO 640.

Digbeth, Birmingham, October, 2023
The Custard flip

I also found my Top nine from Instagram and these show my most popular posts by the number of likes. The two UKLPOTY pictures feature heavily. There is a picture of Sandy and me. I was also pleased to see the blossom in Oozells square and my trip to the States feature in the high scores. All good fun!

My top 9 instagram posts in 2023.
My Top 9 Instagram posts in 2023.

Links to my Top 4 photographs of 2023. I realise that I do not have a blog about Normandy Hill and I shall write one up in 2024. I have also included my Top 4 ion 2022 for comparison.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023

I had a couple of days in London and this provided a wonderful opportunity to take pictures around the Capitol when there was downtime between meetings. I have created a series of blogs for you to enjoy which contain my photographic journey.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Looking towards the end of the canal and the heart of the area.

Before booking into the hotel, I went to Paddington station to see my highly commended picture of Floodgate Street in Digbeth. The picture was part of the travelling exhibition of selected pictures from the UK Landscape Photographer of the Year Competition. Paddington is adjacent to the canal basin and provides photographic opportunities of people, boats and buildings.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Boats moving on the Canal.

There were a few boats moving on the canal and people were leaving work. Several canal boats are now floating restaurants and as the sun was going down colourful neon lights were being turned on. The canal is familiar territory to me and I looked for new opportunities and the Paddington Central footbridge provided them. The bridge links with the Venice Walk via brightly lit tunnels. Always a good place for a camera.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Pedestrian Tunnel on Venice Walk.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Another view of the Pedestrian Tunnel.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – Paddington Central Footbridge
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – The Point Footbridge.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – the Rolling Bridge.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – under the A4206

I also ventured into Sheldon Square as the flash of colour caught my eye. The line of coloured panels provide a super background as people walk by, hurrying home after a long day’s work or taking time to reflect.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Reflecting after a long day at the office.

As dusk becomes firmly entrenched, the lights from the office buildings surrounding the canal provide numerous reflections on the water. The weather was cold but there was no wind and the water was very still. Many people are moving around, crossing bridges and their silhouettes contrast with the bright lights. The point bridge and rolling bridge are other places for good photographs. Soon it was time to move on as I had a dinner date to attend.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Skyscrapers around the basin.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Close up of boats and offices.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Christmas tree

If you enjoyed this then compare these pictures to my last visit to the area including Little Venice and Paddington Basin.

You may be wondering about my visit to Paddington Station. I was delighted to find that I am in the travelling exhibition with my highly commended picture of Floodgate Street. Here I am besides my photograph.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Paddington Station with my picture from UKLPOTY

London Times is a short series of photographic blogs that record a recent visit to London. Please visit my other links

Reflections in Floodgate Street, Birmingham, commended UKLPOTY 2023

Such great news. My picture “Reflections in Floodgate Street” was highly commended in the 2003 UK Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.  This year I had two pictures and I was also commended for my picture “Fog in Gas Street Basin“. Both pictures feature in the Cityscapes section of the competition. This is the second year running that I have made the UKLPOTY book and I am very pleased with my achievement. I have written a fuller account of the background of both pictures together with some photographic tips and reflections on entering Landscape Photography of the Year.

Reflections in Floodgate Street

A classic picture of early morning on Floodgate Street in Digbeth. Not many people are stirring at this time and the lights do not turn off until 15 mins before sunrise. These old industrial buildings are a mixture of small businesses during the day and lively nighttime venues at night. The area is also well known for its street art and many artists have put up murals on the walls. The street got its name from the use of two “floodgates” that were used to stop any flooding from the nearby river Rea. This area of Birmingham was known for its wells and springs hence the street name.

This early morning picture was taken during a chance visit to Digbeth, Birmingham.  I took advantage of the rainswept streets which provided reflections of the old industrial buildings and street art.  I love the warm streetlights contrasting against the blue hour sky.  

Post production notes – Straightened, contrast, highlights and shadows adjusted: texture, vignette and unsharp mask filter applied, levels lifted

Taking pictures of Urban landscapes 

Go low for the picture is always great advice, a smaller camera or phone allows you to do this.  The low viewpoint with a slight upwards angle provides a different view of an everyday scene and gets the viewer’s attention.  I will sit down or kneel to see the viewfinder, as phones and some older cameras do not have a tilt screen.

Reflections are always fascinating for the viewer and so look for windows, puddles or shiny surfaces.  The time after a spell of rain is a good time for mirrored views.  However, combining both the low viewpoint and water puddles may be challenging for the photographer and camera!

Fog in Gas Street Basin

Fog in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, commended UKLPOTY 2023
Fog in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, commended UKLPOTY 2023

On a foggy day in January, I was lucky to find myself at Gas street canal basin in Birmingham City Centre which is a popular place for photography. The fog had created a ghostly backdrop around the area. The water was very still providing a perfect reflection. The old buildings stood out and the flash of yellow strips on the canal boats provided some welcome colour in the fog. The modern hotel in the background is faded providing an interesting background canvas. The eyes are drawn to the trees in the centre of the photograph and their reflections in the water. If you look carefully, there is a lone person in the picture admiring the view. This was an opportunistic photograph as the fog rolled in changed the nature of the scene.

Post production notes. This was taken on my iPhone and there was adjustment of the highlights and shadows and small minor changes of contrast. Some dodging of the colours on the boats was done to lift them out of the fog.

More reflections on UKLPOTY 2023

My second successful year in the LPOTY competition and I realise which of my photographs are getting the love and why this is the case.  I dream of being successful in the classic view category.  Pictures of beautiful mountains, gorgeous light and a lead in that takes your eye into the picture and beyond.  However it looks as if my skill set is photographing the city.  I love nothing more than wandering around the streets with my Fujifilm x100v and my iPhone.  Also the best time to be out and about is at daybreak or sunset.  Why is this? The light is magical at these times of day.  The trouble is that cities are very quiet in the morning and staying safe is important.  At night they are crowded but the quieter spots are where the light dwells.  Again staying safe at night is key.  

Try to be different in your picture taking.  Even just thinking of taking a different picture starts you thinking on how to photograph an urban scene. Often this may not work out and you can go home frustrated.  It is easily said but do not despair as that next picture is just around the corner.  Be ready for it and when you see the scene, grab the opportunity.

I also enjoy looking at other people’s pictures and also where possible watch how they take their photographs.  Learning from others is important. Any advice helps and I always listen to what people say. I have two photography friends, who have taught me the following. First, exercise patience and wait for those opportunities to arrive as they will. Secondly always look out for the small things as they matter and you have to be ready for them. 

My entry to LPOTY 2022 “Regency Wharf” is highlighted in this blog and you will see that Gas Street Basin features again.

This is the Amateur Photographer news item where they select their favourite images and ask the photographer to provide two tips.

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