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.
The 61 and 63 buses routes are ones I know well as I use them to visit the dental school at Pebble Mill. I don’t often stay on the bus but for the keys of the City Brum, I carried on and headed down to Northfield. The final bus stop was only a short walk from the Northfield Community Garden. There were large iron gates which were locked by the heavy but majestic Yale lock. The gates had to be pushed open and then I entered.
There was a lovely welcome sign, and a garden-decorated tractor was also there to greet you. The garden, next to a busy road, is a mixture of different influences. My first thought is that the plants needed a good watering, but one could not overlook the enthusiasm that the gardeners have for the place. There are several car tyres used to good effect providing places for the growing plants. There were some welcome benches where one could sit down and take in the area. In one way it was chaotic, but this was also its charm.
The garden sits next to the busy Longbridge bypass and there is a dull noise of traffic in the background. Over time this noise recedes, and it is possible to relax, reflect and take in the surroundings. I loved the garden shed which was a colourful metal container painted with several eye-catching designs. Overall, a pleasant place to visit and wander around.
I took the 61 bus back up the Bristol road and jumped off for the University. This #keyofthecitybrum was home territory for me as my visit was to the Lapworth Museum which is part of the University of Birmingham. The museum has won several local awards and been nominated for national awards. Geology is the theme, and this is highlighted by the magnificent Rock Wall which reaches up to the ceiling. The display cabinets have many drawers to pull out, with each one revealing different parts of the collection The large number of windows make the museum a delight to photograph and the afternoon light streaming through is a feature of the place.
But the centrepiece is a large dinosaur which is centre piece to the main museum room. Rory the Allosaurus is a commanding skeleton, and he is also the key to finding the lock as described in the instructions. Finding the lock could have been a challenge but I was ready for something hidden having already been to Acocks Green Cemetery. I found the lock in the cabinets opposite to Rory and inside there was a fascinating display of various rocks and fossils. The colours from the rocks is shown in the pictures. This treasure hunt for the key was rewarded with a lovely display. Very well done.
My Journey with the Key If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.
Belonging to a 52 week project group on Flickr, I have different weekly challenges to complete. The challenges throw up interesting topics including pictures of water droplets. During lockdown I did become efficient at oil and water photography but attempts at taking pictures of water droplets splashing from a great height were less than satisfactory. With the water droplet challenge, I decided to revisit this technique rather than the straightforward approach of water droplets on surfaces. The aim of this blog is to provide some tips on how to do this at home.
Setting up – I quickly learnt from watching YouTube tutorials that this is key to your success when photographing droplets. One of the best purchases I have made was a wireless off-flash unit which has added much needed flexibility. Having such a unit is a necessity for a water droplet project. In addition, I also needed to drip the water from on high. I searched on the Internet and hunted around the local supermarkets. Luckily my oldest daughter, Katie, found a hard plastic jug with a small tap placed towards the bottom of the jar. Perfect for making drops!
Then causing chaos with the family, I took over the kitchen. Buckets of water, step ladders, pints of milk and food colourants were all assembled on the kitchen table. The pictures show the various components that were used. The water jar was placed on the top of a step ladder with the water buckets underneath. My camera (Canon 5D mkIV) and EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM are on a tripod. The off camera flash is set up to fire at 1/32 which I learnt from a YouTube tutorials, was a good starting point to freeze the droplets. During my last attempts in lock down did not have all the bubble droplets in focus and so a small aperture was selected. I started with f/11and did increase to f/22 for some pictures.
The milk (blue top for thickness) was placed in a dish. To help with the focusing I used a Lego pirate figure which was placed under where the drip hit the milk. Now I was all ready to go and it was very much trial and error. I had a remote to activate the camera and this allowed me to also control the tap. If you wish to get even more serious then there are special timed drop release mechanisms, but I just went for the manual option. Experimentation with the food dye was not as successful and needs more practice. All the pictures were in focus and looked satisfactory on the camera screen. Around 60 pictures were taken and then it was all about the editing.
Editing was in Adobe Lightroom. I played with the colour sliders to bring out the red, blue and green colours. One of my earlier attempts looked quite spectacular as an upcoming primary droplet hit a new one. It produced a water halo effect. I was pleased with this. In my best other pictures, there was a droplet crown and a symmetrical water droplet. I was rushed as the Sunday dinner needed to be prepared and the kitchen chaos had to be cleared away. I have written this all up so that I know what to do next time. I strongly recommend trying it out as if you have a good macro lens and off-camera flash then the other essentials are relatively inexpensive. If you found this account useful then let me know and have fun taking photographs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.