Aurora borealis in my garden, May 2024

So I have been to Iceland but did not see the Aurora Borealis as it was too cloudy.  I did fly from Portland, Oregon to Reykjavík and saw the lights somewhere over the Northern Territories and Greenland.  My next Aurora Borealis experience was a recreated one in Birmingham City Centre.  This event was really cool even though it was man made.

Aurora borealis in my garden, May 2024
Rays of light from above (iPhone)

The chances of seeing a full blown Northern Lights show anywhere outside of Iceland or Norway were going to be low.  Friday 10th May and the Aurora watch said chances were high but I was out for dinner and I was thinking of an early Saturday start to photograph the end of the bluebells season.  

Aurora borealis in my garden, May 2024
Beam me up Scotty (iPhone)

When we got back home, I went out in the garden and looked North as the BBC news channel instructions stated.  Sandy said I had North wrong and I should look more to my right.  I stayed out past 11.30pm and took a few pictures.  At first nothing seemed to be showing, possibly there was a faint green glow.  My camera showed some streaks on the right.  I reorientated myself to the North East view and took a picture.  At first I thought the camera was having a problem.  There were lines on the picture.  I took some more and as you will see there were some amazing rays showing up.  I looked with the naked eye and there was a white glistening cloud passing over the house.  The camera was recording pictures of an intense part of the electromagnetic storm that was passing overhead.

Aurora borealis in my garden, May 2024
Taken looking west away from the house. (iPhone)

The storm moved over the house from the East to the West.  I continuously took pictures with my iPhone and occasionally used my Canon D5mkIV.  The patterns were changing and at times the scene over the house looked like rays being emitted from a heavenly body.

Aurora borealis in my garden, May 2024
Burst of light from the sky (iPhone)

When I posted the pictures around midnight, I found the Socials were going mad.  Many of my photographic friends were posting pictures of the Aurora and I was entering a massive chatroom as everyone exchanged their views on photographs that had been taken.  

Aurora borealis in my garden, May 2024
Green for Oxygen molecules, red for Nitrogen. (iPhone)

Reflections.  I never thought that I would see the Northern Lights from my back garden and that it would be so spectacular.  I was so pleased to have the chance to see it and photograph the light show. I never made it to the Bluebells fields the next day!

Aurora borealis in my garden, May 2024
Intense red colours (Canon 5Dmkiv)

Technicalities.  All iPhone pictures were taken on a tripod which gave lots of detail.  Settings for the Canon were f/2.8, s15 secs and initially ISO1600.  The light was so intense that I dropped the ISO to 400 on subsequent photographs. The colours from both cameras were different with the Canon picking up a richer red colour to the lights.

If you want to see my Northern lights from a plane, I have a link.

Then there is Borealis, a recreation of the northern lights by the artist Dan Acher which was held in Birmingham.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024

The bluebell season is here and is earlier than normal.  Usually the flowers are in full bloom around the May Bank holiday weekend.  This year their arrival appears to be 1 to 2 weeks early.  A blue carpet of bluebells is always stunning especially when set against the backdrop of the woodland.  This year I went to Hay Wood as a fellow photographer had taken a picture of the blue carpets of flowers and the scene looked stunning.  

Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
The blue carpet of bluebells.

Hay Wood is part of Forestry England and is a small wood which is near to Baddesley Clinton. The latter is an outstanding National Trust property which is always lovely to visit. We are fortunate to have Hay Wood nearby.  The bluebells appear on specific patches to the east and west parts of the woodland.  The easterly display was at its peak and even though I was there around midday, the light was wonderful.  The new shoots of green leaves glistened in the sun and the bluebells contrasted against the trees rising upwards.  

Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Light and shadows highlighting the scene.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Bluebells around the trees.

The bluebells to the west of the wood looked beautiful and they were still flowering.  More photographs of the blue carpet were taken.  The western part of the wood has a public footpath that links with St Michael’s church that is adjacent to the Baddesley Clinton estate.  I visited the church as there is the opportunity to take a picture of the bluebells in the foreground and the church providing the background interest.

Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
A solitary bluebell plant with a backdrop of green and blue.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Old tree trunks add interest to the scene.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Muddy paths led to the bluebells.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
St Michael’s Church, Baddesley Clinton with bluebells.

All these pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100vi and  I bracketed the exposure of the pictures.  The 3 photographs were merged with the HDR function in Lightroom.  Some adjustments of the shadows and highlights plus dodging and burning were made.

If you enjoyed these pictures of the bluebells then please follow the links below to see previous entries in my blog.

IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024

Birmingham has a long and rich history and the names of George and Richard Cadbury are linked with the story of the City  Their success in creating Cadbury’s Chocolate led to the building of their factory in Bournville.  The brothers created a Garden Village around the factory to cater for their employees.  Sadly Richard died before seeing the project completed although this spurred on George Cadbury to complete the project.  Bournville village is now run by a Trust and is a legacy which is enjoyed by both residents and visitors to the area.

IgersbirminghamUK, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
The Rest House which is at the centre of Bournville Village.

IgersbirminghamUK organised their first photographic Instameet of 2024 at Selly Manor which is part of Bournville Village Trust. Selly Manor also has a long story. The original building “Smythes Tenement” dated back to 1476. Over time, the building deteriorated and was split into separate dwellings called the “Rookery”. The house was saved from demolition by George Cadbury who brought the property in 1907 and relocated Selly Manor from Selly Oak to Bournville Garden Village. The House was rebuilt next to the Chocolate Factory in 1916 and opened as a museum. 

IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Daniel addressing the IgersbirminghamUK photographers.

Nearly 30 photographers arrived at the Museum on a bright sunny Saturday morning.  We received a welcome from staff member, Daniel, who gave us an overview of the house and then encouraged us to visit the rest of the area.  We were given a leaflet of the heritage trail that takes in all the notable buildings in the Bournville village.  We have some excellent photographers in the IgersbirminghamUK ranks as evidenced by the pictures that emerged on Instagram.  You can follow the pictures and reels from the day with the following tags and I have provided links to the relevant pages.  Please take some time to visit the pages and see the wonderful pictures. Thanks to the other members of the IgersbirminghamUK team for their organisation and help with the meeting Nicky Warwickshire, LenaMac77 and James_never_Jim.

The following is a selection of my pictures from the Selly Manor and Bournville Village Visit.

IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Guide books at the ready.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
A view of the Minworth Greaves building from a window in the Manor.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Beautiful detail of this head dress.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Civil war helmets.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
A priest hole in the attic.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Easter decorations.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Beth and Adam dress up for the day.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Easter egg hunt in the gardens (sadly not the chocolate variety).
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
The stocks are waiting for you.

Further reading on Selly Manor and the Bournville Village Trust.

Following on from Selly Manor some photographers moved onto the Bournville Quaker meeting House where one of the Quakers, Anne, was most kind and showed us around inside.  The outside of the church does have a fairy castle feeling.  Inside the large hall was impressive with light streaming through the windows.  There is a raised platform with chairs and table from the Selly Manor museum.  This, as Anne pointed out, is not used for worship as Quakers sit around in circles in the centre of the hall usually with a table.  Anne then took us up to the balcony to see the organ and from here we were able to take pictures down into the hall.  I was even fortunate that Anne agreed to be in my 100 Strangers project. 

IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Quaker Meeting House, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Bournville Quaker Meeting House.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Quaker Meeting House, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
The hall inside the meeting house.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Quaker Meeting House, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
The light streaming into the Hall.
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Quaker Meeting House, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Organ Pipes
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Quaker Meeting House, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
The command centre 🙂
IgersbirminghamUK, Selly Manor, Quaker Meeting House, Bournville Village Trust. March 2024
Thank you to Anne who kindly showed us around the Meeting House.

There is much more to see in and around the Bournville Village Trust and those photographs will have to wait till another day. I spend much of my time talking to other Instagrammers during an Instameet and do not get the opportunity to take that many photographs.  Catching up with others and seeing what they have photographed is a bonus with such Instameets.  After the meeting we headed off to the Glass House brewery by the canal in Stirchley.  We had a good catch up including talking about that elusive picture that got away!

If you are interested in the @IgersbirminghamUK Instameets then I have other accounts on my blog with the one below as a starting point.

Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024

Emerging from a tunnel under Islington, the Regent’s canal begins its journey through Shoreditch.  The canal is wide with a spacious towpath. Many runners and pedestrians take advantage of the scenic waterway as it passes through the east of London.  There are many narrowboats along the way each with their interesting names and individual colours.  

Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Joining the Regent’s Canal from Colebrooke row
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Pedestrians on the towpath
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Travelling towards the tunnel under Islington

Several roads pass over the canal allowing views up and down the waterway. Iron arched bridges spanning the canal, rumble as commuter trains pass over them. Old industrial buildings sit on either side of the canal and many are converted to city living whilst others wait for progress to overtake them.  There are cafes, pubs and restaurants with people sitting at outside tables taking advantage of the mild spring weather.  Along the way there are small recesses around the bridges that have been made into communal gardens.  I particularly liked the bird boxes put up on the canal bridge wall.  For the photographer there are lines, reflections and opportunities for street photography.  The buildings offer a range of architectural styles and the boats often spring surprises with the way that people have either painted them or the objects that they have collected on their travels.

Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
On the look out.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
A building and a boat.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Typical view of this section of the Regent’s Canal.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Colourful Graffiti on the buildings.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Hope you find what you are looking for.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Beware of the dog.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Beware of the leg!
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Canal bridges provide reflections and shapes.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
The Bird boxes look very cosy.

Yellow was a theme of my walk.  I just seemed to find lots of yellow objects as you will see.  They were either single, in twos or multiple!  

Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
The yellow let’s you know where you are.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Two yellows
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
I hope you are counting how many yellows there are.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
I did well with this one getting three yellow’s into the picture ( or are there more?)

My walk started at the Colebrooke Row entrance in Islington and finished at Queensbrooke Road turning around to go back to the A10.  There were so many pictures and here is a final finish to my pictures featuring one or two of the eating establishments on this stretch of the canal.

Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Table with a view
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Old buildings, new beginnings.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Food preparations.
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
More bridge picture fun
Regent's Canal, Shoreditch section, March 2024
Boats, boards, lines, geometric shapes and colours.

This is just one of many photographic walks that I have taken on the Regent’s canal in London. I have mapped different sections of the canal as it leaves Paddington basin on its long journey across north London to Lime House Basin. There are many parts still to discover whilst revisiting those that have already been photographed. I have added some further links below and I wish to thank Peter Thompson for showing me this part of the canal. Please visit Peter’s Website for some amazing travel photography.

For further photography of Regent’s Canal

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024

Initially the weather forecast for St Patrick’s Day was rain but someone must have had a word with heaven. The rain stopped and the sun started to show itself from behind the clouds. Bradford Street in Birmingham is as straight as a die and runs parallel to Digbeth High street. At the top of the hill by Trinity Church, the floats, dignitaries and people were congregating.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The Lord Mayor by one of the Irish banners.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Getting ready to parade
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Ready to sing Dirty Ole Town by the Pogues
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The entry code was you had to wear something green and St Patrick was there overseeing the proceedings. The Peaky Blinders were behaving themselves and they had brought their own police force. Irish dancers and marching bands were adding to the entertainment. There were a group of dancers who had flown in from Bolivia. Their costumes contributed to the colourful noise around them. The scooters were polished so well that you got blinded by the reflections from the chrome work and mirrors. The floats were being loaded up and the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress were greeting everyone and having their picture taken. With so many photographers around it was not long before the West Midland Mayor, Andy Street made an appearance. Everyone was so friendly and the atmosphere was one of excitement and merriment.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The parade on Bradford Street
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The BRMB bus loaded with dignitaries
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The Guinness hats were everywhere
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Having fun was the aim of the day.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Which will it be?

Then the parade was due to start so we rushed down the street to St Anne’s church. People were lining the barriers as you went down the hill towards the city centre. Even the dogs were dressed up in the Irish tricolour flag. The parade was long and varied, stopping every so often to let the marching bands and the Irish dancers demonstrate their skills. People waved towards the floats and people in the floats waved back. Everyone was so happy.

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Some of the big names in construction were there including Murphy’s and Mahoney’s. The Irish came over to Birmingham and contributed to making the city an industrial powerhouse. The parade reflected this contribution and everyone reacted to celebrating the rich history of Birmingham. These pictures are my own interpretation. At an event such as the St Patrick’s Day parade every type of photographer is out and about. BBC teams and local newspapers, amateur photography organisations and the casual mobile phone snapper were in their element. Everyone wants their photograph taken.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The line up in a float
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The builders’ merchant (even I have used them)
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
I am getting tired now.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
It was not just people who were having fun.

The BBC coverage is the best starting point for a record of the day’s events although a quick search of St Patrick’s Day Parade, Birmingham will open up many more.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
BBC account of the parade

The next parade in Birmingham will be Pride 2024 and here is my account from last year.

Joy and happiness at Birmingham Pride 2023

Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024

Oozells Square has featured on my blog over the years.  The appearance of the pink blossom on the trees heralds the start of spring in Birmingham. The square becomes a riot of pink colour and is a magnet for photographers.  This year, the blossom has arrived very early by about 2 weeks.  The warm wet winter has enabled the blossom to flower at the beginning of March.  Whenever the blossom appears then people flock to the area especially at the weekends.  On a bright sunny Monday morning, I had the square to myself bar a few people passing through. The sun was low enough to catch some of the blossom with its rays producing lovely colours. As luck would have it a few people passed by dressed in pink which matched the blossom. Taking photographs in the square is very competitive as many people will arrive over the next few weeks to get a picture. People dress up specially and families bring picnics to sit out and admire the blossom. The IKON gallery is an ideal backdrop to the blossom.  Please feel free to visit my other posts on the blossom.

Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
The Sun catches people walking through the square.
Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
Standing under the blossom.
Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
Time to move on.
Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
The blossom will be around for the next few weeks.

The blossom story from over the last few years.

2023 – Birmingham Blossom Watch

2022 – Birmingham Blossom

2020 – Blossom in Oozells Square

2018 – Cherry blossom experiments

Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024

The Bullring centre is hosting a light show called Borealis for one week in February.  This production by the artist Dan Acher is on display every evening during the week.  With a mixture of dry ice smoke and laser beams, the “northern lights” are recreated in the centre of Birmingham.  The performance is accompanied by haunting music which sets the scene and cranks up the atmosphere. When you stand still and look up at the colours, you are transported to a magical place where the northern lights are happening. Borealis is a photographer’s dream. As the laser beams crisscross through the smoke, colours are created and these are highlighted by the surrounding buildings.  The gentle breeze in the area moves the smoke around leading to pleasing patterns against the backdrop of the Selfridges building and St Martin’s Church.  

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I arrived there just as the sun was setting and the golden hour followed by the blue hour provided a changing backdrop to the scenes being created.  The hypnotic music added to the atmosphere.  The smoke adds to the surreal atmosphere and produces a haunting appearance to the area which is part dreamy and romantic at the same time. As it is half term week there are many people in the city shopping.  The area around St Martin’s was packed with onlookers gazing into the sky. There was one child dressed in white who seemed to be leading the crowds in a service for the Borealis. The imagery could be appreciated either close up or at a distance allowing everyone to take in the spectacle.    

Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
The lights over St Martin’s Church with a construction crane leading the dance of the colours.
Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
There was a golden sunset that enhanced the colours of the laser show.
Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
There were packed crowds along St Martin’s way.
Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
The show caught the attention of everyone even this child who is leading the crowds.

Using both iPhone and my Fujifilm x100v, I had fun taking pictures before heading off for an evening meal in town.  After dinner, I dropped by to see Borealis on my way to the train, the night was dark and there was a different take to the light show as the powerful laser colours shone through the smoke layers.  I stayed around for a few more pictures. Even at that late time, there were people out and about enjoying the show.   

Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
The light show created a calming atmosphere with the lights and the music

Here is a link if you wish to know more about the work of Dan Acher.

The last light show in Birmingham that I visited was in February 2020 when the world was still very young and the idea that a virus would force us all indoors was a fanciful idea.  My record of the festival light from 2020 is outlined on a previous blog. 

About the picture taking.
I was fortunate to have a dinner booked in town at 6pm. This gave me time to see the Borealis early and late in the evening. I always have my iPhone with me and wherever possible my Fujifilm x100v. When I arrived, my mind already starts to think how can I tell a story about the show. There were several things that caught my eye. The smokey atmosphere was one. Standing at the top of St Martin’s Walk looking downwards to the Church is a popular vantage point and captures the haze above the crowds. I moved closer to take in the sunset and the source of the smoke and lasers. My photographic mind is thinking about the big picture and then the smaller things that make up the view. What amazed me were the crowds of people, so I knew that I wanted them in the picture. I swap from iPhone to compact camera when taking my pictures. The iPhone is so good but I find that it wants to adjust the shadows and compensate for the darkness. Meanwhile the x100v requires a very high ISO and wide aperture to let the light in. Fortunately post processing is done with Lightroom and the “denoise” button is a dream to use. This has rejuvenated my night time use with the Fujifilm and I am not afraid to crank up the ISO. Selecting images proved a challenge and I limited myself to just 8 pictures. As always on social media, there were some very good pictures taken by other photographers. Seeing them, I think to myself, if only I had taken that photograph but I know that they also challenge me to adjust my view of the scene when out taking photographs. A selection of them may be found on the Beautiful Productions Instagram page.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023

Birmingham Botanical Gardens have been an important part of my life in Birmingham. I have attended many student balls and other celebratory events at the Hospitality suites. When I was President of the BSSPD Dental society I held my annual dinner at the Botanical Gardens during Spring 2013. The after dinner speaker that evening was Birmingham’s very own Don Maclean. We held our pre-dinner drinks on the London Terrace. Other memories include attending the Luminate night time light show during a previous Instameet. However I have not taken the opportunity to view the gardens in more detail. Therefore, I was so pleased that IgersbirminghamUK approached the Botanical Gardens to arrange a photographic Instameet. The Gardens were very enthusiastic about the idea and we agreed to visit in the Autumn when the leaves would be turning colour.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Exotic flowers in the GlassHouses
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Koi carp pretending to be the Meg.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
The architecture of the Glasshouses

We arranged to meet on a glorious Saturday Remembrance Day morning. There was a good number of IgersbirminghamUK photographers attending the meeting and our first duty of the day was to observe a minute’s silence at 11 o’clock. We then entered the gardens and met Sara the CEO. Sara was so welcoming and enthusiastic about the Botanical Gardens. She gave us an introduction to the charity and then outlined the future vision for the Gardens. There are exciting and ambitious plans to remodel the site. Sara showed maps and plans of what would be done over the coming two to three years.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Sara, the CEO, pictured in the Glasshouse.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Details in the glass house.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
The London Terrace
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
The beauty of Autumn.

IgersbirminghamUK instameets begin with an introduction and a group photograph. Once this is completed then we are free to go out and explore the gardens. I always get caught up with talking with other Igers photographers and forget to take the photographs. Catching up with people is part of the social activity of an Instameet. The glasshouses is the first area that you encounter when entering the gardens. I spent time photographing the beautiful Koi carp in the fountain area. The narrow corridors and the layout of the plants make this area very attractive and bring you close to the plants. I forgot to capture the beautiful circular window onto the gardens but many others did not. This is one of many reasons why I will return as there are so many different features to see and photograph. Leaving the glasshouses, I had an audience with the residents of the Terrace aviary. The birds were very talkative. You get pulled along when visiting the gardens and the London Terrace naturally guides you along with its wide embracing veranda and views. Here you have to stop and take in the beauty of the scene. The rolling bank of the lawn leads your gaze out to the Lawn Aviary and the Band stand. The sunlight was bright and lit up several trees whose leaves were turning a golden brown. The light captured and intensified the colours. I found myself stuck in the area around the bandstand just taking photographs of the scene unfolding before me.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
The bandstand.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Leaves everywhere.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Details at the Aviary.

I looked at my watch and realised that I had only seen a small part of the Gardens. I needed to move on. The Lawn Aviary is one of the buildings that will receive a major make over and the architectural design is captivating. I look forward to when it is receives an upgrade. Walking thought the Aviary, I dropped down the bank to Wilson Walk and came across the Urban garden area. Whilst this area requires renovation, for a photographer the place was full of strong shadows and light. There is some neglect and overgrowth of the plants and this appeals to my photographic eye. Another area where I found time slowed down for me was the Rock Garden and Memory pool. Water always creates reflections and the Rock pool offered many different views. Walking back via the colourful Acer trees was a treat and I slowly realised that I had done a full circle as I arrived back at the London Terrace. After browsing through the shop and stopping to say thank yous, my final pictures were of the entrance arches. I am unsure whether these will still be around after the renovation and I took several pictures of them against the sun to create diffraction effects with the light.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
A door in the shadows.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Reflections in the Rock Pool.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
Details on the bandstand.

Time to go back home and process all the pictures that I had taken. A big thank you to Birmingham Botanical Gardens for allowing us to visit. These are my pictures of the event and there were some fantastic photographs from other members on the Instameet. The way to find these photographs is to follow the hashtag #igbuk_meet_botanical on Instagram. You may need to delve into individual photographers’ accounts to see more pictures due to the nature of the dreaded Instagram algorithm. You will be rewarded with some beautiful views of the gardens.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, November 2023
The entrance arches to the Botanical Gardens.

The IgersbirminghamUK team have visited other sites and places and you may wish to follow the links below to see what takes place during our meetings. You are most welcome to attend our Instameets.

These are some of my blogs on our visits to other sites around Birmingham with the IgersbirminghamUK team.

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Aurora Borealis – Poster

Aurora Borealis – Poster

So I have been to Iceland but did not see the Aurora Borealis as it was too cloudy. I did…

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023

Amazingly, I have not written a blog about the German Christmas market in Birmingham. I have taken pictures of the Christmas markets but many of them are single photos on my social streams. My first observation is that the markets are set up way too early. The present one opened up on the 2nd November 2023. This is crazy yet when I visited the city centre a week after the opening, there were many visitors enjoying the early experience of Christmas. Over the years there is a pattern as the markets extend more and more. However, there was a grand reset in Christmas 2020 with the Pandemic but now the markets are back to their former self.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Centenary Square at Christmas.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
The big wheel in Centenary Square.

In Centenary square, there is the Big wheel, an ice skating rink and other spinning attractions. The pedestrian link to Victoria square is more subdued as it is private land although the restaurants in and around Chamberlain square are doing well.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
I love this street photograph. A store called Filthy Fries! How do they arrive at such names.

The real noise and excitement starts in Victoria square and this is with you all the way down to the Bull Ring. Shops selling food and drink. The prices are very high considering there is standing room only. The shops also sell other items such as candles, jewellery and gifts you never knew you wanted. I expect most of these gifts will be put away or recycled after Christmas.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Christmas market in Victoria Square, Birmingham.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
A long exposure of the Carousel in Victoria Square.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Looking down to New Street.

My purpose for going to the early Christmas market was to take pictures. Every photographer in Birmingham has to post a picture of the market on their Instagram account. I did not want to be left out so armed with my iPhone and x100v, I braved the crowds on a Thursday night. Taking pictures with the iPhone is straightforward although I hold onto it firmly as I do not want it snatched away from me. Taking a camera out and then putting it on a tripod does generate some attention so I used the tripod sparingly and looked for convenient surfaces to rest the camera.

My plan for photographs including taking pictures of spinning things including the beautiful carousel in Victoria Square. I was also keen to capture some of the atmosphere and fun that people were having by being around the market. Taking pictures is not easy as people get in the way and are not posing for you. Therefore at different places in the market, I grabbed what opportunity that I could and moved on. I also walked back from the Bull Ring via Gas Street basin which was less crowded and therefore easier for photographing.

When I got home, I was initially disappointed with my pictures. I am always like this as I want every picture to be a winner. I know that is never the case and I was just hoping that I had captured some good ones. I am always surprised by the pictures that look good and were opportunistic rather than the ones that I had planned in my mind.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
This is a feature every year.

So this is a snapshot of the Christmas market in Birmingham 2023. I am sure that I will look back on these in a few years time and cringe at them. There is still another Christmas market to open around the Birmingham Cathedral which happens to be more picturesque. Maybe some photographs of this market will feature in my future blog postings.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Signs in the market.

Walking back along the canal to Gas Street Basin, there was the opportunity to take some long exposure pictures. I liked this one of Stop Lock Bridge on the Old Birmingham Canal.

Looking back in the archives I found that I have Christmas in 2018 and also what Christmas Trees looked like in 2020, the year of the Pandemic. They make for interesting comparisons.

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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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