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.


Lockdown 3 is easing and in early April, I found myself back in Digbeth to take a look at what was happening.  One reason was to look for the new Street art project by @Fokawolf but more of that later.  I parked the car in Coventry street car park and made my way to Digbeth.  I love the Suki10cc artwork by street artist Gent 48 It features the up and coming black stars in Birmingham.  The house is so colourful and is great to photograph.  It was one of my pictures that was featured in my recent Amateur Photography magazine feature. This visit, I decided to do some unconventional pictures by getting close to the mural. 

Digbeth street art
Best in Birmingham
Digbeth Street Art
Meriden Street

Walking down Bordesly Street, I experimented with some street photography. It is my first venture out with my Fujifilm x100v and I was a little self conscious trying to use it.  However when I reached the Custard Factory, the camera comes into its own.  A few pictures on the bridge over the River Rea,  and then into Gibb street where there were a few people moving around. I took a few pictures of the colourful artwork (as you do when in Digbeth).  I was pleased with the one I took by the street artist 0707 as it was very colourful especially with the bicycle on the colourful bike rack.

Bridge over the River Rea
The Custard Factory
Street art by 0707
Colours of Gibb Street (so many street artists here, Philth, Gent 48, n4t4 etc)

My next stop was to see the artwork by @fokawolf.  It is a larger than life blown up picture of Pat Butcher from Eastenders and it is underneath the railway arch on Heath Mill Lane.  It is such a random bizarre mural.  The character is not associated with Birmingham and why it is placed here is not known.  What it does do is provoke comment and debate. That makes it all worthwhile.  My picture shows how tall the mural is with the couple next to it.  I also took a picture of the balconies on the Custard Factory and posted it on the BBC weather pages. The architecture always looks good especially when the sun is shining on it.  Fortunately for me, it was featured on the local BBC weather news.

Pat Butcher by Fokawolf
The Custard Factory as featured on the BBC local weather

Still in a wandering mood my next destination was Lower Trinity street taking pictures along the way of some of the more interesting street art. By the time I had reached Bordesley station, I thought it would be good idea to see the canals.  It is very quiet around there and I worry about my personal safety.  However it seemed ok so I carried on taking pictures.  I like the colour of the graffiti and in fact one of my favourite artists, Lucy McLaughlan‘s art work is under the Deritend road bridges.  My first attempt at a long exposure for 3 seconds with the Fujifilm x100v gave a pleasing result.  As I moved back into Digbeth along the canals it became much quieter.  I did meet a friend Mullerbiker from my Slack British Tech Network who happened (as he was) passing through the canal network.  After chatting for a few minutes, he left but then my courage failed me and I retraced my steps out of the system and walked along the road back into Digbeth again. 

Purple umbrellas
No Parking
The Night Owl
Thinking I should be somewhere else
Life and Death
Bordesley station in the light
Lucy McLauchlan Monochrome in long expsoure
Grafitti on the canals
In Digbeth
Custard Factory

Do you want to read more about Digbeth
Digbeth Lights
Digbeth Art
Lockdown in Digbeth

Reflections in Digbeth

Should I be worried? Should I ditch my big camera? My most popular photographs are all taken by an iPhone. My most recent one of Gibb Street in Digbeth has been published by several outlets including BBCMidlands, Independent Birmingham, IgersbirminghamUK, Bhamupdates and Source investments. All very pleasing but I would like to talk about my aperture and shutter settings. The camera ISO and how I held it to take in the picture. No all I did was dip the iPhone into a puddle and the resulting picture then gets a life of its own. Getting down low certainly led to more impact to the picture. However, I am pleased that I can brag about my composition and that it caught the spirit of Birmingham!

Venturing into Digbeth proved to be very interesting.  I had a project to do on street art and therefore I wanted to get pictures around Digbeth.  Sunday morning seemed to be a good time to venture forth now that government rules had enabled you to venture further afield for your exercise.  I was apprehensive when I got to Digbeth as it was very quiet and Floodgate street which is normally full of cars was disserted.  

Not a car to be seen in Floodgate Street
The odd person is around
We are looking out for you!
These notices are all around

After taking pictures I then drove around to Lower Trinity Street and strolled into the centre of the custard factory.  Again, it was very quiet with a few people taking exercise.  There were two people taking pictures of their high-performance car in the street.  There was no one around to stop them.  I took my pictures and then went back to the safety of my home.  Every day for the last few months has been a surreal and different experience.  I do not think I will see Digbeth so quiet again.

NHS heroes
Empty Coffee Bars
A few early walkers
No entry
Empty and quiet except for a few reflections
We are watching you – Street Art by Justin Sola

Digbeth is the new Shoreditch is a saying on the Internet.  I have not been to Shoreditch for a long time and I know that Digbeth is modelled on itself not on any other town or city.  It has been a while since I had been to Digbeth. Furthermore, I wanted to get there early so that I could see the pretty street lighting that I often see from the train in the morning.  The cultural centre of Digbeth is the former Bird’s Custard Factory which was always awash with light. Now the surrounding roads such as Floodgate Street and Lower Trinity Street have street lighting that criss-crosses the road.  It gives a nice effect and entices the visitor into the area to discover more about the charms of Digbeth.

Grafitti is a feature of Digbeth
Floodgate Street – Under the arch down the Road
Robots on the wall
A puddle reflection in Floodgate Street

I took my Canon camera with wide lens with me and also had my iPhone and Sony compact.  The streets were relatively quiet with a few early workers out and about.  I took a selection of pictures including the graffiti and the lights.  I even walked into the centre of the Custard Factory to look at the sculptures and art work.  It is always a rewarding experience moving around Digbeth during the early hours.

This way to the Custard Factory
Smoking on the walls in Lower Trinity Street
Early workers at the Custard Factory
More lights in the square
It’s raining people
Art on display
Ranking Roger
Art and food and a bike
The Cat and the Mouse – who will win?

The Nifty Fifty is said to be the lens that comes closest to capturing what the human eye sees.  When I got my first DSLR it had a crop sensor and I purchased a 50 mm Canon lens as it was so cheap.  Over the years I have used it as a portratit lens. It has given very good results especially when using it with a flash set up. A few months ago, I felt I needed a new challenge with my photography so I put the 50mm lens onto the Canon 5D and used it whenever I could.  It was a challenge taking the pictures and was similar with other prime lens which I have written about. Take a look at the picture Metropolis taken with my 40mm lens. When using a prime lens, you do have to think about the composition as you have no capacity to zoom in or out.  Therefore your feet have to do the moving.  I have provided a selection of photographs taken with the 50mm lens and as you see the results are pleasing.  There has been some post processing in a few of the photographs.  The result was that I did get a kick out of using just this lens.  It was not a case of loosing any pictures because I had the wrong lens but rather that I created new ones.

The 50mm lens brings out colour and shows the detail from the blossom.
Here I am using the 50mm lens to capture the architecture of the University of Birmingham Buildings. The sharpness comes through as well as the colour
I captured my grandson Noah with a candid shot. The lens is great for such closeup pictures
This mural by Annatomix is on the Warwick Bar part of the inner canal network. The prime lens has caught the detail and there is a nice use of the focus with the foreground adding to the framing around the picture.
Shooting the Custard Factory building through a hoie in a security fence. Shows how the nifty fifty can really focus
Another go at the focus through a fence and the subject is the Chimney at the Custard Factory.
Here is a landscape picture with the 50mm lens.  The mist adds atmosphere and the figure comes out to be very sharp.  I was surprised how the 50mm lens worked this so well.
Final one is another blossom picture with the mist added a nice backdrop to the picture

I love the colours of a good artistic graffiti painted on a wall or derelict building.  I am not a fan of “tagging” such as scrawling letters or child like drawings scribbled around bridges and walls.  Digbeth in Birmingham is regenerating and the focus is the old Bird’s Custard Factory.  The streets in and around Digbeth are full of clever street art.  Here are a few examples of them.  They have been taken with my Canon, Sony compact or even iPhone.  There is a fish eye lens used in a few of them.  The artists I particularly like are Annatomix and Golden Boy but there are countless others on the scene.  I have included a few here that I took on my early morning walks around Digbeth.

Made in Birmingham – Car Park, Bromley St End

Custard Factory – Floodgate St entrance

Fish eye effect – Floodgate St entrance to Custard Factory

Fish eye effect – Custard Factory

Scary teeth (look like they are lower incisors in the upper jaw) and staring eye – Floodgate Street

Grafitti Map of Digbeth – Little Ann Street

Flying Fish – Meriden Street

Dig those sunglasses

Street Scene, Digbeth with Golden Boy

Golden Boy Details

Custard Factory Graffiti

Four ghost like images and a real human – Custard Factory

Windows and tie – Custard Factory

Digbeth Coach Station Car Park

I work in town on a Wednesday morning so I take the opportunity of pacing around the streets with my camera. The Custard Factory proves to be a happy hunting ground for pictures. The graffiti is very colourful and there are several interesting nooks and crannies that provide interesting views. Here are a selection taken from one of my Wednesday walks.

Walking down Bordesley Street on the way to the Custard Factory

A few muddy puddles on the way

Interesting window stickers

The best of Digbeth

I do like the way they are staring at you

Back Wednesday and the artist, Annatomex, came back the next day to finish it off.

Cool Graffiti

Colours of the Custard Factory

Highway through the factory



One of our flamingoes is missing.

No entry x2

Searchlights and antenna