As the weather improves and spring is well established, there are lots more opportunities to photograph gardens. One of the best gardens to visit in Birmingham is Winterbourne House. This Edwardian house and garden have a captivating charm. The House was originally owned by the Nettlefold family and has a long history. The House and Gardens are owned by the University of Birmingham. The house has been restored to what it would have been like at the time of the Nettlefold family. The gardens that surround the house are an example of Edwardian living and several acres are planned out to take advantage of the lay of the land. There are several areas including the walled garden, a lime walk, a rhododendron walk and a glass house area. At the furthest end of the garden is the Japanese bridge and sandstone rock garden. All through the gardens is the influence of the Edwardian approach to design and then there are quirky structures created by the University of Birmingham during its ownership.
Glass Houses and Alpine Garden
The house has been restored and the rooms reflect how an Edwardian family will have lived their lives in the building. There was ample opportunity to view the bedrooms and admire the collections of belongings including children’s toys.
More views around the Gardens
There were around 20 IgersbirminghamUK photographers and we all enjoyed taking the photographs and also meeting each other to have a chat and catch up on the world of photography. Many of us met at the terrace for a cup of tea and a chat before moving on to the rest of the weekend. These are a selection of my pictures and I would encourage you to view other photographers pictures which are posted on Instagram.
Follow the tags #igersbirminghamUk, #igbUk_meet_winterbourne and #winterbourneHG.
I have two other posts on Winterbourne one written before the Pandemic and the other when the house reopened after the Lockdowns. They give more insights into this wonderful place in Edgbaston.
I had the opportunity to take pictures during a recent visit to the streets and canals of Utrecht
Utrecht in the Netherlands was the base for the Ultrasonics Industry Association conference. My research group were presenting at the international conference and I was there to support their activities. We stayed in the Karel V hotel which has a picturesque view of the adjacent canal. There were many opportunities in the early morning or during conference breaks to explore the streets and canals. This Dutch city is very photogenic and I had brought along my Fujifilm x100v to accompany my iPhone13 for the photographs. For the readers of this blog, I will just show a selection of the many pictures that I took during my short stay. At the end of the blog, I have provided some links to Utrecht which provide ideas for your travel to this ever-surprising city.
So many pictures of this city and here are some more from both iPhone and camera.
Who doesn’t love the sight of bluebells gently swaying in the breeze. Many of our ancient woodlands are at risk by the creeping threat of development and that is why I support the annual Bluebell Wood Fundraising Open Day in the Heart of England Forest. Conserving our woodlands for future generations is very much a priority. Great Alne Woodland is just off Spurnal Lane, and is a part of a Natural Burial Ground. The ancient wood has a stunning display of bluebells at the end of April and is open to visitors for two days.
My daughter loves visiting this quiet and picturesque woodland and there are so many good photographic opportunities. I brought along my camera equipment and found that the early morning light was perfect. The contrast of blue and green is a joy to see and photograph. My lensball was also put to good use for a few pictures. A useful photographic tip for maximising the benefit of your lensball is to use your macro lens for the pictures. This technique works a treat.
My 52 week project challenge was bokeh and the bluebells provided several opportunities to focus on the flowers with a wide open lens (f/2.8). This throws the background out of focus producing lovely Bokeh.
During my visit to the woodland, I met Toby, who is the organiser of this charity event. He kindly agreed to have his picture taken and be part of my 100 strangers project which is slowly moving forward on my Flickr pages.
The organisation of the day is excellent. The walk starts in the car park and takes you through the woodland with some well positioned spots for those important selfies. I noticed that the event is becoming more popular but via the use of ticketing, our family took part in the walk and did not meet many other people. For a short time, the woodland was ours to enjoy and we were able to take in the sights of those beautiful bluebells. My grandson loves the place as you can see from the following pictures.
Using a ring flash in dentistry was second nature. Having learnt how to photograph the teeth and other structures around the mouth, macro was second nature. There were two good mentors to my macro photography. A medical photographer at Wordsley hospital. I can not remember her name and Wordsley hospital is no more. However she instilled a discipline and love of macro photography. Then there was Mike Sharland at Birmingham Dental School. He set up your camera and showed you how to gently rock back and forth using manual focus. The settings were Manual Flash half a second, aperture f/22, shutter speed 1/200s and an ISO 100. These are your go to settings and then you can experiment from here.
Gardens are just great places for macro weather you want to photograph flowers or insects such as bees and butterflies. I dusted off my macro lens with ring flash and wandered around the garden. For this series of photographs, I find the way that the subject is illuminated and the background is dark attractive. There is little in the way of distracting background around. Hope you enjoy these photographs of flowers. By the way, if you are like me and do not know the name of the flowers then there is a very good app, PictureThis, that takes a picture and hey presto the name of the flower is revealed.
Poppy field season is upon us and after a very damp May, it is noticeable that many plants and flowers are delayed in making their appearance by around 2 to 3 weeks. The recent bout of sunshine has had a dramatic effect on everything, stimulating the countryside into life. It is lovely to see all the flowers in full bloom. But back to poppies, each year one finds it increasingly difficult to find these elusive flowers. Farmers appear reluctant to let their fields turn into a sea of red for fear of the unwelcome attraction it brings. For photographers such red carpets are a heavenly delight designed by the supreme being to bring joy to anybody who loves taking a picture. Keeping to the sides of the field and not trampling the delicate flowers into the ground is part of our photographic code. We too are horrified by the poor regard some members of the public have for poppy fields which in turn make it difficult for others. Therefore if visiting such places then respect the countryside.
I got the call (via Facebook) from my Photo Buddy, John Bray, informing me that a Poppy Field had been sighted just north of Leamington Spa. It had already been announced on the local Facebook pages. The field is not that accessible being surrounded on two sides by a country road that is better described as speed test track for the locals. The partially hidden gate leads into the field which has a gentle westerly elevation. Taking care not to trample more vegetation than is absolutely necessary, we slowly navigate ourselves to the top of the field taking pictures along the way. We arrived at the field at 7.30pm and then by 8.45pm we had filled up our photocards with red poppies. There will be some serious editing of the numbers of pictures taken when I get back home.
When you are in a poppy field there is the intense red of the flower petals and then there is the gentle swaying of the stems in the breeze. It is most restful and soothing to gaze over the red rippling petals of the flowers.
Taking pictures of poppies is one of personal taste. I like the distant telephoto shots where the flowers are compressed, and you are able to convey the carpet of red. For many of the pictures. I placed my polariser filter on the lens so as to pick out the reds. Also concentration is needed so that the horizon does not go wonky or there are any unnecessary distractions inadvertently included in the picture.
There was strong sunlight, so I was able to use it to my advantage to back light the stems of the poppies. This makes for an attractive look and highlights the spikey hairs on the stems.
There is also the “kitchen sink factor” where I wish I had brought all my lenses including my wide angled lens. I should also have brought my graduated filters. What I did bring that still surprises me with its quality, is my Fujifilm x100v and of course I did have my iPhone. But the workhorse of the evening was my Canon 5D mark IV with both 24-105mm and the 70-200mm lens. And the all-important tripod.
I also brought my lens ball. I never know when it is going to be a good picture when I use it. I was happy with the result of this picture with the poppies even though it was hand held.
Decision time! Where is the best picture for that sunset view? There is a hint that we may get a colourful sunset, so we had to find the ideal place. This is where you get an adrenaline rush and we pushed to the back of the field. There was dense overgrowth but luckily there was a path on the perimeter that allowed us to get a view of the sunset radiating over the field. We were happy with the position of our cameras on for the photographs. Taking pictures of the sunset can be tricky and without my graduated filter (mental note must remember to bring this in future trips), I took several bracketed shots with the intention of building up a HDR picture later. As the light dropped it was possible to compensate for the exposure.
Then the sunset came into its own and the sky turned a pinky red. Remember earlier that I said that there is someone up there who enjoys seeing a good photograph. Well he or she decided to turn on the light show, and it was very much appreciated. I just retreated into a happy world of taking pictures. Surfacing around 10 o’clock it was dark, and we had filled our cameras with enough poppy pictures for the evening.
Walking back to the car I turned back for one last look and there was the crescent moon in the sky with the embers of the sunset still illuminating the red poppies. I reflected positively on the evening and John said it had been “A perfect antidote to a crazy life”.
As the University of Birmingham locked down so did Winterbourne house and gardens. There was still a small team of gardeners tendering the gardens during lockdown. As the restrictions eased, the gardens reopened to University staff on the 6th July. It is one of the perks of working at the University that you have free access to the Botanical gardens. I took the opportunity on a Friday afternoon to visit Winterbourne and it coincided with a break in the weather. Yes, the sun was seen in the sky! I brought along my macro lens and decided that it was going to be a close up day photographing the flowers and some of the friends that visit them as well.
I realise now that what I enjoy about garden photography is the symmetry of the flowers. Also I like the asymmetry that is overlayered on the symmetry. The colours and the flower arrangements right down to the petals play a part too.
Winterbourne has different areas to it and there is a brook at the bottom of the hill with an Japanese oriental garden. On the way down, there are many flower beds and open spaces. Towards the house there is the walled garden and glasshouses that have a large variety of interesting species.
Why do I love Winterbourne so much? I think it is the range of plants that come from around the world. Part of my role at the University is Director of Global Engagement. The Winterbourne Gardens web site mentions that the plant collection is taken from countries such as China, North and South America and the Alpine areas of the world. Maybe this is why walking around the Botanical Gardens feels as if you are undertaking international travel in a short space of time and distance.
Finally, whilst I love taking pictures of the plants, I do not know many of their names. So if anyone is able to help so that I can name them correctly it would be very much appreciated 🙂
During the weeks of lockdown, the garden flowers and blossom start to look very attractive objects to photograph. luckily I have my macro 100mm and ring flash to take pictures. I have also experimented with different views of the flowers from the more traditional look to close up macro. I have also looked at different lighting approaches. Here are a few of my pictures taken in my garden during April 2020 lockdown.
I am catching up with my photographs. I visited Winterbourne house in July and the flowers were in full bloom. This photographic journey features the Nut walk. I used a lensball to create the effect at the end of the network which provides a natural frame to the house. Following this I moved onto the flower beds near to and around the glass houses. There were several damsel flies flitting in and around the flowers. It is always a fascinating place to visit and has featured in previous blogs.
The annual bluebell walk in Austy Wood is not taking place in 2019 “Due to ongoing forestry operations and other contributing factors……” This is disappointing as it is a glorious sight with a lovely carpet of bluebells. However there is a public footpath that just takes you into the top part of the forrest. I got up early and set off for the Wood. Although it was cold, there was the prospect of a lovely sunrise and warm conditions to follow. The walk takes you over the Stratford-upon-Avon canal and then up a narrow lane to the wood. It was still and quiet and I was the only one around. I saw deer and two large hares bounded past me at speed. I was not camera ready at the time.
I took several pictures and then I reached the top of the wood and there were the bluebells in all their glory. I spent a good hour there taking pictures. I used a mixture of my lens including my wide angled and telephoto zoom lens. One of my iPhone pictures made The BBC weather and I also got the chance to use my Lensball for a quick picture of it resting on a tree trunk with the bluebells in the background.
On the last day of June, I went down to the Confetti fields at Wick, near Pershore, Worcestershire. I went with Natasha and Noah. The fields were full of colour and my daughter and grandson enjoyed the experience. We then went to Pershore Abbey and had a picnic in the grounds of the Abbey. It was a beautiful day. My camera was the iPhone8, and the Canon D5 mk4 with the EF24-70mm f/2.8L II U SM, and a wide angle lens EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM. I also used my EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens for some of the portrait pictures. Simple processing was used.