IgersbirminghamUK have been busy during the year organising a range of Instameets. Following on from our visit to St Chad’s Cathedral, we were contacted by Alexander Beard, the Heritage Officer of the West Midlands Police Museum. Alexander offered us two Instameets at the former Lock up in Steelhouse Lane thus giving the photographers of IgersbirminghamUK a chance to see inside a popular museum venue. Having visited the WMPM on a previous occasion, I decided to focus on the details of the prison. Here are different views of doors, ceilings and the metal structures. I converted all the pictures to black and white. This gave some consistency to the pictures but also overcame the difficulties with managing the low light in the lock up. The museum is a must visit attraction and can be seen at many different levels as my pictures attempt to show.
I enjoy a photographic walk with my Fujifilm x100v camera around the streets of Birmingham. The early hours are best when few people are around and about. This series of photographs begins at Eastside where the HS2 works are taking place. Digbeth was next and I returned to Birmingham along the canal exiting again near to the HS2 works.
What is there to tell you about my walk? No surprises, as building in Birmingham has not finished and HS2 is still digging and putting up barriers. I took a few pictures and was interested to see BBC midlands covering the HS2 disruption in the evening news. Why is HS2 taking so long and why is there so much disruption? I do get upset with the blasé way they are undertaking the HS2 works. I am sure it will look wonderful when finished but is it worth the upheaval and time taken.
The latest BBC item puts HS2 under the spotlight.
Digbeth was quiet for a Monday morning and since the pandemic there is less footfall during business hours. The nightlife is always busy but there is a definite change in activity during the day. My next observation is the encroachment of high rise living around Digbeth and the loss of character with the demolition and neglect of buildings.
There are several brownfield sites around the area that will become large skyscrapers. Other signs of change include the former Typhoo tea building which is starting to see activity around the relocation of the BBC to the building. Change may not always be positive and one of my pictures is outside what was the DigBrew entrance. Sadly this excellent brewery has ceased trading and artwork from the street artist Tempo33 marks the spot.
There is much chaotic colour around the streets of Digbeth and the morning sun brings out the light and shadows. The canalside is another area in Digbeth that is changing with several buildings undergoing renovation. How this change will progress will be interesting to document in future months.
My final picture was taken on my iPhone as I went past the Selfridges building. I went low and framed the iconic discs in the background. I was in luck as a woman walked past although she was confused by what I was doing. The picture turned out well but was also a reminder not to attract undue attention during my street photography.
Returning to the HS2 theme then there are more stories about the construction on my blog. I have been documenting 16 acre wood and the damage caused by HS2 around Balsall Common since 2020. Here is my account of this part of the HS2.
When the dental hospital was on St Chad’s Queensway, one of the places I was always walking past was the lock-up cells on Steelhouse lane. The Police Station was active and the cells in the lockup were still being used till 2016. There was always lots of activity around there with police vans and officers moving around sometimes in large numbers. Now the building has been renovated and reopened as the West Midlands Police Museum. The entrance to the Children’s hospital is now the busiest place on the street and several of the buildings are being turned into Luxury flats.
Having seen several photographs of the inside of the building, this has been on my list of a place to visit for some time. The opportunity arose when a group of friends organised a visit and I looked forward to exploring the inside of the building. The museum is the former site of the West Midlands Police Lockups that were used to temporarily hold prisoners whilst they were being tried at the Law Courts next door. The prison has a long and colourful history and many people from different backgrounds passed through the cell doors. With the popularity of the Peaky Blinders BBC series, such sites have generated a high level of public interest. In fact the term Peaky Blinders covers many of the gangs that roamed Victorian Birmingham in the 1890s. Needless to say the museum features the Peaky Blinders in their displays and you can learn more about the gangs that roamed Birmingham which were kept in check by a robust police force.
The museum covers three floors and when you enter the building you are immediately drawn to the metal walkways and the cell doors placed along the side of the building. There is a large skylight in the roof which allows the light to filter in all the way down to the lower levels. The play of the light on the whitewashed walls was fascinating and the metal railings and floor created interesting patterns that were immediately captured by my camera. I had brought my trusty Fujifilm x100v and it proved a useful camera in the tight areas of the prison. There were several favourite pictures which revolved around the cells. There were interesting stories everywhere including the toilets inside the cell with the cisterns outside so as to prevent prisoners self harming with the chains.
The passage way from the lockup to the Law courts was another favourite. I imagined how it must have been when it was in full use as a lockup. Overall I was really fascinated on how the light fell into the prison. Even though the place must have been a difficult place with the smells and the noise, there is also a warmth to the building. The museum features those brave police officers who were harmed whilst undertaking the “line of duty”. There are references to police animals and the highway patrol officers. The presence of a birching stool reminds you of how far we have come in society over a short space of time. In the talk that was given by Peter one of the volunteers, I learnt that the lockup had a matron who oversaw the domestic requirements of the prisoners such as medical care. There were plenty of stories to be told.
The museum is managed by Helen Taylor and her informative staff, some of whom are former police officers who worked in the lock ups. The staff brought the museum to life and ensured that all questions were answered and made sure we enjoyed our visit. The pictures provide a glimpse into the museum and I know that evening tours are often arranged but for me the light coming into the prison at midday was fascinating. I will certainly revisit at a later date.
Here are some references to the prison including their website
The official site – West Midlands Police Museum.
I have also visited the Inveraray jail in Scotland which features in one of my recent blogs.
Weekend in Loch Lomond
The snow came in March and for many it was wonderful to see. The snow fell midweek and the majority of schools stayed open. Not much time to get the slides out for some toboganning. The snow was great for taking photographs. In the evening rush hour through the village, I found that my iPhone enabled me to get some atmospheric pictures. Headlamps and snow flurries against the old buildings is a good mix for composition.
In the morning, the scenery was bright and white. More snow had fallen overnight and I went out again with my camera. The trick with snow pictures is to crank up the exposure compensation so as to counteract the camera wanting to underexpose. On the iPhone the Camera+ app allows you to adjust the exposure setting. Several of the pictures in the Nature area of the park worked really well.
I also took some pictures of the High Street. We have a red letter box and telephone kiosk. The colours set against the white snow work really well. I was also very lucky that several villagers decided to wear red that morning. The colour co-ordination made for some very good pictures that proved very popular on my social media feed.
I hope you enjoyed these pictures and now let us hope that spring returns in the following weeks.
Here are some pictures from 2017. Looking back, I should have done some better adjusting of the exposure settings but even so they show the village show bound
Scotland is a wonderful place to always visit and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a weekend on Loch Lomond in February with Sandy. Having flown up on the Friday morning, we picked up our hire car and made our way to Duck Bay on the bonny shores of the Loch. A magnificent rainbow greeted us set against the backdrop of Ben Lomond. I knew then that it was going to be a lucky weekend.
So much to see around the shores and following Duck Bay, we headed over to the east side of the Loch. When we arrived at Balmaha, the low sun was reflecting off the water creating beautiful light reflections. I love visiting such places out of season as the places are quiet and you have the place to yourselves. Balmaha houses the Loch Lomond coffee house and the pub serves a tasty bowl of soup. After a stroll around the Lochside we drove back to Balloch.
Our destination for the end of the day was Loch Lomond shores. Whilst it is very commercial and more concrete than aesthetics, it is redeemed by the views of the Loch. Also I saw that renovation of the Maid of the Loch steamer was gathering pace and that the paint work had been stripped off and the metal was showing.
Saturday morning threw up some colours in the sunrise and an early morning photographic stroll allowed for some interesting long exposures. We were staying at the Cameron House hotel and the grounds gave excellent access to the loch shore.
After breakfast, we set off for Inveraray to visit the prison museum. This attraction was excellent and gave an insight into the past society and the harsh life people led in the Highlands especially if they broke the rules. There was a restored black Mariah which Bill one of the staff, showed us and also provided an excellent account of life at the prison. It was an enjoyable drive along the Loch. After every turn on the road, there was spectacular scenery just asking to be photographed.
My favourite picture of the day was stopping at the layby “Rest and be Thankful”. There was a glimpse of the sun which lit up the valley and highlighted the old military road and the roadworks on the side of the mountains. I just stood there for several minutes taking in the beautiful scenery.
On our last morning, the weather was dull with a great deal of cloud cover. As I wandered along Duck Bay looking for photo opportunities, I passed by many people huddled together talking in low voices. I wondered what they were doing. Undeterred, I found a good spot on the Loch shore and set up for a long exposure. I found an interesting stone in the water and lined it up with the island in the background. A very peaceful scene. As I was taking the photograph, two women in wet suits ventured into the loch and I found out that they were freshwater swimmers. They agreed to have their photograph taken. Whilst they were well prepared for the cold waters, a man followed soon after and he looked unprepared and a likely candidate for hypothermia from the low temperatures.
On my way back I then realised that all the people who were standing in huddles had transformed into swimmers. I realised that a favourite Sunday morning pastime is to venture into the cold waters around the Loch. This is not something that I would enjoy.
My final picture is from Firkin Point which I had not stopped off at before on my visits to Loch Lomond. I discovered the lone tree over the Loch. The afternoon had closed in and so the picture leant itself really well to a black and white processing.
I you enjoyed this account of Loch Lomond then be sure to read these as well.
I was fortunate that I was in London during Christmas week. My reason for being there was to undertake a photographic assignment for the British Dental Association Museum. Once I had completed my task then I set off for the Christmas lights. I walked from Wimpole Street along Oxford Circus taking in Bond Street, New Bond Street and Piccadilly. Whilst I took many photographs on this journey, my main destination was Regent Street. The Angels were strung across the street and were a beautiful feature of the Christmas lights. The theme was the ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ and covered both Regent Street and St James’s neighbourhoods.
The place was very busy with people on both sides of the road and in the central reservation taking pictures of the Angels. My x100v was set up with a high ISO3200 and an aperture of f/4. The shutter speed was set at 1/125. I brought along my travel tripod to help me. However I did forget that the ISO was on high for some of the motion shots. It was difficult to think with being in such a dangerous position in the middle of the road and so many people around you. Whilst the pictures do look pretty, there are many obstacles around the area such as the shoppers and traffic. I kept my wits about me and did not look for pictures that may have put me in danger.
I came away with a story as there were a few couples in the pictures and the story looks as if I have followed one couple up from Piccadilly to Oxford Circus. I enjoyed seeing the lights and experiencing the atmosphere of Christmas Shopping.
London is a wonderful city to photograph and you may wish to see my other Blog entries on photographing the UK capitol.
- London Streets – October 2022
- Wheels of London – April 2022
- Photographing London – February 2020
- Photographing London Docklands – August 2018
I am delighted to announce that my picture ‘Regency Wharf‘ was commended in the Urban view category of the Landscape Photography of the Year 2022.
The picture will be featured in the LPOTY 2022 book, ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 15’, and will form part of the travelling exhibition in the digital format.
The picture is available to purchase from my website. I include an account below how the picture was taken, the camera used and the post production notes.
Fog in Gas street basin mug£8.00 – £10.50
On a cold but very bright January morning, I went into Birmingham with my camera. I planned to walk around the City, with a focus on Brindley Place and Gas street Basin. The sun was low and there was an intensity about the light. By mid-morning, I found myself in Gas Street basin outside the Tap and Spile pub. I looked across to the imposing red-bricked building displaying the large stencilled letters, Regency Wharf. The scene looked as if someone had suddenly turned on a bright spotlight. The basin was lit up and the building was radiating the light. The water was perfectly still, allowing mirror like reflections. A person was walking on the tow path towards the canal bridge. I could see that his route would take him in front of the Regency Wharf sign. I lifted my camera, looked through the viewfinder and took several shots of the lone person moving along the path. I was thinking how these pictures would turn out but then quickly moved on as more interesting scenes were developing around me. I took more pictures in and around the area all of which did very well when posted on my social media channels.Regency Wharf – Damien Walmsley
Camera settings for the picture
The picture was taken on 11th January 2022 at 11.06
The camera was the Fujifilm x100v
Focal length – 23mm
Exposure was 1/10000, f/4, ISO160
The RAW file (Fuji – RAF) was opened in Lightroom and the light was so good that there was not much that that needed to be done to the image. I brought out the shadows and reduced the highlights. There was a small amount of saturation added. Once these basic adjustments were done, I took the image into Photoshop and made the decision to crop the picture to highlight the centre of the image. It may be argued that in the original the background to the Regency Wharf building, highlights the new buildings of Birmingham. However, my crop aims to highlight the legacy of Birmingham with a hint of what the future holds.
As I wanted to quickly upload the picture onto Instagram, I used an unsharp mask and then levels on the picture, but it was minimal editing. The light was so strong that the reflections in the water were excellent.
My personal reflections of LPOTY
I submitted 5 photographs for the LPOTY competition. in early summer, I was taken aback when several people on social media shouted out that they were no longer progressing in the competition. I had not received such a notification and on the website, it was asking for submission of a high resolution picture of one of my pictures. There was a mixture of anticipation but confusion. Eventually, I found my email informing me that I had been shortlisted. It was in my spam filter! The RAW files and more detailed explanation of the processing of the picture were submitted to the LPOTY team. There was another long wait. The FAQ on the website said that if I had not heard anything by October then my entry was unsuccessful. As there were no emails in the first 2 weeks of October, I was just happy that I had been shortlisted. It was on a train journey on the Tuesday afternoon prior to the Sunday announcement that I got the email saying that my picture was Commended in the Urban View category. I was so pleased but the rub was that I had to keep it confidential until now. My family are pleased for me and my friends who have been on my photographic journey were happy as well.
People reading this blog will want to know what it takes to be successful in the competition. Several things spring to mind. Always believe in your picture taking and be content with your own work. Social media is not necessarily a good barometer of a successful picture. Be resilient, this was my fourth attempt since my first entry back in 2018. Listen to constructive criticism and research into how others take their photographs. Always be ready to learn and never take rejection of your pictures personally. Pick yourself up and take the camera on a walk. I will be entering again in 2023 and I know it will be just as competitive as ever. However, I will see what happens and happy to enjoy the experience of entering again.
Fog in Gas street basin mug£8.00 – £10.50
Reflections in Floodgate Street Poster with hangers£15.50 – £31.50
Feel the force Postcard£3.25
Slater’s Bridge Postcard£3.25
Chesterton Windmill WITH SAILS Postcard£3.00
Confetti fields Postcard£3.00
Chesterton windmill Postcard£3.00
Poppy field in Bewdley Postcard£3.00
Bluebells pin buttons£12.00 – £14.00
The Photography show turned out to be a great event. I was worried prior to the event as what it may be like especially as it had been put back after a few false starts due to Covid19. The show was held in Halls 1 and 2 at the NEC and when you walked in you noticed that the stalls were set more apart than normal providing a feeling of space. There were wide walkways and amble space to pass people.
Sunday was my first day and it appeared relatively quiet. This gave me the opportunity to linger at several stands and return to take several looks at the cameras on display. I had not booked into any talks, and those that I did attend for did not live up to their titles. The quality of the PowerPoints was surprisingly poor. One talk that I did enjoy on the Sunday was by Claire Luxton. Her artwork was spectacular with wonderful attention to detail. The way she produced the photographs involved a great deal of planning. She was also a very enthusiastic speaker, and I enjoyed her presentation style.
On the stands, I handled several cameras, fell in love the Canon R5 but it is out of my price range and unlikely to be a camera that I would use that much to justify the price. I liked the new Z fc series from Nikon with its retro design but it would have to do well to be a better buy than my Fujifilm X100V. The Nikon is an attractive camera and as the person who was demonstrating the camera moved it around, the dials caught the light and it did look very attractive. There were also some very nice Fujifilm cameras that I was able to pick up and try out. The Cewe book stand display was lovely to browse through and I will use them for my 365 printed project.
during the show I met up with Photography friends Martin Kelly and Ian Lewis. We found a quiet spot and did a recording of the Photo show. It was different undertaking a live recording and not having to do a zoom. After it was finished, I went and looked at the action area where there were displays of Bike jumping, juggling and breakdancing. Once again my FujiFilm camera did a great job. The evening finished with a few drinks in a local pub and then a get together meal at a local hotel.
On Monday I was back at the show, this time to take part in a Digital Camera magazine walkabout. I had been long listed in a Garden flower competition on the Digital Camera Facebook page. Although I was not a winner, Niall Hampton the editor of the magazine inquired who was going to the Photography show. I mentioned that I would be there so he dropped me an email and I was selected for a walkabout around the NEC taking pictures for a feature in the magazine. I will cover this more in a future blog.
Whilst I was waiting, I took the opportunity to walk around the lake and was taken in by the attractiveness of the place. It did surprise me that such natural beauty existed within the concrete jungle of the NEC. I also did a walkabout in the NEC itself covering the skywalk to the far reaches of the Exhibition Centre. I have some examples of the pictures that I took.
All Monday’s pictures were done with my Canon D5 with the 24-105 lens except one picture that was taken with my iPhone. This one picture made the picture of the day on BBC Midlands today. In summary the Photography show was worthwhile, I enjoyed the two days as each was different in what I saw and participated in. There were a few big names missing but the ones that were there such as Canon and Nikon more than made up for it.
Welcome to my series on cameras, lenses, advice and taking those all-important pictures. So which camera do you use? This is a common question that I am asked when someone sees one of my pictures. It is if the camera took the picture not the photographer! There may be an element of truth in this, although there are a lot of factors that go into taking a picture and the camera is only one of them.
To kickstart this series, I am going to talk about my ‘go-to camera’ which is the Fujifilm x100v. The story is that I wanted to buy myself a new camera to replace my Sony RX100 V. My requirements were many. Simple to use but requiring the level of complexity below the surface when needed. Weather resistance was a desirable feature. I have had several compact zoom cameras over the years, and they have worked well. Often the zoom mechanism has not been robust despite the camera quality with grit getting into the zoom mechanism. Therefore, a fixed lens appealed to me. As I grew up on 35 mmm cameras, like many reading this blog, I love the idea of owning a Leica, but the cost is prohibitive. More realistically, I looked at alternatives and in early 2020, the release of the Fujifilm x100v came with positive reviews. I did my homework and researched it. My decision was made after I looked at pictures people had posted and read reviews on the camera in the photographic magazines.
The Fujifilm x100v was waiting for me on Christmas day morning. I unboxed it and started taking pictures. With a new camera, I oscillate between starting to take pictures and reading the camera manual. There are a few internet articles and YouTube videos that got me started. One of the first differences was the position of the buttons compared to my Canon and Sony. The tactile feel of the buttons gave me more control of my picture taking. The buttons are traditional analogue designs and not digital. Gradually I got the hang of the camera and then starting to use it in serious mode. I read the manual more and more discovering even more buttons!
I tried out the different colour settings and settled on the weak chrome colour. Using the camera in aperture priority, I worked through the options. My first pictures were a little hit and miss but the jpg quality began to impress me. My confidence grew and it started to come most places with me. In the morning whilst walking the dog, it proved to be a useful camera to record details on the high street especially during lockdown. It is not a replacement to the big camera (Canon D5-mkIV) but it certainly does its job of delivering remarkable pictures.
What I like
In no particular order, here are my favourite things about this compact camera.
- The flash settings are easy to use and understand. It gives good portrait pictures with the flash on. This is quite something considering it is a camera mounted flash. I use a manual setting of 1/64 sec often for a fill in. The flash does not create many red eyes either.
- The exposure compensation button is easy to understand and is set up next to your thumb. I found this very useful and quick to select.
- Some may consider it a gimmick, but the selective colour is so easy to set up and use. If there was one fun element to the camera then this is it.
- The double exposure is straightforward and offers three settings depending on which picture you choose to be the main feature of the setting.
- The jpgs are stand alone, high quality and need little adjustment.
- The back controls are easy to use and the tilted screen allows for flexibility in the framing of the pictures you take. This includes being able to get down low.
The camera is also cool to customise. I added a thumb rest and changed the strap. I did add a shoot button but then found it much better for my shooting technique when the button was clear. The pictures also show a half case for the lower half of the camera body.
What I do not like
- Connectivity is poor over the wireless and the app design is poor. So one is reaching for the iPhone if you wish to quickly upload pictures to BBC weather watchers or want to get that picture sent to family and friends as soon as possible.
- It required an extra £100 to add the weather proofing and then I could not use the Fujifilm lens cover that came with the camera. So ended up having a black plastic cover! I wish I had brought the NiSi weather proofing as then I could have used the original silver camera cap that came with the camera.
- It took time to work out the focussing and the switching between the settings. This is maybe the learning curve that I have got to get through including using the manual more.
My first picture that I published with the camera. It is a canal bridge in Acocks Green, Birmingham. Catching the two people under the arch added interest.
Hatton locks – All the lines caused by railings around the lock made for an interesting pattern in black and white. I did have the traditional picture of a boat going through a lock, but this was more intriguing.
Takeaways are doing well in the Pandemic and here is one customer on their way home. I was able to get down low for the reflections (the picture was published in the Amateur Photographer letters’ page)
The night train to Birmingham taken on a very cold night on the Dorridge footbridge. There is much to see and discuss and the colours and light add to the atmosphere. All picked up by the camera. The picture reminded me of the following song.
Down on the night train,
feel the starlight steal away,
Use up a lifetime looking for the break of day
Night Train – Steve Winwood 1980
The Support bubble of daughter and grandson and the camera produces some good details on portrait pictures
I was going to take a landscape photograph and came away with this dandelion clock. This is cropped from a much larger picture and then edited in Black and White. The effect is quite nice but the detail that remains after heavy cropping is amazing.
This picture is of the boats in Gas Street Basin and processed to bring out the colour. It is not designed to be a landscape camera but it manages such a scene very well.
Where did I buy it from WexPhotoVideo and their service is good. I am not receiving anything for saying this either!