Venturing into China Town Birmingham to celebrate the Chinese New Year was a colourful affair. Hurst Street was set up with a stage and there were a number of market stalls set up along the street. The main action when I arrived was down in the Arcadian where the dragon dancers were in residence. The dancers put on a great show and these are a few pictures of the costumes and people that were in Chinatown to celebrate the New Year.
Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac. With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me. New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site. It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.
The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on. It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town. I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety. Still the lure of taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through. I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings. After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting.
Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two. I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside. The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.
It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour.
This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography. The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated
On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema. I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham.
As you will have seen I have been stopping off in Birmingham on my way to work and taking pictures of the City. There is a real opportunity to get some pictures of the place and often highlight the lockdown with the lack of people. Most of the pictures shown have one or two people in them. They are also bleak. A solitary Christmas tree stands where the German market used to be. A lone masked figure walks through China Town. Sunrises on the roof of deserted car parks. As you look through the places then they will throw up different emotions and thoughts. It has been difficult for many people and we will remember what this year is like for many years to come. Meanwhile I sometimes feel guilty being a voyeur using the camera as an indiscrete people watcher. Recording the events for my own pleasure. Take a look through these pictures and see what you think.
I will be covering – Central business District / Snow Hill Tram station, – New Street Station/Grand Central – Roof of Snow Hill station – The Arcadian/China Town
Central business District / Snow Hill Tram station
What is eerie about the Lockdown#2 is the lack of people commuting into the city. This is most evident in the business district. There are few people on the streets and the offices are empty except for the security people on the front desk. On a busy morning prelockdown, there would be people striding around the pavements goint to their office workplace. Coffee shops would be busy, and the train and buses would stop and have to wait for some time to disgorge their passengers. Now it is much quieter. I have my iPhone and Canon 5D. With the latter, it is big and therefore difficult to hide. A man with a big camera, is a phrase someone said about me. I do worry about being mugged for the camera.. The iPhone is fine, but it does try and correct low light settings and I like the control the manual settings give me. Therefore it is often a mixture of both.
New Street Station/Grand Central
The station opens many opportunities for photographs but when there are few people around then it is difficult to be inconspicuous with your camera. Therefore, in the station, I used by iPhone whilst outside my camera felt more comfortable. The steps up to the station with the mirrored ceiling always create wonderful reflections. There was a network rail person working occasionally looking out of a small window at the foot of the stairs. I caught a picture of him although he is a little out of focus. My nerves on taking the picture! Hope you enjoy the pictures especially those of my favourite street artist, Annatomix. A fellow photographer Elliot brown had passed by the day before, so I retraced his steps and found the place deserted. Pictures that normally had people distracting you were possible. So taking pictures of Birmingham have been easier under lockdown.
Roof of Snow Hill station
An old favourite – if the weather is good and for this particular morning a great sunrise was on its way. There was one car parked and the whole place deserted. The skyscrapers of Snow Hill 1, 2 and 3 lean in over the car park. It had been raining the night before and there were plenty of puddles for reflections. It was dawn so you could look down Cornwall street with the pretty lights or down or do the light trials down Edmund street. Both favourite locations for Birmingham Photographers since the car park was open. A check on the BT Tower and yes St Paul’s Spire is still there with a full moon overlooking it. The trains from Kidderminster arrive on their way to London and the Trams move by the Show hill office blocks.
The Arcadian/China Town
The last morning of Lockdown#2 was a trip to the Arcadian Centre. I did want to see the Christmas tree that had a small cycling tunnel though its centre. When I made my way to the tree which is outside the Hippodrome, I saw that someone was sleeping underneath the tree. Not only that on closer inspection as my pictures show it was a homeless person dependent upon a wheel chair to get around. This shocked me and you may say this is a now a normal occurrence yet when you stumble across it, it still has the power to shock. I moved onto the Arcadian centre and the rain was persistent. The place was very quiet with few people moving around. I knelt down to do some puddle reflection pictures and happened to catch a young lad walking through the Chinatown passageway. The iPhone was all I used as it was so wet. A miserable end to Lockdown#2 but then again what do you expect from the year of 2020.
During October, my daily commute starts when the morning is dark. Likewise in the evening if I am working late or at a function in the city then I am travelling again in the dark. It has also been raining many of the days and in spite of the gloom the conditions provide reflections of the lights on the pavement or in the shop windows.
This is a selection of photos taken last week in the dark. There is a mixture of long exposures and opportunistic street photography of people interacting with both the City and the conditions. There are a couple of favourites in here and they have been picked up by other social media outlets. One was In Explore on Flickr for several hours. During this time it clocked up over 35,000 views and many likes and comments. The picture of the blue tram in slow motion was featured on the BBC Midlands Instagram site. It has been a fun week for photographing Birmingham in the dark.