Our beating heart, Snow Hill Square, Birmingham, March 2024

A big, revolving, mirrored heart has appeared in Snow Hill square accompanied by lights and seventies disco music.  Quite a combination when you think about it.  Such retro art installations catch my imagination.  “Our beating Heart” is a pop-up show sponsored by Colmore Business District and is free to view.  

I hurried along after a meeting at the MAC to see the latest art installation that Birmingham has on show.  Snow Hill was quiet, sparsely populated with commuters heading home.  In the middle of the square was the heart slowly revolving and lit up by lights.  The 11,000 mirrors reflected the light around the darkened buildings of the square.  The effect was pleasing and mesmerising as shards of coloured light gave a snowfall effect on the buildings.  The music was very much retro.  Whilst I was there taking pictures, songs from my youth were blasted out into the night.   Heart of Glass by Blondie and Saturday Night Fever by the Bee Gees are two examples of the disco style music.  This an open-air disco and luckily there was no rain.   

Our beating heart, Snow Hill Square, Birmingham, March 2024
View from the Station end of the square.
Our beating heart, Snow Hill Square, Birmingham, March 2024
No bikes allowed!
Our beating heart, Snow Hill Square, Birmingham, March 2024
Colour popping

Just to emphasise the fun of the evening two people were dressed up in multicoloured swap-shop jackets and were ready to engage in conversation with passers-by.  The installation was Instagram friendly and I was not alone in taking photographs.  Some serious picture taking was happening and a look at the socials shows how everyone wanted to have a piece of the action.  The heart was not the easiest object to photograph, very bright lights against the dark is tricky at the best of times.  My humble offering of photographs may not be the best but they give a flavour of the atmosphere.  There is much more information on the Colmore Business District web site and the pity is that the heart is only around for a few nights.  There was a board, where you could post supplied stickers saying how the heart made you feel.   I enjoyed seeing the heart but left bemused that a disco light shaped as a heart with retro hits has captured everyone’s imagination.  But that is what good art does by making you give an opinion.  My advice go and visit as the heart is worth seeing just for the picture taking.

Our beating heart, Snow Hill Square, Birmingham, March 2024
Multi-coloured swapshop jacket.

More information on the Beating heart designed by Studio Vertigo and the Colmore Business District.

The pool in Brueton Park Woods

When the snow first fell the skies were overcast and whilst there was a some beautiful snow scenes, I longed for a blue sky to provide some colour. The next day the sun shone and there were no clouds in the sky. I planned my walk to take me over fields to Widney Road allowing me to approach Brueton park and the nature reserve from the west.

Lea Wood in the snow
Lea Wood in the snow

My first stop was Lea Wood nature reserve which I had not visited before on my travels. The wood used to be a tree nursery and the trees now fully grown are aligned in lines. This creates many leading lines along the paths in the wood. There were several walkers in the wood so I was able to compose some eye-catching pictures with leading lines towards the silhouettes of people . The low level of the sun also produced lovely light that I was able to shoot towards the sun with the trees as a backdrop. I hung around for some time fascinated by the trees and the patterns caused by the light.

Sunlight in the woods
Sunlight in the woods
Sunlight on the tree branches
Sunlight on the tree branches
A leaning tree
A leaning tree
Snow on the trees
Snow on the trees
Trees on the way to Breuton Park
Trees on the way to Breuton Park

Finally I moved onto Brueton Park proper. It was very muddy despite the frozen ground. When I got to the river Blythe, I made the decision to go into the old Wood on the west bank to the River Blythe. The place was deserted and following the muddy path, I threaded my way deep into the wood. I arrived at the north end of the water pool which interestingly is unnamed on the map. The sun was shining brightly but the thick canopy of the trees diffused the rays. The path led around to the south side and here I was able to get close to the water’s edge. With the light low, bright and just right a beautiful scene opened up. I was so pleased with the pictures of the water and the framing from the trees. It was a richly rewarding photo walk with many different variations of the snow lying on the ground reflecting the sun. It was a much different day than yesterday and very productive.

The river Blythe
The river Blythe
Path around the pool
Path around the pool
The pool in Brueton Park Woods
The pool in Brueton Park Woods

Photo tip. Don’t be hasty in taking your pictures and try and slow down. I was very excited at first especially in Lea Wood. Then with time I started to enjoy myself in the woods and came away with many different pictures. I had my iPhone, large Canon camera with lenses plus my Fujifilm x100v. Yes it was a bit over the top in terms of photographic equipment but I was glad that I had all of them with me.

More pictures of local parks can be found on my blog
The photographic delights of Umberslade Park
Coombe Abbey Country Park during the Golden Hour
Watching the sun go down by Bracebridge pool, Sutton Park

More information
Brueton Park and its sister, Malvern is on the Solihull Council Website
Malvern and Brueton Parks
or check out Trip Advisor

For the last few years I have viewed pictures of poppy fields with a mixture of fascination and some jealousy.  I always wished that I could take some pictures of these lovely wild flowers.  Many of these fields seem to be around the Worcester and Hereford area of the West Midlands.  It would mean a long travel and a very early start or a late return.  I should be more dedicated!  Browsing Instagram, I saw a friend and colleague post pictures from a poppy field in Sutton Coldfield.  So we arranged to meet one evening and as the weather is so perfect this month, it turned out to be a most beautiful evening as well.  

A road of poppies
Picture taken by Dr Anthony Cox

Anthony and I met up at Minworth near Sutton Coldfield.  The field was beautiful.  The poppies had created a carpet of red over the whole field.  Several people has gathered in the field including photographers.  We stayed around till 9pm as the light started to fade.  It was exciting to see the colours and the light playing on the poppies and their stalks.  I was tired and getting the post out was not until the following morning.  I got some very nice feedback from the pictures and the whole project was very satisfying.  So I have ticked off a major photographic project on my bucket list.  The poppies have been photographed!!!!

Setting sun
Poppies lit up by the sun
Leaning towards the sun
A drone view of the poppies
Almost gone
Two photographers Damien and Anthony

Checkout Items in my shop

Saturday was a glorious day so I ventured further afield to one of the Warwickshire country parks.  The one I was interested in was Burton Dassett Hills Country Park. There was no sign of the impending Storm Ciara and the skies were clear.  When I got to the park, I was a little annoyed as the payment machines took my £2.50 but did not give me a ticket to display in the car.  It happened last time I was there as well.  It just unsettles me but I put a note in the windscreen and set off with my camera and tripod.  Why I bothered with the tripod I do not know and I guess it just feels comfortable holding it.  I never used it as the light was very strong.  I brought my camera rucksack with all my filters and other lenses and the only item I used was a polariser that I put on the 24 to 105mm lens.  I do like this lens.  It is heavy but it does produce wonderful results.  I have really worked it in recent days especially as my Sony Compact has started to really play up on me.  

The sun was bright and it created lovely contrast of the underrating hill tops

The light was fantastic but I could see the impending weather change in the west and therefore I moved briskly around the park.  Burton Dassett Hills Country Park has an interesting history which dates back to Saxon times.  There has been a windmill on the site until just after the war.  The hill tops are uneven and with the strong light there were some wonderful shadows to be photographed.  It was very windy but not too cold.  Some of the hills required a strenuous ascent and writing the blog today my legs and other muscles below the waist are very sore.  

There are several high hills to climb and explore

I enjoyed the views and also taking photographs of several silhouettes of people walking along the hills.  I did not get a chance to go to the church but that will be my goal for my next visit.  Overall I was very pleased with myself and thought my photographs were looking good.  

The structures are interesting and can be seen for miles around
The sides of the hill still have the scars of the old Saxon style farming methods
Climbing the hills

I knew I was near to Chesterton Windmill and I did not want to miss the opportunity of not getting a quick picture of the magical place.  I set off and saw that the weather was turning.  There was less blue skies and more dark clouds coming in.  I took a cross country route to the Windmill and as I approached cracks appeared in the crowds letting rays of sun through.  I rushed to park the car and raced to the Windmill.  Two sets of sunrays were bathing the sails and it looked to my eye as a great opportunity.  Then indecision set in.  How should I  position the Windmill against the sunrays.  I tried several vantage points before the scene changed and I had to go back to my car to get my phone that I had left on the dashboard.  When I returned the cloud formation had really changed.  I took a few more shots and got home.

Sun rays coming through the sky

Burton Dassett Hills Country Park pictures looked great on the Mac and I tidied them up.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the Windmill pictures they looked amazing.  However I posted the Burton Dassett Hills Country Park pictures and left the others to the morning.  Even then I asked Sandy what she thought of them.  I was thinking everyone has seen a picture of the windmill before, this one will be no different.  When I posted the picture Instagram went crazy and scored many “likes”.  I have a slightly different edit for #WexMondays and I will see how that performs.  As it happens the Burton Dassett Hills Country Park ones did well on Flickr.

People around the Windmill add some interest to the pictures

A good day for photographing and I would never have guessed that I would come back with such a story about the pictures that I took.  

My Instagram picture

Epilogue for the Geeks out there.  Pictures taken on the Canon D4 with a 24-105mm lens.  All the pictures were taken on manual and the Lightroom/Photoshop was my normal run through.  Maybe that is another blog on how I process my pictures.

A gloomy day with little light is giving this Sunday more credit than it deserved. Undeterred I visited Clowes Wood which is adjacent to Earlswood reservoir. There had been a great deal of rain earlier I the week and the wood was tracks were soft underfoot and there were sections where there was standing water. However the light did hold up and the colours of the wood were still present. There was a carpet of fallen leaves that gave a dull orange colour to the surroundings. I was pleased with the pictures that were taken mainly with my Canon 5D using both a normal and wide angled lens. There was minimal processing and one or two of the photographs do stand out.

An arch of trees
Through the clearing
Patterns of decay
Over the bridge
A branch of leaves
Carpet of leaves
The turning colours of the ferns

I am so happy that I have caught up with most of my pictures that I can concentrate on a few pictures taken this week. My first picture is from Winterbourne House where Autumn is really showing its colours. Taken with my Sony Camera, I was surprised how deep the red colours had started to show.

Lovely deep red colours from the maple leaves

The colonnade outside the University of Birmingham sports centre is often photographed so after a rather large down pour of rain there was the opportunity to take photographs of the reflections. Also there was an obliging figure that came into the picture

Reflections after the rain

The new Library offers great views over campus and I went to a reception on the 4th floor. After all the formalities and on my way out I happened to see this scene over towards the Medical School. I was showing it to a colleague and he advised a tight crop to bring out the details of the buildings. It did well on Twitter with over 5k of views and interactions.

The final picture is taken on my way into work through the Pebble Mill gardens. This is a wooden walkway that was lit up for the first time. I now realise that the mornings are getting darker and that many of my pictures will be taken under such lighting for the next few months. I think this picture grabs the attention due to the low view point. A good week of pictures and hoping for some more in the coming 7 days 🙂

The path to work (featured in Amateur Photographer)

I am fortunate that I am able to visit different places and one such place is Berlin.  It is a city that cries out to walk around and I did one better by doing a lot of running around the city.  I ran to the Brandenburg gate, Reichstag and along the river.  When not running photographic opportunities presented themselves on the conference river cruise and next to the bus stop.  What I particularly enjoyed were the sunrises which were particularly spectacular.  Most of the photography was done with my iPhone whilst running or using my Sony compact camera which is still working well in captured the moments of the city.

View of a tram from my hotel room
Early morning runs had added benefits such as lovely light
Abstract shapes and reflections
View from the boat trip
The Brandenburg gate with the early sunrise

The canal through Knowle is one of my favourite places to visit. If it looks as if the light will be good then I look for the opportunity to visit. There are always boats on the canal and the sun sets nicely on the top of Knowle locks. There are some water reeds at the top lock and for a few minutes as the sun sets, the light catches them nicely. I used my Canon 100-400mm lens to save me having to cross over the lock with all my camera equipment. Once that picture was done then I settled back to catch the sunset over the water. I always enjoy the picture taking here and also used my Big Stopper to see if that would give a nice effect.

Ripples, reflections, long boat and the tow path
Locking towards the bridge and Knowle Locks
Peaceful evening
Long exposure of the sunset
Sunset over Knowle Locks

A misty start is a great opportunity for photography. The last Saturday in March provided both the sunrise and the mist so I headed it out. I planned to go to the canals but passing through Packwood House, the combination of the sun and mist caught my eye. I stopped and started to take pictures. The line up of trees leading away from the house provided some good pictures. A couple of early morning walkers provided suitable inclusions in the pictures that I took.

I also discovered the “Welly Walk” around the grounds. By this time the mist was disappearing but there were still photographs to be taken. One of the sun streaming through the trees, a spiders web and some lambs taken in the sun. It was a magical hour of photographing in ideal conditions.

The Golden Morning light
The gates of dawn
The  eerie mist
The sun in the trees
A walker in the mist
A figure approaching the gate
Packwood House
Towards the gate
Beyond the gate
Morning light in the woods
Spiders Web
The Warwickshire Countryside
A friend on the walk

There was a conference in London Docklands at the Excel centre.  London in July is normally hot but with the current heatwave the temperatures were reaching 32 degrees Celsius.  Travelling by Tube and DLR to Excel was exhausting.  The conference was not bad and there was a lot to learn with many networking opportunities.  Having my camera with me always allows me the opportunity to catch the early morning or late evening pictures.  I carry a Sony DSC-RX100M5 with a 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 zoom lens with me at all times and it proves to be a highly versatile camera.  Some of the pictures were taken with my iPhone as well.

First sight of the Sun over the Excel centre

Moon rays over the Spillers building on the Royal Dock

Yellow Sail across the water

Looking down from the Royal Victoria Dock Bridge

Surreal view of the inside of the Excel conference centre

Framing the sunrise over the docks

The Golden Hour of a Sunrise

View of the O2 arena from the Gun

Canary Wharf at night

Sunrise and clouds reflected over the docks

Looking Eastwards with London city airport to the right.

The last chair at the conference

So many lights and reflections

The path to dreams

Clocks – Canary Wharf