Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024

Digbeth is known for streets of light and the area looks it best when the sky is dark. But not too dark.  An ideal time to take photographs is during the blue hour.  The warm yellows of the streetlights reflect on the colourful buildings.  I watched a PhotoPills YouTube video on the Art of Travel Photography. The guest photographer was Scott Stulberg who said if you want to get the best pictures then you have to go out at night. So my first blog of 2024 is all about Digbeth in January.

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Early workers walking down Gibb Street

The blue hour is great but you must get up early and that is not easy unless you plan to go out in January.  The sun rises at around 8 o’clock and therefore you can get into the city early and be ready for the golden hour.  The rewards are many and I know this, as last year my photograph of Floodgate Street taken on an early January morning was “Highly recommended” in the Landscape Photographer of the Year awards in 2023.  Making sure I was there at the right time helped.  If you are lucky enough to be around after a night of rain then the streets light up with multiple reflections.  My aim as always is to be different but also to fit in a few of those classic views.  

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Iconic Digbeth

Arriving in Digbeth early in January I was hoping that Floodgate street and Trinity Street lights would be on but I was disappointed.  The lights were off but I guess it was a Monday morning.  However Gibb street was ablaze with lights and this is where I concentrated my efforts on my picture taking. I walked up and down Gibb Street looking for pictures of the shop windows and the street art.  There were a few people moving around and coming into work at the Custard Factory.  My cameras were the trusty Fujifilm x100v and my iPhone 15 proMax.  I set up my mini tripod for some of the pictures with the x100v and went for high ISO to catch the people moving around.  I did move around Floodgate and Lower Trinity Street to take pictures as there were still some neon lights on to assist  early risers to find their way to the Custard Factory. 

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Shiny Digbeth

Lingering and loitering is a good plan as I waited for people to pass through entrances.  I aimed to catch their silhouettes against the street art.  Some photographers advise to have your camera on burst function so as to capture several pictures.  In this way you capture the moment.  However, I like to take in the surroundings and press the shutter button when I am ready.  Yes I miss a few pictures but I am generally happy with what I get.

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Changing Street Art – this is Mike Skinner and the Streets by Robbie Jeffcott. Those eyes…..
Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Details on the railings.
Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Details on the walls
Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Blinking of an eye on Floodgate Street

The neon lights throw up some strong colours as my pictures show.  I took many more pictures before the daylight overcame the night.  The buildings reverted to a grey colour and Monday daytime was beginning.  The time had come to move on and find a hot cup of coffee to warm me up.

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Looking back along Gibb Street

Postscript – This is another of my Digbeth picture series which are a popular read.  Please check them out below.

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Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023

I had a couple of days in London and this provided a wonderful opportunity to take pictures around the Capitol when there was downtime between meetings. I have created a series of blogs for you to enjoy which contain my photographic journey.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Looking towards the end of the canal and the heart of the area.

Before booking into the hotel, I went to Paddington station to see my highly commended picture of Floodgate Street in Digbeth. The picture was part of the travelling exhibition of selected pictures from the UK Landscape Photographer of the Year Competition. Paddington is adjacent to the canal basin and provides photographic opportunities of people, boats and buildings.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Boats moving on the Canal.

There were a few boats moving on the canal and people were leaving work. Several canal boats are now floating restaurants and as the sun was going down colourful neon lights were being turned on. The canal is familiar territory to me and I looked for new opportunities and the Paddington Central footbridge provided them. The bridge links with the Venice Walk via brightly lit tunnels. Always a good place for a camera.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Pedestrian Tunnel on Venice Walk.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Another view of the Pedestrian Tunnel.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – Paddington Central Footbridge
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – The Point Footbridge.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – the Rolling Bridge.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Bridges – under the A4206

I also ventured into Sheldon Square as the flash of colour caught my eye. The line of coloured panels provide a super background as people walk by, hurrying home after a long day’s work or taking time to reflect.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Reflecting after a long day at the office.

As dusk becomes firmly entrenched, the lights from the office buildings surrounding the canal provide numerous reflections on the water. The weather was cold but there was no wind and the water was very still. Many people are moving around, crossing bridges and their silhouettes contrast with the bright lights. The point bridge and rolling bridge are other places for good photographs. Soon it was time to move on as I had a dinner date to attend.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Skyscrapers around the basin.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Close up of boats and offices.
Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Christmas tree

If you enjoyed this then compare these pictures to my last visit to the area including Little Venice and Paddington Basin.

You may be wondering about my visit to Paddington Station. I was delighted to find that I am in the travelling exhibition with my highly commended picture of Floodgate Street. Here I am besides my photograph.

Paddington Basin, London, November, 2023
Paddington Station with my picture from UKLPOTY

London Times is a short series of photographic blogs that record a recent visit to London. Please visit my other links

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Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023

Thanksgiving is a special time in America.  Having enjoyed our visit to Washington State, we made the decision to repeat our time there this year.  Last year, we stayed in a Cabin on the foothills of Mount Rainier but my in-laws have now moved south to an area around Riffe lake.  Their house is idyllic nestled into the deep evergreen forest of Washington.  The house is equal distance between Mount Rainier and St Helens. The nearest town, Mossyrock, is 20 minutes away and further provisions require another 20-to-30-minute journey.  Their residence is adjacent to Riffe Lake a large reservoir which curves around the valley.  The reservoir was created in the 1960’s by Tacoma Power and there are several submerged villages under the water.  

Riffe Lake, Northern Lookout, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
The View of Riffe Lake from the road view point near to Mossyrock
Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
Deep in the Evergreen forest around Riffe lake.

The area has many features that are brilliant for photography.  In 2017, the authorities lowered the reservoir level by 30 feet as there were worries that a seismic event in an area with several active volcanoes could lead to catastrophic flooding.  Consequently the shoreline has exposed many trees that were cut down to make way for the original reservoir.  The remnants of the tree trunks are stripped down and the roots are exposed.  When exploring the shoreline these cut down trees look like alien beings which are ready to walk away.  The word triffids comes to mind as one moves around the lake shore getting close up to these tree trunks.

Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
Walking down to the Lake Shore.
Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
The exposed roots and tree trunks on the shores of Riffe Lake.
Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
This tree and roots looks like it is on the move!
Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
The landscape is eerie and looks very strange.
Riffe and Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
Overlooking Riffe lake

Adjacent to Riffe Lack is Swofford Pond which is an oasis for fishing and wildlife.  The road passes the shores of the pond and provides a scenic view of the area.  On one side there is a bank from the start of green mountain and forms a scenic border to the surrounds of the pond. Everyday I passed by Swofford Pond and everyday I grew to love the area even more.

Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
Swofford Pond is adjacent to Riffe Lake.
Swofford Pond next to Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
An autumnal tree looks out over Swofford Pond.
Swofford Pond next to Riffe Lake, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
A storm passing through the area of Swofford Pond.

Riffe lake feeds into Mayfield Lake which in turn is another reservoir.  This lake has several camping areas and the main boating town of Mayfield is at the southern head of the water.  Whilst a popular boating resort in the summer months, during the winter the place is deserted which adds a degree of charm with the piers empty of boats.  In Mayfield there is an island providing views up the lake with a miniature lighthouse that must be popular in the summer months.

Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
A view over Mayfield Lake.
Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
Empty jetties waiting for the summer months.
Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
A lighthouse on the lake island at Mayfield island.
Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
A very quiet, Mayfield village during the winter months.
Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
Another view over the lake.

The reservoirs and the pond around Mossybank are picturesque and there are many trails to explore. I will be back again to enjoy another view of the area. Whilst I was visiting, there were many residents that I came across whilst I was traveling around the area.

Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
A Texas Longhorn we met on our daily commute. Love those horns.
Mayfield Lake, Washington State, USA, November 2023.
An inquisitive song sparrow.

This is my second visit to Washington for Thanksgiving and I post a picture of my sister and brother in law together with Sandy enjoying our Turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving, Washington State, USA, Nov 2023
Happy Thanksgiving 2023

If you are interested to read about my previous visit to Washington on 2022 then please follow the link below.

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German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023

Amazingly, I have not written a blog about the German Christmas market in Birmingham. I have taken pictures of the Christmas markets but many of them are single photos on my social streams. My first observation is that the markets are set up way too early. The present one opened up on the 2nd November 2023. This is crazy yet when I visited the city centre a week after the opening, there were many visitors enjoying the early experience of Christmas. Over the years there is a pattern as the markets extend more and more. However, there was a grand reset in Christmas 2020 with the Pandemic but now the markets are back to their former self.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Centenary Square at Christmas.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
The big wheel in Centenary Square.

In Centenary square, there is the Big wheel, an ice skating rink and other spinning attractions. The pedestrian link to Victoria square is more subdued as it is private land although the restaurants in and around Chamberlain square are doing well.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
I love this street photograph. A store called Filthy Fries! How do they arrive at such names.

The real noise and excitement starts in Victoria square and this is with you all the way down to the Bull Ring. Shops selling food and drink. The prices are very high considering there is standing room only. The shops also sell other items such as candles, jewellery and gifts you never knew you wanted. I expect most of these gifts will be put away or recycled after Christmas.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Christmas market in Victoria Square, Birmingham.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
A long exposure of the Carousel in Victoria Square.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Looking down to New Street.

My purpose for going to the early Christmas market was to take pictures. Every photographer in Birmingham has to post a picture of the market on their Instagram account. I did not want to be left out so armed with my iPhone and x100v, I braved the crowds on a Thursday night. Taking pictures with the iPhone is straightforward although I hold onto it firmly as I do not want it snatched away from me. Taking a camera out and then putting it on a tripod does generate some attention so I used the tripod sparingly and looked for convenient surfaces to rest the camera.

My plan for photographs including taking pictures of spinning things including the beautiful carousel in Victoria Square. I was also keen to capture some of the atmosphere and fun that people were having by being around the market. Taking pictures is not easy as people get in the way and are not posing for you. Therefore at different places in the market, I grabbed what opportunity that I could and moved on. I also walked back from the Bull Ring via Gas Street basin which was less crowded and therefore easier for photographing.

When I got home, I was initially disappointed with my pictures. I am always like this as I want every picture to be a winner. I know that is never the case and I was just hoping that I had captured some good ones. I am always surprised by the pictures that look good and were opportunistic rather than the ones that I had planned in my mind.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
This is a feature every year.

So this is a snapshot of the Christmas market in Birmingham 2023. I am sure that I will look back on these in a few years time and cringe at them. There is still another Christmas market to open around the Birmingham Cathedral which happens to be more picturesque. Maybe some photographs of this market will feature in my future blog postings.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Signs in the market.

Walking back along the canal to Gas Street Basin, there was the opportunity to take some long exposure pictures. I liked this one of Stop Lock Bridge on the Old Birmingham Canal.

Looking back in the archives I found that I have Christmas in 2018 and also what Christmas Trees looked like in 2020, the year of the Pandemic. They make for interesting comparisons.

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The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023

 Carchitecture is the architectural term where buildings and cars influence each other on the design of a city.  Birmingham is a prime example of this form of architecture planning.  The city suffered extensive bombing during the war and there were opportunities to plan a new streetmap.  The car was correctly predicted to be the vehicle of the future and construction techniques such as reinforced concrete allowed for new approaches to building design.  First off, I am not an architect and secondly I only arrived in Birmingham with my family in 1985.  My first impressions were not favourable as car journeys into the city centre were stressful.  Walking around the city was a challenge as you were faced with many pedestrian underpasses designed to allow the car priority.  

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Street art now features on boarded up shop windows.
The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Everyone has a story to tell about SNOBS.
The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
The outside of Snobs entering its last days of activity.

Over the years Birmingham has improved greatly and I love many of the new buildings especially the Library of Birmingham and Selfridges.  However, there are still remnants of brutalist architecture and one of these is the Ringway Centre on Smallbrook Queensway which connects Bristol Road with the Bull Ring and New Street.  Birmingham is always undergoing change and there is a Facebook page titled. “Birmingham, so good when it is finished”. This change has now involved the Ringway Centre which has been the focus of local news.  The city council has narrowly decided to demolish the building and replace it with several residential towers not made from concrete but with glass and steel. 

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
The Ringway Centre is in the autumn of its existence.

The intense debate gave me an idea for a personal photographic project.  I would go along and photograph the building and area over a couple of hours early in the morning.  I looked back through my photographs and realised that I have few pictures of the Ringway Centre.  This was a complete surprise especially as I have travelled through there many times. 

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Stop.
The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Reflections.

My project started with a sunny morning and this helped as the low sun reflected off buildings onto the Ringway.  The buildings are covered in a purple wrapping celebrating Birmingham and the Commonwealth games in 2022.  Parts of this covering are starting to become torn and peeling away from the building.  My journey started at the top of Smallbrook Queensway near to the Bullring and I walked down towards Southside onto Holloway Circus also known as “Pagoda Island”.

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
The concrete structures were once lights for illuminating the Ringway Centre. The covering is now starting to tear.

Along the way there is some amazing street art with much of the painting completed during Lockdown. This artwork is on boarded up shop windows and I remember some fine guitar shops being housed here in the past. The western part of the Ringway Centre is populated with convenience shops, barber salons and other food outlets. The building is named Scala house and on ground level there is the Birmingham LGBT centre and finally the Eden bar. One assumes all these businesses will vacate the buildings in the near future.

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Urban contemporary artwork painted By Lucy McLauchlan
urban contemporary artwork painted By Lucy McLauchlan
Convenience store.
urban contemporary artwork painted By Lucy McLauchlan
The Eden Bar
urban contemporary artwork painted By Lucy McLauchlan
SBQ1

When we reached Pagoda Island, I took pictures back down Smallbrook Queensway.  

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
The former entrance to the Odeon Cinema and the Birmingham LBGT centre.
The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Looking down Smallbrook Queensway from Pagoda Island.

There were several places where you can photograph behind the Ringway Centre, these include local car parks which back onto Southside and the China town area of the city.   One picture that I had to take was of the circular fire escapes at the rear of the building.  They have a unique design and are a favourite subject for local photographers.

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Looking up from the car park off Thorp Street.
The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
Birmingham Southside – this view will radically change.
The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
The space via Bath Passage with artwork by Gent64
The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
The often photographed emergency exit staircase.

On reflection the Ringway Centre has not featured prominently in my photographic journey until I decided upon this series of pictures.  During my working days in the city, the dental school was based over by Aston.  When the school moved to Pebble Mill, the 61/63 and the 45/47 buses went down Smallbrook Queensway but I have few pictures of the details of the place. 

Other regrets include seeing the inside the building but I guess that will not be possible as it is set for demolition.  There was an Odeon cinema in the building and there are pictures of the abandoned area in a feature on the BirminghamLive website

Further information

Other activities that have taken place inside the Ringway Centre over the years include a large gym overlooking the cross ways at the end of Hurst Street.   The original tenants of the offices were connected with the railway industry but the spaces have long been vacated. If you are after a history of the Ringway Centre then Wikipedia is a great starting point.

The aim of this blog is to show a photographic record of the building after the Council voted to demolish the building

Finally if you wish to buy a concrete model of the building then head over to the Space.Play site that has a concrete model of the Ringway Centre plus many other brutalist icons of Birmingham.

The Ringway Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham October 2023
A selfie taken (Jan 2020) on the No 45 bus to work. Travelling along Smallbrook Queensway, I held up the camera and the reflection rather like those mirrors at a fun fair split into two views.

Camera Settings – Except for a couple of iPhone pictures, the majority of the pictures were taken with my Canon D5 mk4 and my EF24-70mm f/2 lens. I always have it on manual setting which is a throwback to my father’s tuition. I was taught manual and use priority settings sparingly. I have a polariser filter on my camera that stops it down and this sometimes catches me out hence the blur on the pink taxi picture. My big camera is fun to use but is a magnet for people staring at you when taking pictures in an urban setting. Post processing is a case of increasing contrast and upping the shadows. This is a trick I learnt from reading Scott Kelby photographic books as it brings out the colours. A few other minor adjustments are done as I try to keep the feel of how the picture was taken. As with many of my pictures, I love the stories associated with the photography and one of the reasons that I enjoy writing this blog.

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.

Birmingham Heritage week is an exciting time in the calendar year for photographers. During this week, buildings open their doors allowing access to areas which are not normally open to the public.  Each year in September, I scan the list of venues that are opening their doors to the public and have a look at what is available.  The one that looked the most interesting this year was the “History Unboxed” open day at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre. Several people had visited the collection centre before and their Instagram posts gave a brief insight into what you could see in the Centre. Reading the Birmingham Museum website, they state that 80% of their collection is housed in the Centre.

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
The walkways reveal a treasure trove of interesting objects.

The Collection Centre is on an industrial site in Nechells Birmingham near to the railway line and the HS2 works.  The warehouse is set away from the street and when I arrived, volunteers were on hand to direct visitors.  I had walked to the centre from Snow Hill and was pleased that I did not bring my car as the on street parking was limited. At the entrance, there was a queue to enter the building as the event was proving to be very popular. Pre-booking was essential. Reached the welcome desk, a friendly face welcomed me. Steve aka “Mullerbiker” from the BritishTechNetwork, works at the Museum and he filled me in with what happens at the centre. All visitors were given a map showing the four areas of the museum. The first room is the main warehouse which is best described as an IKEA store for museums.  There were rows upon rows of items on display. The low light proved tricky for photography but with my Fujifilm x100v set at f/2 and 125s, I was able to get good detailed pictures.  My use of the manual focusing at this aperture is critical and most pictures turned out well.  The colour balance required constant adjustment as I moved through different levels of light.

I could post countless pictures of different items that I viewed. All were fascinating. The subjects ranged from Roman busts, fairground figures, fish and chip fryers, Chopper bikes and early computers.  The diverse nature of the exhibits does keep the attention and I have highlighted my favourite items.  The collections centre has an adjacent room that houses several cars and jet engines and other machinery.  All of them have a connection to Birmingham.  

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Part of the Car Collection

I enjoyed seeing the Queen Victoria statues that were once part of a re-imagining of the Queen Victoria Statue by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke.  The five statues of Queen Victoria joined with the original statue on a boat were displayed in Victoria square during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Festival. The artist has donated the 5 mini statues to Birmingham Museum.

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Five Queen Vics

After looking through the main halls, there was a “meet the experts” room and the small objects collection hall.  The former had table demonstrations and I was captured by their photographer talking about interesting items.  The small objects collection held smaller items which were housed in rows of caged lockers. Behind the door of each locker there were items that once again were so varied that I can only begin to cover what was present.  There were Cadbury’s chocolate bars from a closed down shop, old cameras, shoes, clothes, lamps and much more.  

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Teddy Bear made in Birmingham.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Small objects collection.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Rescued from a sweet shop.

Returning to the main hall, I had another look at some of the items that I had missed. The picture of a dental chair is put after the picture of sweets as the dentist will have done a lot of work with patients who had eaten all those Fruit and Nut bars.

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
A dental chair.

The Sir Henry Moor statue looked incongruous. The figure was displayed on its back and was missing a foot. Then again, there was something different seeing the statue displayed in this manner. There are many more pictures and these are as random as I found them in the museum. All with a wonderful history and also each providing a story to the City of Birmingham.

incongruous
Moore on his back.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
A vintage fish and chip fryer.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Anyone lost their Mummy?
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
What time is it?
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Duke Box
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Today’s Top Tunes.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Van der Graff Generator.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
A vintage sink unit!
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Fairground Organ Figurines.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Not sure whose head this belongs to.

My final two objects are particularly interesting to me. The first is the statue of “Forward together” which was in Centenary Square and suffered an arsonist attack by a member of the public. I remember visiting the square not long after it was finished and viewing this artwork. The second is detail from the head armour of Ozzy the Bull from the Commonwealth Games in 2022. The armour was removed by women chain makers as a symbol of freeing themselves from enslavement. Written on the armour were words of enslavement. The head armour also contains the names of the 21 people killed when bombs were detonated in Birmingham pubs in 1974.

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
A model replica of “Forward together” that was attacked by an arsonist.
Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
Detail of the head armour with the names of those killed in the 1974 pub bombing.

My reflections on my visit to the Collections Centre is that there was just too much to take in.  The place is an excellent venue and will require several visits as it is so difficult to view all the items that are on view in one session.  I just have to go back again!

Birmingham Museums Collection Centre, Nechells, September 2023.
One of the aisles in the main warehouse of the Collection Centre.

Further information

Link to the Birmingham Museums Collections Centre with details of how to visit.

Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023

Queen Mary University of London is on the Mile End Road and adjacent to the Regent’s canal.  Part of the campus borders the canal and there is easy access from the University entrance.  I was at QMUL for a conference but took the opportunity to explore the tow path.  My first tow path walk was in the early morning and took me down to Limehouse basin and onto the river Thames.  My second walk was northwards up to Victoria Park and took place in the late afternoon.  Both walks allowed me to photograph people, boats, wildlife and buildings along the way.  This is my photographic account from those walks.

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Underneath Mile End road running northwards.

From QMUL to Victoria Park.
 
There was a break between presentations and the evening dinner which gave me the opportunity of exploring the northern part of Regent’s Canal from the Mile End Road to Victoria Park.  This was another busy stretch of the towpath and Mile End Park is also adjacent to the towpath.  The first interesting feature was what is known as a portrait bench which features three well known figures.  The statues are in cast metal that then rusts giving an authentic look to the artwork.  There was a casting of Ledley King, a professional footballer who grew up in the area and spent his entire playing career at Tottenham Hotspur FC.  Nearby is a statue to Sylvia Pankhurst, the suffragette campaigner who worked on improving living conditions for destitute mothers.  Finally there was a canal horse commemorating the animals that towed boats along the towpath.  The park was lit up in patches as the sun broke through gaps of the high living flats on the other side of the canal.  There was more art work with the Bow Bottle and fish tail sculptures further along in the park.  These random pieces of work are intriguing and add to the charm of the canal.

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
A working canal horse.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
Sylvia Pankhurst and Ledley King in the background.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
The Bow bottle


There was an interesting cut called the Hertford Union Canal.  This short canal links up to the Lee Navigation in Tower Hamlets.  The start of the canal looked attractive but my walk was to carry me past this canal to the nearby Old Ford Lock. 

Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
The canal on a late September afternoon
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
The Hertford Union Canal Cut
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
Peace at last on the canal.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
The Old Ford lock
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
Boats and reflections.

The area has been renovated and with the low sunlight highlighted the beauty of the place.  I then encountered Victoria Park where many people were enjoying the sunshine on this hot September Day.  Although I only touched briefly on the park, I came across the bridge at Bonner gate. The bright blue painting of the iron work contrasted with the greens and darker colours of the canal which was in the shade.  Other interesting features I saw were the Dogs of Alcibiades and have a fascinating history.  The statues were donated by Lady Regnart in 1912.  I got lost in the history of the dogs that were described on the accompanying board.  Victoria Park looked inviting but time pressed on and there was a conference dinner to attend.  The park was also full of police as they searched for an escaped prisoner and so I left the beauty and the noise retracing my steps to QMUL.

Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
Lazy sunny afternoon in Victoria Park.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
Sun rays and railings.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
Bridge details near Bonner Gate.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
Canal in the shade.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to Victoria Park, London, Sept 2023
One of the Dogs of Alcibiades, Victoria Park.
Dogs of Alcibiades
Enjoying the towpath.

To follow up this blog, please read my earlier accounts of my walks along the Regent’s Canal.

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023

Queen Mary University of London is on the Mile End Road and is adjacent to the Regent’s canal.  Part of the campus borders the canal and there is easy access from the University entrance.  I was at QMUL for a conference but took the opportunity when time allowed to explore the tow path.  My first walk was in the early morning and I followed the canal down to Limehouse basin and onto the River Thames.  My second walk was northwards up to Victoria park and took place in the late afternoon.  Both walks allowed me to photograph people, boats, wildlife and buildings along the way.  This is my photographic account from those walks.

From QMUL to the river.

I was up early for this walk and was moving on the towpath by 6am.  There were still many people out and about at this time.  The day before had been hot and whilst there was a morning coolness temperatures were forecast to rise above 30oC.  There was a slight mist around the canal which diffused the light.  Several species of birds were moving around in the water.  The canal was heavy with algae and the ducks made tracks in the green covering.  There is a mixture of old industrial decay alongside both modern designs of buildings.  I took several pictures of the juxta positioning of the buildings and where the canal was algae free caught their reflections in the still water.  

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
A chimney is part of the old industrial heritage along the canal.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Colourful old narrowboat
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Millionaire row
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
The algae adds a green foreground whilst the shine buildings of Canary Wharf are lit up by the early sun.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Wildlife coping with the canal.

On the streets there were abandoned hire bikes.  Colours were appearing as the early sunlight started to reach the taller buildings.  I soon reached Limehouse basin and this coincided with the sunrise.  The area has lots to see and quick decisions were made as to the best place to stand for the photographs.  I used my phone to take a few quick pictures that let me quickly see and plan the pictures with my Fujifilm x100v.  One of my first pictures worked well and set the standard that I needed  for future views.  

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Abandoned bike.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Limehouse Basin
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
The sun rises over the basin.

After spending time photographing the sunrise , I made my way along the final part of the canal to the Thames.  This area is very popular with local commuters due to its proximity to Canary Wharf.  The quality of housing is of a higher standard than where I started in the Mile End Road.  The journey does take you through a range of housing.  The Thames looked good in the early morning light and I took several pictures around Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Kitchen restaurant. I followed the commuters as they walked along the road and then onto the pedestrian walkway next to the Thames.  This was a chance to practice some street photography as sharp contrasts between light and dark were created by the sunlight rising between the buildings.  

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
The Thames in the early morning sun.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Looking out towards the Thames
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Sunlight.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Running the Thames walkway.

After a while, I realised that I had a conference to attend and I made my way back to QMUL following the Limehouse Cut. This took me past the Sea Mission and I eventually caught up with the Regent’s canal again.  The light had shifted and therefore there were different takes on pictures that I had taken on the way down.  One picture that I enjoyed taking was of two swans who were tucked into a recess of the canal wall.  The picture with the reflections in the background shows the beauty of this canal.

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
On the cut and through the railings.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
The rush over the cut.
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
The majestic “Mission” building
Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Swans on the canal.

My final picture is of black and white architecture. I saw this block of flats as the canal turned after a railway bridge. The reflections immediately caught my eye. I converted the picture to black and white and I was pleased with the result. I entered into the weekly #fsprintmondays competition organised by FotoSpeed on Twitter and the picture made the top 4 for that week.

Regent's Canal, QMUL to the Thames, London, Sept 2023
Black and white architecture on the canal (with reflections)

If you enjoyed this blog then there is an earlier account of my photographic journey from Kings Cross to Camden along the Regent’s Canal. This waterway has such a varied landscape which makes it ideal to satisfy my love for photography.

Winning photograph Westside BID calendar 2023

Westside BID organised a celebratory evening around the photography competition for the 2023 calendar.  We all gathered at the Flapper Pub near Cambrian wharf where we met our fellow winners and local business people.  There were councillors from Birmingham City Council present as well.  The pictures were hung around the room and the MC interviewed each photographer in turn.  Then the food was served and there was a chance to meetest people.  The evening sun shone over the canal allowing us the chance to soak in the warmth.  The last few weeks have been very wet, so the sun was welcome.  There were interviews to be done and pictures to be taken.  My picture was the overall winner and is shown above, although any of the other ones could have won as well.  The two videos plus the story of the night provide a great memory of the event.  Thanks to Westside BID for the support of photography through the calendar. 

The Flapper Pub, Birmingham, 2023
A beautiful evening for the WestsideBIDS celebration evening

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St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023

St Chad’s Cathedral was the setting for an IgersbirminghamUK Instameet on a wet Saturday morning. Storm Antoni was passing through and the rain was non-stop.  I joked with the photographers that we had made the decision to go for the inside walkabout rather than taking pictures outside. The interior of the building is beautiful, and we had also arranged to view the extensive crypt below.  

St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Caution IgersbirminghamUK photographers at work.

Our two guides were Marie Louise and Angela and as soon as the introductions were done, we were provided with the background information to the Cathedral. The Roman Catholic cathedral was designed by Pugin and is a fine example of the Gothic architecture revival in England. We were shown around both the crypt and the main interior of the Cathedral.  Both Marie Louise and Angela were informative and provided historical and contemporary information about the Cathedral.  They were also very welcoming and tolerant of 20 photographers taking pictures.

St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Marie Louise and Angela our guides for the IgersbirminghamUK Instameet.

Here are a few of the interesting facts supplied by our guides.  Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin was the architect at the forefront of the Gothic revival style in architecture.  Pugin was hired to assist in the Gothic design of the House of Commons and Big Ben.  John Hardman, was a close friend of Pugin, and the Hardman family are buried in the crypt.  The son of a button making family, John Hardman turned his skills to metal work and stained glass windows. He designed the clock face and manufactured the hands of Big Ben.  There are many more interesting facts about St Chad’s and both Marie Louise and Angela were happy to inform us of all the details.  I have taken their photograph with the backdrop of the Cathedral Altar behind them.

St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
A view towards the Apse.

One of the most interesting stories is that the Cathedral was earmarked to be demolished but was saved by one vote at the Birmingham City Council meeting.  Many other Victorian buildings were demolished around the area to make way for the motor car.  Luckily there is a sensible view prevailing these days, and the area is under improvement.

The Crypt of St Chad’s Cathedral

The crypt is a secret treasure trove with a layout of several rooms with interesting designs around the altars.  Pugin collected various ornamental religious pieces on his travels, and these are held in the crypt.  My favourites are the two wooden angels that have soulful expressions. The tiled design and ornamental altar in the Hardman family crypt is another standout feature of the extensive crypt.  On display are the vestments worn by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.  I was also fascinated by the large wooden door which provides the entrance to the crypt. A selection of my photographs are shown. I have many more and it was difficult to select the best pictures. For interest to any photographer reading this account, the majority of my pictures are taken with the iPhone13 which excels in low light. I did have my travel tripod with me which allowed some pictures to be taken with my Fujifilm x100v.

St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
The large studded entrance door.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Details from the Hardman family crypt.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
The tiled walls and ceiling with a relief of Christ on the cross with the two thieves.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Angels
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Close up view of the angel’s face.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Colourful details of the paintwork.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
In this part of the crypt, the Cathedral Choir practice due to the excellent acoustics.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Vestments worn by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Birmingham in 1982
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Vestments worn by Pope Benedict XVI who visited Birmingham in September 2010
Pope Benedict XVI visited Birmingham on Sunday, September 19, 2010
Looking up at the details.
Pope Benedict XVI visited Birmingham on Sunday, September 19, 2010
Chairs and a picture of Christ on the cross.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Some beautiful work that is propped up against the crypt wall. There are so many treasures to see.
Pope Benedict XVI visited Birmingham on Sunday, September 19, 2010
Glass table reflections.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
More examples of pictures and artefacts each with a story.

The main Cathedral floor

The Instagrammers then moved up to the main Cathedral area which provided more photographic opportunities.   There is so much to take in and the Apse of St Chad’s Cathedral with the high altar is impressive to view.  There are colourful stained-glass windows flanking the high altar.  The apse was designed by Pugin and was part of his grand plan to emphasise the Gothic revival architecture of the Cathedral.  There were many small details to see and, on this visit, the guides pointed out to me the non-religious wood carvings on the rear seats in the Choir Stall.  These were fun to photograph.  You will see from my photographs the various parts of the cathedral and I know that I did not have time to view everything.  

St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
The view towards the entrance and the organ.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
One of the detailed 3D depictions of the stations of the cross.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
The Bishop’s chair on the Altar.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Wood carving next to the Bishop’s chair.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Wood carvings on the Choir stall.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Candles
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Closer view of the organ and the loft behind.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Details.

The cathedral has so many stories and this is another one that I find fascinating.  In the diapered design of the transept ceiling, there is a tile that has the words Deo Gratias 22 Nov 1940.  This translates to thanks be to God. During World War II, incendiary devices were dropped and caused significant damage to buildings.  The old Coventry cathedral is an example of the devestating destruction.  At St Chad’s Cathedral, an incendiary device fell through the ceiling and exploded within the central heating pipes and the water subsequently put the fire out. Hence the miracle of St Chad’s.

St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Can you see the tile with the words Deo Gratias?
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
The roof of the Cathedral in Black and white. For an extra point can you see the tile with the words Deo Gratias?

There are many more stories about the Cathedral. These involve St Chad, the patron saint and how his relics were transported from his shrine in Lichfield. Cardinal Newman who was such an influential figure in Birmingham, gave sermons from the pulpit.  However, the best way to learn more about these stories and the Cathedral is to visit the building yourself.  My pictures in this blog which catalogue my view from the Instameet only show a part of what is on view..  

There are many more pictures taken by the talented photographers of Igersbirmingham UK and these may be found on Instagram by using the hashtag #igbUK_meet_stchads

Thank you to St Chad’s Cathedral for hosting us. Thank you to my fellow IgersbirminghamUK organisers, @NickyWarwickshire and @James_never_Jim and all the photographers who came along and supported the event.

For more information about St Chad’s please vist the following webpage

Welcome to St Chad’s Cathedral – Birmingham’s hidden jewel on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
Reflecting on a great IgersbirminghamUK Instameet.
St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham IgersbirminghamUK instameet, 2023
A different view of St Chad’s Cathedral.

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