Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row

By far the most popular venue for the #keyofthecitybrum was Birmingham’s newly built skyscraper, 103 Colmore row. On the 18th floor, there is a south facing viewing platform that provides amazing views of the City’s major buildings.  When the Key started, Instagram was inundated with pictures of the City of Birmingham from this platform.  Many of these pictures were excellent and circulated by the social media team at 103 Colmore Row.  I left my visit to the building till late July and wondered how I could do a different picture from the platform.

Arriving in the foyer of the building with Nicky Warwickshire, my photo companion for the day @nickywarwickshire, we were met by Touwa, one of the volunteers for the Key to the City Brum.  Touwa welcomed us to 103 Colmore Row, Birmingham, England. He explained that the newly built building was a 108-metre tall 26-storey commercial office skyscraper.  We were going to the 19th Floor and above this floor is the soon to be opened restaurant on the 24th floor. We were not going to the 18th floor viewing platform but to a floor that provides a 360o view.  The floor was empty, and I was able to get pictures of buildings such as the BT tower and the Rotunda.  I even did a panorama to take in the skyscrapers.  It was also possible to capture views of the people visiting who were fascinated with the views.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Admiring the view
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Panorama of the City

My different picture?  I got down low and framed the top of the BT tower in the frame of the windows.  I was pleased as I had got a different view which still conveys the sense of height above the city. The picture was featured by BBC Midlands Today that evening.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
A different view of the BT Tower
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
My picture on BBC Midlands Today

Finally a few more pictures showing the colours of the City for the Commonwealth Games taken from the 19th floor of 103 Colmore Row.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Looking over the City and beyond. What can you see?
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Colours on the pillars.
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
The view with everyone’s favourite the BT Tower.

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.

The custard fatoiry, Digbeth

Another of my regular visits to Digbeth found me taking pictures of a few of my favourite street art murals. I also got to see several new paintings as well.  Recent visits have been anything but normal and this visit was taken during Lockdown#2 and there were few people around. Parts of the Custard Factory were cordoned off only allowing access to Gibb Street. Parking my car in Floodgate Street I made my way through the alleyway over the river Rea to Gibb street. The area is always changing and I wanted to see The great reset by Gent48.  A van was parked partially blocking the mural but I was able to get a close up of it. The artist does capture the mood of the times with the phrase “the sky is falling down”

The Great Rest
The Great Rest

Following this I made my way under the arches and on the way captured several murals. The car park is empty at this time of the day so I was able to get a picture of the Spiderman mural followed by an old favourite Golden Boy. My list of photographs was almost complete but I had one more to do and that was the Black Sabbath mural in the car park by Digbeth Coach station. As I passed the station I saw how deserted it looked with no buses inside, I like the picture of the empty coach station as it sums up the Lockdown#2 atmosphere prevailing around Birmingham. All pictures taken with the Canon 5D markIV and my 24-70mm lens. I try to take different views of Digbeth, as it is so often photographed.

Digbeth Fazeley Street
Looking up Fazeley Street near to the start of Floodgate street.
The custard fatoiry, Digbeth
The Glory of Custard
Map of Digbeth
There are maps available part of the street art
Golden Boy on Hack St
Golden Boy on Hack St
Palm Oil equals...
Palm Oil equals…
Birmingham Coach Station Empty
Birmingham Coach Station Empty

I love the new features of Word Press and being able to play around with before and after images of the street art is great fun. My first go is with the Black Sabbath picture that is amazing street art by the Artist N4T4.

The positive and the negative of Black Sabbath
Spider Man Street Art
Spider Man Street Art, Trinity Street Car Park
Heath Mill Lane
Heath Mill Lane
Gent48 on Floodgate Street
Gent48 on Floodgate Street
Thinking about Rankin Roger
Thinking about Rankin Roger
Birmingham Screwdriver Factory
Down the River to the Screwdriver Factory
Street Art and Birmingham Icons
Street Art and Birmingham Icons

Further Browsing
Do you want to know more about Digbeth?
Visit InDigbeth for the latest news and views
Try my past blog on Digbeth Art as it too has some nice pictures and links

Over the last week of January the Bull Ring area of Birmingham held a Festival of Light. There were several themed light shows and shoppers flocked to the display. There was a Chinese New Year display but I was unable to get to see that particular event. I did see the display over three nights on my way back from work. Taking photographs was not easy due to the number of people around the event and I was by myself. It did mean I could not do any particularly good selfie photographs. I took different cameras to the event and needed to rely on a high ISO as no tripods were allowed near the interactive exhibits. The light show also was either very bright such as the Neon Angel Wings or unpredictable in when the lights came on. It required a lot of anticipation on the part of the photographer.

There were five installations

Talk to the sky – This was in St Martin’s Square and similar to all the others was interactive in nature. When you talk to the lights your voice is converted into light and sound pulses that were sent up into space.

With Love – This was a bright red inflatable heart that senses the light, the temperature and the atmospheric pressure around it, and turns into a red heartbeat with sounds.

Neon Angel Wings – This installation was designed by the neon light artist, Carla O’Brien. It consisted of a pair of neon wings where you could get a selfie taken. It was a very bright installation and tricky to photograph.

Pulse – St Martin’s Walk up to Rotunda square had a series of circular structures that you were able to walk through. As you did there was an electronic sound track with a pulsing light

Birds Fly Around With You – This final light show in Rotunda Square was an interactive flock of birds. When you entered the circle then the birds starting to light up and fly around you in a circle.

When the chance came to take photographs from the top of the Rotunda then I was first in the queue. Maybe not first as there were several other keen photographers that wanted to up there as well. Those people with passion, @Birminghamweare organised the visit to Floor 20 of the iconic Rotunda. We had a 6 to 9.30pm slot on a Sunday night in one of the Staying Cool apartments. The city was buzzing as the Velo bike riders were finishing their 100 mile trip around the West Midlands. I thought I would be late for the trip to the top but I found a place to park and made my way to the Rotunda. I have passed the entrance many times but now I was going in and up to the top. We were based in Room 25 which has the best views over Grand Central and out to the west of Birmingham. I met up with my fellow photographers and walked out onto the veranda – viewing platform at the very top of the Rotunda. I took several minutes to take in the scene and as I often do in these situations got my phone out and took some pictures.

Having settled down and after the initial excitement had subsided, then it was time to start taking some pictures of the magnificent view. I had brought along my 100 – 400mm Canon lens which was able to pick out all the landmarks. These included Birmingham City football ground, St Martin’s Church, the Bus station, Grand Central, St Philip’s Cathedral. the Mailbox and Snow Hill. So many different views to choose from.

The setting of the sun was very exciting and we were all politely jostling for position to get the best shot in. We all managed to get our pictures of the sunset and then this was followed by the night lights of Grand Central and the surrounding buildings. Another set of pictures were taken. Then it was all over. Three and a half hours had gone so quickly. When I got back home it was such fun to look back at all the pictures and also so interesting to see pictures taken by the other photographers from the @Birminghamweare group.

A BIG thank you to Jonathan Bostock and Debra Power from @Birminghamweare for organising this memorable visit. Also thank you to Staying Cool at the Rotunda for allowing us the opportunity to view Birmingham from above. Finally I hope you enjoy all the pictures on show and tune into people with passion – Birminghamweare

Let me take the opportunity of describing my photographic week in January

SUNDAYThe End of a Perfect Day

On SUNDAY, I went out to take pictures of wildlife as I have access to a 400mm lens.  My runs along the canal nearby had revealed that a heron had made its home there.  So I set off with certain pictures in my mind.  I went up the canal bridge near to where I knew I had seen the heron.  The day was cold and bright.  The time was right as well, as it was coming up to around 4pm and the golden hour was almost upon me.  Then I discovered that several walkers passed me on the bridge and went into an adjoining field.  I went to investigate and the view was idyllic.  Path, farm house, setting sun and lovely colours.  I switched lenses to my 24-70mm and set up the aperture to see if I could get a sunstar.  I used my camera view and upped the ISO.  A couple of shots and I got a result that I was happy with.  Some minor editing followed in LR and PS.  The heron? I managed a few shots but none of the shots were as good as this scene of winter’s setting sun.
(postscript – as a bonus it was selected for publication in the Birmingham Post and Mail)
Camera settings – f-14, s-1/60, FL-24mm, ISO-250

MONDAYThe IKON gallery in Birmingham

MONDAY and I was at a reception hosted by the University of Birmingham at the IKON Gallery.  I have a camera with me at all times and the Sony RX100 is an ideal camera to have for pictures on the move.  It is very versatile and packs a lot of features into a small camera.  The evening was busy and there were few opportunities during the reception and the meal with presentations.  I was patient and at the end of the evening there was the opportunity to take an outside picture of the ICON gallery.  This place is photographed many times especially in Spring when the cherry blossom arrives.  This picture is processed in black and white.   The channel leads the viewer to the central building. I did notice that it was odd to see umbrellas/parasols set out in January but they make the picture look good with them set neatly in front of the lit windows.
Camera settings – f-1.8, s-1/30, FL-8.8mm, ISO-2000.

TUESDAYTelephone Box

TUESDAY morning and I was working at the University campus.  I have some time to take a detour around Brum before I jump on the train to the University Station.  I take photographs of what I like and I had some good ones of the Cathedral in the light.   This telephone box does nothing really and just stands near to the Cathedral. It does feature in many pictures around Birmingham and the light from the street lamp makes it stand out from the dark morning.  In the days of mobile phones it is a remnant from a different era.   It was this photograph that I selected over the others.
Camera settings – f-2.8, s-1/40, FL-10.6mm, ISO-2500.


A meeting in London always opens up new possibilities for taking photographs. I had a few ideas and when I got to Baker St, I used the underpass that goes under Marylebone Rd.  You have to love the red stripes and the surreal angle that they are set at.  It just cries out to be photographed.  I was also pleased to see that I had caught the people on the different coloured stripes which is a bonus.  I also took lots of other photographs but I discarded them in favour of this one.
Camera settings – f-4, s-1/160, FL-8.8mm, ISO-2500.

A cube view

THURSDAY was a day of teaching and meetings.  I was taking it slow making my way to a meeting at the Mailbox only to learn on the way that it was cancelled.  I went slower and decided to take the towpath back into the City Centre.  I am glad I did as the little bit of sun we had lit up the Cube and its reflection in the canal. I had inadvertently left the ISO at 2500 but this did allow a good capture of the cyclists on the left.  A bright moment in an otherwise dull day.
Camera settings – f-4, s-1/320, FL-11.3mm, ISO-2500.


Moor Street Station

Thank God its FRIDAY.  I was not having a great deal of luck with taking a photograph today.  It was a dull day and many of my pictures looked dull and boring. This was taken going home from Platform 1 of Moor St station. You can see the dull sky in the centre against the relatively warm lights of the station. Taken with my iPhone and it constantly amazes me how it takes a reasonably good picture under different lighting conditions.  A bit of touching up done in Google Snapspeed.
Camera settings – ƒ-1.8, s-1/6,  FL-4.0 mm, ISO 100



It is SATURDAY and at long last I get to use the Telephoto lens. I went to Brueton Park, Solihull, where the Warwickshire Wildlife Centre is based.  There was some wildlife around and for about 10 minutes there were two Goosanders in the large pond at the nature centre.  It is not easy to compose pictures and this is one of the better attempts of many I took during the morning. I need to tweak the settings a bit. This particular picture caught my eye due to the ripples. Wildlife photography is not straightforward and requires a lot of patience.  I will have a few more attempts over the coming months.
Camera settings – f-5.6, s-1/100,  FL-400 mm, ISO 500

And that was a typical week in January.