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.
Admiring the viewPanorama 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.
A different view of the BT TowerMy 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.
Looking over the City and beyond. What can you see?Colours on the pillars.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.
In no particular order here are 11 pictures that I entered into a competition. I was surprised that I was entering most of them into the Architecture or Landscape categories. An eclectic mix which I hope you enjoy.
Picture No 1
Sunrise in Suburbia
This is taken on a short walk from home to Dorridge train station near Solihull of around 20 minutes. The walk is uneventful, but on this December morning, there was a colourful sunrise developing. We have also had a large amount of rain and I saw a large puddle to the side of the road. I knelt down close to the water orientating the phone so the lens was close to the water |(It is a good that the new iPhone is waterproof) . Two people passing by were intrigued but kept walking. The leaves and the resulting reflection gave the view added interest. There is a sense of moving towards the sun on the cold morning, It shows that a great picture is never far away even in the most unlikely of places. I am glad that I walked to my local station that day. Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8
Picture No 2
The Black Sabbath Bridge
The autumnal sun streams in and lights up the tunnel that connects Brindley Place with Gas street basin. This bridge has recently been renamed “The Black Sabbath Bridge” and on the busy road above there is a bench honouring the band. Also this year is the 250th anniversary of the Birmingham Canal Navigation and this canal tunnel sits in the centre of the network. I used my iPhone to take the picture as I saw the way the people lined up in the picture and the sunrise lighting up the interior. I wanted to capture how this bridge still reflects and impacts on people. This picture portrays not only the memories of the past but also shows contemporary life in Birmingham. Camera – iPhone 8 back camera 3.99mm f/1.8
Picture No 3
Silver and Gold
A long exposure picture of the Railway Bridge and Cathedral in Cologne before Christmas. The contrasting gold and silver colours of the bridge and the Kölner Dom are highlighted. I set up my camera to take the “classic” view of the cathedral as you look back over the Rhine. I used my Sony DSC-RX100M5 on manual to take the picture. I rested the base of my camera on my handkerchief as there was a low stone wall to use as support. The slow shutter speed allowed for the intercity train moving over the bridge to blur and line up with the other leading lines of the bridge. The water from the Rhine began to have a slight silky appearance to it. The contrasting colours came out well with the silver of the cathedral and the gold of the steel bridge. Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5 – Long exposure
Picture No 4
Into the Heart of the Cube
This picture was taken with my mobile phone whilst at a Christmas party in Birmingham. I remember that it was a bitterly cold night and I went out for some fresh air. I knew that on a clear night that you can can often capture some good cityscapes from the high vantage point. However my gaze was drawn to the interesting colours and shapes as you looked down into the heart of the building. I held onto my iPhone as I did not want to drop it and took the picture. There is little editing and people who have seen it get drawn into it even though it is off centre and does not follow a normal composition. Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8
Picture No 5
Blue tram going to Pink station
October brings dark early mornings and this picture shows a tram in Birmingham speeding into Stephenson Street towards Grand Central train Station. The colours created by the neon street lights add to the dramatic feel of the picture. It was raining and protecting my camera was uppermost in my mind. I rested it on a wet railing and waited for the tram to arrive. The use of long exposure creates the motion of speed whilst in fact the tram has to slow down for the corner. The tram stop on Stephenson Street is lit up in pink due to a neon advertising screen. The timing of the lights and the arrival of the tram made the picture possible in spite of the rain. It also shows the “new” Birmingham and the changes happening in the city. Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5 – Long Exposure
Picture No 6
The University of Birmingham has undergone many changes over the last decade including opening up the centre of the campus creating a “Green Heart”. A few years ago this view of “Old Joe” clock tower from the North Gate, would not have been possible. Rain is a photographers friend and puddle reflections assisted in the composition. I settled my Sony camera into a rather large puddle formed overnight. The picture captures the new north gates that lead into the green area of the campus. The reflections have created longitudinal lines that incorporate the old gate house. Even the parking sign creates a complimentary line. The picture makes the viewer wish to walk towards the Chamberlain Clock tower and they will not be disappointed. Camera – Sony DSC-RX100M5
Picture No 7
The Selfridges building is so often photographed that it is difficult to find a different perspective of the building. The iPhone is very versatile and allows you to get close on reflective views. As I am often looking up for a photograph, I saw this reflection on one of the outside entrances. A simple conversion to Black and White makes it look like an eye or a giant clam. Camera – iPhone 8 back camera 3.99mm f/1.8
Picture No 8
Snow Hill Vista
This is a picture of two trams moving in and out of the City of Birmingham. They are a leading line to the development at Snow Hill. This is taken early in January and I used the railway bridge wall as my tripod. This was taken with my 40mm prime lens. It annoys me because I have to work at getting the picture I want from it not the picture it shows me. It is very frustrating as I have to move around to get the better angles. Why do I use it? As a prime lens, it can take a crisp sharp picture. After all that work, I am pleased with the picture as it shows the Birmingham Metropolis in all its glory. Camera – Canon EOS 6D with EF40mm f/2.8 STM
Picture No 9
The Swirl of the City
This is taken at one of the entrances at Grand Central Station Birmingham. The reflective ceiling provides different possibilities and on this morning the person sitting on the phone and the man walking down the stairs are lost in their thoughts. The ceiling looks as it is swirling around caused by the reflections. there are several lines pulling you into the picture. The iPhone allowed me to quickly capture the picture of everyday life. Camera – iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8
Picture No 10
I was walking in fields around Berkswell, Solihull when a single tree sitting on the landscape caught my eye. There was an abundance of colour in the picture but I when I went for black and white, the solitary nature of the tree stood out. I find the view fascinating as the landscape is stripped away to a line with the Tree central to the picture. It was a bright sunny day and I did not have to use a tripod for the picture allowing me to take a spontaneous shot. Camera – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Picture No 11
Guardian of the Sunset
Chesterton Windmill in Warwickshire is an ideal place to clear the mind. The windmill is well known locally and has been photographed many times. My picture was taken with the tripod low to the ground to give a slight upwards view to the sunset and the architecture of the structure. I used the wide angled lens to capture as much of the multi coloured sky. I looked to get the blades of grass into focus as they shimmered in the hues of the sunset. The Windmill stands as a guardian to the weather around it. I do find the place inspiring and if I am feeling down then a view of the windmill always makes me cheerful again. Camera – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM
I am very pleased as it is my second feature this year on the BBC England’s Big Picture. This picture is of the Cube taken from the basement. It is an iconic picture and one taken by many people. It is a classic view of one of the lovely people by the artist Temper. I have done the picture many times but never featured it in my pictures. I was wandering around and decided that I would go down and take a picture as I passed by the Cube. It is a classic view of one of the lovely people by the artist Temper.
One of the lovely people (taken in 2017)
This is taken looking upwards to the sky from the basement level. There is no roof. I used my Sony RX100mk5 and when I saw the picture, I realised my hair had made an appearance. Also I was not quite central with the picture. I cropped and cloned out my hair but could do nothing with the off symmetry. On Instagram I noticed that BBCEngland liked the picture, so I sent it in. Low and behold my second picture submitted to the Big Picture this year was accepted.
“Go West – Life is Peaceful there”. The song from the Pet Shop Boys inspires this posting.
I set off walking to the Birmingham Peace Gardens from Moor St. My fist photographic stop was along Smallbrook Queensway where I took pictures of the early morning commuters. I moved onto Holloway Circus to take pictures of the Chinese Pagoda juxtaposed against the Raddison Blu Hotel. Next I headed West on Bath Row to the Birmingham Peace Gardens. This is a lovely tranquil spot but in dire need of some investment to bring it back up to its former glory. Its full name is St Thomas’ Peace Garden. It was one of many “Waterloo” commemorative churches built after the Battle of Waterloo. It was partially destroyed in the WWII blitz on the city and never rebuilt. The remains of the Church and the area around have been made into a remembrance garden. It is very peaceful there and on this particular morning no-one else was about. I spent time taking photographs and when finished moved onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal which is nearby. Here the canal landscape is dominated by the Cube, a futuristic building which is a mix of offices, residential flats, restaurants and a hotel. It also makes for a good backdrop for photographs. I had both my Sony and the Canon 5d with the 24-70mm lens with me. There are a few close ups, low down shots and looking up pictures as I try to vary the point of view. Always learning! and such walks are chance to relax and try new techniques.
“Go West, this is what we’re gonna do, Go West” – Pet shop Boys
A lone early morning commuter
Beetham Tower amongst the sharp angles of the surrounding architecture
Chinese Pagoda close up
Tropical look to Beethan Tower
The Pagoda flanked by high rise council blocks
View down Smallbrook Queensway (although there are plans to change this)
Bath row looking towards Smalbrook Queensway
Entrance to Birmingham Peace Garden
An elephant and dove – in need of paint
The remains of St Thomas’ Church
St Thomas’ Church
May peace prevail on Earth
Another view of the Church and the surrounding garden
One of many commemorative plaques around the site
Peaceful view of the canal
the Cube overlooking the canal
Diving Sculpture against the Cube
A low down view of commuters along the Worcester and Birmingham canal.
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.
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.
WEDNESDAY 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.
THURSDAY 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.