Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024

There have been many demonstration marches across the country calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. A large Palestinian demonstration march for the end of hostilities in the Isreal-Gaza war took place in Birmingham in January 2024. These are my pictures of the march as I watched on as the demonstrators passed through the streets of Birmingham. The march came through Digbeth and finished at the end of Edgbaston street near to the Indoor market.

Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
Flags flutter in the wind.
Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
A father with his child at the demo

The war between Israel and Hamas has led to innocent civilians being killed on both sides of the conflict. My only wish is that there is peace and this is done by diplomacy not by the bullet. Whatever happens people will eventually have to sit around a table and negotiate. The January demonstrations in Birmingham on behalf of the Palestinian people show the depth of frustration. This anger will spill out into other areas of life both here and aboard. Rather than looking for peace, the spectre of further warfare will remain.

Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
If you look carefully not everyone was happy. Luckily the incident did not escalate.
Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
The stewards maintain control and the demonstrators move on.
Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
Many signs asking for the world to listen.

I was in Birmingham for another meeting which finished in time for me to take pictures of the rally. My pictures are in black and white. Why did I do this? When I first saw my pictures, the colours of the Palestinian flag whilst so important to the story telling swamped the visual appearance of the event. By using black and white, I was able to concentrate on the people and show their frustrations. I left the rally with one thought, there must be a ceasefire followed by diplomatic negotiation.

Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
Flag on my back.
Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
All right bab!
Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
The mannequins look on
Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
Marchers with flags.

Whilst I did publish Black and White photographs, I do have a cheeky colour picture of two police officers. Just as I was taking the picture, one of the officers turned around and looked at me. I had been clocked.

Pro Palestinian Rally, Birmingham, Jan 2024
I have been clocked!

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West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023

When the dental hospital was on St Chad’s Queensway, one of the places I was always walking past was the lock-up cells on Steelhouse lane.  The Police Station was active and the cells in the lockup were still being used till 2016.  There was always lots of activity around there with police vans and officers moving around sometimes in large numbers. Now the building has been renovated and reopened as the West Midlands Police Museum.  The entrance to the Children’s hospital is now the busiest place on the street and several of the buildings are being turned into Luxury flats.

West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
Coleridge passage and the side view of the Museum
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
One of the many passage ways inside the museum with the cells on the left.

Having seen several photographs of the inside of the building, this has been on my list of a place to visit for some time.  The opportunity arose when a group of friends organised a visit and I looked forward to exploring the inside of the building.  The museum is the former site of the West Midlands Police Lockups that were used to temporarily hold prisoners whilst they were being tried at the Law Courts next door.  The prison has a long and colourful history and many people from different backgrounds passed through the cell doors.  With the popularity of the Peaky Blinders BBC series, such sites have generated a high level of public interest.  In fact the term Peaky Blinders covers many of the gangs that roamed Victorian Birmingham in the 1890s.   Needless to say the museum features the Peaky Blinders in their displays and you can learn more about the gangs that roamed Birmingham which were kept in check by a robust police force.

West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
The sparse contents of a cell.
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
The medical cell
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
The cell door with viewing latch.

The museum covers three floors and when you enter the building you are immediately drawn to the metal walkways and the cell doors placed along the side of the building. There is a large skylight in the roof which allows the light to filter in all the way down to the lower levels. The play of the light on the whitewashed walls was fascinating and the metal railings and floor created interesting patterns that were immediately captured by my camera. I had brought my trusty Fujifilm x100v and it proved a useful camera in the tight areas of the prison. There were several favourite pictures which revolved around the cells. There were interesting stories everywhere including the toilets inside the cell with the cisterns outside so as to prevent prisoners self harming with the chains.

The passage way from the lockup to the Law courts was another favourite. I imagined how it must have been when it was in full use as a lockup. Overall I was really fascinated on how the light fell into the prison. Even though the place must have been a difficult place with the smells and the noise, there is also a warmth to the building. The museum features those brave police officers who were harmed whilst undertaking the “line of duty”. There are references to police animals and the highway patrol officers. The presence of a birching stool reminds you of how far we have come in society over a short space of time. In the talk that was given by Peter one of the volunteers, I learnt that the lockup had a matron who oversaw the domestic requirements of the prisoners such as medical care. There were plenty of stories to be told.

West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
A police horse surveys the basement floor of the lockup.
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
Former police motorbikes take centre stage on the top floor.
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
An old “Tardis” design police box on the upper floor of the lockup.
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
Recruitment to the force.
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
The mugshots of previous inmates held in the Lockup
West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
Helen Taylor, the Museum manager with the background of the steel stairs and floors behind her.

The museum is managed by Helen Taylor and her informative staff, some of whom are former police officers who worked in the lock ups. The staff brought the museum to life and ensured that all questions were answered and made sure we enjoyed our visit. The pictures provide a glimpse into the museum and I know that evening tours are often arranged but for me the light coming into the prison at midday was fascinating. I will certainly revisit at a later date.

Here are some references to the prison including their website

The official site – West Midlands Police Museum.

BBC – Real Peaky Blinders’ cells on show at new Birmingham museum

I have also visited the Inveraray jail in Scotland which features in one of my recent blogs.
Weekend in Loch Lomond

West Midlands Police Museum, Steakhouse Lane, June 2023
Light patterns on the white washed walls.
Snow in Knowle, Solihull, March, 2023

The snow came in March and for many it was wonderful to see. The snow fell midweek and the majority of schools stayed open. Not much time to get the slides out for some toboganning. The snow was great for taking photographs. In the evening rush hour through the village, I found that my iPhone enabled me to get some atmospheric pictures. Headlamps and snow flurries against the old buildings is a good mix for composition.

Early evening snowfall in the Village.

In the morning, the scenery was bright and white. More snow had fallen overnight and I went out again with my camera. The trick with snow pictures is to crank up the exposure compensation so as to counteract the camera wanting to underexpose. On the iPhone the Camera+ app allows you to adjust the exposure setting. Several of the pictures in the Nature area of the park worked really well.

Snow in Knowle, Solihull, March, 2023
The park with a blanket of snow.
Snow in Knowle, Solihull, March, 2023
Knowle park in the Snow.
Snow in Knowle, Solihull, March, 2023
Christmas card scenes in the village.

I also took some pictures of the High Street. We have a red letter box and telephone kiosk. The colours set against the white snow work really well. I was also very lucky that several villagers decided to wear red that morning. The colour co-ordination made for some very good pictures that proved very popular on my social media feed.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures and now let us hope that spring returns in the following weeks.

Snow in Knowle, Solihull, March, 2023
A lone tree covered in snow.

Here are some pictures from 2017. Looking back, I should have done some better adjusting of the exposure settings but even so they show the village show bound


Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023

Scotland is a wonderful place to always visit and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a weekend on Loch Lomond in February with Sandy.  Having flown up on the Friday morning, we picked up our hire car and made our way to Duck Bay on the bonny shores of the Loch.  A magnificent rainbow greeted us set against the backdrop of Ben Lomond.  I knew then that it was going to be a lucky weekend.  

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
A rainbow at Duck Bay with Ben Lomond in the background.

So much to see around the shores and following Duck Bay, we headed over to the east side of the Loch. When we arrived at Balmaha, the low sun was reflecting off the water creating beautiful light reflections.  I love visiting such places out of season as the places are quiet and you have the place to yourselves.  Balmaha houses the Loch Lomond coffee house and the pub serves a tasty bowl of soup. After a stroll around the Lochside we drove back to Balloch.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
The lovely view over Balmaha on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond.

Our destination for the end of the day was Loch Lomond shores. Whilst it is very commercial and more concrete than aesthetics, it is redeemed by the views of the Loch. Also I saw that renovation of the Maid of the Loch steamer was gathering pace and that the paint work had been stripped off and the metal was showing.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Loch Lomond Shores
Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
The Maid of the Loch under restoration.

Saturday morning threw up some colours in the sunrise and an early morning photographic stroll allowed for some interesting long exposures.  We were staying at the Cameron House hotel and the grounds gave excellent access to the loch shore.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Early morning view of Loch Lomond.

After breakfast, we set off for Inveraray to visit the prison museum.  This attraction was excellent and gave an insight into the past society and the harsh life people led in the Highlands especially if they broke the rules.  There was a restored black Mariah which Bill one of the staff, showed us and also provided an excellent account of life at the prison.  It was an enjoyable drive along the Loch. After every turn on the road, there was spectacular scenery just asking to be photographed.  

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
This is Bill dressed up as one of the prison guards at Inveraray Jail
Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Bill telling us about the Black Mariah prison transport.
Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Inverary on the Loch Fyne shore.

My favourite picture of the day was stopping at the layby “Rest and be Thankful”.  There was a glimpse of the sun which lit up the valley and highlighted the old military road and the roadworks on the side of the mountains.  I just stood there for several minutes taking in the beautiful scenery.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Rest and Be Thankful.

On our last morning, the weather was dull with a great deal of cloud cover.  As I wandered along Duck Bay looking for photo opportunities, I passed by many people huddled together talking in low voices. I wondered what they were doing.  Undeterred, I found a good spot on the Loch shore and set up for a long exposure.  I found an interesting stone in the water and lined it up with the island in the background.  A very peaceful scene.  As I was taking the photograph, two women in wet suits ventured into the loch and I found out that they were freshwater swimmers.  They agreed to have their photograph taken.  Whilst they were well prepared for the cold waters, a man followed soon after and he looked unprepared and a likely candidate for hypothermia from the low temperatures.  

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
A Sunday morning swim in a cold Loch Lomond.

On my way back I then realised that all the people who were standing in huddles had transformed into swimmers.  I realised that a favourite Sunday morning pastime is to venture into the cold waters around the Loch. This is not something that I would enjoy.

My final picture is from Firkin Point which I had not stopped off at before on my visits to Loch Lomond. I discovered the lone tree over the Loch. The afternoon had closed in and so the picture leant itself really well to a black and white processing.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
The lone tree at Firkin Point.

I you enjoyed this account of Loch Lomond then be sure to read these as well.

Regent Street Lights, London, December 2022

I was fortunate that I was in London during Christmas week. My reason for being there was to undertake a photographic assignment for the British Dental Association Museum. Once I had completed my task then I set off for the Christmas lights. I walked from Wimpole Street along Oxford Circus taking in Bond Street, New Bond Street and Piccadilly. Whilst I took many photographs on this journey, my main destination was Regent Street. The Angels were strung across the street and were a beautiful feature of the Christmas lights. The theme was the ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ and covered both Regent Street and St James’s neighbourhoods.

Regent Street Lights, London, December 2022
Under the arch leading to Regent Street.
Regent Street Lights, London, December 2022
Angels, London Buses and shoppers.

The place was very busy with people on both sides of the road and in the central reservation taking pictures of the Angels. My x100v was set up with a high ISO3200 and an aperture of f/4. The shutter speed was set at 1/125. I brought along my travel tripod to help me. However I did forget that the ISO was on high for some of the motion shots. It was difficult to think with being in such a dangerous position in the middle of the road and so many people around you. Whilst the pictures do look pretty, there are many obstacles around the area such as the shoppers and traffic. I kept my wits about me and did not look for pictures that may have put me in danger.

Regent Street Lights, London, December 2022
An Angel of Regent Street
Regent Street Lights, London, December 2022
Take the bus to see the lights.
Regent Street Lights, London, December 2022
Oxford Circus

I came away with a story as there were a few couples in the pictures and the story looks as if I have followed one couple up from Piccadilly to Oxford Circus. I enjoyed seeing the lights and experiencing the atmosphere of Christmas Shopping.

Regent Street Lights, London, December 2022
Making your way back home on the tube.

London is a wonderful city to photograph and you may wish to see my other Blog entries on photographing the UK capitol.


Regency Wharf, Birmingham, Commended in LPOTY2022 picture taken January 11th

I am delighted to announce that my picture ‘Regency Wharf‘ was commended in the Urban view category of the Landscape Photography of the Year 2022.

The picture will be featured in the LPOTY 2022 book, Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 15, and will form part of the travelling exhibition in the digital format.

The picture is available to purchase from my website. I include an account below how the picture was taken, the camera used and the post production notes.


On a cold but very bright January morning, I went into Birmingham with my camera. I planned to walk around the City, with a focus on Brindley Place and Gas street Basin. The sun was low and there was an intensity about the light. By mid-morning, I found myself in Gas Street basin outside the Tap and Spile pub. I looked across to the imposing red-bricked building displaying the large stencilled letters, Regency Wharf. The scene looked as if someone had suddenly turned on a bright spotlight. The basin was lit up and the building was radiating the light. The water was perfectly still, allowing mirror like reflections. A person was walking on the tow path towards the canal bridge. I could see that his route would take him in front of the Regency Wharf sign. I lifted my camera, looked through the viewfinder and took several shots of the lone person moving along the path. I was thinking how these pictures would turn out but then quickly moved on as more interesting scenes were developing around me. I took more pictures in and around the area all of which did very well when posted on my social media channels.

Regency Wharf – Damien Walmsley

Camera settings for the picture

The picture was taken on 11th January 2022 at 11.06
The camera was the Fujifilm x100v
Focal length – 23mm
Exposure was 1/10000, f/4, ISO160

Postproduction notes

The RAW file (Fuji – RAF) was opened in Lightroom and the light was so good that there was not much that that needed to be done to the image. I brought out the shadows and reduced the highlights. There was a small amount of saturation added. Once these basic adjustments were done, I took the image into Photoshop and made the decision to crop the picture to highlight the centre of the image. It may be argued that in the original the background to the Regency Wharf building, highlights the new buildings of Birmingham. However, my crop aims to highlight the legacy of Birmingham with a hint of what the future holds.

As I wanted to quickly upload the picture onto Instagram, I used an unsharp mask and then levels on the picture, but it was minimal editing. The light was so strong that the reflections in the water were excellent.

Regency Wharf, Birmingham, Commended in LPOTY2022 picture taken January 11th
The original view of Regency Wharf prior to cropping.

My personal reflections of LPOTY

I submitted 5 photographs for the LPOTY competition. in early summer, I was taken aback when several people on social media shouted out that they were no longer progressing in the competition. I had not received such a notification and on the website, it was asking for submission of a high resolution picture of one of my pictures. There was a mixture of anticipation but confusion. Eventually, I found my email informing me that I had been shortlisted. It was in my spam filter! The RAW files and more detailed explanation of the processing of the picture were submitted to the LPOTY team. There was another long wait. The FAQ on the website said that if I had not heard anything by October then my entry was unsuccessful. As there were no emails in the first 2 weeks of October, I was just happy that I had been shortlisted. It was on a train journey on the Tuesday afternoon prior to the Sunday announcement that I got the email saying that my picture was Commended in the Urban View category. I was so pleased but the rub was that I had to keep it confidential until now. My family are pleased for me and my friends who have been on my photographic journey were happy as well.

People reading this blog will want to know what it takes to be successful in the competition. Several things spring to mind. Always believe in your picture taking and be content with your own work. Social media is not necessarily a good barometer of a successful picture. Be resilient, this was my fourth attempt since my first entry back in 2018. Listen to constructive criticism and research into how others take their photographs. Always be ready to learn and never take rejection of your pictures personally. Pick yourself up and take the camera on a walk. I will be entering again in 2023 and I know it will be just as competitive as ever. However, I will see what happens and happy to enjoy the experience of entering again.


Gas Street Basin, Birmingham

Welcome to my series on cameras, lenses, advice and taking those all-important pictures.  So which camera do you use?  This is a common question that I am asked when someone sees one of my pictures.  It is if the camera took the picture not the photographer!  There may be an element of truth in this, although there are a lot of factors that go into taking a picture and the camera is only one of them. 

FujiFilm x100v
FujiFilm x100v

To kickstart this series, I am going to talk about my ‘go-to camera’ which is the Fujifilm x100v.  The story is that I wanted to buy myself a new camera to replace my Sony RX100 V.  My requirements were many.  Simple to use but requiring the level of complexity below the surface when needed.  Weather resistance was a desirable feature.  I have had several compact zoom cameras over the years, and they have worked well.  Often the zoom mechanism has not been robust despite the camera quality with grit getting into the zoom mechanism.  Therefore, a fixed lens appealed to me.  As I grew up on 35 mmm cameras, like many reading this blog, I love the idea of owning a Leica, but the cost is prohibitive.  More realistically, I looked at alternatives and in early 2020, the release of the Fujifilm x100v came with positive reviews.  I did my homework and researched it. My decision was made after I looked at pictures people had posted and read reviews on the camera in the photographic magazines.

FujiFilm x100v buttons
FujiFilm x100v buttons

The Fujifilm x100v was waiting for me on Christmas day morning.  I unboxed it and started taking pictures.  With a new camera, I oscillate between starting to take pictures and reading the camera manual.  There are a few internet articles and YouTube videos that got me started.  One of the first differences was the position of the buttons compared to my Canon and Sony.  The tactile feel of the buttons gave me more control of my picture taking.  The buttons are traditional analogue designs and not digital.  Gradually I got the hang of the camera and then starting to use it in serious mode.  I read the manual more and more discovering even more buttons! 

I tried out the different colour settings and settled on the weak chrome colour.  Using the camera in aperture priority, I worked through the options.  My first pictures were a little hit and miss but the jpg quality began to impress me.  My confidence grew and it started to come most places with me.  In the morning whilst walking the dog, it proved to be a useful camera to record details on the high street especially during lockdown.  It is not a replacement to the big camera (Canon D5-mkIV) but it certainly does its job of delivering remarkable pictures.

What I like
In no particular order, here are my favourite things about this compact camera. 

  • The flash settings are easy to use and understand.  It gives good portrait pictures with the flash on.  This is quite something considering it is a camera mounted flash.  I use a manual setting of 1/64 sec often for a fill in.  The flash does not create many red eyes either.
  • The exposure compensation button is easy to understand and is set up next to your thumb.  I found this very useful and quick to select.
  • Some may consider it a gimmick, but the selective colour is so easy to set up and use.  If there was one fun element to the camera then this is it.
  • The double exposure is straightforward and offers three settings depending on which picture you choose to be the main feature of the setting.
  • The jpgs are stand alone, high quality and need little adjustment.
  • The back controls are easy to use and the tilted screen allows for flexibility in the framing of the pictures you take.  This includes being able to get down low.
FujiFilm x100v
FujiFilm x100v weather proofing at a price and convenience.

Customisation
The camera is also cool to customise.  I added a thumb rest and changed the strap.  I did add a shoot button but then found it much better for my shooting technique when the button was clear. The pictures also show a half case for the lower half of the camera body.

What I do not like

  • Connectivity is poor over the wireless and the app design is poor.  So one is reaching for the iPhone if you wish to quickly upload pictures to BBC weather watchers or want to get that picture sent to family and friends as soon as possible.
  • It required an extra £100 to add the weather proofing and then I could not use the Fujifilm lens cover that came with the camera. So ended up having a black plastic cover! I wish I had brought the NiSi weather proofing as then I could have used the original silver camera cap that came with the camera.
  • It took time to work out the focussing and the switching between the settings.  This is maybe the learning curve that I have got to get through including using the manual more.

Best Pictures

Canal bridge at Acocks Green
Canal bridge at Acocks Green

My first picture that I published with the camera.  It is a canal bridge in Acocks Green, Birmingham.  Catching the two people under the arch added interest.

Hatton Locks
Hatton Locks

Hatton locks – All the lines caused by railings around the lock made for an interesting pattern in black and white.  I did have the traditional picture of a boat going through a lock, but this was more intriguing.

Takeaway reflection
Takeaway reflection

Takeaways are doing well in the Pandemic and here is one customer on their way home.  I was able to get down low for the reflections (the picture was published in the Amateur Photographer letters’ page)

The Night Train to Birmingham
The Night Train to Birmingham

The night train to Birmingham taken on a very cold night on the Dorridge footbridge.  There is much to see and discuss and the colours and light add to the atmosphere.  All picked up by the camera. The picture reminded me of the following song.
Down on the night train,
feel the starlight steal away,
Use up a lifetime looking for the break of day
Night Train – Steve Winwood 1980

family portrait
Family support bubble

The Support bubble of daughter and grandson and the camera produces some good details on portrait pictures

Dandelion Clock
Dandelion Clock

I was going to take a landscape photograph and came away with this dandelion clock.  This is cropped from a much larger picture and then edited in Black and White.  The effect is quite nice but the detail that remains after heavy cropping is amazing.

Detail of the Low Lighthouse at Burnham on Sea
The red stripe of the Low Lighthouse at Burnham on Sea. Love the colours and the details.
Gas Street Basin, Birmingham
Boats in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham

This picture is of the boats in Gas Street Basin and processed to bring out the colour. It is not designed to be a landscape camera but it manages such a scene very well.

Where did I buy it from WexPhotoVideo and their service is good. I am not receiving anything for saying this either!