Positively Birmingham

Some of the new images in the 5th edition of Positively Birmingham feature here with details of how photos were taken and what relevance they have to the book. Sometimes this is an aid memoire so all those notes on pieces of paper and phone notes don't get lost!

University of Birmingham Open Day

University of Birmingham  www.positivbelybirmingham.co.uk

Old Joe is just so tall but I think the shot for Positively Birmingham 5th editon is 'in the can' - not this one though!

University of Birmkngham

Dance demonstrations were fun

University of Birmingham

Plenty of activity in the Great Hall and a great University to come to. I have been a Honorary Senior Lecturer for many years but received a letter with an upgrade yesterday! See more about life at University of Birmingham right here....

St Paul's Church 12.40 Concert Series

St Pauls Churche Jewellery Quarter Sing! Bentley Heath

Really good to take photos of Sing! Bentley Heath with the painted Eginton window above. Find out more about the 12.40 series here.... If you fancy joining Sing! Bentley Heath they can be contacted here.... and they do not do auditions - they just welcome you in to sing!

Waterstones New Street

Waterstones Birmingham

Progress on the Metro line to New Street Station is very slow. Seems like there is a problem. Not sure how we are going to get the shots for the book at this rate. Must be some contract issues behind the scenes..... I need this photo to go in the chapter about banks in Birmingham but it is going to be very tight.

Dollman Street to Reunite with George Dawson

26th June 2015

Positively Birmingham George Dawson

Well I have waited a while to get this last shot for Chapter 4, which looks at the Victorian Ideals and role of Joseph Chamberlain. Of course Chamberlain was hugely influenced by radical non-conformist ministers and none more so than George Dawson. To learn more the articles by Professor Peter Marsh and Councillor Sir Albert Bore, 'Joseph Chamberlain; Birmingham and the Civic Gospel' are well worth a read...

Last time I took George's photo it was when he was to be found in Edmund Street. He seems happy enough here at the Museum Collections Centre in Dollman Street.

Positivley Birmingham BSA car

Apparently visitors really like the cars. This is an early BSA  four seater, made in Sparkbrook. Dating from 1912 it demonstrates one of the earliest uses of steel panels in car production.

 You can book for a tour here at Dollman Street and they happen every month. On 12th September 2015 there is an open day -  See more here...

Birmingham Hidden Spaces Project...

20th June 2015

A tour of the Victoria Law Courts. 

Well what an interest there is in Birmingham and it's heritage. The Hidden Spaces Project is just such a positive initiative - even if I did not get a chance to go on the New Street tunnel tour yesterday! I have learnt so much about our Victorian forefathers in the last few weeks and the inside of the Courts has got to be the pinnacle... amazing terracotta, stained glass, use of wood. We must never stop spending enough to keep this place watertight....and what a contrast to the Moseley Road Baths yesterday. Both amazing but one hanging on and badly in need of a £50M sugar Daddy and this one still a working building due to a change in plan I guess mainly due to equal pay settlements.

This is the classic shot and again he shift lens has had some unusual effects the lighting. On occasions over the last 25 years of taking photos of Birmingham I have been accosted with "You just interested in buildings mate...what about the people". Well the answer of course is that it is the interrelationship between the two in a city like ours that is key. Both the people that built it and the people that experience it today.

I love this one and took one a little later full of a tour. Will have to decide if I can use it without 30 model releases which are impossible to obtain retrospectively! All very complicated these days and especially if children are in shot.

You can find out more about the Hidden Birmingham events right here....

Reynolds Technology Childhood Dreams...

8th June 2015

Reynolds technology Birmingham

I had my first Reynolds 531 frame bike when I was just fourteen. It was second hand and far too big for me but those Reynolds decals had a real appeal then and now as well. More recently I have ridden Reynolds 853, though at present my daily commute is on a titanium framed bike. It was great to meet Alan the rest of the staff and see the sixty year old mandrel press make that wafer thin steel and even stainless steel tubing. I got Alan to hold a piece of newly thinned out tube at one point but after a second or two he confided that it was rather hot!

Perrot's Folly

Edgbaston Birmingham

Have taken this so many times and today decided to wait for some clouds and also include more of the greenery.

Birdlife in Birmingham

7th June 2015

The egrets at the airport have got to be one of the most visible pieces of public art. Up early to take this and used a tripod and was not disturbed which I was half expecting. Either the CCTV team took pity on me or it was staff changeover time!

Next over to the other side of the City to Northfield. The reason to be up so early on a Sunday is to get this shot of Great Stone and the church before cars arrive or indeed drive past, as the tripod was on the road some of the time. I think the shadows are just right here, though I could have done with trimming the trees! We move in to a time of year when skies are generally not so interesting, and of course photography is best early or late in the summer months when the light is not too bright.

Edgbaston Reservoir

A bird of a different sort at Edgbaston Reservoir. Love the reflections in this shot.

The waterworks tower which was of course an inspiration to Tolkien. Good to see Edgbaston so well used on a Sunday afternoon.

Mini Cherished....

Tom helps setting up this shot of his Mini 1275 Sprite.

Instameet - Birmingham

6th June 2015

Great to be invited to the Instameet event by Marketing Birmingham. Social media is powerful and encouraging photography of Birmingham great. This shot was taken with a 12 second exposure to really bring out the room. Here the invited guests were listening to a speaker introducing the event and there is very little 'ghosting' as people were so still.

There is some great stained glass in the Municipal Bank, with a theme of Forward, the city coat of arms.

The end of this Instameet was at the Council House and interesting to see the way the Second World War morgue has been retained in the cellars.

Wholesale and Retail Digbeth Explored...

6th June 2015

Up early this morning to shadow a Digbeth market retailer as he sets up his vegetable stall. Hugh Logue and his family have run stalls in the Digbeth retail market for around eighty years. Here he is checking out the quality of the spring onions!

Hugh seems to travel the whole market to get the best deals. Clearly everyone knows him and he commands huge respect. The buying seems to include some complex transport as when we get back to Hugh's stall the produce awaits.

Selfridges Birmingham

Pleased with this picture. Wandered off from the market and took some photos of the Selfridges part of he Bullring and this is about the best. Looks like a beached whale - love it!

Brindleyplace Dragon Festival & More

30th May

Dragon Festival Brindleyplace ICC canalisde

When one looks at the key commercial and business areas of Birmingham  they are important differences with other Cities. If you walk round the City of London on a Saturday, as I have done many times, it often has the feel of the Mary Celeste. Brindleyplace though is very different, with plenty going on and really creative events to draw people in at weekends.

Brindleyplace dragon festival

The Dragon Festival is one such event and now in it's sixteenth year it is a must to include in #PB5.

Icknield Street School

Icknield Street School

Located next to the Hockley flyover and an excellent example of the Board School design with terracotta features, a ventilation tower, stained glass and all in a high gothic style. A delight as you head towards the Soho Road.

Compassion, UHB Campus, Edgbaston

campassion Queen Elizabeth Birminhgam

Compassion used to be outside the management offices at Selly Oak Hospital. It is now surrounded by patients, from the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The patients, many  kitted out with drips and catheter bags, are wheeled out by relatives seemingly many for a crafty cigarette. Meanwhile paramedics head into the bushes behind the statue to light up!

Millennium Point sunset shots

21st May 2015

Birmingham City University Curzon

The water feature at Millennium Point is fun to photograph as they finish off the latest Birmingham City University building. The Curzon building opens in September 2015 and will become home to Business, English, Law and Social Science departments.

Woodman Positively Birmingham

On the way back to the car decided to get the Woodman pub as well. The upstairs room had a comedy night on so the lights were all on and I used passing cars and the trusty LED to add in some interest on the left of the picture. Enjoyed reading the Landlord's blog recently where he recounts his experiences of litter picking in the park. Pleased with this shot and the amazing effects of the shift lens on the street lights. I have not used a filter for this shot and I do not have a clue how that star burst effect came about, but it looks great! The Woodman is a really great pub to visit and you can find out more about it here....

Chamberlain Square done at last

Saturday 16 May 2015

I have had a couple of ideas for the main shot for Chamberlain Square over the last month or so and have been a number of times to try and get them and gone home with not a lot. Got them both today. This shot used the shift lens with everything thrown at it. I also had to clear up a load of fag ends - Attwoood clearly smokes a lot! I really hope this statue stays  with the redevelopment as so many people stop by and enjoy it.

St Martin's busy Saturday

St Martin's Church in the Bull Ring really does pull in a crowd when they have an event on. Great to see people spending time here on a busy Saturday. For me some nice photos in this very important component of the chapter about earlier times.

Wattilisk one final time..

Really like this statue outside the Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts. It is difficult to get a good shot as the tall buildings around mean the sun is not right for much of the day. There are also other issues about taking photos outside the court during weekdays. Anyway the light was just right today so that is another one ticked off. With this angle I have tried to contextualise the location more than previously.

Amazing light today....

Today was simply a great Saturday for taking photos around the city. Sometimes you get more done in a day that you do in weeks and this was one of those. However, the difference in light down this passage was not easy - guess it needs some flash graduated filter but I am not in to that sort of stuff.

Sunday Lunch at the Bartons Arms

10th May 2015

I am working on the chapter entitled "Victorian Ideals". It uses 19th century architecture you can still experience to help understand more about the huge impact of the Civic Gospel on Birmingham. Previous editions have looked at pub architecture and in #PB5 the intention is to look more closely at an example of a James and Lister Lea pub ... so it was back to the Bartons Arms in Aston yet again! I asked the two locals to move to those seats and they kindly obliged. Barbara filled in the tiles with the LED. This ends up with a nice atmospheric shot.

Barbara had her 50th birthday party here and we also had our work Christmas do upstairs last December. Patharee and Paul at Oakham Ales have done an amazing job to turn this into such an enjoyable experience. Great ambience, authentic Thai food and excellent cask ales.... a perfect mix. This lunch time trio were very kind and stayed nice and still for this 2 second exposure. This time the shift lens went down a bit to 'bring up' the glass in the foreground. 

The emphasis on the Minton tiles even extends to the men's toilet which is of course completely tiled from head to toe. Is the latrine original.... I have used grander, and clearly the wash basins are more recent than 1901. Not sure the Durex machine would have been here when Laurel and Hardy stayed while performing at the Aston Hippodrome next door!

Find out more about the Bartons Arms right here......

Barclaycard Arena at Old Turn Junction

The obvious shot and a great night with all the lights on and a nice sky and most importantly for long exposures - no wind. I filled in the paving on the left with an LED for this 15 second exposure shot. Yes, of course I used the shift lens. Blue skies like this really show up any dust or hairs on the sensor. There is a hair top right which will have to be taken out on Photoshop and the camera will need to go in for another clean on Monday!

I had another look at The Cube while I waited for the sky to get right for Old Turn Junction. I do struggle to come up with an original shot but quite like this.

ICC Birmingham Election Count

Counting ballot papers is not inherently an exciting activity. However I really want to put something in PB5 about politics in the city - number of constituencies etc. This shot also shows the ICC being used to compliment an image of an exhibition that I will also use.

Well, believe it or not the fisheye lens has come out again. I really like the red railings acting to border the shot and getting the lights in above the canopy is good as well. I met Ian from my road watching his count for the Bourneville constituency where he is standing as a councillor for the Green Party.

Sarehole revisited.......4th May

Now the leaves are on the trees, and all so nice and fresh. It was time to return to Sarehole Mill. Fantastic with some amazing reflections when the light was just in the correct place around midday. I popped in earlier in the morning, on the way home from Moseley Bog, to decide the best time.

I wanted the sun from the right but on the millpond side of the building. Later in the summer the light would be too bright in the middle of the day but today it is nice and warm. I have taken photos of Sarehole Mill many times but these are certainly some of the best.

Joy's Wood and Moseley Bog.... 4th May

Stories are being told in PB5 and photos need to fit. Here is Coldbath Brook, which feeds the millpond at Sarehole Mill today. JRR Tolkien spent some of his time in Sarehole and played in this area with his brother. In a 1966 interview with the Guardian Tolkien suggested that  the Old Forest in Lord of the Rings was inspired here. Hence this shot where I try and emphasise the scary tree!  I found some nice bluebells as well but you will have to wait until PB5 comes out in November to see them!

Moseley Bog and Joy's Wood has  good public and disabled access and a board walk and you can find out all about visiting it here....

St Nicholas Place, King's Norton ... 3 May

Even when the weather was supposed to be awful in fact there were some great photos this bank holiday weekend. St Nicholas Church, King's Norton has been in every edition of Positively Birmingham. I checked it out at the start of April and made a mental note to come back when the leaves arrived - so here we are.

I love the entrance with the sundial and of course the new shift lens came out yet again! Had to get back to the car during a brief shower and then out came the sun again. I met the Vicar, in between a wedding and four baptisms. Never been inside before and some really nice Hardman stained glass to experience. You know we have so much to experience in Birmingham if we take the time to look out for it.

You will remember that this place won the 2004 BBC Restoration programme and gained £3 million of funding. You can find out all about it and check out Friday and Saturday tour times here ....

Here a new version of the old Grammar School and the blossom in the foreground frames it nicely. You can find out more about St Nicholas Place on their website.....

Jacobean experience and more  ..1st May 2015

Another day away from the stresses of the day job. Booked to visit Aston Hall and to retake photos of the interior taken for the first edition of Positively Birmingham back in 1993. I started at Karios Coffee, Shirley, doing some writing and then headed off via Moseley once the light looked good.

Well, sometimes you need to change direction. The mellow light was just in the right direction and here we are with Moseley Road Baths and Balsall Heath Library. A much better photo than in PB1 taken using that new 24mm shift lens of course! Now the challenge is to get the internal shots, which will mean some emails to the BCC press office.

Popped past Soho House and used the shift lens yet again and you can compare with the shot taken last Sunday on the right hand column hand-held and with a standard perspective. Will be interesting to see which shot the designer uses for the book - he probably won't like either and will demand a retake!

Still not quite made it to Aston Hall. I love Spring Hill Library. People don't even know it is a library - they think it is an old church, I cycle  past it everyday on the way to work. Again the perspective lens makes life easy once you get to the middle of the busy roundabout, or 'islands' as they are known in these parts!. The lampposts are of course crass but I suppose do show I used the lens correctly! Will probably repeat this with a warmer light though the sky is great.

I arrived at Aston Hall and must admit the light was amazing and so I went straight for the external shot. Been here many times before but this was nice. Perfect blue sky is not what you want. The newly mown grass gives lines heading into the hall and the cloud does the same from the top - you could not have planned this one better in a studio - as my colleague at work says - LOL!

Of course time spent on the external shots meant that a tour was now on in the Hall and so I headed down to Aston Parish Church to catch the blossom before it went. Tried to move the red things but decided too risky. We will crop the left if this shot is used.

Some really nice shots inside Aston Hall. You will have to buy the book to see them all. However I thought you would like this shot. This is Great Hall you enter from the front door. I liked the doorway on the left with the light, so added two LEDs to accentuate it. We also remove most of the rope barriers.

Exposure is about 8 seconds to give maximum depth of field. There is sometimes some fun stuff to do in Photoshop. Clearly bringing out Sir Thomas Holt, the guy in the painting  who built the place, has worked well in the  second image, and certainly changed the focal point.

Thinktank Spitfire

I used the shift lens yet again here for this shot to try and get as much of the plane in as I could. It is all pretty tight in Thinktank for photography but this works well as the plane is sort of framed. Of course I took a more normal shot as well:

Barbara kindly filled in the back of the plane with the LED light as it was very dark. I can't help feeling that this exhibit could do with better lighting to show it off at its best.

Of course the new Spitfire Gallery includes some interactive learning which Thinktank clearly do well. It was good Dad lent his two sons to me for for a few seconds modelling! It was the boy's idea to wear the hat as he did his pre-flight checks! Nice as no issues with model release for this shot.

Riley Apprentices Project Car

Of course no day is complete without the fisheye coming out. Here, at Thinktank, is a 1961 Riley Mini produced by Longbridge apprentices to show design features. The cow in the background represents where the leather for the seats comes from and various other raw materials surround this exhibit.

Digbeth stop rewarded

I had to take the car to work today. I usually cycle commute and hate the queuing the few days a year the car points into the city up the Warwick Road. Needless to say on the way home I got grid-locked in the side streets of Digbeth, so parked up and took some photos until the traffic eased.

The light got better and better and I had some fun. Parked cars are an issue on week days but the evening sun is amazing at present - more like what one gets in August, warm low light,

Sometimes I feel guilty that I am not using  a tripod at times like this. In actual fact with a bit of wind like tonight one needs a minimum 1/80th exposure, and hand-held is OK. However, arguments about verticals are an issue back on the kitchen table when we look at the results!

I missed the street art festival last September but will need a copy of the catalogue to have any chance of correct legends to the big pieces. Clearly there is stuff going up all the time with smell of wet paint all around.

I guess the Custard Factory will be able to help and also Graffiti Artist should have a bit of a feel for things!

Birmingham Rep .. behind the scenes

Lucky I spotted the Birmingham Repertory open day. Not easy to get behind the scenes here with a camera - or front of house for that matter. Issues with set design copyright and then of course actors are protected in all sorts of ways - strange as never an issue at the BRB.

Thanks Jenny Smith for your hard work in putting on this amazing and complex event, which was clearly enjoyed by visitors. Thanks also for helping me with these shots. Best of luck with BeFestival2015.

The open day fits well with the emphasis of looking in more depth at what goes on behind the scenes as well as showing the outside of buildings.

The first rehearsal of 5 Soldiers took place on the main stage. Rebecca Thomas lead community groups from the West Midlands through the moves.

Great to meet Sohan and Aruna from Aashiyana Arts with their interactive Bhangra and Bollywood dance workshop. Of course these days you have to ensure children are not in the foreground. In the old days I used my four children as models but they are long gone!

This was quite a work out! Bright sun gave a rather difficult light on the Mezzanine. Here nice shots of the mums with the children they but hidden!

Backstage at the Rep

It was a privilege to meet, talk and photograph some of the key Rep staff. What is striking is that the set design and production is actually right behind what is one of Europe's biggest main stages.

Laura Davies and Rosheen McNamee with the 1/25 model of the two-tier set for 'The rise and fall of little voice' that opens on 15th May 2015. This shot shows the plans in the foreground which were not easy to bring out along with getting exposure on the faces correct as well as a feel for the background. Would be good to go back in a week or so and show the carpenters at work - may see if this is possible. The finished set at the dress rehearsal would really top it off - we will see! I had the help of some serious lighting from the Rep team to try and get thing right!

Great to meet Sue Nightingale, Head of Wardrobe, who as been at the Rep for forty-seven years along with Kay Wilton, costume designer and Mr Toad's costume.

Cost of grafitti.... and street art

Positively Birmingham canal at Aston

This is a beautiful bridge close to Aston University. I have a great shot of it when British Waterways kept it beautifully painted but now it looks like we rely on Graffiti to keep the rust at bay!

Digbeth graffiti

Mark and Pete from Spacecare, Telford, work to remove Graffiti in Digbeth. A life's work as the cleaning they had done the day before had already been used as a 'blank canvas' by the next morning!

The canals in our more hidden parts are an amazing heritage. Along the canal in Digbeth and Aston,  experiencing the huge engineering efforts of Victorian canal engineers is being overtaken by 'tags' and this needs addressing.

In parts of Digbeth commissioned grafitti is encouraged as an art form and it should be good for the book.

Mission Print work

The Mission Print building on Fazeley Street has had amazing painted facades for years. Here G-Anders' work is part of commissioned street art.

Sentinel, Castle Bromwich

Taken at 05.45 on 10th April 2015. Of all the shots I like this shot as it shows a lot of detail. The early morning BHX planes were taking off in my direction but not quite in shot. The 4th edition has a perhaps more atmospheric shot as a double page spread, but this one could be a really big shot as well. Amazing amount of traffic around at this time in the morning.

Boulton, Watt & Murdoch Statue
Boulton, Watt and Murdoch statue, Jonathan Berg, 2015

The Boulton, Watt and Murdoch statue is fun. I first took this photo in 1987 for a front cover of a medical meeting handbook. These three underpin the historical basis of the City.
Getting detail in the faces is key; the light needs to be from the right direction and brightness. I got the background out of focus using a long lens and fast shutter speed.

Soho Foundry, Murdoch's Cottage

Murdoch's cottage at the Soho Foundry taken through the security gates. Opportunistic as I was just cycling past on the way to Sandwell Hospital.


Sarehole Mill

We wait a few more weeks for the leaves on the trees to take Sarehole Mill from the outside - and actually lots of other outside shots. Today I popped along to say "Hi" and take photos of the millers.
Millers at Sarehole Mill, Hall Green
I used a fisheye and got Barbara to put a bit of light on the three volunteer millers using an LED light. I asked them to look at me and clearly being volunteer  millers is a serious business! The mill wheels were going round - which is why the spur wheel is blurred, but maybe it just looks like it is out of focus in retrospect? I like the effect of the rounded vertical beams - goes with the round cogs and brings the picture in. However Barbara says I must be careful not to overuse, saying "It isn't a book of fisheye photography!".

Sarehole Mill grinding flour

This shot tries to show the grain turning into flour on the millstone. Again Barbara lit grain with the LED.