Buildings at Funny Angles – Millennium Point Car Park, Birmingham

In my irregular series of ‘Buildings at Funny Angles’…
…(see previous posts at; Part 1 ‘The Cube’, Part 2 ‘Citrus Offices’ and Part 3 ‘The Mailbox’) I’ve pointed a camera at a building in a funny way to capture some singular aspect of it.

One of Birmingham’s currently expanding areas is around Eastside and Millennium Point, and with the need for land to be cleared and an expectation of higher future traffic levels, the science park has recently had constructed a new multi-storey car park. Apologies to the architects if they’re reading this but the structure is a dog.

Millennium Point Car Park, Birmingham

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 200mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F10, ISO 200, Grabbed this shot whilst Mrs ND and I were looking for locations. I wanted to get as close in as possible to this surface as I could, however in order to alter the angle to convert 'looking up at it' into 'looking along at it' then I had to stand back some distance hence the 200mm. Ideally I would have preferred to go back a bit further but wasn't carrying my 70-300mm lens at the time. F10 was to cover the Field of View, and ISO 200 is the recommended base setting for the D700. 1/400 is what metered out on this fairly bright day.

Honestly, there’s nothing classic or attractive about it in any way whatsoever. As Prince Charles would say ‘What a carbuncle’.

Birmingham seems to be amassing new structures clad with regular geometric metal shapes. Almost a decade ago 15,000 silver discs were uniformly wrapped around the new Selfridges building, and just last year the Tetris-like clad Cube behind the Mailbox was completed as a cathedral to fans of the little block game from 1989. The new Library of Birmingham with its interlinked metal rings is currently being constructed and you can already get a flavour of how it will grace our city on completion in 2013. I guess it would be innevitable then that more such buildings would appear, and this otherwise low-key car park was an unexpected addition to the geometry fashion.

This picture doesn’t even do the building justice as there are some particularly ugly blue boxes that also stick out of it, but I wished to avoid those as they distracted from the metal sheened texture I was aiming for.

When the nearby park is finished the car park will spoil part of the ‘view’, but at least the planners had the sense to hide it behind Millennium Point so that the prospective tourists and business people that may one day use the HS2 line that is planned to end in the park won’t be affronted by it as soon as they’re on foot and heading for the city centre itself.

Have fun,
ND

(c) Nakedigit 2011

Posted in Architecture, Birmingham, Birmingham UK, Buildings, Nakedigit, Nikon, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hello World (Again!)

So as the tardiness of my blog posts since March attest…
…I’ve been away for a bit. A combination of trips abroad, greater responsibility in my day job and some other projects that took priority all conspired to slow my blog down for a while. Apologies to those of you that enjoy coming here.

I was spurred into action again this week by the manic/tragic events that unfolded around me, though thankfully they appear to have stopped now.

I’ve not been idle with a camera though. Birmingham’s recent Zombie Invasion was a fun photographic event that I’ve only processed the tip of the iceberg for Flickr so far.

We’ve also had a range of weekend city centre events including the NoFitState Circus in Chamberlain Square and the SkyRide cycling event that closed off city streets between the Bullring and Cannon Hill Park to allow some weird and wonderful contraptions to navigate with ease, all under pedal power.

I was also asked to cover the 30 year reunion gig by the Mean Street Dealers who I discovered to be a really fabulous live act, as well as a great photographic subject.

Even today, I found Manchester United FC, Nigel Mansell, Jasper Carrott and a classic car event all within 2 minutes walk of ND towers.

Finally, I am also part of a Birmingham based photographic group and we’re currently arranging an exhibition to take place during September. More details to come:-)

I’ve got lots of stories to write from this summer, and probably a few comments too after 24th August when Nikon are holding a press conference that is widely expected to announce their next generation of FX sensor cameras.

So stick with me, business as normal resumes soon.

Have Fun,
ND

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Birmingham Riots 3

ND – Dawn?

It’s quiet now…
… and the earlier fears of rascist retaliation for last night’s deaths may not have come to pass, at least our view from the city centre gives that impression. It’s just all quiet now.

Thankfully!

Here are some images, in no particular order, from the last couple of days in Birmingham. All images, not that it matters here, were shot with a Nikon D80 and a Canon S95.




































Stay Safe,
ND

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Birmingham Riots 2

ND – Dark

So sad news this morning that 3 people were hit by a car close to City Hospital on Dudley Road, and at least 2 of them have now died. It’s not totally clear yet whether this was directly tied to the riots, however it appears to be a clear hit and run incident and reports are that a man and a vehicle have been taken in by the police.

I have just watched a youth on TV state that he didn’t think that the riots were a good idea, but how else would he and others around him be listened to? What sort of country is this that someone feels the need to act in this way just to be heard. Aren’t we a democracy after all?

However, it also appears some people had an agenda and it sounds like there were organisers moving the groups on to force sweeping anarchy that kept the Police one step behind much of the time. As one Twitter feed stated yesterday, “Youth of middle east rise up for freedom. Youth of England riot for a 42inch Plasma”.

Protest was not the main aim of these events. The death of a man in London at the hands of the police should not elicit people across the country to raid electrical and sports clothing shops, burning out people’s homes, risking further lives. Especially when that man killed was carrying a loaded Heckler & Koch MP5

Birmingham Riots 2011 (Tumblr)

Stay Safe,
ND

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Birmingham Riots

ND – Dark

So ND towers was surrounded by rioters and eventually riot Police yesterday (Monday 8th August) and the troubles caused bad problems at our city centre office.

Walked around city centre this morning, lots of smashed windows, Adidas, Orange, JD Sports amongst many robbed. Cameras taken from Jessops and the Louis Vuitton shop was surgically cleared. There’s a lot of brown £800 handbags in Ladywood and Handsworth tonight I feel!

Funnily enough they didn’t touch Waterstones bookshops.

Also came across some very likely culprits out for a stroll this morning, sniggering like Beavis and Butthead at what I can only imagine was their handiwork the night before.

Struggled to drive back into city tonight from work, loads of roads from the middle ringway all closed. Finally got back thanks to a gap near Five Ways. Eerily quiet outside, Mailbox is completely locked down with no one getting in or out according to a friend there. Spotted the black smoke from a burning car near Moor Street.

Honestly, this is kids. Where are their parents? What are their parents saying when they arrive home at midnight with an unboxed MacBook Pro under their arms? Parents, the community need to take control, but our laws are pathetic, we’re too lenient and paralysed by legislative caution. These people need a right clip around the earhole. At least!

Someone please take control back now.

Stay Safe,
ND

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Graffiti Galore

Birmingham is full of artists
…and some of them are on public display away from galleries and museums. You never ever see them at work, working in shadow or seclusion, preferably both. Some make you wonder how they reached their canvasses, others put little effort in beyond signing their visit.

After the St Patrick’s day parade in Digbeth on Sunday 13th March 2011, Mrs ND and I wandered around looking to snap some of the partying events around Digbeth. On that walk we came across many ‘works of art’, including a couple of practitioners, unafraid of the throng of people and scattered police presence.

I Graffiti

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 102mm, Exposure 1/640 @ F2.8, ISO 400

This relic of a building…
…is one that I have visited before, but this time I wanted to show some of the symmetry left in this otherwise collapsing structure. I like how the regimented yellow girders, standing to attention, are offset by the decay around them, and the mural of a graffiti tag running the length of the wall behind them. I wonder if the original ‘artiste’ had the intention of returning to colour this outline in, or whether the Job’s a Good’un?

Digbeth Dereliction – Reservoir Posts

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 70mm, Exposure 1/100 @ F13, ISO 400

In ‘Graffiti and Contrast’ I found a comfortable, but probably accidental, play between the sharp jagged lines of the central motif, orbiting tags and the shadows from the remaining rusty roof struts and trusses. The wall itself is almost camouflaged.

Digbeth Dereliction – Graffiti and Contrast

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 70mm, Exposure 1/8000 @ F2.8, ISO 400, Considering just how bright and sunny a day it was I didn't actually need F2.8 at ISO 400 for this one, but brain faded and the D700's fast shutter capability saved me.

‘Digbeth Tags” is a much simpler shot, only worthy because of the bright sunshine hitting the wall at an oblique angle, casting long thin shadows from even the smallest of protrusions and imperfections jutting out.

Digbeth Tags

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 116mm, Exposure 1/4000 @ F2.8, ISO 400, I like the contrast in this image, especially the long thin shadows emanating from screws and other protrusions in this wall.

The following week, on another walk…
…we headed up the Birmingham and Worcester canal from The Mailbox towards Old Joe at Selly Oak. We found ‘In Your Face’ under a concrete road bridge over the canal and I couldn’t resist capturing it as the water was so still and mirrored.

Graffiti aside, I actually rather like the detail and texture in the concrete path edge, especially as it reflects in the water. I admit that in post-processing I pushed the contrast and definition up a little here.

In Your Face

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 78mm, Exposure 1/15 @ F2.8, ISO 640, Under a gloomy concrete canal bridge on the Birmingham and Worcester canal, my back was really against the wall on this one. literally! This was almost all I could get into shot with this big heavy lens and almost swapped to my 50mm F1.4 to go a bit wider. Erm, but didn't!

Go on, Paint the Town Red,
ND

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Posted in Birmingham, Birmingham UK, Colours, Graffiti, Nakedigit, Paint, People, Photography, red, yellow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPhone 3GS vs Rothko – Rothkoesque 5

In the 5th in my occasional series of Rothko Homage images…
…I return to the wonder that is the iPhone 3Gs camera. Yes, despite having some rather nice Digital SLR equipment floating about, the, erm, “quality” of the camera in my cellphone actually adds to the effect when trying to “do a Rothko”.

You can see my previous attempts, and the history of my Multiforms endeavors at my Rothko page.

Rothko Experiment 15 – Apple iPhone 3Gs

Apple iPhone 3GS, 3.8mm, Exposure 1/120 @ F2.8, ISO 125, The vertical edges of some new shiny furniture, shot with a grainy iPhone placed deliberately close to prevent accurate autofocus, and subsequently twisted 90 degrees clockwise to throw you off the scent by switching all the vertical lines to horizontal.

The basic technique here is to find…
…2 or more areas of colour and/or texture that are separated by straight lines, and photograph them in a way that distorts them further, reducing detail and clarity to the point that the original subject is unrecognisable and the resultant effect is all you can discern. What better tool to ruin the shot than a badly mishandled low quality cellphone camera with poor noise characteristics:-)

When using a digital SLR I would normally disable all automation in the camera, deliberately defocus the lens as much as possible, slow the shutter right down to allow for camera shake to blur the image but also to bring colours out of my sometimes bland subjects that you just can’t see with the naked eye and generally find any other way that I can to distort the subject during the exposure.

Rothko Experiment 16 – Apple iPhone 3Gs

Apple iPhone 3GS, 3.8mm, Exposure 1/15 @ F2.8, ISO 100, The edge of some new Lime Green Lacquered Habitat furniture against a black background, though I can't remember where the black came from!

Experiments 15 and 16…
…are based on the same subject; a Chive Green Lacquered piece of storage furniture that Mrs ND and I recently bought from Habitat. In both cases the iPhone camera was deliberately held too close to focus various panel gaps between doors and walls of the cabinet, with the resultant images rotated 90 degrees clockwise to further distort the viewers orientation. Minor post processing was performed in Apple’s Aperture 3 to boost the colours and contrast a little, and also to reign back in the low light and poor camera noise to a degree.

Rothko Experiment 17 – Apple iPhone 3Gs

Experiment 17 was really lazy…
…having just used the camera on my iPhone to shoot something completely different, I placed the iPhone down on my light grey office desk and casually spotted the graduated grey tone across the iPhone screen. The curved back of the 3Gs and the position of the camera in one raised corner meant that light from my window was able to illuminate part of the desk below the phone. With the camera well under minimum focus distance the conditions were right, so I pressed the virtual shutter button and subsequently did nothing but resize and tag it to fit this blog.

Rothko Lives, he’s everywhere.

For more on Rothko please visit my Rothko page.

Have fun,
ND

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Birmingham Free Running, Not Parkour

When I was younger…
…and the company I worked for was based in an old farmhouse, I often used to jump down the staircase from the 2nd floor to the ground. The stairs had corners and U-bends linking the flights and the old wooden banister had vertical wooden posts up to the ceiling in the corners between flights. From half way down a flight I would lean forward, wrap my right hand, or even elbow, around the post and jump with some forward momentum. Instead of landing on the bottom step though, I would rotate around the post I was anchored to, carrying that momentum around and landing halfway down the next flight. From this point, and with another flight to go, I would repeat the operation until I had bounded down to the ground floor.

I occasionally scared oncoming people with this tactic but no-one could get from the top of that building to the bottom faster than me. However, I’m not a gymnast or a circus act, I was in a hurry and the inefficiency of this age-old inter-floor transportation hub was merely a minor distraction that my brain didn’t have enough time to ponder on as it usually had other more pressing things to do.

Would Health & Safety have approved? No! This was my two-fingered salute to the nanny state getting in the way of my need to efficiently achieve something on a daily basis.

I was quick in the streets too…
…my mother is tall and walked rapidly everywhere, which is where I get it from. Of course, she’s 80 now, so I carry the torch of not hanging around in our family today. Often when going around a corner, rather than put inefficient strain on my legs (yes, it’s all relative), if I saw a strategically placed lamp-post I would wrap my arm around it and orbitally slingshot around to shave a few milliseconds off my journey time at a reduced cost to my physique and energy consumption. Possibly.

It was therefore with total wonder that in 2003 I witnessed the Mike Christie documentary Jump London on Channel 4. Seriously, if you want to know what I’m talking about for the rest of this article then just watch the first 60 seconds of this video.

I’m assuming that the first 60 seconds hooked you…
…and that you’re returning to this article 49 minutes later!

Had enough yet? No? Good, because in 2005 Mike Christie returned to this subject and filmed the excellent sequel, Jump Britain. If you want to watch people running all over some of Britain’s famous landmarks, including The Forth Bridge then watch this. For those of you that are Birmingham based, as I am, then hang in there (though you won’t need encouragement from me with these exhilarating films), as the action reaches the rooftop of Birmingham’s ICC and Symphony Hall.

To the purist, Parkour and Free Running…
…are not the same thing. Parkour, co-founded by David Belle, is essentially the ability to travel as quickly and safely as possible, across any landscape, on foot and hand through the most efficient usage of your body and momentum to reach your destination having expended the least amount of energy. Effectively carrying your momentum with you, not allowing obstacles in your way to slow or hamper your journey, indeed, using such objects to aid your progress. Parkour is an attitude of mind, a very clear discipline to achieve your ongoing goals with speed, agility, efficiency and safety.

Free Running however is an offshoot of Parkour that uses many similar techniques, but is not the ideal that the Parkour purists aspire to. Whilst the term may indicate rapid travel, Free Running is more about interacting with individual objects to traverse them, not necessarily for efficiency, often for show to demonstrate personal strength or careful balanced technique. However, in the English language, the term ‘Free Running’ has caught on and become interchangeable with Parkour due to it’s clearly descriptive nature of an aspect that links both disciplines.

In Jump London, we watch Sébastien Foucan
…and his colleagues running the rooftops of London, a skill I concede is most useful on a daily basis only to cat burglars. Whilst Foucan was a major proponent of the Parkour movement, his attitude changed to it and he began to advocate the offshoot discipline of Free Running as his main focus.

If you haven’t been tempted to click either of the video links yet, then Foucan went on to perform much of the opening scene stunts in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig. Foucan played the part of Mollaka who Bond chases through a construction site in Madagascar and jumps between buildings and eventually construction cranes in a breathtaking series of events surely enough to drag anyone into the film.

In Jump Britain, Foucan…
…leads a group of young Free Runners around various British Landmarks as they explore their discipline in a variety of exciting, though life threatening environments. Yes kids, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!

You can see more about Foucan at his website.

On many Saturday’s around Birmingham City Center…
…I come across groups of teenagers, all male, who are practicing in public the various skills and moves used in Free Running. I’ll often see someone standing alone, looking pensively at a large stone ball in Victoria Square, or a wall that’s a good 2 feet higher than them nearby, only to look further and find that they’re not alone, often discussing with peers how best to tackle the obstacle du jour, and occasionally with video cameras waiting to record the success, or otherwise, of the impending encounter.

One day in Chamberlain Square

Free Runner 1

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 125mm, Exposure 1/1000 @ F11, ISO 200, Absolutely no idea at all why I was on F11. This was a very quick grabbed shot as the action on the monument in Chamberlain Square was happening which is why I didn't line up the shot well enough to show how high off the ground these 2 guys were. At least the fast shutter stopped any blur from the action or my old trembling wrists😉

I’ve rarely yet been quick or brave enough to capture such antics and escapades on digital film, though I occasionally come across someone in the act of a manoeuvre that simply can’t be ignored. I have considered approaching these people to ask if I could photograph their stunts, but have so far been reticent to do it in case they attempted to play up for the camera, and the result of a possible desire to impress may be an accident that I do not wish to encourage.

My admiration goes out to these people though, and I know I have witnessed many stunts in my home town, in public spaces that filled me with awe as they were carried out. I have certainly missed many good shots if memory serves well.

Free Runner 2

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F5.6, ISO 200, Another situation where something was happening suddenly in front of me, though in this case some distance off across Birmingham's Victoria Square hence the 300mm. I didn't need a fast shutter speed here as he was not in full swing, in fact he was holding this position for a few seconds which takes a level of upper body strength I can only wonder at.

If there are any Birmingham based Parkour or Free Running Enthusiasts reading this…
…then please get in touch.

Have safe fun,
ND

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Watching

I prefer to be behind the lens…
…and anonymous, but it’s not so easy when you’re out shooting at a public event, and just to prove it I’ve hypocritically decided that my peers were fair game and snapped them in action.

In “Watching 2” we have eager and expectant faces, excited by the Chinese New Year celebrations, pointing anything from camera phones to Canon 70-200mm F2.8 monsters at the stage. I had been in this gaggle earlier, but there was too much pushing and the view from the back wasn’t great.

Watching 2 – Chinese New Year of the Rabbit

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F6.3, ISO 640

“Watching 1” demonstrates another Canon 70-200mm lens in action at the same New Years event at Birmingham’s Arcadian. I’ve seen this chap around at various other events around the city over the last year or so.

Watching 1 – Chinese New Year of the Rabbit

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F5.6, ISO 640

Whoops, In “Watching 3” I got caught. During this march around the city centre I first spotted this gentleman near the bullring, amazed and impressed that he was “following” a fast-moving event with the slowest moving camera I had seen. Later on, he brought it up to St Philips Square off Colmore Row where the demonstration ended, and I tried to catch him in a quiet moment once he had set up and was waiting for the final speeches. I’d love to see the shots that he got.

Watching 3 – Anti-Cuts Protest Demonstration

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F5.6, ISO 640

Have fun,
ND

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Buildings at Funny Angles – The Mailbox, Birmingham

In the third in my series of buildings at funny angles…
…following Part 1 and Part 2, I reach this initially disturbing but colourful image.

The Mailbox at Night, Colour

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 150mm, Exposure 1/13 @ F2.8, ISO 800, I finally got a good shot of this corner of the Mailbox at night, handheld, with the new lens I have just bought. This image is largely what came out of the camera, apart from basic but minor structural improvements, and the obvious conversion from Nikon RAW (NEF) format to JPG for this blog.

Looking like a Northrop Grumman B2 Spirit stealth bomber at night with MAX Power underbody lighting, this shot is actually of one corner of The Mailbox building in Birmingham City Centre.

Whilst the building is quite striking from the front during the day due to its solid pillarbox red paint scheme and large bejewelled hanging glass facade, it becomes even more exaggerated at night when much of its surface disappears into dark and it is illuminated by strong bands of red spot lighting and subtle recessed yellow accessories.

I had tried photographing this structure at night before, but with little success, the colours always seemed to be rather washed out on my iMac afterwards. Eventually I realised that it was a simple white balance issue as I had left the camera in “sunshine” setting which causes some of the yellow and red to be reduced. This is no good to me, I’d rather go the other way.

Switching the white balance to cloudy means the colouring is not offset unsatisfactorily, and by the time I took this particular shot I had Vivid mode enabled on my Nikon D700.

The other issue that had made previous shots less successful was my attempt to use the right equipment in the wrong way or the wrong equipment in the right way!

Ideally I should have locked the D700 down to a tripod to nail the sharpness and clarity that I wanted, but I have never actually managed to organise doing this. Every time I went near The Mailbox at night I was without the wee-three-legged-beasty, and usually carrying a lens that was either too short a focal length to reach, or too slow to allow the rapid shutter speed I needed when zoomed out to prevent my cold shaking hands having an impact.

Thankfully, though not for the sake of my credit card, the Focus on Imaging show came along and I finally picked up the lens that I had been after for some time having seen where I was falling short when it comes to event photography in the past.

A couple of days afterwards I took the D700 out at night with its new 70-200mm F2.8 VRII eye, and took this shot, in Vivid mode, at a sensible ISO (for a D700), and handheld….

The only processing I performed on the iMac afterwards was to correct the little barrel distortion, straighten and crop to align the image slightly more correctly than I held it, and to touch up a feint wisp of something unsavoury reflected in the blackness below.

I like the mix of strong hard parallel lines above the soft waviness of the transition to the lower black area.

This mix of light and shade also inspired me…
…To see what a monochrome treatment would be like. By taking the colour shot, dropping the saturation and pushing up the contrast a little I produced this black and white version which shows the tonal range quite well. Again, the strong lines and soft waviness live in an aesthetic juxtaposition that, for me, works quite nicely.

The Mailbox at Night, BW

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G AF-S VRII @ 150mm, Exposure 1/13 @ F2.8, ISO 800, This is the same shot and largely the same editing as the colour version above, but with the saturation dropped out and the contrast pushed up a little to get this striking Monochrome treatment.

Have fun,
ND

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Posted in Architecture, Birmingham, Birmingham UK, Buildings, Colours, Equipment, Nakedigit, Nikon, Photography, red, yellow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments