Issue 285
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On his way back to a hotel in Berlin, Brum-based photographer and architect, Tim Cornbill, snapped the stunningly simple shot, above. It did alright. It did better than alright. It bagged Tim one of his two Sony World Photography Awards and, on the strength of those awards, he was approached by a publisher to pen a book about capturing major cities on camera. And none are more major to Tim than Birmingham. Here's his five top tips — from novice to intermediate — on making Brum your muse.
"Light impacts the images you can capture probably more than any other factor. Poor light requires loads more kit, and without knowing exactly when the sun is going to set, you'll never get a shot like this one, taken from Small Heath train station back towards the city. The sun bouncing off the tracks draws the eye back towards Brum, adding a lot more to the image than your typical skyline shot. Amongst others, I use an app called The Photographer's Ephemeris, which not only tells you when the sun will set but where and in what direction. I also keep a close eye on the weather forecast. People complain about the unpredictable British weather but it can bring opportunities and atmosphere as well as technical challenges."
"Talking weather, I got this shot from Stephenson Street looking back towards New Street, cowering under the side of a building getting drenched — you can see the bounce-back of the water on the floor it was so wet. I took this picture on my phone — probably the most useful tool for any aspiring urban photographer. There's a whole chapter in my book about how to choose your camera but, in essence, you need to work within the limits of what you've got at the moment you see a shot and think about how to maximise the composition of what's in front of you. On an iPhone 6S Plus — the phone I still have today — I used buildings to frame the shot and road markings to draw the eye towards the entrance of the station. Another advantage of using your camera phone for street photography is that people are so used to mobiles these days, that taking yours out of your pocket is unlikely to alter their behaviour. As soon as you start setting up tripods or changing lenses, you draw attention to yourself and the whole dynamic of the situation you're trying to capture can quickly change."
"Wherever you are in the world, get as high as you can with your camera — plenty of cities have public spaces and rooftop bars from which you can get a unique vantage point for the price of a pint. In Brum, I was lucky enough to go up the Mclaren building (that really tall one on Priory Queensway) to capture this shot, looking towards the back of the Radisson Tower. Though this is actually quite a flat image, by literally filling the frame, a composition technique where you leave no distractions or space around the edge of your subject, you can get a really dense shot that, here, makes the buildings of Birmingham appear closer together than they actually are. So take any opportunities given to get into unusual spots and seek out high up public places. If you don't find a well-placed bar, look for a car park — I've captured some really unusual angles from their upper levels."
"Sometimes, there's no substitute for some techie kit to get the shot, like a tripod. I'm pleased with how this time-lapse of the traffic around Queensway Tunnel turned out. I used a 30-second exposure, a manual function on my big camera, to get this. What you see here is 30 seconds of time all in one frame. On the left side, can you see those high, red light trails? They're from the tail lights of a bus passing. Small breaks in the light trails are from where cars were stop-start. You absolutely need a tripod here to avoid the image being blurry but even iPhone's come with time-lapse functionality and you can get mini-tripods these days so it is possible to try out this sort of technique without committing too much cash."
"I was tracking this guy around the outside of the Library of Birmingham when I realised I only had my point and shoot on me, a camera with no zoom. Knowing there was something in the repetition of the circular shape of the balustrade and amphitheatre, and that I could edit the raw shot later, I took this picture. Unremarkable, isn't it?! But making a success out of photography can be as much about knowing you can reverse engineer a shot later as capturing it perfectly first time around. Having worked in black and white a lot, I could see how striking the contrast between the ground and the path could ultimately look. In the original shot, the brown of the grass is the first thing your eye is drawn to. In the edited version, the shapes stand out because of the stark contrast in colour and shadowing, and by cropping the shot, I got rid of lots of the busyness, allowing the composition to do the work. There's a whole chapter about editing in my book and getting to know how everyday colours will look in black and white is a really useful skill. But, between you and me, there's a lot you can pick up with a bit of a trial and error.
Urban Photography is published on July 11. Pre-order it here, or pre-order a signed copy direct from Tim here.


Like the Avengers but with somehow more leather, we've teamed up with the Mailbox and two of their indy stores, English Brands and Burrows & Hare, to offer a menswear prize worth over £300. Burrows have got a Brooks England bag — made just four miles away in Smethwick — worth £150, while the shoe boffins at English Brands are chipping in with a £180 voucher, so you can spruce up your tootsies for summer. To be in with a chance of winning you need to subscribe to the Mailbox's newsletter here, and follow English Brands over on Instagram. A two-step sort of a deal. The winner will be picked at random on June 20 and notified by email. Local pro tip: Burrows & Hare design an outstanding corduroy jacket made in Sutton Coldfield. Not too shabby, eh?


These are strange times for comedy. Certain acts claim “You can’t say anything these days.” However, as long as there are comedians such as Sean McLoughlin around, it doesn't feel like it's the case. And, instead of tub-thumping, Sean lets the comedy speak for itself. Self-hatred, thwarted love and emotional turmoil are constant themes, and this isn’t a persona that’s been created to shift tickets. This is a genuinely edgy act who puts himself through the mangle for our entertainment. Such is the darkness, it’s as if he doesn’t realise how brilliant he is. Bill Burr and Ricky Gervais clearly rate him – he’s supported both comedy icons on tour. And perhaps Sean must never know: his pain makes for glorious comedy. June 28 at Glee, tickets are £12.50.
Venue: The Lyttelton Arms, Hagley, DY9 9LJ; website
Choice: Grilled lamb kofta (£7.50) Chooser: Hannah, waitress

Slap-bang in the middle of Hagley, over Kidderminster-way, the Lyttelton was renowned for nice looking food and even nicer looking clientele. It’s recent refurb has managed to big-up the opulence whilst dialling down the pretentiousness and as a result the new-look pub, bar and restaurant feels exclusive but no longer excluding. A mere 7 Uber-minutes from Stourbridge Junction (to which there are six direct trains an hour from Moor Street), the interior is lush to look at, even if it’s a little too eager to flag its Ivy-esque aspirations. The bar area, in particular, was a fine spot to sup a blood orange and passionfruit Tom Collins, like the naughty Fanta you really want to be sipping on your hols. Starters saw freshly shucked oysters (£3.95), topped off gloriously by the teeniest bottle of Tabasco and tart pickled red onions. Next up, the aubergine, lentil and chickpea tagine (£10.95) isn't a repeat order for us but the smoky grilled lamb kofta made us glad that we dared to veer away from the steaks and burgers the rest of the dining room seemed to be chowing. Finally, the (will it, won’t it?) melting chocolate and peanut bomb (£8.95) was well worth the minor case of brain-freeze that came with it. Oh, and after the most British of awkward pauses, it did.


Though you probably haven't heard of Jim Kerr, we defy you not to have been wowed by his bold, beautiful work. Under the title Seven 9 Signs, Birmingham's leader in lettering appears on buildings, above shop fronts and basically over the whole of Digbeth. Meet the (ever so lovely) craftsman himself and get an intro to traditional sign writing in the Jewellery Quarter — a place full of it — before you explore the basics of drafting letterforms using tools of the trade. You'll then have a go at painting letters for yourself. All materials are provided at the workshop, which takes place at 1000 Trades at 11am on June 30. Tickets are £5. Also on August 10.


Brazilian meat den Rodizio Rico are throwing a bit of a relaunch bash on June 27 and you're invited. The reason why this could prove to be a thrifty invite to take up is that owner Mike Nayla is giving away 200 meals to I Choose Birmingham readers. The only caveat is that you pay what you think the food was worth at the end — Mike will then hand payment for all 200 meals to Birmingham Children's Hospital. The deal includes a welcome drink, food, a bottle of wine or house champagne and dessert. Plus, if you miss out on one of those slots, you'll get 20% off your food and drink anyway. Call 0121 285 2856 and mention this deal. Max four people.
In what historians are already calling the Great Summer of Pizza, Neapolitan indy Rudy's is next to launch in Brum and they're giving away 3,000 free pizzas to celebrate. To be first in line to claim yours, subscribe to their newsletter, here.
Aaaand Neapolitan style pizzas are now 100% gettable in Kings Heath thanks to the team behind Grace + James, a close York Road neighbour to their new pizzeria, POLI. Menu
Also now open, Noel's, across the water from the outdoorsy bit of the Mailbox. Here's the Med-influenced menu for your perusal.
Beer Central is a festival with a lot of beer and the most holy of food trinities to go with it: Brad Carter, OPM and Baked in Brick. On July 5 and 6, tickets are £45 but ICB subscribers get 15% off by entering IChooseBeerCentral in the coupon code box before payment.
Attic Brew Co's having a crawfish boil. Bit devo we're at a wedding to be honest. On July 21, tickets are £29.50 and, in addition to all that crayfish, include a shot of pickleback cocktail and a BBQ peach pud desert.

"You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it."


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WORDS: Tom Cullen, Katy Drohan, Robb Shepherd, James Gill
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