Meet IGers Birmingham Part 5: Beth Astington

So far this week we’ve introduced you to all of the photographers from the IGers Birmingham community that are appearing in this year’s exhibition. Now it’s time to introduce you to the team that run the account and organise all-things IGers Birmingham: Beth, Martin and Fraser.

Hi, I’m Beth aka @bethastington and I’ve been involved in running IGersBirmingham for just over 2 years. This instablogpost is a bit about me, as well as some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken.

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Me. I very much prefer to be behind the camera, so this work portrait will have to do! The other image of me was taken by the fantastic Kris Askey.

I’ve lived in Birmingham since 2014 when I moved here to work at the University of Birmingham (I now work at Aston University). Before that I lived in Leicester but I grew up on a sheep / beef farm in Carmarthenshire in Wales. Taking photos had always been something I enjoyed however it tended to be just something I did on special occasions or on holiday. I think I started to put photos that I’d taken using my phone on Instagram in 2014 but the only editing I’d do was using the Instagram filters – rather liberally it seems! Nowdays I use a Canon 600D and an iPhone 7, generally using snapseed for editing (I’m learning Photoshop / Lightroom).

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If I had entered a shot in to the competition for the Best of Birmingham exhibition, I think this would have been on my shortlist of ones to enter. It was taken at an event we ran with Staying Cool Apartments earlier in the year.

I became involved in IGers Birmingham in 2015 after attending a Visit Birmingham instameet in June 2015 that my friend and colleague Annabell had seen advertised. We weren’t really sure what to expect but we had such a great time. Afterwards we thought that the University of Birmingham campus would be a fantastic place to hold one. After mistakenly thinking that IGers Birmingham had been involved in running the instameet we dropped Fraser an email with our suggestion. Within a couple of weeks we met up and got busy organising, and the next thing we knew, the IGers Birmingham Instameet at the University of Birmingham was taking place!

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This is a screenshot of an image I posted from that very first Visit Birmingham instameet that Annabell and I attended. I think that it was taken on an iPhone 4.

At that point IGers Birmingham was considerably smaller, but from the University of Birmingham instameet onwards, Fraser, Annabell and I spent the next 15 months developing IGersBirmingham further, sharing hundreds of Photo of the Days, organising more and bigger instameets and competitions, and even holding a really successful exhibition. After Annabell decided to pursue other interests early in 2017 it’s just been Fraser and I running the account, however Martin joined us on Team IGersBirmingham in September and it’s been great working with him too.

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This is my favourite Instameet shot which was taken at our Birmingham weekender instameet in September 2017. I don’t have much confidence in photographing people normally, but instameets feel like a “safe” opportunity to do so and the Weekender instameet had lots of opportunities for this type of shooting. I’m also really happy with the way I managed to capture it in quite a busy space where there was lots going on and edit it just using snapseed.

My favourite thing about running IGers Birmingham is organising our instameets. There’s a lot of work involved but the thought of giving people the opportunity to meet up with others, go somewhere new and just spend time taking photographs is really rewarding.  After the instameet it really interesting to see how everyone has captured the location. It’s also great to see how so many people have become friends through instameets and how they’ve developed their photography skills.

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These shots of Oscar the robin were taken at Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve which is just north of Birmingham. I’ve chosen these as not only is wildlife is one of my preferred things to photograph, but this location is somewhere that was introduced to me by James (@jimpanda) who I have become friends with through IGers Birmingham. He’s introduced me and lots of other members of the community to a variety of locations for photographing wildlife, although we don’t mention the Brandon Marsh murmuration any more….  One of the shots was even shared by BBC Springwatch and BBC Brazil which was amazing!

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Coming up with our own suggestions or having community members or organisations approach us with suggestions for instameets or opportunities is always great. We’ve worked with people like Warwick Castle, JQBID, Birmingham Hippodrome, Hidden Spaces and various PR companies which has also provided me with insights in to different organisations and in to contact with a great network of people (indeed, if you’d like to work with us on an instameet or competition, please do get in touch!).

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This is another shot which I think I would have entered in to the Best of Birmingham competition. Through running IGers Birmingham I’m incredibly lucky to get the occasional personal invitation to a photography expedition. This shot was taken on one such occasion when a couple of us were invited on to the roof of the Alpha Tower at dawn.

Working with Birmingham Museums Trust to organise this year’s exhibition has been really intense, but so interesting, enjoyable and rewarding in equal measure. I’ve learnt a lot through working with Alex, Zoe, Laura and Emma from BMT. We are really honoured to be able to showcase the work of our community in a venue belonging to such an important Birmingham institution. The fact that so many people will be seeing the community’s work is fantastic, the fact that we will be raising money for Birmingham Museums Trust as well is the icing on the cake. The involvement from Brumpic, Trevor Beattie, Palm Labs and The Framers has be invaluable, as well as the engagement of the community itself of course which never ceases to impress me.

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One of the benefits of being part of the IGers Birmingham community is the chance to learn from others. This shot was taken under the guidance of the very talented Ross Jukes (@rossjukes) at a workshop style instameet back in September 2015. The supportive atmosphere at that instameet is something that’s stuck with me – lots of people were offering each other advice and helping each other out. This is something that’s really helped me at instameets and informal occasions when we’ve been out with our cameras, and I’m sure it’s helped others too.

Working with Fraser to run IGers Birmingham over the last two years has been great, and just being part of the community is enabling me to learn a lot about photography. I’ve met some really talented people who have inspired me to develop my photography. Being part of IGers Birmingham has also given me the opportunity and confidence to photograph things that I haven’t tried before, taken me to some really interesting places, allowed me to meet so many great people, plus even resulted in an appearance on BBC Midlands Today talking about Spaghetti Junction (something I never thought I’d say!).

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I couldn’t possible share a selection of my favourite images without having at least one taken in the beautiful Welsh countryside. This was taken in the Elan Valley in December 2016.

All in all, I really enjoy being part of this community and running the account. Here’s to more fantastic IGers Birmingham times!

Words & images: Beth Astington, @bethastington