On Thursday evening, an email popped up in the IGersBirmingham inbox:
“Hi guys! I’ve been following your blog for a while and I really enjoy it!
As a beginner photographer, I want to know where are the best places to take images of the city skyline?
Is there like any discreet areas or buildings?
While flattery will get you everywhere, it also reminded us of an instablogpost on this very topic that’s been languishing in our drafts folder since March last year, just waiting to be completed. We’ve shared the information that’s actually in the instablogpost a few times since then as it’s a question we’re sometimes asked, but we’ve never gotten around to actually pulling together a proper instablogpost. But following the success of our last instablogpost, we’ve stopped procrastinating and here they are: our favourite locations for capturing the Birmingham skyline that require no special access.
New feature: IGers Birmingham Challenges!
You will notice that there are no images in this instablog post. This is because we want to harness the power of the IGers Birmingham community to populate it (and potentially extend it). To feature you just need to:
- Tag images that you have taken from any of the locations detailed below, using the hashtag #igb_challenge_skyline (and #igersbirmingham as well of course!). This can be new photos or you can retag old photos.
- On the 11th February we will look through the hashtag, choose images that best showcase the views from those locations and update the blog.
Alternatively, if we’ve missed anywhere – just email us with the details, plus an image, and we’ll add it to the list! Remember, they cannot require any special access.
Your images will then help to guide other members of the IGers Birmingham community!
This list is by no means exhaustive and it’s in no particular order. Many of these may be familiar to some people already, but we know that there are new arrivals within the IGers Birmingham community all the time.
A word of warning – while all locations are accessible to the public, some (like car parks) are private property. Read below for more details.
1. Moat Lane / Markets Car park, Moat Lane, city centre
Great for: This car park gives a classic view of the Birmingham skyline – ticking the boxes for the Bullring, St Martins and the Rotunda. There is also plenty to see from the other three sides of the car park. Depending upon the time of year, you can get shots of the sun rising over Digbeth and setting over the city. This is certainly one of our favourite locations, hence choosing an image from this location as the cover shot for this instablog post. The shot was taken by Ed Brown (aka. @notthetalkinghorse) from IGers Black Country who sent us this shot when we first started this guide in March 2017!
Tip: There are wire barriers around the edge but you’ll notice that some are stretched to just the right size for a lens to poke through.
2. Balsall Heath
Great for: We discovered this location on an instameet in 2016 – near the corner of Balsall Heath Road and Wenman Street there is a spot of grass near a footpath gives great views from the south of the city centre. You’ll see the Radison Blu, the Cube, the Rotunda as well as Birmingham Central Mosque in the middle-distance.
3. Layby at the top of Egg Hill Lane (between Frankley and Longbridge)
Great for: Distant views across the whole city. Frankley and Bartly Resevoirs (or cows!) provide foreground interest.
Tip: Going at night may be a little “interesting” as is best avoided (according to some internet research – and certainly not personal experience – apparently this layby could be a site for a particular form of adult entertainment…)
4. The Library of Birmingham
Great for: The balconies and Shakespeare Library give you great near-views of the skyline. You can capture many of Birmingham’s most recognisable buildings, such as the Cube, the new Holiday Inn Express, the reflective Hyatt, BMAG (until the redevelopment of the former Library site at least), the BT Tower, the Alpha Tower and the many new developments that are shooting up in that area at the moment. This is a great place for winter sunsets as sunset takes place during the Library’s opening hours.
Tip: Don’t wait until you are outside to get your shots – there are plenty of places to shoot from inside that can include the distinctive exterior architecture and the skyline beyond.
5. Tyseley train station
Great for: Get distant views of the city with the station providing foreground interest and the tracks providing some leading lines.
Tip: This is a great spot for sunsets
6. Edgbaston Reservoir
Great for: One option is to head to the dam-type structure on the eastern shore of the reservoir. The other option is to go to the northern shore along from the Sailing Club where you can see the skyline with the reservoir in the foreground. If it’s a still day then you can get a great reflection shot from this vantage point.
Tip: Great for sunrise shots.
Great for: As we discovered on our instameet in January 2017, the fact that this area of the city is on a bit of a hill,you can get some excellent views of Birmingham. Try near the Spotted Dog, Alcester Street near it’s junction with Cheapside or on Darwin Street to the Calthorpe Academy.
8. St Paul’s Train Station, (corner of Northwood Street and Livery Street)
Great for: Views towards the Snow Hill developments (and BT Tower if the angle is wide enough), with the train tracks providing leading lines.
Tip: There could be some interesting opportunities for long exposure with the passing trains and trams.
9. Lickey Hills Country Park
Great for: For distant views of the city with Longbridge in the foreground, head to the Bilberry Hill part of the park, near the visitor centre.
10. JQ Car Park, on Vyse Street, behind the Big Peg
Great for: A view that includes the Library, BT Tower and Snowhill developments. You need to head to the very back corner of the car park otherwise the Big Peg will obscure your view.
Tip: The car park is shut on a Sunday
11. Grand Central Carpark
Great for: Get a bird’s eye view of Grand Central’s roof with Birmingham stretching out behind from this car park. Access it on foot via the lifts in between Cath Kidston and Kheil’s on the upper level of Grand Central.
Tip: It’s a great place to capture the sunrise, or at night when the roof is lit up. The security guards here are not massive fans of photographers!
12. Park Circus, next to Waterlinks Boulevard
Great for: We’re not sure! This is one we’ve not actually tried, but from having driven underneath it along the Aston Expressway and done some Google Street View investigations, we think this could be a good location! Try it and let us know!
Tip: If you don’t already use it, Street View is a blessing for location scouting.
13. NCP Car Park, St Jude’s Passage
Great for: Views of the Rotunda, Grand Central, the Radisson and Holloway Circus.
Tip: Head up after it has rained and it is still, there is a perfectly-placed puddle for a reflection of the Rotunda!
14. Selfridges Car Park
Great for: Views of Selfridges, Moor Street Station, East Side City Park and Digbeth.
Tip: As with the Grand Central car park, the security guards here are not massive fans of photographers!
15. House of Fraser, Birmingham City Centre
Great for: From the windows in the furniture area on one of the upper floors, you can get views of St Philip’s above the trees, as well as the Grand Hotel and BT Tower.
Tip: Be discreet – this one is a bit cheeky!
16. Snow Hill Car Park
Great for: Views over the JQ, the Snow Hill developments and you are very close to the BT Tower.
Tip: Good for sunsets over the JQ and try a long exposure of cars on the Queensway with the BT Tower behind.
17. Beacon Road, near Barr Beacon
Great for: Distant views of the city.
18. Marco Pierre White’s at The Cube
And if car parks or laybys are not your thing, then Marco Pierre White’s on the top floor of The Cube has a terrace which gets great sunset views (although you probably won’t be able to turn up with your full camera set up including a tripod…).
A word of warning – while all locations are accessible to the public, some (like car parks) are private property and the owners do have the right to prohibit photography for various reasons or ask that you obtain a photography permit. We’re not lawyers and it does depend upon the location, but from experience security guards often don’t object to you being there and taking photos provided you are not causing a nuisance.
HOWEVER, if you are asked to leave by security guards we cannot be clearer with our advice: MOVE ON POLITELY and find something else to photograph! They are only doing their jobs and it is *just* photography after all.
From our personal experience, and the experience of people that we know, we have been able to take photos in the locations mentioned here and other similar locations on many occasions without issue (although for full disclosure – we have been politely asked to leave on a couple of occasions which we did).
The usual safety advice of being careful around heights applies as well of course.
Taking photographs at any of these locations is fully at your own risk.
Cover image by @notthetalkinghorse