I have so many photographic obsessions, and one of them is the mud on the Avon banks, especially around the blocked up lock at the entrance to the Cumberland Basin. The silt has banked up here in corrugations, with lines where water has flowed meandering through it. It’s fascinating in every kind of light, but my favourite moments are when the sun is low, making the water on the surface turn to silver. The ridges and lines look like landscapes – mountains and rivers and hills. And on windy days the light changes so fast, as clouds whip across the sky. I made a film of that in the summer, and I need to go back and try it again in winter light.
I’ve got various collections of photos from walks I took this autumn, and never got around to blogging – exploring the Malago, and the Avon at St Anne’s and the Greenway. Full photosets under title links, and if you mouse over the top photo, it should turn into a slideshow.
I’ve walked along the Bedminster sections of the Malago, down through the parks, but for some reason I’ve never gone past Parson Street before. This was a babywalk with Cee and her son, and Vik, and I loved getting to see this area I’ve looked at on maps, and passed in the car. And it’s beautiful!
We walked through the parks from St John’s Lane, then down Hartcliffe Way, and then the sidestreets. We’d passed the river as a little stream, overgrown with plants, a treecreeper on a tree as we turned into the park.
I’ve been blogging walks I took in November, and there were some glorious sunny days, but I need to remind myself, most of it looked like this.
Actually I’m lying. That looks picturesque, and most of November was too grey and drizzly and nasty to even get the camera out. Days where the sun never seemed to rise, and the rain wasn’t heavy enough to be good for puddle photos, but was somehow the kind where every drop soaks down to the bones, freezing as it goes.
But it did mean there was a lot of this:
I’m sure that cormorants live on other rivers, in other cities, but they feel so Bristol to me. I’ll never stop grinning at them looking like miniature pterodactyls, or overgrown vampire bats. Definitely worth standing in the rain for a photo!
It took me a long time to be happy with the fact that a lot of my practice involves repetition and re-visiting places to see how they look at different times. I think part of this is doing a photography degree, where no project lasts more than 5 or 6 months, and each time it’s about doing something new. But one of the things my final project – and even more, my post-uni life – taught me was the value of the everyday, and how re-visiting can add depth and value in ways that continually jetting off to exotic new places can’t.
When I walked from Sea Mills across the M5 motorway bridge and down the Avon with my friend Tracy Homer in the summer, we talked about how we should definitely take that walk again, and see how it looks in different seasons, and what else we can discover. So last week we did it again, with changes – our November walk to see how the autumn looks.
Map, and click on the flickr album to see more photos, taken with my DSLR + 50mm lens and my Olympus XA2 35mm film camera. Below I have a selection of my favourite photos and thoughts about the day, along with some mini films and some sounds I recorded.
Back at the start of the month I was taking the kind of walk I do a lot of in winter. I get SAD, and I’ve been freelancing, so I have to make a conscious effort to leave the house sometimes. One thing I do is order books from the library, so I have a continual reason to be out, dropping off read books, taking out new ones. They start off as functional, deliberate walks, rather than explorations, or leisure, but they can lead into more.
This time I started getting fascinated with the wooden structures that are built into the silt banks along the stretch of river between Bedminster Bridge and the former entrance to the Harbour at Bathurst Basin. They look so botched together, straining at the pressure of holding up the weight of the banking, and on their last legs. I wonder when they were built, how long they will last, and what will happen when they fall – and that makes me think about how so much of the New Cut has been so badly maintained, and seems like one or two big storms away from collapsing. It’s an unnatural river, and should need constant upkeep. Without it, it won’t last another 50 years, let alone 100.
My photos were bad – grey November day, just my iphone, and 200iso in my 35mm, but I love them. I hopped over the fence to look at the mechanics of the outlet that lets the Malago into the Avon, as I’m always intrigued as to what everything is. It’s this kind of view I like best, and these are the moments the functional walks turn into something more.
And it’s a continual obsession to take the same photos with multiple cameras, to see how the view changes – here’s the river from an unusual viewpoint, phone & 35mm.
The composition is better on the mobile, the colours better on film – but neither are great. I wish I’d had my medium format or DSLR with me. But I love them for the memory, and because I can’t remember seeing this view before. I want to see what it looks like in winter, and spring, and summer. Golden hour and frosty morning light, and everything between!
Last week, Vik and I took a November walk, starting at Sea Mills, down through the nature reserves, then along the Portway to the Goat Gully, and up around the Downs to Clifton. We started a bit late for this time of year, getting on a bus at around 1pm, so by the time we’d got to the Suspension Bridge, it was definitely dusk.
I’ve been to these places before, but never as one walk, and that always shows new sides to places. The Avon always looks different every time, of course, and I’ve only been the the nature reserves in the Spring before.
Photos are in this flickr set – there are photos from my DLSR, point’n’shoot 35mm and medium format film cameras. Click through to see more, and I have more links below too.
A few weeks ago, as part of the Docks Heritage Weekend, we took a coach trip around the Bristol Port sites at the Royal Portbury Dock and Avonmouth. I had no idea what to expect, except we wouldn’t be allowed to get off the coach, but it was free, and of course I was interested.
It was an interesting photography say, as the mini-coach didn’t stop, and had tinted windows which put a weird colour cast on everything. Plus window reflections are hard to avoid! But I have a flickr set, taken with my DSLR + 50mm lens, and my mobile phone (click the photo to see more).
It was really fascinating, especially in terms of spaces built for function, not design, and where space was not an issue. The two huge Avonmouth concrete buildings, for example, are standing empty because it’s cheaper and easier than taking them down, which seems so unusual in the context of Bristol.
Portbury is all about the rows and rows of cars, waiting to be shipped out, or shipped around the UK, but we also went through a huge grain storage shed, with pyramids of animal feed piled high. The Avonmouth side is bigger, with what feels like more diversity, but it was hard to tell – we went on a maze-y route that I couldn’t map in my head.
My favourite part was when we got out to the helicopter pad on the edge of Avonmouth, where the Avon meets the Severn. The driver did a very neat turn very close to the edge, which had us all gasping! I so wanted to get out and take photos – it’s always a surprise how close Wales is, and I’ve never seen the junction between the rivers. It made me want to take a boat trip out into the Severn – to Steep Holm maybe?
It’s something I’d absolutely recommend to anyone, if you have the chance to do this. It was such unusual landscapes, and structures, and the commentary was fun (unintentionally hilarious in places too!). So much to enjoy, and for free? Perfect!