Compare and contrast – Gaol Ferry Bridge

I have always been fascinated with how the same thing can look so different when taken with different cameras – everything from what’s included or discarded by the size of a lens, to the way colours come out, or just a different atmosphere.  But I think I’ve hit a new high in compare-and-contrast, and it’s making me laugh.

I tend to take photos of the Avon when I cross the footbridges, so one night last week we were walking home from town over Gaol Ferry Bridge, and the river was full, so I took this on my phone, looking east:

Gaol Ferry Bridge night

Moody, dark, and I like that it still shows the wind on the river.   At the same time I took one on my Olympus XA2 – my 35mm point & shoot.  I used the edge of the bridge as a tripod, because it would have a longer exposure.   And here’s how it came out:

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Self indulgence, Avon mud

If you look at my site for even a few minutes, you will have realised that I obsess about a lot of things photographically, and especially about the Avon mud.   More specifically, about the way the light hits it, and how it continually looks different.   It makes me happy, and film cameras make me happy, so combining the two is great, though it makes me feel guilty and self-indulgent to keep shooting the same thing.

It’s especially an issue now, when camera film is so expensive, and getting the pictures developed it as well.   It can be around £16 in total for a roll of 35mm, and over £20 for 120 and that just hurts (you know I am missing the days of film in the Pound Shop, and cheap film outlets).   So I’m thinking of cutting back on film photography, and predominantly using digital, which is very sad for me… but before I do, I had a completely self-indulgent day shooting nothing but mud on my beautiful waist-viewfinder Bronica ETRS, for medium format “who cares about the cost!” photography.   The sad thing is, all that happened when I got the roll back is I want to do it again, and again, and again.   Ah well.

Here’s the flickr album – if you click on the first picture below, it should bring up the slideshow.  The first four are along the Chocolate Path, which feels even more poignant now the Path is closed indefinitely, with no hint from the Council as to when it might open (I’m genuinely worried they’ll decide to just let it fall into the river, because there has been so little upkeep of the New Cut, going back years).  I’m glad that at least I did this while I could.

Avon mud - shapes along the Chocolate Path

 

Avon mud

I don’t know why, but the mud around the Entrance Lock has been covered in muck at the moment – maybe because there hasn’t been much heavy rain recently?   It’s one of those things I laugh at myself for being frustrated about, and then suddenly see it in a new light, literally and figuratively. I love the patterns it makes, around the paths made by rivulets finding their way to the river.

Mud, marks

December reflections

Last week there was a rare run of gorgeous winter days: cold, crisp and clear, all amazing light, long shadows and beautiful reflections on the Avon.

Some photos from the Chocolate Path, when the light was especially pretty in between cloudbursts.  Such a lovely walk.  The photos are in order from Gaol Ferry Bridge down to the Avon viewpoint, and back again to Vauxhall Bridge.

Gaol Ferry Bridge reflections

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Avon Stories podcast #15: The unloved landscapes of Sylvia Crowe, with Wendy Tippett

The Cumberland Basin to Ashton Gate road system is this complicated tangle of roads passing above and below each other, with endlessly confusing ways over and through it for cars and pedestrians alike.  It’s generally seen as a brutalist concrete nightmare, but back in the 1960s, when it was built, it was seen utopian and futuristic, full of exciting new ways to live in a city, with vibrant spaces and an urban park.  These included a market place and piazza on the Northern edge, a service station, a new hill, playgrounds under the roads, and of course, the viewpoint up the River Avon to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, all designed by Sylvia Crowe.

Despite having no formal schooling after leaving school at the age of ten due to TB, Crowe was an important British twentieth century landscape architect, working on everything from vast Forestry Commission schemes, New Towns, power stations and reservoirs, down to private gardens.

These Bristol spaces must have been incredible to see at the time, with a giant fountain spraying up between the raised lanes of traffic, and a nautical-themed playground overlooking the Entrance Lock.  The problem was that no one had predicted how fast car ownership would increase, turning what were vibrant spaces into discarded concrete no-man’s-lands.

Sylvia Crowe Cumberland Basin Bridges, Landscape Plan. Coloured up by Wendy Tippett, with our Avon Stories walk marked up in red line. Ref. Landscape Report, Cumberland Basin Bridges & Ashton Gate Junction, April 1964, University of Bristol Library

Sylvia Crowe Cumberland Basin Bridges, Landscape Plan.
Coloured up by Wendy Tippett, with our Avon Stories walk marked up in red line.
Ref. Landscape Report, Cumberland Basin Bridges & Ashton Gate Junction, April 1964, University of Bristol Library.

Landscape Architect Wendy Tippett took me walking through the northern parts of the road scheme, and told me about how the spaces would have looked in the 1960s, including the design elements that are taken for granted these days, and why, ultimately, it failed.

You can join us on the podcast we recorded on the walk, with photos and lots of links to old photos and plans below.

Sylvia Crowe Cumberland Basin Bridges & Ashton Gate Junction, Aerial View.
Ref. Tippett, W., Unloved Landscapes Dissertation, 2014.

Wendy Tippett is the Landscape Director at Andrew Kenyon Architects in Bristol and Conservation Trustee of Avon Gardens Trust, and you can follow her on her twitter.   I highly recommend her guided walks, they made me see familiar spaces with new eyes – if you’d like to arrange one for a group, or talk to her about Sylvia Crowe’s work in Bristol, you can contact her on wendy [at] andrewkenyonarchitects [dot] co [dot] uk.

If you’d like to know more about Sylvia Crowe, there’s a brief biography on the Landscape Institute website, and there’s a description of the Cumberland Basin site on Parks and Gardens.

Since we recorded this podcast, Bristol 24/7 has reported that there are plans to sell off and re-develop a lot of the site, so this is likely to change again in the future.

I retraced the walk Wendy took me on in December, and my photos (DSLR, 35mm and 120 film) are in this flickr album – click on the first photo and a slideshow should start.

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Avon mud

Triptych:  Mud (medium format)

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.

Triptych:  Mud (medium format)

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