Favourite Photo of the Month, 2023

2023 has been a bit of a strange year. The recent months haven’t been much fun, and I’ve done very little photography. For October, in fact, I only had one photo uploaded to Flickr to choose from, though after digging through the few other snaps I’d taken that were sitting in my Lightroom catalogue I did at least manage to find find an alternative that reminded me of a day trip out of the city to Tyntesfield, which fits my usual rule: it either has to be a good photo, or it has to remind me of something good that I did…

I half-expected looking back on the year to be a bit of a downer all-round, but it turns out that I’d forgotten some of the fun things I’d done in the first half of the year, like shooting a roll of film during a walk along the Purton Ships Graveyard with some friends, or going around a couple of interesting places during Clifton’s Open Gardens event.

Anyway. Without further ado, here’s my usual Favourite Photo of the Month post for the year:

January

The Clifton Suspension Bridge in fog, with jackdaws flying above
For the Birds

My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, and by happy coincidence it was a foggy morning, so I went for a walk up to Clifton to see if I could get some moody Suspension Bridge snaps. I was pretty happy with this one. I think the birds really help; from memory they were jackdaws.

February

A lone figure walks below the Plimsoll Bridge on a foggy February day
Lonely Soul

The foggy theme continues. This day in February was a work day, but I took the commute as an opportunity to get some practice in and dragged my 6D and probably my favourite lens, the 135mm prime, along with me on the walk to the office. Here we see a lone walker under the Plimsoll Bridge with the Cumberland Basin in the background. 

March

The Hotwell Road in Bristol, shot on grainy film through the stained glass of a telephone box
Hotwell Road

Another commuter shot for March, but this time on film. Shot with my sturdy Praktica MTL‑3 on the excellently moody and grainy LomoChrome Metropolis, and through the stained window glass of an old phone box, here’s the less glamorous side of my commute: the “oh bugger, I’m late, so I’d better go the short way down the Hotwell Road, rather than the nice way south of the harbour” route.

April

The remnants of a wooden rib member of a ship's hull at he Purton Ship's Graveyard, with the Severn Estuary in the background
Remnant

Another shot from the Praktica MTL‑3, this time with AgfaPhoto APX 100 film. This was shot at the Purton Ships Graveyard, and from what I remember it’s one of the ribs of what remains of one of the hulls that shore up the bank there. I really like this film; this is from the only roll of it I’ve ever shot.

I walked along the Graveyard with my friends Sarah and Vik; we’ve done the walk before, but that was on a miserable, rainy day — this time we were blessed with good weather. On the way home we stopped on a whim at an alpaca farm/café near Thornbury and had ice cream and coffee.

May

A driver at the helm of  the Bristol Ferryboat Company's boat Emily idly plays with her hair while at the helm
Contemplation

Another day off, this time just a random extra Friday to turn the Spring Bank Holiday Monday into a long weekend. Here I’m heading back home from the city centre with skipper Mandy at the helm of the newly-refurbished Bristol Ferry Boat Emily. Surprisingly this is the first of the year’s selection shot on my usual “walkaround” camera, the lovely Fujifilm X100‑T.

June

A shot across the rooftops of Clifton taken from the Bellevue back garden.
Roofscape

Not a particularly great photo, but this is one of those that at least reminds me of an interesting day. It was the weekend of the annual Clifton Open Gardens event. It was a bit of a dreary weekend, but the rain held off for the tour of the enormous and increasingly-well-tended garden around the back of the street called Bellevue in Cliftonwood. Walking down the street normally, you only get to see what’s actually the back of this terrace, as it was designed with its front to this large landscaped private garden. For many years the garden was in a state of overgrowth and disrepair but recent efforts have involved having a garden historian work out as much of the original layout as possible and restoring some of the paths.

It was fascinating to take the tour, but there wasn’t much in the way of great photography to be had in the garden itself. In the end the best snap of the day was this roofscape from the corner of the garden looking up through Clifton towards the Clifton Heights office block, a shot that I couldn’t have got on any other day of the year.

July

A man relaxes in a local pub
Steve

July’s photo is a bit random, but I think it’s a good picture — a typical local pub scene in Hotwells. I took advantage of some of this summer’s weather to spend a bit more time in the local pubs, including my favourite Hotwells pub, the Merchants Arms (honourable mentions go to three other not-quite-Hotwells pubs: the Nova Scotia, the Bag of Nails and the Portcullis.)

August

A balloonist struggling to launch her hot air balloon in strong (for balloons!) crosswinds at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
Crosswinds

I always try to get some good photos of the Balloon Fiesta. However, this wasn’t a good year for flying as you can probably tell from the somewhat windswept look of the Penny Demolition balloon getting ready for takeoff. This was one of the few successful launches in a year beset by bad weather, sadly. Still, I always enjoy the walk up to Ashton Court for a dawn launch and at least I saw a few balloons leave the ground.

September

A silhouette of the cranes at the M Shed museum on Bristol's harbourside, with the sun creating lens flare from behind them
Flare

In September my friend Lisa invited me along to check out the Bristol Sea Shanty festival. I inevitably took along my camera, but mostly I failed to get any good shots. It didn’t help that the festival seemed far too crowded, especially for the mostly-unamplified performers. We had fun watching a couple of the performances, but probably more of my memories are of hearing fragments of muffled singing coming from behind a sea of people mixed with very occasional glimpses of the shanty-ers.

I shot this pic of the M Shed museum cranes a short time either before or after we took a little tour of the MV Balmoral, one of the venues — the first time I’ve been aboard, I think.

October

Looking through trees on the Tyntesfield estate towards the distant hills
Tyntesfield Distance

Tyntesfield looks warm and serene in this photo, at least at first glance, but it was actually rather overcast and drizzly on the day. This picture represents a week where I did a lot and then suffered for it, really. I worked Monday to Wednesday. On Tuesday evening I went to see Honeyblood playing at the Crofter’s Rights, more of a little solo show with Stina than other gigs of hers I’ve been too, and very enjoyable, too. On the Wednesday I went to a packed showing of ten feminist horror shorts at the Watershed, presented by local director Melanie Light, which were great fun. On Thursday evening I went to see Andrew Cushin at the Thekla, who was just as good as when I’d seen him support Peter Doherty earlier in the year, though I must say I much preferred local band Beware of Leopards to the second support act, so there was a bit of a lull in the middle for me.

And then on Friday, after this pretty exhausting week — I’d walked to work and back on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as walking to the gigs and the cinema — I decided to drive to Tyntesfield and have a trudge around the grounds and the stately home. My memories of the day aren’t particularly happy; I was slowly working out that I’d caught some kind of illness at some point among the various outings and my feet were sore to start with. Nevertheless, I persisted, and tried to get at least a few photos of the grounds that looked half-decent even with the lack of a blue sky. This picture is more of a reminder of the week as a whole — probably the most going-out I’ve done in a single week in some years — than of Tyntesfield in particular.

A few hours after taking this I drove back home via a chemist and a supermarket to pick up Lemsip, Night Nurse, honey and brandy. I was glad I did, because I was definitely right about the illness. I didn’t feel as though I’d fully recovered for a couple of months. In fact, I’m still not completely sure I have.

November

A wide-angle shot of the River Avon from the end of Spike Island in Bristol, with the suburb of Hotwells in the middle distance and the Clifton Suspension Bridge beyond.
Distant

On this day in November I went out to take photos on the newly-reopened Chocolate Path 1.

Unfortunately, I went at a time when the sun was in all the wrong places and this photo was the best of the bunch I came back with.

I’ve taken a photograph from the end of Spike Island here many, many times over the years. I’ve started wondering recently about using machine learning to try to find all the photos I’ve taken of this view, possibly to see if there are enough to make a little animation of them all. Like many of my random ideas for strange side-projects this one may go nowhere. On the other hand, it seems I’m quite on-trend to be thinking about AI at the moment, so maybe there’s a nonzero chance of it happening…

December

The footbridge across the Hotwell Road at the Cumberland Basin Flyover System in Hotwells, Bristol. Two couples and a third, single figure walk along three different sections of the bridge.
Trinity

One last photo to show that persistence can pay off. I had an okay photo for December already lined up, but went out on the 30th with my camera and the hope of getting something a little better.

I took some fairly mediocre photos and was just coming up to my turning off the Hotwell Road and back to my flat when I saw these two couples and one solo figure each walking along three main sections of the pedestrian footbridge of the Cumberland Basin Flyover System (likely, in my mind, to be the next bridge that Bristol suddenly discovers is about to fall down due to age combined with a dearth of inspections and maintenance.) 

I quickly lifted my X100T and grabbed a few shots in quick succession, and came up with this, which I think is a nice moody shot of some local urban decay with some added human interest. Not a bad photo to end the year on.

In 2024 I’d like to have more photos to choose from when I’m doing my end-of-year retrospective, which means getting out and about a bit more and taking my camera along more often when I do. Maybe I’ll have to work out a project or projects to give myself some motivation. I’ll put my thinking cap on…


 

  1. Given that Georgian engineers dug the entire New Cut in five years, I still can’t quite believe it took modern engineering longer than that to repair an 80-metre section of the retaining wall, but then I suppose Bristol actually had money back in the early 1800s…[]
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