Huckford Quarry Nature Reserve

This location is another find from the always reliable Bristol Barkers. It is an old quarry which has is now a nature reserve. It has been on my list to visit for a while, but it took a little more planning than usual, as there is no where to park nearby. I had to find a spot down the river, and walk an hour along the river to reach the quarry.

The river walk is part of the Frome Valley walkway, which is an 18 mile trail that goes all the way from the start of the river by the coast, and works it’s way all through Bristol until it ends in Frome. There is a pleasingly old-school website that has a graphic of all the locations along the way here.

There are two long river trails in Bristol that I have been trying to slowly explore different sections of, this one and the River Avon Trail which you can follow all the way from Pill and then into Bath. I’ve been thinking lately about how great it would be to walk the whole trail in one day – though I’ve never walked that far in my life – I don’t know how I would go prepping for an 18 mile walk, or if it is just one of those things I should just have a go, and see how I get on? I dread to think how long it would take to walk that far, if I am stopping to take photos the whole time.

This section of the trail mirrors the river the whole way, there are lots of great little bridges along the route, as well as trees on river banks, where the bank has eroded to show the roots, which probably isn’t great for the tree long term, but is great to photograph.

Number one on my list to photograph was the viaduct. I was limited with angles, as you are dictated by the route of the path, which approaches diagonally before running parallel, then before you know it you are right underneath, and far too close to get a picture.

There were limited angles to fit in the whole viaduct

This is a quick phone shot from the path underneath, more just to show the scale more than anything else, it is a huge structure.

Not usually a fan of the wide angle low down shot, but it was the only way to show the scale of this thing.

The weather was really warm, full sun, which is great, but not ideal for taking photographs. But I’ve walked all this way, and you have to work with what you’ve got in front of you. Down by the riverbank, under the trees it created some nicely contrasting shadows and textures especially in the water and the plants.

To be honest once I got to the quarry there wasn’t too much I saw to photograph, it was nice and picturesque, lots of trees, but nothing that caught my eye compositionally. I don’t really mind, as I’m happy just for an excuse to get outside and go for a walk, especially when the weather is nice. This was spring right on the cusp of summer, and I feel this compulsion to make the most of it, as before I know it, the weather will be getting colder, and darker and rainy, and I’ll be stuck inside wishing I could get out to places like this. I’ll definitely come back in Autumn, as I think the viaduct could look great once the leaves have gone, and there are some clearer sight-lines of it from some other angles.

Winter Weather

Recently I’ve been going back through pictures taken earlier on in the year, and I think it would be hard to argue that January, February and March are all shit months for taking photos in the UK.

It feels like it is constantly cold, wet, and grey. It is either raining, has just rained or just about to rain. Plus is gets dark at 5, you are coming home from work in the dark, so good luck taking any pictures in daylight.

I ended up editing a 30mph sign out of this photo, as I found it really distracting.

Very occasionally the weather is just right, and the elements combine the perfect mixture of cold, sun and fog. I was lucky enough to get these conditions one Saturday morning, and I knew I had to take full advantage.

I thought high up on Dundry would be perfect. Dundry overlooks South Bristol, and has some great views of the city (though obviously not when it’s foggy).

When I first arrived, there was a band of fog that the sun was trying to pierce through, with a layer of blue sky directly above. I thought at the time I wouldn’t have long before it lifted. Luckily I was wrong and a whole new layer of fog enveloped everything, until it was thick and visibility was 20/30 metres.

Quick little iphone video showing just what the conditions were like
My furry assistant on the day

Lamplighter’s Marsh

There is a small nature reserve underneath the M5 in Avonmouth, tucked away between the park & ride and the river. It’s a hidden little gem that is well worth exploring. You have to go under the M5 bridge, and follow a narrow path surrounded by construction materials, which makes it feel even more secret. Not so secret that the always great Bristol Barkers website has a guide.

I visited on Sunday, and here is a small selection of photos, mostly just the banal everyday subjects, but those the the ones I am mostly drawn to. I think there is something interesting in them.

I usually sit on images for ages, before choosing which ones I like enough to post (if at all) but I am trying something different here, these were taken on Sunday, and I’ve given myself this arbitary deadline to sort through, edit and post them as a blog before I have time dawdle or overthink it too much.

That severn estuary mud feels instantly recognisable
This isn’t a graffiti spotting blog, but I see that cnts tag evvveerrryyywhere

I tried to keep the editing relatively minimal, these are raw sony images, with my favourite LUT applied (caph 100), then just a tweak of the white balance, and a boost of the brightness & shadows sliders.

Glastonbury Murmurations

It is Murmurations not murmations, I’ve been spelling it wrong this whole time, and had to hastily go back and swap each wrong spelling before publishing.

Try and guess the slowed down version of the song I used?

Starling murmurations are incredible in person. This might undermine the whole blog post, but pictures don’t really do justice to the scale, and the sheer amount of starlings flying over in unison. I took the video above to try and show what it was like at the time.

This was about as much colour as the sky would produce, and even that has been tweaked a little bit in post.

If you are thinking of going, the RSPB website has loads of useful information. There is a worrying section in the website about turning you away if the car park is full – this might happen over christmas – but I’ve never had a problem visiting in January/February time, there have always been spaces.

There are two main reserves – Ham Wall & Shapwick Heath. Watch out as only one of them is dog friendly, so it’s worth checking. You can phone them up, and they advise on an automated line which reserve the starlings roosted on the previous evening.

One of my main influences in venturing out to Glastonbury is the Murmurations photobook by Billy Barraclough, it a series of photos from his local reserve taken in lockdown, and the images are stunning.

Once there, I wasn’t sure how to find the best viewing spot. I found the best method was to just have a wander, and spot a few people that looked like they knew what they were doing, and just see what location they chose to watch.

Timings – they are wild birds, which means they are pleasingly random and unpredictable. I think it depends on the weather that day, but on my visits they started flying over around 30/40 minutes before sunset, and can keep flying over until dusk. Part of the fun is not really knowing exactly where and how many will fly over. Or even when you think they have mostly stopped, a massive flock will fly over all at once.

This river was so still, I like how the algae undisturbed has formed these abstract patterns on the surface.

The first time I visited, there is a long straight road that takes you to the car park. I noticed there were plenty of abandoned looking buildings. So on the next visit I made an effort to arrive extra early, and went for a wander down the road to have a (cautious) explore.

It’s hard to capture the scale of the murmurations in the photos, I think this one helps to give a little bit of scale. All these photos were taken with ‘normal’ focal lengths a 50mm & 85mm, which helps give a regular perspective. This wasn’t really a conscious choice, it was just because I don’t have a decent telephoto lens.

Even if you are not interested in photography or bird watching, I would recommend visiting to watch the murmurations. I’m sure I missed a whole load of potential photographs, because I was just enjoying watching it unfold. It’s nice to have an excuse to go out into nature, and just enjoy how peaceful and quiet and still everything is. It’s so quiet you can hear the sound of their wings when they fly directly overhead. There is something about the organised chaos of the thousands of birds, all flying so closely together, that I find quite soothing.

Heading back to the car after the sun had set, I noticed the sky reflecting in this lake, and managed to get a photo just before it got too dark.

2022 Highlights

Now that 2022 has finished, I thought it might be fun to look back through all of the photos I took last year, and add all of my favourites into a blog post. I wish I had thought of this before, as it would be great to have a condensed archive of each year, and be able to view at a glance how it has changed year on year. Oh well, better late than never.

85mm Lens

An 85mm lens is great fun to use, even if you never shoot portrait (like me). The lens has a really unique look, which I really love.

The reason I wanted an 85mm lens, was for that super shallow depth of field. I always wanted more background separation. Without buying a full medium format setup, an 85mm lens seemed like the next best option for more blur. When I first started looking at lenses for my Sony A7 I was a little bit shocked. A lot of the lenses at this focal length are aimed at pros and come with pro prices. The Sony 85mm f/1.4 is £1,750, which is way way way more than I was looking to spend.

The choice was either an older manual lens with an adapter (Philip Reeve’s website is an absolute goldmine for information on older manual lenses) or a cheaper option from one of the budget friendly brands.

I’m terrible at making decisions, and will spend forever weighing up all the options before making a decision, then overthinking that decision and changing my mind again. I saw a used Samyang on ebay, impulsively made an offer, which was accepted, then breathed a sigh of relief that I can stop spending all my time reading reviews and watching youtube videos about different lenses. It can be fun to geek out about gear, but I find the obsession of technical details like MTF charts ends up boring me to tears.

The main thing I want to know about the lens, is it any good under normal everyday use? From a price point of view the Samyang costs about 10% of the price of the Sony, so even if it is just broadly fine, for the price that seems fair enough.

All the images in this blog post were taken with the Samyang 85mm, which hopefully that gives a good idea of what the final images look like. I;ve added a few zoomed crops, so you can slide between to see what it looks like at 100%. Personally, I’m really happy with it, it’s pretty basic, and definitely has it’s quirks, but I’ve really grown to love it, and can’t see myself ever replacing it as I have a real fondness for the type of images it produces.

Lets start with it’s quirks.

Fully manual – Manual focus only, plus there are no electronic contacts so it doesn’t communicate with the camera at all. Its basically a big dumb lump of metal and glass. Which suits me perfectly, I’m sure 90% of the features on my camera are wasted on me, as long as it has Aperture mode and focus peaking, that’s all I really need. My dream camera would be the A7r I have now, but with an iso & shutter dial, I’d never have dive into the settings ever again.

Sharpness – at f/1.4 it’s a little bit fuzzy, but step to f/2 and it’s it more than sharp enough. I treat it like an f/2 lens, and avoid f/1.4 completely.

Chromatic aberration/purple fringing, you will definitely notice this if you are used to a more premium lens. You can see an example of the purple fringing in the image below. I’m not looking for optical perfection, so I can live it.

Low contrast – none of the images are what I would describe as being ‘punchy’ even in midday sun. I personally like this look, and even push it a little further in post. But if this isn’t your thing, I can imagine being a little bit disappointed

It’s pretty big – the Sony mirrorless version is even larger than the version for SLR’s, it definitely sticks out lot; plus be prepared that none of your filters will fit the huge 77mm lens ring.

But on the list of positives, the background separation is everything I hoped it would be. It really is amazing how great it is at separating the subject from the background. Once you nail your focal point, the background just seems to slowly melt away. You can isolate objects that just wouldn’t be possible with a shorter focal length. The ramp in that photo above is roughly 3 metres, but even getting far enough back to fit it all in to the frame, you can still achieve that nice separation.

The downside to this, is when I first got the lens I was obsessed with shooting everything wide open, and just trying to get the background as blurry as possible. As fun as this was, it can start to get old quite quickly. So now I try to use it in moderation, when the photo (I hope) calls for some blurriness, rather than using it for every photo just because I can. It reminds me a little but of getting stuck in the HDR hole in the stages of photography diagram.

Another problem, is that if you want to get perfect front to back sharpness, this lens is not going to do that. Even stopped down to f/8, the depth of field is surprisingly shallow.

This isn’t really meant to be a review of the lens, but more a rough guide of what it can do, ad how it looks under normal day to day use.

Pembrokeshire & South Wales

Some photos from a trip to the Pembrokeshire earlier in the year. The plan was to drive over from Bristol, and make the most of a few days in the South West of Wales, by visiting Pemrbrokeshire, Haverford West and Tenby. 

I’m trying to get into the habit of blogging a little more regularly, blogs seem like a far more natural platform for posting a series of images, and you can have complete control of the layout, formatting and size, and you can view them full screen on a computer. 

Most of our time was spent visiting different beaches, this guide was really helpful to find all ones that were dog friendly in the summer.

Freshwater East & Freshwater West are both dog friendly all year round, and definitely worth exploring.

Dobbys grave on Freshwater West

Right by where I was staying was the Pembroke refinery, which you could see for miles around, and at night when it was still, you can hear sound from the burners.

Tenby was really nice, this is the beach with the converted lifeboat house that was on Grand Designs

It felt like I waited here for ages to get a shot clear of any people, even then I had to get handy afterwards with the clone brush to remove those final pesky elements.

I couldn’t leave without getting at least one shot of the refinery at night time.

Brymefys Estate

Roofs have caved in, windows nailed shut and houses swallowed up by trees and plants. 1

I’ve always been fascinated with abandoned locations (I’ve written a previous blog post about the lost village of Imber) there is something strange and eerie about places which have been deserted and just left to slowly decay.

When I saw a series of images from the Brymefys Estate posted by Ken Marten, I really wanted to visit, and take some pictures for myself. Unfortunately it’s a 4 hour round trip from Bristol – which is probably a bit far to drive, just to walk round a mostly housing estate and take some pictures – I also had the nagging doubt they might get torn down if I left it too long. Luckily it was only a small detour on our journey back from Pembrokeshire, so I finally got the chance to take a look.

The detour took us on winding roads through small Welsh towns, if you aren’t looking out for it, you could easily miss it. The turning is a sharp left off the B road, with most of it tucked out of sight from the road.

Parking up I was surprised to see some other cars parked on the road. I then noticed that even though most of the houses are abandoned, there are a handful which are still occupied, and carrying on as normal. Which made it feel even weirder, uncanny even. When I was there, a couple were outside in the garden mowing their grass. I always worry that people are going to ask why I’m taking photos, and get a bit funny about it, but they didn’t even bat an eyelid.

I have been having a look online to try to find out some more information about this estate, and get an answer to why it has been mostly abandoned. Unlike a village like Imber it doesn’t seem like there was one specific catalyst like a mandatory evacuation. It seems it was a slow gradual abandonment. Residents disillusioned with the lack of investment and opportunities decided they needed to move elsewhere. I imagine it has a knock on effect, once a few families decide it is time to leave, the prospect of living on a half abandoned estate becomes less and less appealing.

This article2 on the BBC website states that the decline began in the 1990s, which means the houses have been unoccupied for around 30 years by now. That seems odd to me, it is a short enough time, that there are people who have grown up on the estate, who must remember what it was like before the mass exodus. But it is long enough that the houses are probably beyond saving, and would require knocking down and starting again from scratch.

After making the detour specifically to visit Brymefys, I nearly lost every single one of these images. Heading home to Bristol, we stopped in at Swansea to have an wander round, before driving the final hour and a half back to Bristol
After parking up at home, I couldn’t see my camera bag on the back seat which was weird, so I checked the boot, and it wasn’t there either. I had a flashback to the car park, we parked in a super narrow space in the multi story. So narrow that I had to take my bag off, so I could squeeze through and put the dog in the back seat. I then got in the car, and drove away, leaving the bag just next to the wall where I carefully placed it down.

We decided to drive back to Swansea on the off chance it was still there, and I’m so lucky that about 15 minutes outside of Swansea, I get a call from a very very kind lady who had found my bag, and had dropped it off at the local police station.
I got home 3 hours later, tired, and still in disbelief at how stupid I was, and also how unbelievably lucky that my camera bag was found by such a kind honest person. They also politely refused any kind of reward, so thank you very much kind stranger!



It’s been a while since my last blog post using the flash on the fuji, since then I’ve been craving a little more flash power, so decided to buy a ‘proper’ hotshoe mounted flash.

I was massively overwhelmed with all of the different makes and models of flash available. I just wanted a simple basic flash that would work with my camera. Also none of them have easy model names, it was only after reading this reddit post I managed to understand what all of the different numbers and letters meant. After spending way too long reading reviews and browsing photography forum posts I managed to narrow it down to the Godox line. I opted for the TT600 which Strobist reckons it is the best bang for your buck

There is no way I would have managed to illuminate this whole scene using the Fuji’s little built in flash

Quick bullet point review


  • More flash power than I will ever need
  • AA Batteries, cheap and easy to carry loads of spares
  • Adjustable angle
  • Coloured gels


  • It’s massive
  • No TTL metering – it’s all manual

It’s all plastic, so I wasn’t sure how sturdy it would be. But the build quality seems great. The first time I ever took it out, I accidentally dropped it from waist height onto the pavement, and apart from a few scuffs it was fine.  

Fill Flash

I’m always tempted to whack the flash up to full power, but dialling it down can be a nice way to just fill those shadows without going crazy and overpowering everything.


The most fun I have had with this flash is experimenting with coloured gels. It’s really fun playing about with different colours to see what works. I managed to lose the set which came with the flash, but this was a good thing, as you can buy a selection pack of A4 sheets for about £5, which I could then cut to size, and were way easier to keep stuck to the flash.

I even set up a dual colour gel, you can see my rickety set up in it’s full glory below.