Arnos Vale Victorian Cemetery gives us some fantastic gothic architecture set in a haven for wildlife, and all about a mile from Temple Meads Station. There is a lovely cafe and ample parking.
Astonishingly, more than 300,000 people are buried or remembered here, on a restored 45 acre site. It’s a peaceful and pleasant place to be, and for photography courses Bristol, Arnos Vale has plenty of atmosphere.
Photography lessons here tend to be about capturing the atmosphere and spirit of the place. This is a great location for muted tones, sepia and monochrome. The photography classes we teach here are shooting for and using editing software to maximise the effect of the spectacular location.
There are several issues with photographing at Arnos Vale. While there are some spectacular subjects, often they need to be separated from their surroundings, rather like you need to do for museum artefacts or zoo animals. The colours are often very strong and green, which can cause difficulties with white balance, and the whole valley can be dark and gloomy, which requires adjustment of the exposure compensation. So there are some important photography techniques that need to be used here to get the best results in the surroundings. There are lots of opportunities – for portrait photography, there are lots of statues and monuments; wildlife photography with the various songbirds in the Valley; and landscape photography across to the city of Bristol. We can help with appropriate photography tips and photography techniques.
Arnos Vale has also shown itself to be a good place for of the camera flash, using specialised flashgun techniques to eliminate a particular monument within a scene. We can help with adjusting fill flash levels, using the appropriate white balance for this and sorting out issues with shutter speed and ISO that come with flash use.
It is a surprisingly peaceful and uncreepy location, with a remarkable variety of detailed subjects. As always, the photographer needs to consider clearly what they are trying to show – to clarify and simplify the complicated landscape into an image that will make sense even to someone who has not been to the location. So this is a good location to ask “what was I trying to show in this photograph?”, rather than just snap interesting scenes that you chance upon.
Victorian gravestones often give surprising detail about the demise of their subjects that would not be allowed in modern churchyards – “lost in the jungles of Ceylon” is a particular favourite. There are drowned teenagers buried together, a mass grave of nuns, and various boastful and self-important Victorian tombs and mausoleums. If you know where to look you can see masonic symbols, and signs of infidelity, broken promises and unrequited love. It is possible to find these emotions at Arnos Vale, and show these emotions in your photographs so that your audience is moved. This is what makes your photograph a work of art rather than an unthinking snap. Photography at Arnos Vale requires thought about the composition, as the subjects are strong in their own right. It’s a fantastic location for photography workshops.