A-Z Archive: O Challenge

From My Archive I Choose…

O is for Oxford

Famed worldwide as the City of Dreaming Spires and possibly also as the home of Morse (the detective not the code), Oxford is a university city with some stunning architecture and a museum whose fame greatly exceeds its size. I could write a lot more but I think Kate Shrewsday’s City of Aquatint gives a wonderful description of a visit to the city and includes a nice selection of photos too 🙂

For those arriving by train, part of the walk into the city involves crossing over the Castle Mill Stream which in turn gives access to the towpath of The Oxford Canal. The Stream is not navigable and barges have to enter and leave the canal from the River Thames by way of Isis Lock. By the way, in Oxford the Thames is known as the Isis – you can read all about that on wikipedia if you really want to be confused 😉

Oxford Canal
Takara Leaving Isis lock on the Oxford Canal

The city centre is a bustling place and, in keeping with the numerous cash strapped students, has thousands of bicycles all over the place. In the view below we see lots of them parked up on the corner opposite The Martyrs’ Memorial. This ‘cross’ is a memorial to the Oxford Martyrs – Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer, who were tried for Heresy in 1555 and subsequently burned at the stake. The memorial was designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1838 and was completed in 1843. The statues of the three martyrs are by Henry Weekes.

The Martyrs Memorial
The Martyrs' Memorial with Bicycles

The Ashmolean Museum in the centre of the city is small by comparison with the likes of the Natural History, Science and Victoria & Albert in London. However it houses a fascinating collection of artifacts from all over the world and displays them in an engaging manner. My son particularly enjoyed the display of early musical instruments. The Bicycles are not part of the display although some of them look old enough to be museum pieces 😉

Ashmolean Museum
Ashmolean Museum

One of those buildings that is instantly recognisable is The Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street. Designed by Christopher Wren, you won’t be able to watch Hamlet here – it only stages concerts, lectures and ceremonies! On the left is one of those sight-seeing tour buses that seem to crop up in most cities around the world these days. Apologies if it all looks a little weird – wide angle lens and  I couldn’t resist giving it a bit of HDR treatment

Sheldonian Theatre
The Sheldonian Theatre

An O within an O – Oriel Street, with its houses painted in pastel shades, leads down to Oriel Square and Oriel College from the High Street.

Oriel Street
Oriel Street

And, finally, if you thought you’d got away without a close-up of a bus… Another O within an O – A Setra of Ova Reisen. Many students visit Oxford on tours from Europe – This however is the ‘team bus’ of the St. Michael-Chorknaben from Schwäbisch Gmünd and presumably they were here to sing (Schwäbisch Gmünd is close to Aalen, Ova Reisen’s HQ). I loved the paint scheme on this coach and again decided that HDR might work well for the shot.

Ova Reisen
Ova Reisen Setra

Why not have a go at the A-Z Archive Challenge yourself!


  1. OXFORD: I’m impressed by the “memorial to the Oxford Martyrs – Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer, who were tried for Heresy in 1555 and subsequently burned at the stake…” – and the peaceful bicycles in the foreground tell us, that the cruel times had changed …

    1. Thanks frizztext – yes, we no longer burn heretics, witches, etc.. But with a right wing government, who knows what draconian laws may be around the corner 😉

  2. Awesome photos, Martin!
    Would you mind sharing a bit about what kind of software you use for your HDR pieces? Looks like it would be a lot of fun to work with from time-to-time! A very nice touch! Impressive work!

    1. Hi Bob – sure 🙂 I take my photos in both JPEG and RAW. For these shots, which are technically pseudo HDR, I took the RAW file and created 3 – 5 different exposure versions in Photoshop Elements. I then uploaded them to Photomatix which provides a variety of different ways of blending the RAW files. I normally use Tonemapping which is designed to enhance detail – watch out, it also enhances noise! Then it’s back to Photoshop to tidy things up, crop and sharpen as necessary. Hope that’s clear? Photomatix Website Here.

      1. Thanks, Martin! I suspected there was a ton of work involved in a good HDR shot. I’ve noticed that Photoshop CS3 seems to have some kind of HDR capability, (although I really know nothing about it) and it seems like I’ve heard people mention other software was involved, too, so I was very curious about what that was exactly!

      2. If you have the full version of Photoshop then I believe thit has the ability to merge shots to create HDR photos. I also know there are ways to manipulate shots in Photoshop to give an HDR appearance without actually going all the way. For those of us using Elements the other HDR programs like Photomatix fill in the bits that Adobe take out 😉 There is another HDR program that you might like to look at and that is Dynamic Photo.

    1. Thanks Fergiemoto – The buildings on the adjacent section of the High Street are also painted in pastel shades. A nice contrast with the colleges which are finished in that yellow stone.

  3. I’m really drawn to the detail that HDR brings out… especially in the clouds. But, they’re all gorgeous captures Martin!

    1. Thanks Theresa – see my reply to Bob above regards HDR and a link to the photomatix website. It’s a fun tool to create a wide range of serious and artistic effects 🙂

  4. Loved this, Martin. Kate also did a post this week on the history behind the Ashmolean Museum ~ fascinating stuff.

    Love the photos ~ #1 and #4 especially.

    1. Thanks Nancy – yes, I saw Kate’s newer post. It’s a great museum and well worth a visit. I’d put it among my favourites. Others that are worth a visit are the Science Museum, The RAF Museum, The Museum of London, Amberley Chalk Pits Museum. I’m scratching the surface here – Britain is a nation of museums and preservation societies! So much for the visitor and the local to see!

      We might be popping back to Oxford for the P challenge… I haven’t decided yet but I do have a photo in mind 🙂

  5. Martin, the detail in your photos is stunning and so evocative, taking me all the way back to lovely Oxford.
    I feel so far behind in that I am only now thinking of investigating Photoshop, but then there’s Photomatix and Tonemapping and so much more . . . and you use it all so well!

    1. Hi Patti – Photoshop Elements is essential for most things in digital photography these days. For the ultimate processing you will need the full CS5 version, but that costs around the same as a squadron of Marines, so Elements is a good compromise for the Amateur photographer.

      I don’t know what camera you use, so advice is difficult to give. The programs I’m using really only come into their own with digital SLR’s.

      I’ll be happy to offer further advice if you want…

      ps – there are people who use these things far better than me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.