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Photographing Oxford: So Much More Than Dreaming Spires |
  • Monday , 25 January 2021

Photographing Oxford: So Much More Than Dreaming Spires

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Oxford is quite the most beautiful city. It has history and is full of stories that will enchant you and the non-photographers traveling with you. Just a tour of the main colleges would be enough to fill your camera with stunning images.

One of my favorites is Christchurch College, home of the city’s beautiful cathedral and one of the most stunning quads of the University. Do take a tour – see the door where Alice enters Wonderland or, if your literary references are more recent, go into the Hall at Christchurch and go up the stairs featured in the Harry Potter films.

Another college worth visiting is Worcester College. It has the most beautiful front quad, flanked by medieval cottages on one side and the imposing Hawksmoor influenced Terrace on the other. It is hard to stand in the quad and not feel the need to pick up a camera. The Chapel is definitely worth a visit too, followed by a slow walk around the most beautiful lake in the grounds for a wealth of many delightful photo opportunities.

Of course, Oxford is more than just colleges, and the jewel of any visit to Oxford is Radcliffe Square, an absolute “must visit” for any photographer, experienced or otherwise. In the middle of it you will find the Radcliffe Camera, a most stunning round building that is part of the Bodleian Library.

Radcliffe Square is surrounded by colleges and more of the Library. Without a doubt, the best time to take photographs is later in the day when the sun is a bit lower. At this time of day, it catches the honey-colored stone and the textures of the years, with every picture you take sure to be a winner.

Alongside one end of the Square is the medieval St Mary’s Church. If you are feeling adventurous you can climb up the spire. The cost is £2 and at busy times there are queues but the panoramic view of the city is just stunning.

Walk from Radcliffe Square into the inner court of the Bodleian and find yourself surrounded by incredible buildings that reach to the sky, offering so many photographic opportunities. And should the buildings fail to entrance you, there are the tourists to photograph! Proceed through to the main court behind the Clarendon Building and to your right where you will see the Bridge of Sighs, iconic, wonderful and crying out to be photographed.

Carry on through and out into Broad Street. On your left is the Sheldonian Theatre, where lectures, meetings, and concerts are held and where students may graduate. Witnessing one of these memorable days when the students, in gowns, are being led in en masse is like a scene from “Inspector Morse.”

The Sheldonian features stone heads around its perimeter that seem to be beckoning to be photographed. Take a moment to explore and capture the faces looking out across the road towards the world famous bookshop, Blackwells.

Even on cold or snowy days, Oxford is a magical place to be and to photograph. A stroll down Broad Street and left into The Turl will lead you to the Covered Market. This in itself is a venue demanding to be photographed. The fish stall, the meat shops, the fruit and veg displays all are part of the Oxford experience. While you are there, grab something to eat at one of the many different food shops and enjoy the heart of Oxford at its bustling and vibrant best.

Finally, if you want the iconic picture of Oxford, complete with dreaming spires, the best viewpoint from within the city is from South Parks. It is a bit of a walk but a very agreeable one that takes you down the High Street past Queen’s College and then over the bridge, with Magdalen College on your left. Make sure you look over the bridge to see another Oxford icon, the punts, moored next to the Botanic Gardens. The punts are perfect for photographs using patterns and lines.

Walk through St. Clements and up into South Parks on the right. At the top of the hill, look back to get a beautiful view of the city. If possible, visit in the morning as in the afternoon the sun is behind the spires.

Oxford has so many delights that one day seems hardly enough. For a photographer keen to capture a feel of the city there are pictures to be taken at every turn. Keep your camera ready for that moment of magic! 

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