The Wells Edition

I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain interacting with special places. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.

⚡️ View the latest digest and the full archive here.

📐 My Goals.


A door with a flourish - a door on the close at Wells.


'For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity […] it is in that golden stain of time, that we are to look for the real light, and colour, and preciousness of architecture.’

John Ruskin


✨ I'm back in glorious Wells and, before I reveal the hotspots, I thought I would re-share a previous visit to Wells. The day contained all the things that are holy to me: the ancient building, the light, the camera, the people, but more importantly, a seed for new beginnings.

After reading this extract somebody contacted me and said that it was like receiving a sunshine dose of serotonin - I hope it does the same for you✨

Wells Cathedral Light Refinery.

upload in progress, 0

It's a cool but bright day at Wells and my task is to spend the whole day time-lapsing the interaction of light with the glorious west front of Wells cathedral.

I set myself up with tripod camera and butty box on the green, but before I do so, I grab a coffee from a shop along the street (it's no longer there) and tell the warm and welcoming barista about my task.

"I'll come and bring you a coffee at lunch time!" she says. How kind.

upload in progress, 0

Wells is one of the best facades to learn and witness architectural light craft.

The cathedral nave and twin towers form a powerful structural backdrop, as imposing as a mountain bluff, with deep cut recesses set between buttresses decorated with slender Purbeck columns. It is garnished with a host of Gothic artefacts perched like guillemots on a cliff face. During the Middle Ages, the whole facade would have resonated with sound and colour.

With the added ingredient of time, the complexity of carvings, niches, and patterned surfaces creates a layered soufflé of light. A full clear day is the perfect time for the full spectrum of light to be revealed.

At first, with the sun rising behind it to the east, the facade is muddied - set in shadow - more a blurred massing than a collection of details.

upload in progress, 0

Then, as the sun moves around and rakes against the facade, the massing starts to extrude extremities in the form of buttresses.

The buttresses are part of a great tectonic storyboard populated with statues of knights and saints set in gabled niches

upload in progress, 0

The light finds the outline of the niches first and the effect is striking, like burlesque strip lighting embracing the principal protagonists.

upload in progress, 0
upload in progress, 0

Beyond the darkened recesses of the facade, after debuting the great and the good, the glimmer works its way into the textured folds of its occupants.

upload in progress, 0
upload in progress, 0

A matter of half an hour turns a solid buttress into a doyley of perforated light. It untangles slender shafts of Purbeck from rivulets of cusping and expresses them in a dotted morse code along the full height of each buttress.

upload in progress, 0

The sense of grounded massing gives way to a feeling of elevation and linearity - slender forms, isolated by the light, reaching upwards towards the recessed towers.

Next, the central gable, which holds the biographical nucleus of the facade, is gently revealed as if a darkened veil is being removed.

At first the Apostles feel the warmth of the sun and then, in turn, Christ in Majesty surrounded by seraphim.

upload in progress, 0
upload in progress, 0

The presence of the building changes in a way that suspends belief in the previous incarnations: ‘Was the cathedral really dark and sombre just minutes ago - or was that my imagination playing tricks with me?

upload in progress, 0

Was the cathedral really dark and sombre just minutes ago - or was that my imagination playing tricks with me?

Under the hardened light of mid-afternoon, when the shadows are the shortest, the next chapter of the story is revealed along the full width of the cathedral: that of the Resurrection, with figures clambering from their earthly graves both literally and metaphorically into the light.

upload in progress, 0
upload in progress, 0
upload in progress, 0

Full and hard revelation gives way to a series of chromatic renderings with the facade moving from soft white to yellow ochre, cadmium orange and then a bloodshot vermillion.

Before receding back under the weight of darkness, the light is in such a quandary of rapid change that the stone facade appears in a state of flux - an architectural equivalent to the northern lights.

Such a fission of transitional light is guilt-edged by the monumental backdrop.

It is one of the seven wonders of the photographic ether.

upload in progress, 0

On the day, this ecclesiastical light spectacular stopped people in their tracks, fixated by the fluidity, trying to fathom the mechanics of this wondrous event.

upload in progress, 0

At Wells, the viewer is being set up in a medieval virtual reality: an actor within the vast stage set out before them - a stage storied through the remarkable stone carvings that depict the whole expanse of time - from the creation of the Garden of Eden to the Resurrection.

Across a building extruded from the Triassic and Jurassic this isn't just a parable of faith, but also the story of the cosmos itself and our part in it.

upload in progress, 0

And then, there is the story of light and its optical complexity. A light parasitic - the building being the primary host to its antics.

Silhouetted by back light, thinly veiled by a misty light, silvered by reflected light, perforated by a raking light, elongated by a discerning light, exposed and flattened by a hard light, softened by a suffused light, given majesty by golden light, and, finally, infected by blue light in a brooding melodramatic dénouement.

After all these years the building still speaks - it speaks of its creators, of the creation and of creativity.

At the end of the day, after absorbing the plots and subplots that had been cast before me, I was left with an even greater puzzle: how best to share the beauty of what I had witnessed over time?

Unlike the complexity of what I’d just seen, the answer was glaringly simple...

...leave it to the photography.

upload in progress, 0
100 nuances of light
upload in progress, 0
1000 nuances of light

See the time lapse - watch how the building is extruded from the shadows.


The cycle of light at Wells influenced my philosophy and approach to pretty much most things - it helped me cultivate a beginners mind.

upload in progress, 0

From first light to the de-saturation of the sun from the west front in readiness for a new start the next day, I'm reminded of some words by Susan Coolidge:

Every day is a fresh beginning;

Listen my soul, to the glad refrain,

And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,

And puzzles forecasted and possible pain,

Take heart with the day, and begin again.

From New Every Morning by Susan Coolidge.

Can you help support my work and keep Woody on the road?

Memberships from £2 per month - thank you.

Explore Member Options


Wells Cathedral

The Scissor Arch

Come with me into the nave at Wells and witness one of the most remarkable acts of architecture in Europe. Shrouding the crossing with its curvilinear embrace is an arch that breaks through the conventions of its time (1338 to 1348) and hints at modernity.

I stand and take it all in for a few moments, trying to see the invisible forces at play. I imagine the big thumping weight of the tower above, coursing through the veins of the Chilcote and Doulting limestone, like the hot liquids did at its formation on the sea beds.

I chuckle at the coincidence that an act of genius of the purest wisdom should find itself settling into a combination of shapes that intimate the face of an owl. But then, I wonder if it really is a coincidence. Both are geometric patterns shaped by invisible forces: stress and sound. I realise my awe isn't just because of its human origin, but because its form embodies a fractal pattern, an expression of the universe itself.

This is the secret to the scissor arch at Wells.

For people that haven't visited Wells Cathedral, it's easy to imagine that the scissor arch, as seen from the nave, is so awesome that it must be of a singular nature - the only scissor arch in the city - but there are more:

The Sea of Steps

I spoke in detail about the significance of the sea of steps in a previous digest:

Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest: 10 May 2024
For a moment, the silence here is broken by a group of visitors. They walk through the threshold and catch my eye. There is a correspondence of awe and wonder; intangible, inexplicable, unmeasurable.

But, today - Friday - we are all on a journey together through this place, and we can't miss this particular pocket of pulmonary pumping poetry.

Head through the scissor arch to the left and you will already see a glimpse of the heavenly steps.

What I didn't mention in the previous digest was that the entrance to the steps is fronted with a delightful medieval door. I don't think I've seen any photographs that include it.

I used my pro cam with tilt shift lens to draw the door and stairs together.

The Chapter House.

Look up to the gorgeous flush of steps that flow into the corridor - like sand out of a deserted house in the desert - then take a right and peek through the nested entrance to the chapter house.

Here we are getting a glimpse of a theme that flows through this great cathedral - that of nature and natural forms, including the nested complexity of a forest or a wooded glade.

Being inside the Chapter House is like standing beneath a canopy of trees. The universe is having its say again.

The Vicars' Close

Take a right from the Chapter House - further up the steps and there is a door. The door is usually locked or sign-posted 'No Entry'. It hides access to one of the most evocative streets in the UK.

The door leads to a covered bridge called the Chain Bridge...

...and the Chain Bridge leads to the Vicar's communal hall which in turn leads to Vicars' Close. You can't access the close by this door (unless you have permission) - the best way is to leave the cathedral and walk around to it.

Vicars' Close is the most complete and continuously occupied medieval street in the UK.* It dates from the mid C14th, but parts of it may be older. It is still inhabited by the Vicars' Choral - Cathedral choir - which in itself is a wonderful example of continuity.

As I strolled down the street, the gentle strains of piano practice drifted from a nearby house.

At the top of the street is the most perfect little entry to a ginnel with its own sea of steps.

*Quote thanks to Henry Russel from The SPAB Magazine Winter 2023.

Life goes on...


The Retro Choir and Lady Chapel

The entrance to the south quire aisle is a portal into a different world.

It takes us along a processional route into a place that feels like another woodland glade. If you walk into the quire - you can get a glimpse of its majesty beyond the high altar.

Walk back into the south quire aisle, face east, and a remarkable vista opens up.

Beyond that is the culmination of the east end: the Lady Chapel and its star vaulting completed in 1326.


✨ Members can see a VR of the sea of steps at Wells Cathedral here: (viewable on any device)

Be there: The Sea of Steps at Wells
Like Alice through the looking glass, I was first mesmerised by the steps that lead to the Chapter House at Wells Cathedral through another photographers’ lens.


I've taken the plunge - and it's going to change how I use the van. I now have a low wattage air fryer as part of my tooklit. 😬

Looking forwards to sharing some van life air fryer recipes soon.

Van Life Gallery
My van, Woody, is my time-travelling machine, taking me to some remarkable places that have altered my mind like wine through water.


Human sacrifice evidence in Iron Age bones, say Bournemouth researchers
The remains reveal “rare physical evidence” of human sacrifice, according to researchers.
‘It’s very hard to get spare parts’: London museum ‘retires’ treasure-trove gallery of household gadgets
Science Museum’s Secret Life of the Home collection, including tea-making machines, early microwave cookers, gramophones and the first flushing toilets will close on 2 June
Graffiti-covered door from French revolutionary wars found in Kent
Markings include public executions and a sailing ship chiselled into door in 1790s by bored English soldiers


What I'm listening to..

BBC Sounds - Human Remains - Available Episodes
Listen to the latest episodes of Human Remains on BBC Sounds


This time last year in the digest:

"J.B Priestley equated the time continuum to an omelette. Add Inglesham to the mix and time is a soufflé. Inglesham is like an odd bend in the road of time."

Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest 26 May 2023
J.B Priestley equated the time continuum to an omelette. Add Inglesham to the mix and time is a soufflé. Inglesham is like an odd bend in the road of time.



The last Members Mid-week-pick-me-up

Genius Loci: Mid-week-pick-me-up
Member Update

The last Members Patina Digest:

Members can get access to a hi res digital download (for printing) of my Wells print via the Patina Digest (scroll to the bottom).

Patina 24th Edition
Andy Marshall is documenting his travels in his time-travelling camper van 🚐📸🏛

Why not check out the Member's video section?

video - Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest
A growing collection of videos to supplement the digest

Members’ Area
Members only content
Member Powered Photography Status Page
In essence I’m offering my professional services for free to historic locations in Britain.

Recent Digest Sponsors:

Digest Membership Sponsor: Leisuredrive Campervans Ltd.
Established in 1969, we are the UK’s longest standing independent campervan company.


✨ It's a kind of magic and it's happening thanks to Members support.

Member Powered Photography (MPP) is helping me offer my professional services for free to historic locations in Britain.

So far I've completed 4 MPP shoots and 2 are in progress. There is currently a waiting list of historic sites that would like me to carry out MPP. 9 more members will enable another free photo shoot.

Here you can see the status of MPP:

Member Powered Photography Status Page
In essence I’m offering my professional services for free to historic locations in Britain.

Here you can see the variety of people and places that have been photographed under MPP so far:

member powered photography - Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest

Thank you.

This Digest is free to subscribers and is powered by 131 Members

9 more members will enable another free photo shoot

Become a Member

I put my heart and soul into the Genius Loci Digest and it takes a day a week to produce. With your support, I’m able to keep this digest free and public facing. 📸🏛🚐

Gift a Membership

Gifting Memberships are another way to support my work.

More information here

More information here

Thank You!

Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.