Bumble Hole – Sunset & Blue Hour

The last time I visited Bumble Hole with a camera was back in June 2020. Previous to that I visited in January 2019. It was an early morning visit where I wanted to capture a colourful sunrise. The morning didn’t quite work out how I had planned but I still manage to make a few images that I like. You can read all about that sunrise shoot in this blog post. This post documents the complete oposite and tells the story of an evening at Bumble Hole.

The Bumble Hole Nature Reserve is adjacent to Warrens Hall Nature Reserve. Truth be told I don’t really understand where one starts and the other ends. I would assume that the canal splits the two with Bumble Hole on one side and Warrens Hall on the other. If you know for sure please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. With that in mind if you mention Bumble Hole, Warrens Hall, Windmill End or Cobbs Engine House in conversation most locals will know exactly where you are.

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Shooting the Golden Hours

My favourite time of day to make photographs is during the golden hours. Therefore it will come as no shock that this visit to Bumble Hole is during sunset. Historically my previous visits have usually been for sunrise so I was quite excited to create something different with light coming from another direction.

My walk started from the Dudley Road car park and followed the path next to the top pool. I was pleasantly surprised to see small nodules of Ice on the surface of the pool. It had been cold for a few days but I wouldn’t have said it was freezing. I wasn’t inspired. The light was poor and the setting sun is firmly hidden behind a heavy bank of cloud. So much so I couldn’t really tell which direction the light should have been coming from. We keep walking…

Dudley No.2 Canal

I had been at Bumble Hole for around an hour now and our walk had reached the Dudley No.2 Canal. This part of the canal network is quite interesting. There’s a number of cast iron bridges crossing the canal along with the entrance to Netherton Tunnel. The cast iron bridges are quite popular amongst the local photography community with images being regularly posted to social media.

Handheld Reflections

Eventually the cloud began to break and some wonderful golden light begins to reflect on the surface of the water beneath one of the cast iron bridges. I’ve previously made a long exposure image of this scene where I captured the reflection of the bridge on the surface of the canal. Although I had my tripod with me tonight I opted to shoot the scene handheld. I figured it would be a good opportunity to see how my wide angle lens handles low light situations and find out how shooting at higher ISO’s with my Nikon z6 affects an image.

Sunset Reflections 1/200 sec f/4 ISO 800

Leading Lines

In this shot I have tried to introduce several leading lines into my composition. The idea being to direct your eye onto Cobbs Engine House in the distance.

For the benefit of those who don’t know this location Cobbs Engine House is the building in the distance. Its easily identified by the tall chimney pointing towards the sky

As I am using a wide angle lens Cobbs Engine House is quite small in the frame. Shooting at a longer focal length would have helped to increase my subjects size making the building more prominent in the frame. Unfortunately there’s a lot going on in the mid ground of this scene and I feel the image is a little too busy for my linking.

I am pretty sure there is a better image to be made here so I will be returning at some point when I have more time to try and refine the composition.

One thing worth noting is that whilst a wide angle lens will make your foreground much bigger, this comes at the cost of distant objects becoming much smaller.

Cobbs Engine House is the distant building easily identified by the tall chimney pointing towards the sky

Shooting Wide (Very Wide)

My next composition is only possible to shoot in a single frame with a wide angle lens. Luckily my Nikon 14-30mm wide angle lens has a 114° angle of view on my Nikon Z6. This is huge in comparison to when I used to shoot at 18mm with my kit lens on a crop sensor camera.

Resting the camera on the sidewall of the bridge allowed me to shoot this 2 second exposure.

It can be quite tricky to setup a tripod from my current shooting position. Firstly the bridge I am standing on is pretty narrow, meaning spreading the tripod legs may cause a trip hazard to passers by. Secondly I think it may be better to rest two of the legs on the side wall of the bridge and I wasn’t really in the mood for faffing about.

I opted instead to balance my camera on top of the bridge side wall. To ensure my horizon is level I folded my camera strap and placed it under one side of the camera. The problem of doing this is I introduce the sidewall of the bridge into the foreground of my compassion. The closest focusing distance on my lens is 280mm so no matter what I do the foreground will always be out of focus. That is of course unless I move the camera. The image at the top of this post is the same scene with the foreground cropped out. Let me know which composition you prefer.

Cobbs Engine House

Cobbs Engine House known officially as Windmill End Pumping Station

Light levels are quickly falling and blue hour is taking hold. It’s time to head back towards to the car.

Cobbs Engine House who’s official name is Windmill End Pumping Station used to be the home of a stationary steam pump. The pumps primary function is to pump around 1.6 million litres of water from Windmill End Colliery discharging the water into the canal on a daily basis. The pump was decommissioned in 1928 and removed a few years later. The building remains are now classified as a Grade II Listed Building.

The view looking out the side window of Cobbs Engine House

A Hill With A View

Stopping for a few minutes to make photos at Cobbs Engine House means I have to negotiate the remainder of my walk including a muddy hill in the dark. Its only a small hill but its very wet and my feet are sliding in all directions. Using my torch I manage to find what appears to be better ground as I make my way to the top.

The view from the top of this hill on a clear day is pretty good. It’s also pretty impressive after dark with all the bright lights in the distance. As I mentioned earlier the area is well documented by several local photographers with many choosing to photograph the engine house from the top of the hill.

Creating A Unique Photograph

Creating a unique photograph from such a well documented location is is not an easy task. I have seen lots of photographs from Bumble Hole however I have never seen a panoramic image from here and more importantly I have never seen a panoramic image from here made after dark so I like to think I created something unique.

5 Shot panorama looking towards Brierley Hill, Quarry Bank and Stourbridge.

The above panoramic image is shot on the long end of my 14-30 Wide Angle lens. Each of the 5 images had an exposure time of 30 seconds which meant the final image took over two and a half minutes to record in the field and quite a bit more to process and stitch together in Lightroom.

And Finally…

For my final image of this little adventure I decided to swap out my 14-30 Lens for the 24-70. This lens allowed me to punch in to the scene and pick out Cobbs Engine House as the dominant subject.

Composing the image came naturally. I placed the engine house on the left hand third with the horizon slightly off centre.

Location Info

Bumble Hole and Warrens Hall Local Nature Reserve, Windmill End, Dudley DY2 9HS

More information including a downloadable map of the reserve is available on the Dudley Council website

Before You Leave

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my Bumble Hole photography adventure. Before you leave have a look around. There’s plenty more to read on the blog including adventures at Wepre Park, The Enville Sheepwalks and The Malvern Hills.

Please consider leaving a comment below. Your support is appreciated and encourages me to publish more content in the future.

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