Monthly Archives: August 2009

Swansea Bay on a bank holiday

Bank holiday in Swansea Bay

With the weather being so grim recently I haven’t been out and about much. Instead I am continuing with my video/audio learning curve, plus getting on with some admin. With the only sunny period of the bank holiday happening on Saturday I wondered down to the sea front to see what was about.

As winter approaches Swansea Bay is a great location to view seabirds. It is a bit harder to photograph them though as they are sometimes quite a way away. The best approach is to get to your chosen location, get in position early and let the tide push the birds at the waters edge closer to you. You may get a few looks from passers by as  you wait with nothing really to photograph, but this approach allows the birds to accept you as part of the landscape. They will tolerate your presence much more this way than if you try and get into position at a later date when your movements will look like you are stalking them as prey.

There is usually quite a large flock of Oystercatchers in the bay and they are now starting to build up their numbers. This will continue up to winter when quite large flocks can be seen. Other good locations to view Oystercatchers on Gower are Whitford Sands and Salthouse Point where large flocks are also seen. The same approach for photographing them is needed as in Swansea Bay. Let the tide bring them closer to you.

At Swansea Bay the flock is more tolerant of people than at the other locations allowing a closer approach, as they are familiar with people passing by on the promenade.

And out of the blue came a…….

Great crested grebe at Salthouse Point, Gower

While trying out a few image options, I thought I had got a mark on the lens or dirt in my view finder as a dark shape appeared. When I refocused the lens it came apparent that it was a Great Crested Grebe swimming by in the twilight. This is where digital photography really is a killer technique and the first plus point I noticed; its low light pick up is outstanding. With film I probably wouldn’t have attempted this image as to get this level of quality in the final result was nearly impossible. Next time I hope the bird comes a bit closer!

Horses for courses

Semi wild mare at Salthouse Point, Gower 

Mother and foal

As the birds were too far away for good images, I had to find other subjects to photograph and there are only so many options for weed in mud shots. Luckily a small family group of semi wild horses that graze on the salt marsh around North Gower passed in front of my position. With young foals in the group they were quite wary still. The first image shows one of the mares that stopped in front of my position to keep an eye on me as some of the foals passed by. The second image shows a young foal bonding with its mother just after it had suckled and so reinforcing their mother – young bond.

This time of year you do have to be careful when out and about on Gower as there are quite a few areas with semi wild horses and they do get protective of their young. I was trying to get to Cilonen the other day to find the road full of horses and foals. A stand off ensued with neither party giving way, until I decided it would be quicker to take a two mile detour instead. Horses 1 Man 0!

Shades of yellow and blue

waves and light, Salthouse Point, Gower

Just as I thought the light had fully gone at Salthouse Point, the sun broke through the clouds one more time, highlighting the surface of the sea. The surface took on this amazing pattern as the light picked out the tops of the small waves and left the other areas in shadow. This was quite a magical time as flocks of swallows and swifts flew low overhead and around me feeding on the flies that had emerged in the warm evening air. Nothing can ever beat nature!

Not quite what I had hoped for

View from Salthouse Point to Machynys

I had a one to one photo tuition session yesterday morning down at Three Cliff Bay which went really well. It was relatively quite there considering it is school holidays. Even the campsite that over looks the bay looked to have some spaces. The lighting was either really flat or too contrasty for good landscape photos, but as I hadn’t been to Three Cliffs for a while I enjoyed walking around again. There was a small flock of Plovers present which reminded me that the lighting would be good for some bird photography up at Salthouse point.

I got to Salthouse point well before the tide came in as it is always best to allow the tide to push the birds closer to you than havingto try and get closer to them yourself. I took the above image while I was waiting for the tide to come in. It shows the new housing development in Machynys, where once there was marsh and grassland that the birds could roost on when the tide was in. I was trying to get an image to represent the pressures on the natural world than man is constantly placing on it. One of the most significant ways man could help nature and ensure a better future for itself would be through population control. This is the least talked about environmental option and is probably the hardest to do, but it would have an impact in all areas that are of concern at the moment in the environment e.g. climate change, water usage, food production, house building etc.

The bird photography didn’t really happen as a fisherman and his young son decided to dig for bait and start fishing in the estuary next to where I was positioned. As a result all the birds settled away from my location. Not quite what I had hoped for, but it prompted me to start looking for alternative images and to work within the limitations of the one lens I had with me at the time.

View over Loughor Estuary from Salthouse Point, Gower

tLoughor Estuary from Salthouse Point

Although the light at Salthouse Point, Crofty was pretty flat for most of my visit, the sun did manage to break through occasionally. What caught my eye initially was the back lit grass in the foreground, but as an image by itself it wasn’t strong enough. The wider view shown here is more dramatic and shows the barrenness of the estuary that is present most of the time. As I was photographing into the sun, a large amount of filtration was needed to balance the sky and foreground. I fitted both my ND graduated 0.9 and 0.6 filters to get 5 stops of filtration that was needed to get  the correct balance. Flare can be a problem in this situation, but luckily I remembered to clean my lenses the morning of my visit which helps, but also the cloud was just covering the sun at the time of exposure which is the best way of avoiding flare. Other subjects such as trees can also be used to provide this type of screening of the sun to reduce flare.

Salthouse Point, Crofty, Gower Peninsula

The marsh at Salthouse Point   View towards Whiteford Point from Salthouse Point

I was at Salthouse point in Crofty checking on the seabird numbers after the breeding season. Salthouse point is a great place to get close enough photographically to get good images of sea birds close up. It juts out into the Loughor estuary and is affected by the tides here producing large areas of mudflats for the birds to feed on. The marshland behind the point is used to graze cattle and sheep and is shown in the two photographs above. At this time of year the grass is very lush and very green. Due to being tidal, channels run through the marsh to allow he water to drain in and out with the tides.

Although the lighting was quite flat, by pointing the camera into the light it has slightly back lighted the longer grass on the right hand image. This separates it from the rest of the grass around it and also shows the wavy pattern to it, which I hope leads the eye up towards the horizon. In the image on the left I used the water channel to do this and as it is a stronger contrast to the grass, it is more readily seen.

Coastal Path from Brandy Cove to Caswell Bay

PLants and Rocks

After leaving Brandy Cove, I walked along the coastal path towards Caswell Bay. I was hoping to get a picture of the cliffs beyond Brandy cove, but the light wasn’t right for what I had visualised. Looking down from the path and saw this pattern of rocks and subtly back lit plants. The diagonals of the rock layers and the yellow-green colours of the plants helps create a dynamic that makes it worth photographing. There is some resemblance of order in the image given by the rock structure, but the plants soften this with a fairly random pattern. On a technical note, a polariser once again removed any reflections and saturated the colours.

Sea life at Brandy Cove

Limpets, Brandy Cove    Wet seaweed, Brandy Cove

As the tide retreats at Brandy Cove there is easy access to all sorts of sea life that is left visible by the retreating tide. Most of the rocks have limpets, barnacles and periwinkles on them. A few mussels can be seen in some crevices as well. Sea weed can be found on the rocks and after a strong storm, scattered over the beach.

The use of a polariser once more has help removed reflections and saturate colours, but the reflections on the seaweed could not be removed completely which I think helps show their recently exposed state. I didn’t have time to check out the rock pools that were visible at low tide, but I’m sure all sorts of life would be possible to photograph. That’s another project for another day. Amazingly there wasn’t any significant pollution at the high tide line in the Cove when I visited, but what there was, was all plastic as usual. Straws, bottle caps and wrapping were all in evidence but it was difficult to make a successful image to show this.

Rock Formations at Brandy Cove, Gower Peninsula

Golden Rocks, Brandy Cove, Gower Peninsula

In my last post I mentioned the rock formations at Brandy Cove, so here are some images. The colour of the stones caught my eye, plus the contrast between them and the surrounding stone helped produce a natural contrast. A polariser was used to remove all reflections and to saturate the colours. This image may need some further post processing to get it how I visualised it, but it is getting close.

Initially in my minds eye I saw the lighter rockes surrounded by a much darker ring of rocks, and it is the surrounding rocks that I think need darkening more to get this affect.

Pebbles and Rocks, Brandy Cove

Higher up the cove you get the paler pebbles which contrast with the cliff edges. At this point vegetation has started to move in bringing an extra dimension to the image. I like the contrast between the paler, bluish pebbles and the yellower rocks of the cliff. The green of the plants also helps with colour contrasts.