Monthly Archives: December 2010

Snow at Three Cliff’s Bay, Gower Peninsula

After returning home from Clyne Gardens and Swansea Bay, I headed out to Three Cliffs Bay to see how it looked. Normally the headland at Three Cliffs Bay is in shadow with the light coming from the south, except in June and July evenings when the sun strickes the headland directly. With the snow on the beach some light was being reflected back into the headland and lightening the shadow. The path of the Pennard Pill has changed slightly from some of my previous photographs taken previously, so it is always intereseting to see the changes occurring. This also provides an extra reason to keep returning to the same place to document the changes.

I noticed that the low sun had spot lit the mossy sides of the stepping stones that allow you to get across the pill into the bay. Probably the better view whould have been from further around to the right. Going too far would have reduced the contrast visible between the darker water and the sunlight sides of the stones. Too far to the right caused the colour of the water surface to lighten and hence some of the dramatic contrast was lost. As the water was very cold and my boots weren’t high enough I decided to photograph from the stones themselves. It the water had been warmer or I had higher boots on I probably would have waded into the Pill for a slightly wider view. I’m not sure what a fellow photographer who squeesed past my set up thought I was taking pictures of, but I am pleased with the result.

As the sun dropped towards the horizon it lost some of its strength with the contrast being removed from the scene. The flatter light had some of my fellow photographers heading for home, but I have learn’t the lesson many times that you only leave when you can’t actually take any sensible pictures because the light levels are too low. Even though the light looked flat there was some directionality to it, plus the horizon started getting some nice orange and yellow colouration.

Once the sun has dropped below the horizon you can get an effect where the light levels actually increse temporarily. THis is easily noted with exposure setting needing to be adjusted. It doesn’t last long, but normally it produces good light and helps improve a scene. As my exposure were getting longer as the light levels dropped I decide to emphasis the motion of the clouds more. I didn’t want a total blur as the definition of the clouds would be totally lost. A 30 second exposure gave enough movement blur in the final image, plus it allowed the orange light on the horizon to pick out some of the headland detail, giving it an orange glow.

No time for the flu – snow is here!

Having been suffering from the flu for a few days, it was lucky that the snow arrived just as I was coming out of it. So apart from a few coughs and sneezes I went out to enjoy the snow. Winter is my favourite time of year and I always find it a very productive time for me – snow or no snow.

Being not to far from Clyne Gardens makes it one of my points to go when it snows. I am slowly developing a collection of images of Clyne Gardens throughout the year and seasons. I am hoping to get these put together into a book someday. I managed to get into the park before there were too many foot prints in the snow, but early risers had managed to walk a few paths before I got there.

I left Clyne after posting my Christmas cards in the Post Office at Blackpill (I hope they arrive!) and crossed over the road to have a look at the snow in Swansea Bay and on Mumbles. Footprints were every where, but proved useful in getting some leading lines into the images. The weather conditions were changing quite quickly with clear sun, clouds and more snow showers all coming through in a few minutes.

I don’t know what it is but people always seem to approach me with questions about photography where ever I am in the world. I’ve got questions up the top of a hill in Nepal, in a vehicle in Namibia and leaning out of a boat in Seattle. Now it has happened in the middle of a snow shower in Swansea Bay. Going by the conversation I think photography has got another convert to join its ranks. Snow and a mobile phone had started a new interest in photography for him, he had some nice pictures as well to show for it!

With the light conditions changing quite frequently it was possible to get quite a few different looks in the images in a short space of time. Flat lighting with low cloud gave a very minimalist feel to my images of Mumbles. The snow on the beach appeared as a featureless block which balanced the featureless cloud above. All the detail in the image is in the middle with some colour there as well. I made a few images and if time permits I will stitch a few together for a panoramic image.

As the cloud broke up it produced more dramatic lighting that started to spotlight parts of Swansea marina. This was helped by the very dark cloud in the background. A classic example of light introducing contrast into an image through colour contrasts as well as exposure contrasts. Exposing to maintain detail in the highlights will darken the shadows as well, especially if the range of contrast is higher than the sensor can deal with.

A Day on Gower – no plan, just roaming

Last Sunday I had a free day and decided to just have a wonder around Gower to see what was going on. This usually is a totally useless way to make photographs, but as the weather forecasts on the web were for fog all day I hadn’t made specific plans. As it happens the sunrise was excellent and the weather forecasters were wrong! A little bit of morning mist was around still when I got out and about and drove through Reynoldston. The mist flattens the contrast in an image and gives it pastel-like colours. Stout Hall caught my eye and even though not a prize winning photo , it was worth an attempt. I always feel that Stout Hall would make a great boutique country hotel similar to Fairy Hill. I’m not sure what it is used for now, but I believe it was an outdoor education centre for some of the London boroughs.

I moved on towards Llanmadoc and as I approached from Burry Green, the view of the marsh opens up before you as you drive down the hill into Llanmadoc. At this point I discovered that I had left my 24 – 120mm zoom in another bag at home, so I was stuck with an extreme wideangle or telephoto zoom, neither of which framed the image quite as I wanted it. Even using the human zoom of walking backwards and forwards didn’t help much either. I chose the slightly unsettling view above. It looks like a montage constructed in Photoshop, but it is one frame. The sun was hidden from the side of the hill down into Llanmadoc and as a result it was still very frosty. The marsh had been in sun for a while and the frost had cleared, but mist was still blowing over the estuary beyond it, blocking out Llanelli and Burry Port.

The community council has placed a bench at a view point on the roadside before entering Llanmadoc, so after taking the wider view, I got engrossed taking some close up images of the frost on the bench. It was amazing how the patterns in the frost changed in character in such a small area. The image above shows one of the brass rivets used to secure the wooden planks of the seat to the frame. I think it provides a contrast to the  jagged edges of the frost. I will post a few more of the images in another post.

As it was Sunday and my brain wasn’t really switched on, I hadn’t made any plans for lunch so I decided to head home via Welsh Moor. Welsh Moor always reminds me of an African savanna when a blue sky is visible. This impression was boosted with a fox trotting through the grass, looking just like a Black backed Jackal in Africa. No picture of this I’m afraid as I only saw it as I started to drive away. Anyway I had a pleasant surprise when I got home to find a Sparrowhawk having it’s lunch on my garden hedge.

By the time I saw the Sparrowhawk, it had plucked and eaten most of its prey. From what I could see it looked as if it had caught a Starling. There are quite a few of these eating me out of house and home at the momet. A small flock of about 20 birds is coming regularly to the garden. It was only because the garden appeared very quiet when I arrived that I looked around the garden and saw the Sparrowhawk eating away. The Sparrowhawk has caught a few Blackbirds and Pigeons in the past but usually when I didn’t have a camera to hand.  After it had flown off and I had my lunch, it was off the Broughton Burrows for a sunset as the sky was looking quite promising.

Typically some cloud had settled on the horizon, so the sunset would be subdued slightly but as there was a clear sky above it some colour would be visible for quite a while after sunset. Surfers were at the Burry Holm end of the beach as well as at Llangennith, so I managed a few frames as they walked past  on their way home. I attempted a few views of the waves and will post more of these later as I was quite pleased with the results.

Overall not a bad day since none of it had been planned. It would be nice if a planned day went as well as this more often!

No snow, but we have ice! – Cefn Bryn, Gower Peninsula

We haven’t had any snow yet on Gower, just heavy frosts, so I thought I would check out some of the areas where you get standing water or ponds to see what was happening in the ice that would be forming. Areas like Broad Pool and Gelli Hir which have ponds were frozen but the surface of the ice was quite bland. The path to Arthurs Stone over the years seems to have got wetter with more pools of water developing, but they stay relatively shallow. This shallow depth seemed to be responsible for producing more interesting ice patterns.

The picture below shows the ice sheet looking towards the setting sun behind the clouds. By itself it provides an interesting view, but the more interesting elements for me were within the ice.

Getting some form of contrast is always a good composition tool for your images. Contrasts don’t have to be just colours, it can be textures, types of light, geographic locations, different heights etc. If you can get multiple contrasts in an image that’s great, but don’t over do it otherwise it can get over complex visually.

The ice had many different surface textures from powder like to glass like within a small area so luckily I didn’t have to venture too far onto the ice, but could just hover around the edges where there was better grip with some grass poking through the ice to stand on. I’ll have to use my crampons next time to get further in, it is slightly more dignified than crawling onto the ice on my hands and knees. At least I know that I can’t fall through the ice when it is only 4 inches thick!

Final Workshop of the year – a few thoughts on what I have observed throughout the year

The final day course for the year was last Saturday and after thinking that rain would be my biggest problem, we were blessed with bitterly cold but dry weather. Thanks go to the Chris H, Steve, Chris W, Nigel and Sue for braving snow and ice to make the course and making it a great final course.

I’ve now had some time to think about the courses, 1-2-1 tuition and workshops over the year and have started to develop some initial thoughts on what I have observed. They are listed below in no particular order:

  1. Most photographers are not maximising the use of the equipment they have
  2. With digital, exposure can now be taught and mastered in a few minutes with the use of the histogram
  3. Composition is the weakness for most photographers – they are normally trying to get too much in the image and loose the main point of interest
  4. “Seeing” or finding images to take can be harder for some more than others
  5. Trying to teach how to “see” images is difficult
  6. Using the basic building blocks of composition – rule of thirds, leading lines etc. really starts to help people build images
  7. Learning not to use the basic building blocks of composition to get a good image is difficult – a lot of Gower images don’t follow the rule of thirds to get a good composition
  8. Most photographers rush their photography – it is not a race, spend time building one good image than making 20 average ones
  9. All photographers lust after better equipment in the secret belief that they will make better photos (me included!)
  10. Most photographers need better tripods and heads and then need to use them more often
  11. You need to move around to find a composition before setting up your tripod
  12. The satisfaction of seeing a course participant develop their photography over a few hours and see them get “it” as they progress can never be beaten
  13. Most camera manuals haven’t been read fully
  14. If your images aren’t good enough, you are not close enough – Robert Cappa founder member of Magnum, true for landscape as well as war photography
  15. Not all landscape photographs need to be taken with a wide angle lens – you don’t have to try and get it all in the frame
  16. The human zoom is often overlooked – walking forwards and backwards can help if your lens isn’t quite wide or telephoto enough
  17. You need some form of levelling device with landscape photography – get a bubble level, they even make them for Sony/Minolta hotshoes now (www.speedgraphic.com)
  18. Dedicate specific time for “real” photography, trying to do it with family around won’t allow you to focus enough – just take snaps then

I’m sure there are a few more reflections that should be here, but I can’t think of them at the moment!

(all images made on my phone)