Monthly Archives: April 2011

Afan Cwm, Afan Forest Park

I was visiting Afan Forest Park to scout the area for a possible location for a mountain bike shoot as there are numerous mountain biking trails and facilities in the park. After having a good drive and look round, I set aside some time to get some landscape photography in as well.

With the river water level relatively low, a lot of the river stones were very dry and pale, which made them stand out, especially against the green-yellow reflection of the sunlit foliage. Photographing in direct sunlight causes all sorts of problems with contrast, especially when one side of the valley is in shade. A lot of people forget that graduated filters will help in these conditions and don’t have to be used across bright skies only. In the very top image I used two filters; a 3 stop soft grad to tone down the sky and sunlight foliage and a one stop hard grad then placed over the sky. A quick use of the adjustment brush to correct the darkened foliage on the upper left corner finishes the process. The key is not to over filter the sky. Reflected skies and other reflections in water are always darker than the actual sky and should be retained this way.

The alternative option was to exclude the bright sky and foliage completely as in the above image. This means that all parts of the image are in the same light. The boulders in the lower left help provide some foreground interest, which could have been quite plain with just river water and visually empty space. Depending on the sky conditions another option would be to try and photography on a cloudy day; bright white sky would be useless, but darker grey clouds could possibly work.

Clyne Gardens, Swansea – now in full bloom

I popped into Clyne Gardens for an hour or two on Good Friday, and even though the rain came down, I had a chance to wander round the whole garden. It is looking great at the moment and well worth a visit. This year it seems that the gardens have bloomed earlier, about a week to ten days, so now is the time to visit if you can.

It never ceases to amaze me how long I can spend in one position making some images. A part from the image immediately above, all the images were taken in an area 5 metres square. I always claim that walking around with all the camera gear keeps me fit, but at this rate I will be needing to walk a bit further.

The light conditions varied from very bright and contrasty to overcast, so as the clouds arrived, I switched to making detail images. I think a few park visitors were a bit suspicious of me as to take the images above and below, I was half in and out of the fir at the same time. At least my blue T-shirt and red fleece didn’t make it look as if I was hiding, but some strange looks came my way anyway.

Kittiwakes at Mumbles Pier

With the proposals for redeveloping the Pier gathering pace, I decided that this year I would visit the Kittiwakes at Mumbles pier more. If the development proceeds, and even though there are attempts to help the Kittiwakes relocate their nest sites to other areas of the pier, I feel that this may be my last chance to photograph and video them.

Even though some birds were out on the water, I don’t think that there were as many birds as last year at my visit yesterday. There is still some time to go before the nesting fully starts, so we will have to see if this stays the same. Some pairs are present, but lots of birds seem to be on their own at the moment.

You can see why the owners of the pier either have to close or redevelop the pier. The main wooden supports are rotted through in places and it seems to be a never ending battle against the elements to maintain the other areas of wood and iron. The birds don’t seem to mind though and probably having areas of the pier blocked off to the public for safety reasons, has helped them even more.


The photo below shows the attempts to put up new nesting site for the birds. It isn’t working at the moment and probably needs some adaptation to move the birds there. More areas like this will be needed to allow all the birds to nest, but some form of barrier will be needed to stop the birds accessing their normal nesting ledges. It is probably too late to do it this year and if the redevelopment starts next year in the spring, there won’t be much time to get the birds used to nesting elsewhere on the pier. Not an easy situation to sort out. Im sure that some of the wildlife charities will be trying to or are actually advising the owners as to what they can do to relocate the birds to other areas of the pier.

The location as it is at the moment is quite special as there is no better place in the UK to get so close to these birds without disturbing them, and hopefully after the redevelopment the birds will still be there.

Being Lazy – Gelli Hir Wood

After a few events came together, I decided to give myself the weekend off from work last weekend. It gave me the chance to let my back get better, enjoy my birthday and not think about photography for a while and have a rest after two day courses and one three day workshop on consecutive weekends for the last three weeks. As the weather was so good, I wanted to escape the crowds at the beaches, so I headed inland to Gelli Hir Wood nature reserve. I had the place all to myself, so there was no better way to spent the day sitting under a tree, enjoying the sunshine and being lazy. The birds are really vocal at the moment, so get a flavour of it yourself by playing the clip below of a recording taken in Ilston this week (Gelli Hir is too close to the airport so recordings during the day are ruined by aircraft sounds and engine revving).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


As you can see, I couldn’t keep away from photography completely and made the few images above. The new growth in spring has great green colour variations, plus all the flowers as well, which I think are coming out earlier this year. It will now be a busy period for me trying to photograph what is happening out on Gower, so I hope that the back continues to improve so I can get back to carrying everything including the kitchen sink when I head out next!

3 Day Gower Coastal Workshop


Well the dust has finally settled after the Gower Coastal Workshop and I would like to say thank you to Paul, Nur, Jackie and Judy for taking part. I hope you all enjoyed the three days and learn’t a few things about photography. Going by the results in our evening review sessions, I think they all did very well and produced some great images in quite difficult weather conditions.

Day one was spent around Worm’s Head and the causeway. The weather was overcast and very flat, with not very attractive lighting. We concentrated on making images of details, instead of wide landscape views and thought of images that would be suitable in black and white.


After a bite to eat we moved down onto Rhossili Bay to photograph Worm’s Head and the Helvetia wreck. The light continued to stay overcast and flat, so no sunset. The weather forecast was for the sky to clear and the sun to come through, unfortunately this never happened.

Day two started with  a little bit of cloud but was soon clearing with clear blue skies coming through. We moved onto Mewslade Bay to explore the beach and rocks. The light became very bright, with heavy contrast, blue skies and a slight haze over the sea.

After a fewhours rest back at the Worm’s Head Hotel we headed back down onto Rhossili Bay to try for another sunset. This time with the clear blue sky, it look more promising and as hoped we got some great light. It wasn’t the most spectacular sunset, but some great colours developed as the sun descended and dropped below the horizon.

Day three took us to Fall Bay, once again in bright and sunny conditions with the occasional overcast spell. Fighting the contrast in the scene was our greatest problem, and once again I was encouraging the group to consider black and white conversions of the images later. In high contrast scenes, black and white works very well, where as colour images struggle to get beyond the postcard style.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel with time for a few more pictures of Rhossili Bay with the blue skies still dominating. With goodbyes completed, it was time for everyone to depart on the journey home.

You never know what the weather is going to be, but overall we were lucky that it stayed dry. The low contrast and cloudy weather allowed us to try close up, detail images and the clearer blue skies allowed the opportunity of one sunset at least. Normally during the bright, harsh light of the middle of the day, I wouldn’t bother to try and make images, so it proved a new challenge for me to find views or items to photograph. The workshop is designed for people to learn about photography and the great thing is I continue to learn too.