Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Elidir Trail, Waterfall Country, Brecon Beacons National Park

With Gower being quite busy at the moment, the overcast weather and plus I needed to start planning some courses for next year, I decided to take myself off to waterfall country in the Brecon Beacons National Park. I don’t seem to spend as much time in the beacons as I should do. They are easy to access from Swansea, so I don’t really have much of an excuse for not visiting. Even in the height of the holiday season there seems to be room for everyone and it didn’t feel that busy.

Although the water levels are quite low at the moment and the falls are not as impressive as in the winter, it allows photographers to get closer to the falls than normal and get different view points. Not being a lover of really long exposures with pictures of water, I found that I was sacrificing some depth of field and using wider apertures, plus increasing the ISO to get more detail in the flowing water. The light levels did force a few long exposures, but I think I managed to limit it to about one and a half seconds for the longest exposure.

For the image above I climbed onto the second layer or upper part of Sgwd Ddwli Isaf falls. In winter this just isn’t possible, but in summer you just have to contend with the slippery rock instead. The grip of my walking boots just about managed it, so I was  a bit surprised when I was joined by somebody wearing flip flops! Another visitor was barefoot, which makes a bit more sense in a way as bare feet do provide better grip sometimes. It never ceases to amaze me that just because it is summer people feel they can traverse the country side in flip flops, t shirt and shorts whatever the terrain.

After visiting all the falls on the trail, I decided to have a bit of a wander around the area to see what was about and see if I could get a decent view of the wind farm on a nearby hilltop. I didn’t manage to find a clear view, but the light had gone very grey, but interesting at the same time with varying levels of brightness in the sky. As soon as I saw the tree below, I knew that I wanted to photograph it and in black and white, but finding a viewpoint was harder than I thought as various fences got in the way making a good view point harder. As there was not much interest in the sky and foreground, I knew that it would need to be cropped to a panoramic format, but found that it didn’t work as well with a tight panoramic crop. Having some space for the sky and foreground gave the tree a more isolated feel to it.

Update 12th August:

A quick video edit of the Elidir Trail

Waterfall Country from Gower Photography on Vimeo.

Llanrhidian Marsh, Gower peninsula

More sunset images I’m afraid. I like the wide open space of Llanrhidian Marsh, but as it is so flat, it is difficult to get variation in the images. I fell back to an old composition in the image above, using the outline of Whitford Point as the main interest, but it is the colours in the sky that really dominate the image. Flare is difficult to control with my extreme wide angle lens, so I excluded the sun from the image and waited for it to drop below the horizon. This helps intensify the colours and reduce the contrast in the scene as well.

A tighter shot of the same scene above a few minutes later shows the drop in contrast well, with more detail visible in the grass. By this time the sun was well below the horizon, so reducing the chance of flare considerably. The image below was taken when the light was really low, but the sky was still quite bright compared to the land. This has even with the use of graduated filters produced some flare spots in the image. Once again I don’t mind these as they do not dominate the image. Images I had made earlier were too badly affected with flare that they don’t work as well. The sun was still above the horizon and shining directly into the lens. There is some subtle fill in flash on the flowers to help lift them from the surrounding grasses, but they stood out by themselves any way as they were slightly back lit.

 

 

Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn, Gower Peninsula

We have been blessed with some great weather recently which I’m sure will come to an end now the schools are breaking up for the summer holidays. The clear skies have lead to some great colours at sunset. I wanted some variation from my previous location of Whiteford National Nature Reserve, so I chose the second highest point in Gower, Cefn Bryn. I hadn’t been to Arthur’s Stone for a while, so I thought it would be worth trying to include this in the sunset as well. My initial idea wasn’t working, so I resorted to a more classical style landscape image. Contrast was proving an issue with the bright light and flare was unavoidable with the sun in the image and a wide angle lens fitted with stacked graduated neutral density filters. Here’s a bit of a curve ball for you – I also used flash. My original idea was to use flash in lighting part of my image, so I had set a flashgun with a wireless remote trigger on a stand. When I switched ideas to the one above it was still useful for me to use the flash, so I left it connected to the camera. Hopefully it is not visible where it was used, but it saved me some time in the computer later. Some people will not like the flare spots in the image. I think  don’t mind it, plus I can’t be bothered to spend ages on the computer getting rid of it!

Often photographers leave a location after the sun has crossed the horizon. It is always wise to hang around and make a few images. You will need graduated neutral density filters to get the best image balance, but the light becomes softer and less contrasty, producing a nice quality to the image. The image above shows the sky after the sunset above, notice how there is more cloud detail and more subtle colour differences. It also reminds me that I need to stand on Llanmadoc Hill next time to get a better view over the estuary!

(for those of you still wondering where flash was ued in the top image – the flashgun was to camera right to provide fill in flash to the shadow side of Arthur’s Stone about 1 and 1/2 stops less than the correct camera exposure)

Whiteford National Nature Reserve, Gower Peninsula

After playing catch up with the office work since my visit to Skokhlom Island, I managed to spend a bit of time photographing at my favourite place in Gower. I’m sure some of my ashes will get scattered here eventually! Why do I love Whiteford National Nature Reserve? It has everything that I enjoy about outdoor photography: flowers, landscape, birds, woodlands, animals, coastline, insects and best of all, a sense of space and tranquility. The 3/4 mile walk to the beach tends to put off the possibility of a family day out and quite rightly as it is easier to get to other beaches on Gower with better facilities for the family. Once you get used to the odd nudist popping up every now and again, it is usually a quiet place to spend some time.

I once got an email accusing me of falsifying my images, using Photoshop to distort the image, saturate the colours and move the sun position. If only my Photoshop skills were so good! Actually I only use Adobe Lightroom, so I am limited to a few RAW processing adjustments only and never adjust the saturation slider. If I can’t process and finish an image in a minute or two, then I don’t tend to bother with it any more. I started photography in the film days when there was no real option to alter your images, especially with slide film, plus I’m interested in photography and not photo-illustration as I call it when all sorts of computer trickery is needed to make an image. This is fine for advertising photography maybe, but not outdoor photography that purports to represent the natural world.  Anyway I don’t like sitting in front of the computer for too long, and apart from the office side of things which I can’t avoid, I would rather be outside trying to make a few photographs.

After a sunny day it is difficult to find a part of the beach that doesn’t have footprints in it, but although not a special image, I like the image of the fading human footprints being replaced with that of bird footprints. It sums up nature for me: if man leaves it alone it will sort itself out and return if given the opportunity. The problem is at the moment we don’t give it the opportunity and as the population of the world increases it will not get any better. On that cheery note I will finish with the indulgence of a cloudscape that I always try and photograph when the light and clouds are interesting.