Monthly Archives: March 2013

Elan Valley Day Course – What a difference an hour makes

Thanks go to Lee, William, Mike, Adrian and Tracy for joining me in the Elan Valley on Saturday for my Elan Valley Day Course. The weather forecast leading up to the day was changing regularly, so it was difficult to work out what we were going to get. In the end we got everything –  sun, cloud, rain, hail, sleet and snow! The lure of a certain rugby match weakened the resolve of some participants when the rain really started to fall, so we called a halt to the day an hour after lunch.

As usual I was keen for participants to hang around and see what developed. It is always a useful lesson to wait and see what happens with a bit of time. So I decided to stay and see what happened. My luck was in and an hour after we had finished for the day, the snow had lessened and the wind dropped making it easier to keep the filters and the front of the lens clear of snowflakes and water droplets.  Sometimes you are not this lucky and it continues to rain solidly.


Both images above were taken about an hour apart. It shows how the weather can change quickly at higher elevations. Just further down the valley there was no snow. Using vehicles to get between locations always meant that we were close to some cover to keep dry, but you can imagine what it would be like on foot. It always pays to be prepared for the worst and when travelling solo on foot, I always carry more protective clothing and equipment than photographic gear.

Considering the reservoirs are man made it is always difficult to think that they were not always there. They seem to suit the environment perfectly and don’t look too false. The area always seems to be quiet with only a few visitors during the day and is easy to get around by car, so no foot slogging required. Perfect for the landscape photographer to concentrate on their photography and not the logistics of getting into position.

The landscape and natural history in the valley is different to that I normally see on Gower, so it is a welcome change to visit Rhayader and the surrounding area during the year. I won’t wait till next years course for another visit, but it may be more focused on the sounds of the area next time.

Architecture Day Course 2013 – Cardiff Bay

Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay

It all seems to have come around so quickly, but it is time for my Day courses to start again, with the first one being yesterday’s Architecture Day in Cardiff Bay. My thanks go to Steve, Victoria, Nigel and Clive for joining me in the Bay. Conditions were quite challenging at the start with solid grey cloud, no light to speak of and no contrast either. The cold wind and temperatures didn’t help either . The image below shows it mid morning with some break up of the cloud.

Grey Day, Cardiff Bay

In these tough conditions we tried to concentrate on detail images or trying to find good forms with contrasting shapes or textures. I suggested to the participants that they consider converting the images to black and white as they were very monochrome anyway. A few checks of this idea on the camera LCD screen showed it was the way to go.

Memorial detail, Cardiff Bay

After a bite to eat at lunchtime and a chance to warm up, we stepped outside to enjoy the sunshine and blue sky that has appeared while we ate. Normally I’m not a fan of a clear blue sky, but for cityscape or architectural images it works well. The Millennium centre always looks good with a blue sky to contrast against the orange of the copper front. After a stroll from the Norwegian church to the Millennium centre in the morning we headed out towards the St David’s Hotel. After struggling and failing to get a good image of the Techniquest building, we headed back to the Millennium centre to find our framing options for the dusk images. Initially I had hoped we would photograph the Senedd building, but a concert had been planned for the steps in front of it and it was impossible to get a good composition with all the lights, speakers and plastic seats etc. outside.

The things people do with a fisheye, Cardiff Bay

With us and a few other photographers present with all our gear and tripods, a few passers by thought somebody famous was around and we were all paparazzi. They seemed a bit disappointed when we told them we were just waiting for it to go dark so we could photograph the Millennium centre.

Praying to the photographic gods, Cardiff Bay

It carries on again in two weeks time with the Elan Valley Day course. Let’s see how that one goes.

Sunset at Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula

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Taken a few weeks ago when we still had a view of the sun and with all the images made all on the same day, it shows how much the light changes in a day. It was also interesting watching the other photographers present. Some were doing stills, others were doing time lapse photography with motorised dolly and others were running around trying to cover all angles or just to keep warm.

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I was intruged by the debris that was spread around the Helvetia wreck. From afar it looked like loads of people had been running around it and churning up the sand. As I got closer it looked more like litter and then finally revealed itself as a collection of large clam shells, starfish, razor shell, muscles and worms. The pattern of the distribution showed how the retreating tide moved around the wreck had coincided with the projections of the wreck.

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With the sun fully set, I always like the blue hues that images take on with my camera set on a daylight white balance. I tend to find that pictures that have been corrected to a more neutral white balance don’t seem to convey the feelings I have at that time. This is a personal preference and some may feel they are too blue.

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While packing up in the car park I couldn’t help noticing an amazing collection of starts visible in the sky. I unpacked the camera and set it back on the tripod. As it was already dark, focusing was a problem, so I used my head torch to allow the camera to focus on the poles in the car park. Although I think my exposure is slightly out I’m still pleased with the feel of the image. My attempts to photograph the bay were spoilt by a strong wind that had picked up and moving the camera during the long exposure. I’ll just have to try again another time.

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