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Friends of Friendless Churches
27th February 2012
During a recent trip to Pembrokeshire I visited a couple of old, unused churches that are being looked after by the Charity "Friends of Friendless Churches".

St Andrews, Bayvil:
Built in the early 1800s it is attributed to the local architect, David Evans. The interior is almost entirely as it was in Georgian times and the traditional colour scheme of the box pews is exactly as it would have been. The siting of the original coffin bier suggests the church is waiting for the next burial.



St David, Manordeifi:
This church is sited close to the River Teifi, which regularly flooded while the church was in use. The church coracle which was kept in the porch, was used to ferry worshippers to and fro when this happened. The church has the grandest of box pews, some even sporting their own fireplaces!





http://www.friendsoffriendlesschurches.org.uk
Port Talbot Wall Art Uncovered
12th February 2012
I spent a couple of hours this weekend exploring some derelict buildings in Port Talbot. Although the buildings structure and architecture wasn’t overly inspiring, some of the graffiti and wall art was just wonderful and gave me a great opportunity to play around with lighting & HDR techniques.





Exhibition
06th February 2012
From 3rd to 30th March 2012
Kenfig Nature Reserve Visitor Centre


I’m am now in the midst of massive organisational chaos as I try to pull together the first exhibition of my photography.
It seemed like such a good idea last year when I first arranged for the showing at the Visitor Centre at the Kenfig Nature reserve, but as usual its amazing how quickly the time has past. All my good intentions regarding the things I was going to do fell down and the preparations are becoming very last minute.
Still I am really looking forward to framing up a number of my favourite images and seeing them hanging together.
I will be having a small official opening on Sunday 4th March at 2pm, if you are in the area, please do come along and say hello – you never know, there may even be a small glass of wine or something available – if I can arrange glasses in time ;-)

Directions
Grid Ref: SS793817

Kenfig National Nature Reserve
Ton Kenfig
Bridgend
CF33 4PT
Tel: 01656 743386


Kenfig National Nature Reserve lies on the coast of South Wales approximately one mile off the M4 motorway (Junction 37 and follow signs to to North Cornelly, Pyle and Porthcawl and thence the 'brown duck' reserve signs) between Bridgend and Port Talbot.
Creation Guides
01st February 2012
Following the talk I gave at Wakefield Camera club on Monday, I have created a new page on the website called Tips & Hints.

In this I have uploaded a number of tip sheets that explain how I created a few of the images on the site.

These are PDF documents which can be freely downloaded, I just ask that if you find them helpful please drop me an email, or leave a comment in the guestbook to let me know.

Where did January go?
01st February 2012
January has already past and I cant believe how quickly the time has gone.

I didnt do much actual photography during the month but I kept myself busy, both at work (which has been hectic) and in my "free time".

At the start of the month I had a brief trip to Burryport with my Parents and did manage to take some photos. Nothing overly great, although the dreadful weather and hailstorms did provide some dramatic lighting.



I visited the Societies convention in London and finally bit the bullet and bought a set of Pocket Wizards to control off-camera flash. This is something I have been thinking about for some time as I think one way to really improve my photography would be to control my lighting more. I know that you can do this without the help of hitech gadgetry, but I have always had a bit of a blind spot when it comes to flash (too much math involved in guide numbers and distances...) Recent attempts at using infrared control led to some frustrating issues due to the line of sight restrictions and so I drew a deep breath and went completely wireless. I have only managed to play with it a couple of times so far, but I am liking it so far!


Then I took a trip to the Commonweath Judo Championships that were recently held in Cardiff. A few of the guys from the Bridgend Judoqwai were competing in the Grand Masters and it was great to see then in action. Unfortunately, Leon manged to break his wrist in his first fight - so his dreams of a commonwealth title to go with his British one were short lived :-(



Finally, I have just returned from giving a talk at Wakefield Camera club. I was invited to do this (read that as bullied into by my Dad who is the club's programme secretary) over a year a go but as usual I left it to the last minute and had to quickly throw together a talk. I was really flattered that a number of people from other clubs came along specifically to see me. I think it went OK.
2011 yearbook
14th January 2012
I create a year book of my photographs every Hogmanay. I think its an excellent way of seeing how my skills and interests have developed over time and it also means that there is always a permanent record of all my favorite images.

My 2011 book is the largest yet standing at 106 pages, but as I moved into many new areas last year it was a real reflection of the things I was doing last year.

if you have the time (and bandwidth) you can view the book below:

Owl Sanctuary
24th November 2011
We had a wonderful opportunity last night to take photos of some of the residents of the Owl Sanctuary at Ebbw Vale. Five stunning birds were brought along to our group evening and although we subjected them to a constant barrage of flash bursts they behaved beautifully and posed without complaint.
Malcolm who runs the sanctuary brought along:
Ellie, a gorgeous Bengal eagle owl,
Smokey Jo, a Canadian Grey Owl
Zulu an African Barn Owl
a British Barn Owl who’s name was lovely but unspellable (Myfanwy?) ☺ and
Storm a Peregrine falcon.
To be honest I could just have spent to time just watching them and giving then an occasional stroke as it was such a complete privilege to be so close to such amazing creatures but I did take some shots:








If you are ever in the area of the Festival Park in Ebbw Vale the centre is well worth a visit. Entry is free but as the sanctuary is an entirely self funded sanctuary and rescue facility, donations are sorely needed. The web address is: http://www.theowlsanctuary.co.uk
Poole weekend
12th November 2011
Recently a friend kindly gave us a voucher for an overnight stay somewhere on the English coast. We decided to go to Poole on the Dorset Coast as its relatively close ( a mere 3 ½ hr drive!) and somewhere we haven’t been too before.
The quayside was just wonderful – lots of interesting shops to browse, including the famous Poole Pottery and a really bustling harbour. It was a lovely place to spend an afternoon and have fish and chips for lunch (and they were the best fish & chips I’ve had for a while!)
The bed & breakfast we stayed in was also a real find; called the White House (http://www.whitehousebedandbreakfast.co.uk/) the house is architecturally stunning and not only was our room beautifully presented (with Lush products in the bathroom – and a luxurious feather quilt –may fave!) but there was also an abundance of very yummy cake! Then to top the day off, we had a stunning meal at Corkers Restaurant overlooking the Quay. Once again, I was really spoilt and had the best lobster ever followed by a very decadent meringue, raspberry and cream concoction – it was just heavenly! OK I’ll stop with the food talk – I did actually do some photography ☺



11/11/11 11:11:11
11th November 2011
Last Friday I wanted to take the unique opportunity to capture a meaningful image on 11th November 2011. A special date, not only for being the anniversary of the armistice but for also containing all the 11’s .
The weather wasn’t overly inspiring, but I found myself at the relevant time in a small village called Llanfynydd. The village was almost deserted when we found the war memorial so it was a lovely surprise when the pupils of the local school were brought to the memorial to observe the 2 minute silence at 11am. The memorial is inscribed in Welsh and it was beautiful to hear the young voices recite the inscription to the memory of the fallen local heroes.


The Local school paying their respects


The image I took at 11 minutes & 11 seconds past 11 on the morning of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of the second millennium. (well according to my camera anyway!)
Steampunk continued
06th November 2011
The second shoot of our weekend with Simon & Sarah was with some of the guys from the Inn-Focus group. After a heroically persistent effort on Mike’s part in getting the key we took over the under croft of Neath Abbey and spent a few hours happily snapping away. While some of the guys worked on getting detailed portraits, I tried to take more environmental shots again using the interesting location as a backdrop. Some of the results:






and perhaps may favorite "concept" shot:

Steampunk revisited
05th November 2011
We recently had a fantastic time with a couple we met at the “Asylum” Victorian Steampunk Society convention in Lincoln. We invited Simon and Sarah to come and stay with us for a weekend and then subjected them to 2 strenuous modeling sessions. The first was with just Mike & me at the Boys village, which worked really well for adding some some atmospheric backdrops to the costumes.
As taking situational portraits is totally new to me, this was always going to be a challenge and I made loads of mistakes, but I learnt a huge amount and enjoyed every minute. I hardly ever use flash, because frankly it has always scared me in the past, but I knew that to get the best out of the location I would need to attempt it. Using a couple of Canon speedlights and a nifty wireless transmitter that allows the flash exposure to be controlled TTL I managed to get a few decentish images - had I understood the way flash works I'm sure they would have been even better, but for a first attempt I was quite pleased! The list of learning points I took from the day was quite extensive and I now appreciate the limitations of the IR flash trigger system; having to have the receivers in the line of sight soon became a bit of a pain – but I think I would like to play with this more now.








Stormy lime works
23rd October 2011
The area outside Bridgend has long been associated with lime quarrying and just outside Pyle is an abandoned lime works. The coastal land overlies a rich seam of limestone and as lime is a highly desirable product in a diverse range of industries such as iron smelting, agriculture and home building, lime kilns sprang up all over the area over the past centuries. There is very little information about the operation of this works, but the remnants of this extensive site are an unexpectedly photogenic find. Lots of the textures in the abandoned structures and rotary kilns lend themselves to black and white images and the colours in the rusting machinery against the white textured ground are quite spectacular.



Judo composites
15th October 2011
Mike & I did another session at the Bridgend Judo Club, this time to take some still shots of specific moves, holds and throws for training purposes. This was a different proposition to our previous shoots and between us we took over 2500 shots over the course of an hour or so. That’s a lot of images to go though! Fortunately Will and a couple of the other guys didn’t seem to mind trawling through them all to identify the images that showed the elements they were looking for; whether that be a specific grip or change of balance or other highly technical detail that is lost on non-experts like us. We managed to whittle it down to about 100 images from which to make a final selection from. One of the benefits of doing a session like this was that we were able to take whole sequences of throws and I had fun in creating photo montages of a few moves, which show in a single image the throw from its starting point to end.







Explanations!
04th October 2011
I have been a bit remiss in updating the site recently – partially because I have had a few uninspired weeks but mainly because I have just been lazy.

Something I have been working on however is a set of explanatory notes that describe how I created some of my images. This started off from a simple request from a friend who is doing a photo course and in my usual way I went way over the top. However it was a really interesting exercise to revisit some old images and see what techniques I used to get to the final image. What struck me was how much both my post processing and initial capture has changed over the years but also in a couple of cases I was impressed by just how much I managed to get out of a fairly crummy starting point. So far I have looked at HDR (both true 7 shot merging and a pseudo process from a single image) an infra-red and a long exposures.

I have put a couple of the notes below as examples – when I get round to it I will start a new section on the site and add them in a downloadable format.







T&S action
25th September 2011
Over the past couple of months I have been experimenting a little more with my Tilt and shift lens and found a fabulous site (www.cambridgeincolour.com) that explains a bit of the theory and practice behind how they work. It really is a stunning lens and now I understand a bit more about it I can appreciate the reasons it costs so much!

One of the things I learnt suggested it can be used to create panoramas so I tried doing a complex HDR/T&S image of an old Mine building near Crumlin in the Valleys. This was a pretty ambitious experiment and I have to admit to not getting it totally right due to a bit of a flaw in my thinking. Basically, even with the extra wide angle of view offered by the 17mm focal length, the abandoned building was still too wide to fit in the frame. So the idea was to create a panorama using the lenses ability to shift horizontally without changing the camera position. In order to do this movement you have to revolve the lens through 90 degrees and I didn’t realise that this would also change the focal plane so that instead of the focus going from front to back it appears to be from bottom to top of the frame – thus the ground and sky are out of focus which has resulted in the blurring of the chimney stack!

To add to the complication, I also took multiple exposures at each point to do a HDR – consequently the resulting image was huge. Add in a silver effects B&W conversion to adjust the colours and you get a pretty complex workflow. As an exercise I loved it and compositionally I like the image – I just wish the focus was right throughout! I’ll just have to go back and take it again sometime.


A toned version of the full image - the forground is really out of focus when printed so I did a different treatment on it and cropped it into a letterbox that prints a bit better:
The Asylum
14th September 2011
Just returned home from an absolutely fabulous weekend in Lincoln at the Annual Victorian Steampunk Society convention. Although I have been interested in the aesthetics of the movement for a while, this weekend was a complete revelation and I am totally hooked! I have to thank Major Tinker, the whole VSS team and all the truly Splendid people who made us feel so welcome and inspired.

For those who have not heard of steampunk before, the movement, at its most basic, is an enactment of Victorian Science fiction that is commonly credited to Jules Verne’s fantasy novels. The premise being that the world instead of developing electricity remained in the era of the industrial revolution and technology developed based on steam power and clockwork. Unlike other fantasy genres, steampunk is based on creativity, good manners, adventures and Tea Parties, beautifully made machines, gadgets and fabulous period costumes!

Although the prime reason for going was for the photography, I have to admit that I got so caught up in the tea duelling, period dancing, clockwork races and socialising with the very cool characters that I didn’t really make the most of the fabulous opportunities. Still the images below give a very small taster of the event.

Now off to learn how to make corsets, bustles – I have just 12 months to make 2 day ensembles, a ball gown … (did I mention the cool dresses?)















Getting out
02nd September 2011
For the past couple of weeks I haven’t been able to do much exploring due to a rather badly sprained ankle. Ironically I did this, not during any dodgy photography pursuits (which knowing how blinkered I can get when I have a camera in my hand would be kind of understandable) but rather just by getting out of my car at work! Very embarrassing. Still I am starting to get a bit more mobile again and so a couple of days ago I went for a short walk to see how it was doing. It was only going to be a short walk so I didn’t take a camera, but the light improved as I walked and I started taking images using Hipstamatic on my phone. Again I had an absolute blast with the app - its great to just concentrate on the composition without really knowing what the results will turn out like!
For me this trip proved once again two of my favourite philosophies: that the best camera is the one you have with you and that it’s the seeing, not the equipment you use that matters.



Derelict Church
21st August 2011
In my quest for new derelict locations I was really fortunate to be taken to this fabulous abandoned church in the Welsh Valleys. Architecturally it’s an intriguing mix of stone and concrete, which was designed by John Coates Carter and built in 1923 on a steeply sloping plot so that it dominated its environment. Unfortunately the beautiful Arts and Crafts Impressionism Church suffered from major subsidence and problems with the roof resulted in the building being closed around 1980. Plans have been submitted to develop the building and site for housing and I hope that tree preservation orders and stringent building controls will ensure that the marvellous architecture is preserved.
Technically, this was a very challenging shoot as the dynamic range inside the church was extreme. The shadows were DARK and when the sun streamed through the windows it was very very very bright. I discovered that the autobracketing on my camera is cleverer than I thought and I was able to set the gap between each exposure to be 3 stops, giving me a range of plus/minus 9 stops in a seven shot autobracktet sequence - neat! But with this type of range there is no getting around the fact that the resulting shots are HDR composites. The amount of detail that has been achieved through this is amazing, but as a friend stated, they are a bit like looking at the set of a computer game.









Ruins in Pembrokeshire
11th August 2011
It’s becoming obvious that I am becoming slightly obsessed with photographing ruins and abandoned buildings and on another recent trip to Pembrokeshire with Mike and my Dad I found a few more. I have to admit that I had researched the location of one of the derelict farmhouses before we set off and although it took a little more finding than I expected, it was well worth the trouble. However the others were all random finds that we spotted on the journey – as the rubber left on the road from some of the emergency stops can attest to. Fortunately I also took reference shots of each of the places with my phone to geotag them so I could find them again if needed - I do think DSLRs should have this built in to them these days!
The examples below are just some of the places we found along the way. I have also added a few more images in the dereliction and landscapes galleries’, which give
a bit more background into the places.



Pembrokeshire Mill
06th August 2011
On a recent trip that ended up in a Gallery in St Davids, I found a book of gritty black and white photographs of Pembrokeshire taken by a local photographer, David Wilson. The photographs contained in the book are exactly the kind of images I would love to take – atmospheric landscapes and shots of old farms and deserted buildings. It’s a lovely book and it inspired me to do a bit of research to try and find some of these fabulous places. So far I haven’t been overly successful in locating the farmhouses, but I did discover an old Linen mill in Tal-y-Bont thanks to the web site of another photographer, Paul White (www.welshruins.co.uk).

I cant tell you just how much I loved visiting this factory, I was only disappointed by not being able to spend longer there – I could have spent hours soaking up the history, trying to fully capture the atmosphere. But I did manage to take a few shots while I was there.