Tag Archives: Wales

Dusk

Dusk

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.
Jean-Paul Sartre

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Grass

Grass

As I said on Saturday, and given the dearth of Glastonbury, pictures I have been revisiting some old pictures of late to try and wring some aesthetic value out of them. This is a picture from our recent trip to Bala and again shows the lake (Lyn Tegid) and mountain in the background that feature in the ‘Twaflete’ post from last month. It is also from the same set of pictures that I took of buttercups on the lakeside, which quite a lot of people seem to like. The colour version of the photo is nothing to write home about but I did like the contrast between the dark blades of grass and the bright yellow of the buttercups so I thought I would process a black and white version to see how things turn out. I’m pretty pleased with it and consider it an image rescued . It was taken using the trusty 50-mm prime lens with a wide-open aperture of f1.8, hence all that lovely blur – or bokeh – if you have been paying attention. And yes it was deliberate. File under ‘arty’.

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Rocks are slow life…

Rocks in stream

… so sang the Super Furry Animals, who are from Wales where this picture was taken. I am not sure what it means but I do like it as a phrase. I assume its because rocks endure whilst all around them changes much more quickly. The black and white version of this is in my Society6 studio so I thought I’d share the colour version here.Taken with a tripod in fading light at f-22 the picture captures the movement of the water with that wonderful silky effect but its really about the rocks. Slow life. I like it.

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Weathercock

Weathercock bw

Do you simply reflect changes in the patterns of the sky,
Or is it true to say the weather heeds the twinkle in your eye?
Do you fight the rush of winter; do you hold snowflakes at bay?
Do you lift the dawn sun from the fields and help him on his way?
Weathercock, Jethro Tull

I’m not a huge Jethro Tull fan to be honest; thankfully prog rock passed me by in favour of post punk, ska and indie rock (we’ll gloss over the new romantic years, even if I do still contend that Fade to Grey by Visage and Quiet Life by Japan are stone-cold classics). I was searching to see if weathercock is one word or two and came across these lyrics, which seemed to fit with the picture. Thankfully, weathercock is one word so hopefully this post will not be tagged as pornography by search engines. And why a cockerel? Do they have notable powers of weather prediction? Answers on a postcard please.

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(Not) A broad church

Broad church

Whilst traipsing the streets of Bala, North Wales last weekend we passed this church. It seemed remarkable only in that is was so tall and thin compared to the surrounding buildings and was slotted in to such a small space in terms of width. Anyway, it seemed worthy of a photograph and here it is. Once can only wonder how many parishioners can fit inside at one time; mind you it was a Church of England building in the midst of Wales, so perhaps there aren’t that many to cause a problem.

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Buttercups

Bala buttercups

Another picture from last weekend and an example of the contrary nature of the photographer’s lot. You would think that with the landscape of Wales’ largest lake and surrounding mountains to photograph then this would be the focus of the window of opportunity I had to take pictures. I did indeed take loads of pictures of the lake and surrounding countryside but as I go through them there are not that many that I actually like. Of course it may be that I need to leave them for a while and come back (I have found this to work in the past) but the fact is that I committed the cardinal sin of getting the camera’s image sensor dirty (too much lens changing I’m afraid) and some of the later pictures are going to need a lot of post processing work to clean them up – and I have not got the heart for it at the moment.

I think that this is my biggest failure as a photographer – I am always changing lenses in the the field as I am never quite sure which to use. In other words I try to hedge my bets. On the plus side this over cautious approach means that of all the rubbish I take at least some are worthy of taking forward. The downside is that when you take the lens off a camera, especially if you forget to turn it off (which I frequently do) then dust can get inside attracted to the static generated. As a glasses wearer I am also always taking my glasses on and off, putting them down, losing them, standing on them etc… Basically, I am not particularly well organised and this is definitely something I need to work on.

Anyway, of all the pictures that I did take, the best are a series of pictures capturing buttercups growing on the lakeside. Some of these have turned out really well i.e. I might be able to do something commercial with them such as producing some artwork or entering more competitions (not that I have had much success of late). Again, I experimented with different lenses and this one was with the camera’s standard 18-55mm kit lens. I like the sharp focus of the flowers against the background blur of the lake, mountains and bruised purple sky. You can tell the daylight is fading but there is just enough sunshine breaking through the clouds to illuminate the flowers.

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Lakeside

fence

As a follow on from yesterday’s post where I counterpointed the madness of my triathlete friends against my own personal brand of madness (i.e. standing knee deep in a Welsh lake as it goes dark) I thought I should post one of the photographs that I took. I have not been through them all yet, and I took a lot, but this is one that looked promising. You can never tell how your images are going to turn out by viewing them on the camera screen; it’s only when you get them home and look at them full size that you realize how good/bad they have turned out. This one seems to be OK though. Other photographs from the weekend just gone will no doubt materialise on the blog over the coming weeks, once I have had a chance to go through them all.

I can guarantee that the pain I went through to take this photograph was nothing compared to the pain of doing the triathlon, but I did get my boots wet and stand on my glasses. 

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Twaflon

Twaflete

Ok, so I am back and posting in real time again. I can see that my automated posts actually appeared so that is good thing to know going forward. We have actually been camping in Wales this weekend on the shores of Lyn Tegid near Bala, the largest lake in Wales. And the reason? Two friends (and not me I should hasten to add)  were taking part in the Bala triathlon which, I am reliably informed is also a ‘half Iron Man’. This is basically a 3-mile swim, followed by a 50-mile bike ride, followed by a 13-mile run. My friends, we can call them Steve and Simon for this blog, which also happens to be their real names, do this sort of thing quite regularly. I take photographs, they do triathlons; it’s a middle-aged thing.

On Friday night then three families (six adults, seven children) all headed into Wales for a weekend’s gentle camping before the race today. All things considered, the weather was not too bad on Friday and Saturday (when this picture was taken) but today was a different matter. I took this picture of Steve heading into the lake yesterday for a practice swim. It almost looks inviting. Yet today, for the race, he will have headed into it in driving rain and gale conditions. They started at 10 am and were hoping to finish by 3 pm. Five hours! Of exercise! In the pouring rain! I was going to call this blog post ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ but there was no midday sun involved, just driving, relentless rain.

Spare a thought also for their families too, standing in the rain, cheering them on. Safe in the knowledge that we were home, showered and snuggled on the sofa watching telly as we had no reason to stick around. Also, since my daughter had left her waterproof outside all night  there was no way we could have spectated, even if we’d wanted too. And the blog title? This is how my daughter pronounces ‘triathlon’. I thought it sounded suitably Welsh. If things have gone badly, they could still be running as I type. I have asked ‘why’ but there is no reason other than the vague ‘because it’s there’ excuse that you always get from people that are far healthier and fitter than you are. I maintain though that putting yourself through that hell, in those conditions, must take its toll mentally as well as physically.

I salute them, even though I don’t understand. They may have felt the same yesterday when I disappeared with camera and tripod to go and stand in the lake as it went dark. Mad dogs and Englishmen indeed.

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And another thing…

Pier

So if you saw yesterday’s post and you are reading this on Saturday 11th June then lucky you. It appears that I am not an absolute idiot after all and that posting through Glastonbury is not only feasible but achievable. I really love this picture. It’s an old one revisited taken at the very end of Llandudno pier but for me it has that essence of winter seaside that I love. The couple on the bench just make it and what a glorious Victorian building the pavilion is.

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Let there be light

Light2

Writing a blog is a very strange activity. It’s like writing a diary that everyone in the world can read. Or, in my case, writing a diary that six or seven hundred people a week read, many of whom are friends (and in one case the mother of a friend, which is slightly disconcerting) both longstanding and new. It is said that you should blog for yourself and not for other people and looking back over the posts from the last couple of years I am quite surprised by how personal and revealing some on them are. Just a brief delve into them will reveal that I am very confident/unconfident, a great/ok/terrible photographer, a liberal/left-wing sympathiser [delete as applicable].

When I started the blog, its title Confessions of an amateur photographer was chosen for many reasons (prime amongst them being that I share my birthday with Robin Askwith and that I am a child of the 1970s) but I am not sure that I intended it to become as confessional as it has become. I wanted to share my photographs, show improvement and maybe discuss how and why I took them. This hasn’t quite panned out as planned. The main reasons for this is that I lack the technical ability to accurately describe the processes involved and also my tendency to go off-topic on pretty much every subject. There are an infinite number of better photography blogs out there that get into the technical nitty gritty of how to achieve great shots so it seemed a bit of a no-brainer to do something a bit more idiosyncratic (posh for rambling and formless). The photography is key though as I think it is the main reason people visit.

That said though it does appear that my more personal posts are the ones that people like the most. At the moment I am in one of my periods of trying to get fit and lose weight. I’m not obese, or even fat to be honest, other than the middle-age spread brought on by years of beer drinking and very little exercise. There are several reasons for this spurt of activity but chief among them is my fear of disease and, more importantly, death. I believe I may have expounded at length on this topic before. Despite, touch wood, remaining relatively healthy I am a bit of a hypochondriac but at the same time I am one of those men who refuse to go to the doctor unless I think I am actually dying. I think a lot of this is down to my day job. As a medical editor I spend most of my time reading about death and disease. I am not a scientist, and the story of how I ended up doing this for a living is a long and tortuous one, but over the years I have developed an extensive knowledge of various conditions from anaemia to cancer to diabetes to genital warts [my own particular favourite]. I am well-versed enough in medical conditions enough to know when something is serious and that most of the X cures/causes cancer articles that appear in the newspapers are wildly optimistic/misleading, respectively.

I have often thought about whether if I did something different, professional photography for example, would I feel any different. I think the answer, somewhat surprisingly is no. I think it’s just my age. I have friends of a similar age doing a variety of jobs who are all as preoccupied with the tunnel at the end of the light as I am. My parents are in their 70s and I have tried to talk to them about how it feels to be at that stage of their life and whether they felt the same way that I do in their 40s; but them seem untroubled and blasé about it. There is a ‘nothing I can do about it so why worry’ attitude. I am hoping that this will develop. Whilst I would love to live for the moment and not worry about the future it does not appear to be in my nature.

So, back to getting fit in an attempt to tighten this mortal coil. This has involved me taking up running. I have done this before with little success. Usually, it has lasted a couple of months before apathy sets in or being knocked off course by injury or a holiday. This time though, something appears to have happened and for the first time ever in the history of my attempts to get fit I feel like I am getting somewhere. At the end of 3 months I find myself on the verge of hitting the ability to run 10 kilometres without stopping or panting or clutching my chest. Whereas after Christmas I could not run more than 100 metres without collapsing like a dad in a public information film about smoking I can now run non-stop for approximately 50 minutes. Now I know that the proper runners amongst you will be laughing right now but for me this is an achievement. What’s more I feel OK when I’m doing it. This is a first. I have no desire to get hung up on running, one all-consuming hobby is enough and I have a feeling I may be reaching my natural distance but I do feel better for it. In my favour is the fact that I have never smoked, although I admit to probably drinking too much after buying into the myth that red wine is really good for you. And strangely this physical wellbeing seems to be feeding into my mental wellbeing and my recent burst of proactivity.

I have had lots of pretty good feedback lately about the blog from an array of sources – direct comments, Twitter, facebook, e-mail – which has fired me up again so maybe I should be talking about the light at the end of the tunnel [shoehorns photo reference in here]. A friend of mine who works in PR recently said that she could point me in the direction of many pro photographers who are no more competent than me and some who are less. This is probably one of the nicest pieces of feedback that I have had so I’m clinging to it. I find it hard to be subjective about such things. I will admit to looking at professional photographers’ websites and they always provoke one of two reactions; either ‘wow, I wish I could do that’ or ‘hey, I could do that’. I need to renew my conviction to move from the latter to the former. This means taking more photographs, exhibiting more where possible and exploring avenues of promotion without becoming a media whore (always tricky). Let’s see how it goes.

And the picture? Valle Crucis abbey again with the harsh sunlight streaming through the windows and hitting the moss-lined walls. But is the floor that I really like, with its blue/purple cracked stone.

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