Photo of the Month: October 2022

It’s back to wild life this month! I spent an excellent weekend in mid Wales on a photography course and for the Sunday afternoon we visited the Red Kite Centre at Rhayader.

This photo was taken with my Sony a7 111 DSLR 1/2000th at f5.6 and ISO 2000 with 200mm on the zoom. I reckon it’s rather good! I used continuous autofocus and typically three or four shots in a single burst. Earlier shots were taken at 1/1000th and were a little blurred.

Others on the course were equipped with 600mm lenses and more and my guess is that they would not have been able to take a photograph before the bird had left the frame.

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Elan Valley photo weekend

Earlier this month I enjoyed a weekend in mid Wales mainly as a part of a photo weekend with Alan Mershon of Going Digital. It was to start at 1000 on the Friday morning and given that I had a three or four hour drive to get there I set off the night before and enjoyed a night in Llanidloes.

I grew up in North Wales and a lot of the news was about other parts of Wales so the name Llanidloes was familiar to me. But although Wales is not exactly a big country I’d never been to mid Wales except for Aberystwyth before this year when I visited in June. Click here for that story.

Llanidloes is not a big place, it doesn’t even merit a mention in Lonely Planet, but with a population of about 3000 it’s still the third largest settlement in Montgomeryshire after Newtown and Welshpool. Despite it’s size (lack of) it’s got multiple pubs and churches and chapels. There’s hardly a national chain to be seen on the High Street but there’s an excellent half timbered old market hall from the 1600s in the centre. Sadly there seem to be a lot of derelict factories.

I stayed at the excellent Trewythen Hotel which I rated five star on TripAdvisor. It really could not be faulted and I was especially impressed by its ability to respond to a my request for mashed avocado with my scrambled eggs for breakfast.

We meet for our photo weekend at the Lost ARC in Rhayader (Rhaeadr Gwy). It’s a ‘venue’, an arts cente and cafe, and later we have a couple of meals there.

There are six of us, a couple, two single women, a man who lives locally and me. Plus Alan and his wife. I’m clearly the senior member of the group and all the others seem to be remarkably well equipped with large camera bags and tripods.

Our first stop is Devil’s Bridge (Pontarfynach). Lonely Planet decsribes it as ‘mysterious’ spanning ‘the Rheidol Valley where the Rivers Mynach and Rheidol tumble together’.

It’s a walk of some 600 steps (up and down the Falls) including Jacob’s Ladder (100 steps) and you get several views of the waterfalls of Afon Mynach and down the Rheidol valley. I take a few shots, the others all take multiple shots of the waterfall using their tripods to facilitate long exposure and the resulting silky water.

After lunch at the Two Hoots cafe it’s back to the Devil’s Bridge to walk down the other side of the bridge to see the Punchbowl and to look up at the three bridges that have been successively built across the gorge.

On the way back to Rhayader we go down the Ystwyth Valley and stop twice for photo ops. The first is at an old lead mine near Cwmystwyth and the second down by the site of Ar Elan Bridge. More waterfalls and more tripods!

It’s a 1000 start again on Saturday so I take the opportunity to get to know Rhayader (pronounced raider). Lonely Planet describes is as a ‘handsome, small and fairly uneventful livestock-market town revolving around a central crossroads marked by a war-memorial clock’. It ‘brands’ itself as ‘the outdoors capital of Wales’ (www.rhayader.co.uk).

Today is our day for the Elan Valley and it’s very much defined by the dams. There are five completed dams in total, four on Afon Elan and one on Afon Claerwen, and they were built to supply water to Birmingham. The Claerwen dam was built after World War 11, the others were all completed by the early 1900s. There’s also an unfinished dam on Afon Claerwen.

There’s a seventh dam which was used to supply water to the workmen’s village and was abandoned on completion of the first fice dams. It was used in 1942 for Barnes Wallis’ secret tests of the ‘bouncing bomb’ which was later used to attack dams in Germany during the ‘Dambusters’ raids.

We begin at the visitor centre adjacent to the Caban Coch Dam and then drive to the top of the Claerwen dam. We photograph the lake behind it and looking down to the river below. Then we walk down to the bottom and photograph it looking up at it.

The dam and the reservoir behind it were ‘inaugurated’ by Queen Elizabeth in October 1952. It must have been one of her first jobs as the new queen. The reservoir supplies Birmingham down an aqueduct which has a gradient of just 1 in 2300.

We then head down to Nantgwyllt where there’s a road running along the top of the Garreg Ddu dam and a replica chapel to the one that was buried when they dammed the valley.

In the afternoon we go first to the top of the dam by the visitor cente and then to Pen-y-Bont, where I photograph the wood carvings and then climb up to the Pen y Carreg dam.

We have a rather muddling start to Sunday before setting off to the Red Kite Centre to the south of Rhayader just after lunch.

We’re in a hide overlooking the feeding place and my colleagues bring out there 600mm (and more) lenses. I make do with my 200mm and reset my camera for shutter priority, continuous shooting and continuous autofocus. I start at 1/1000th and when I check my photos they’re not bad but blurred. I move to 1/2000th which seems to do the trick.

Rather surprisingly I get several good shots. I share them later and am somewhat surprised that the others share nothing. I reckon with the big lenses the birds out of the shot before you take the shot. Anyway I’m pretty chuffed.

There’s an album of my better and more interesting shots at https://adobe.ly/3X2vSpC.

Photo of the Month: October 2022

Continuing my theme of photographs which are out of my comfort zone, this one was taken when I participated in a one hour street photography workshop as a part of the Cambridge Photography Show. Lots of good common sense and rule number 1 seems to be: don’t use a DSLR!

Anyway this was taken with my Sony a7 111 DSLR (!) 1/125th at f9.0 and ISO 3200 with 112mm on the zoom. The ISO’s a bit high but f9.0 gave me enough depth of field to ensure that the subject was completely in focus. To be fair this wasn’t real street photography because the subject here was a friend of the tutor so it was more street portraiture.  In post processing I’ve increased the blacks and white and toned down the highlights. That’s made a world of difference to the subjects skin!

My digital journey. 2004 to 2013

I’ve recently ‘published’ a photobook including photographs which I’ve taken between 2004, when I bought my first digital camera, to 2013. There’s one for each year plus a few more besides. Click here to view it.

This photo is from 2004 and one of my very first and it’s a view across Kyev from my hotel room when I visited the city. You’ve just got to hope that the current dreadful situation there ends, in Ukraine’s favour, pretty soon.

Other photos reflect my travels over the decade together with ones closer to home including a few more personal shots..

If you really want growth Ms Truss: 5 really good ideas!

I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now (since Liz Truss’ dreadful ‘growth, growth, growth’ speech at the Conservative Party Conference) and only wrote it last night. With the events of today (Kwasi Kauteng being sacked) it may be redundant or may be even more valid. Whatever. If you really want growth, and good quality growth at that, maybe Ms Truss should be considering the following.

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Photo of the Month: September 2022

I would never claim to be a wild-life photographer but …

I reckon this one’s pretty good. Admittedly this deer is probably well used to members of the public it’s nonetheless a well crafted shot. It’s a shot of a European fallow deer at Holkham Hall in Norfolk

This photo was taken with my Sony a7 111 DSLR 1/125th at f9 ISO 250 and 200mm on the zoom. Ideal photography conditions.

There’s been minimal post-processing, just a square crop.