August 05, 2013

Wakestock 2013

Sometimes my holidays in north Wales coincide with the Wakestock wakeboarding and music festival.  Wakestock is not as mainstream as the big UK festivals, like Glastonbury, Tea in the Park, or Reading and Leeds, but I’m sure no other festival is set in such a lovely location with easy access to the beaches and the sea.

The Wakestock festival site is between Abersoch (where I stay when I’m in the area) and Pwllheli, and has music stages, camping, food outlets, etc. and the wakeboarding competitions happen in Pwllheli harbour and Glasfryn Parc.  I’m not into water sports, but as the festival site is a short bus ride from where I stay it’s a good opportunity to see some live music.  Especially as I can do it without the need to camp!

2013 was my second Wakestock adventure, and it’s sad to say that it seems to be suffering from the poor economic conditions in the UK as the site was about half the size it was when I went a few years ago.  Still, that didn’t seem stop people having fun and the atmosphere there had a real buzz.

On the Sunday when I went the headline acts were Kids in Glass HousesZane Lowe and Example, both acts certainly drew in the crowds.  I’ve seen Zane Lowe previously and knew that his set would be really high energy and a great performance.  I’d not seen Example live before, so he was a bit more of an unknown.

I only took my small Samsung camera as I didn't want to carry around my big camera and lenses.  So the pictures aren't the best quality, given the low light conditions.  But a friendly security guard did allow me onto the sound stage for a couple of minutes to get photos from above the crowds – it’s occasional luck like that which sometimes you need as a photographer to get photos a bit different from everyone else's.

Next time I go I’d be tempted to take the big camera to get some much higher quality photos.  Wakestock has a safe feeling to it so I wouldn’t be too worried about the risk.  Of course, if the Wakestock organisers read this and want to give me a press pass for next year’s Wakestock I’d definitely take the big camera!

Looking down on the Wakestock site.

Kids in Glass Houses take to the stage. 

Zane Lowe really knows how to get the crowd moving.

Example had a big stage set.

Example on stage.

The Wakestock-ers loved Example.

August 03, 2013

Aberglaslyn Pass Walk

It's been a few weeks since I last blogged some photos - I've been away on holiday in north Wales, and the next few blog entries are about that trip.  North Wales is a beautiful part of the world, with a rugged mountainous terrain which drops to some stunning coastal shorelines; an ideal place for photography.

I've been to north Wales many times and have experienced the rainy climate the mountains bring, but on this holiday I didn't see rain once.  I wanted to walk along the Aberglaslyn Pass whilst I was there and deliberately chose the coolest day of the week.  Unfortunately the cloudy skies don't make for a great backdrop in some of the photos.

My walk started at the National Trust car park at Nantmor (grid reference SH597462 - where you can park for free if you're a member), taking me to Beddgelert and back.

The majority of the walk is alongside the river Glaslyn, which gives great opportunities for some photos of the river and its surroundings. The river is home to some otters, but I didn't spot any on this walk. 

Looking downstream towards the bridge at Nantmor, where the National Trust car park is.
Parts of the river are very rocky, which meant I could get into the river for some long exposure photographs to catch the movement of the water.
The footpath along the river gives easy access to the river, but wearing quality shoes is a must as it's uneven in places.
Close to the car park, a bench shaded by some big trees.

Close by the river is the railway track of the Welsh Highland Railway, a heritage railway that runs between Caernarfon and Porthmadog.  A few years ago I spent a weekend helping to lay track for this railway (just here, I think), and it's great to see the trains in action and hear and smell the steam engines.

The river path crosses the railway track and eventually reaches Beddgelert, a village with a lot of history.

As I reached Beddgelert I was greeted by this hotel, nestled in the greenery of the mountains where RAF pilots were out in Tornados and Hawks practising their flying skills.
A Welsh dragon, spotted outside one of the shops in Beddgelert.
Chatting to the girl who works in this shop I found that her family in Nantmor have seen the otters in the river, and there are plans to introduce beavers to the river too.  The shop sells lovely fudge, I recommend calling in if you visit!

As well as some shops and pubs, Beddgelert is home to the resting place of 'Gelert', the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great.  The story, as written on the tombstone reads:

"In the 13th century Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, "The Faithful Hound", who was unaccountably absent.  On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master.  The Prince alarmed, hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.  The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry.  Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain.  The Prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here".

The Beddgelert tombstone can be found under this tree in the shadow of the Welsh mountains.
The tombstone has text in both English and Welsh.

After  stopping for some lunch at Beddgelert, walking up to the station for the Welsh Highland Railway and onto Gelert's Grave, it was time to walk back along the river.

A map from the Endomondo smartphone app shows the route I walked - a total of 5.15 miles in 4 hours 8 minutes.

June 04, 2013

Lightscape Exhibition

When I first got into 'serious' photography, I bought a DSLR camera and did a couple courses run by Oxfordshire County Council Adult Learning.  These covered all the basics at the beginner and intermediate level.  I then signed up for a third course of ten lessons aimed at building a portfolio for an exhibition.

The exhibition, called Lightscape, ran over a weekend in June 2010 in Witney, Oxfordshire.  My classmates and I did everything to set the event up - hiring the room, laying on some refreshments, and I even did a radio interview with the lovely Louisa Hannan.  We also had individual themes for our photographs.

My theme was 'Extreme's of Time', where I took photos with either a very fast or very slow shutter speed.  My photos from the exhibition are below.

This is the poster for the exhibition, done by one of the other students.

This long exposure photograph is my favourite - it captured me driving around town, and the long exposure meant that the lights and cars I passed created a great pattern through the windscreen.

Long exposure techniques were also used to blur a moving fairground carousel, at a fair in Steventon, Oxfordshire.  Of the many photographs I took for this, I chose this one as the world 'Galloping' is frozen and un-blurred in the middle.

This photograph, of the waterfall at Blenheim Palace, was another long exposure shot, using neutral density filters to stop any overexposures.  It nicely blurs the moving water to create a ghostly effect.

This high speed photograph shows the moment a pin bursts a water balloon - you can see the rubber contracting and the water rippling and starting to fall.  To achieve this photograph, and some of those below, I built a device to activate the flash in response to sound (meaning that the shutter could be left open in a dark room without over exposing).

With a similar technique to the water balloon, this photograph captures the moment a party popper is popped.

This photograph was less hi-tech...  simply taking lots (several hundred!) of photos of water drops reflecting a blue background until I got 'the one'.

Another high speed photograph captured using the audio trigger for the flash, capturing the moment a lightbulb smashes.

June 01, 2013

A Little Wedding

After weeks of playing with various blog settings, the 1st June 2013 seemed like as good a date as any to write my first blog.  And what better to subject for my first blog than the wedding of two of my friends, Andy and Ellie, or Mr and Mrs Little.

Andy and Ellie got married on 4th May (or 'May the fourth' as the Star Wars fans, like Andy, would say), at Caswell House in Oxfordshire.  The weather had been mixed, but just in time for the ceremony the sun broke through and a rare outdoor wedding was possible.

There was an official photographer, but all guests were asked to take photo's and share them on Facebook.  I'm no wedding photographer, I'm not sure I'd want the pressure, but always enjoy the opportunity to photograph people in an environment where they're willing to be snapped.

I took 115 photos on the day, and here's just ten.  

Ellie and Andy signing the register.

The obligatory wedding kiss.

Ellie looking beautiful in the sun, with traditional Cotswold stone barn in the background.

Using a narrow depth of field to blur the background and focus on the subject, this picture is of one of the table decorations.

During the speeches, there were lots of laughs. Andy's mum with Andy and Ellie in the background.

A very modern way to deliver a best man's speech (in fact, there were three best men!).

From my table I was able to get this shot of Andy's dad enjoying the speeches, with Andy's sister Sarah in the background.

One of the bridesmaids, Laura, enjoying the speeches too.

The cake, maybe Andy's favourite bit of the day.

The first dance. This photo was taken in a very dark room, luckily I packed a flash to bounce some light off the ceiling to illuminate the happy couple.