Weekly Photo Challenge: Window

Dinorwig Slate Quarry was the second largest slate quarry in Wales, indeed in the world, after the neighbouring Penrhyn Quarry. It covered more than 700 acres (2.8 km2) consisting of two main quarry sections. At its peak in the late 19th century, “when it was producing an annual outcome of 100,000 tonnes”, Dinorwig employed over 3,000 men and was the second largest open-cast slate producer in the country. By 1930 its working employment had dropped to 2,000  and it kept a steady production rate until 1969, when the quarry closed.

Dinorwic Quarry

However, the Victorian workshops remain open to tell the story of the Welsh slate industry. Built in 1870, the workshops are patterned in a similar style to a British Empire Fort with a central courtyard, clock tower and marvellously detailed windows.

National Slate Museum

Now a Museum the Workshops and Buildings give us a window into the lives of the quarrymen and engineers who, seemingly, just put down their tools and left the workshops for home.

Lets start with the Chief Engineers House. Responsible for all of the engineering work in the quarry the Engineer lived in a house which was part of the courtyard.

The Engineers House

Right up until the closure of the quarry in 1969 Engineers and their families lived here. As we see it today it is furnished as it would have been around 1911, with red velvet curtains and the organ in the parlour reflecting a higher standard of living than the houses of the ordinary quarrymen.

The kitchen was more basic but even still it was far better than what the quarrymen and their families had.

The Kitchen

In the 1800’s demand for slate grew which meant the slate industry was rapidly becoming the most important in Wales and subsequently the main employer in Gwynedd. Workers started to move from the rural areas to the slate quarrying areas where the work was demanding, dirty and dangerous. But the pay was better than labouring in the farms. With the influx of workers the population of Ffestiniog parish grew from 1,648 to 11,274 between  831 and 1881. Unfortunately available housing did not grow as fast  and often two families would share the one house. In situations like this children shared a room with their parents, either sleeping on the floor or sometimes sharing the same bed as their parents. Always a problem, the houses suffered from dampness, poor water supplies and blocked sewerage. Consequently typhoid and tuberculosis were constant threats.

Towards the rear of the museum stands a row of 4 terraced houses, which originally stood near Blaenau Ffestiniog at Fron Haul in Tanygrisiau. Condemned by Gwynedd County Council because of their poor condition they were moved In 1998 to the National Slate Museum. Cramped and not very luxurious the houses are typical of the terraced housing to be seen all over the quarrying areas.

Quarrymans Cottage

When you visit the workshops there is a large variety of machinery on display. The quarry and workshops were, in the main, self-sufficient due to the technical abilities of the staff. In the repair workshops you can see a riveted boiler for a narrow gauge engine which was built in the company’s boiler workshops at Port Dinorwic.

Machine Shop

In the machine shop there is a lathe dating from 1900, used for turning all sorts of things — from the incline drum’s wheels to turntables. There is also another lathe, 6.4 metres long, used to turn the transmission and propeller shafts for the company’s fleet of steam ships.

National Slate Museum

The slotting machine, on the other hand, was used to cut keyways in gear and pinion wheels, sprockets and drive pulleys.

Most of the machines to be seen in these workshops could still do a good day’s work, and indeed some of them are still used from time to time.

Repair Shed

An area that really fascinated me was the Pattern Loft where patterns for metal objects were carved first using softwood. Although much was done by hand sometimes the pattern makers used mechanical equipment, pillar drill, fretsaw, lathe and whetstone.

Light and Shade

The pattern makers carved cogs, parts for steam engines, even the bell for the clock above the gateway. Although some mechanical tools were used the detailed delicate patterns were all carved by hand. Other workers were not allowed in the Pattern Loft in case they distracted the pattern makers attention and, if his hand slipped he ruined the pattern.

The Pattern Loft

Today you can still see some of the 2000 different, fantastically intricate, patterns in the pattern loft all of which were carved by candlelight:

Administration of the quarry and workshops was carried out from the Clerks Office and Stores. In the office was a telephone which connected various parts of the quarry to the workshops.

The Office

In the Clerks Office, just inside the door, hung a Tally Board. Every one who worked at the workshops had their own tally, which had to be presented at the end of the day. Today you can see the Tally Board hanging in the window as you enter the Slate Museum.

The Tally Board

This weeks challenge was about windows and hopefully this short article has given you an insight, or should I say window, into the support services for the quarrymen who worked in the dangerous and difficult environment of the quarry. Their life was hard, especially in the 1800’s and early 1900’s but the skills of the craftsmen in the quarry workshops produced machinery which helped the quarrymen work the slate from the mountain.

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Easy commenting

I need your help…again. At the beginning of this year I refreshed “Say It With A Camera” by changing the theme to Parament.

Since then I have noticed that the number of comments on blog post has dropped quite substantially.

So a quick question. If you wanted to comment do you find it easy enough to leave a comment?

Thank you in advance for taking the time read this and hopefully comment.

Bokeh – Week 2/52 of 2014

Bokeh - Week 2

I must be crazy. Not only have I taken on another 52 challenge but last week I decided to revive Highlights and Shadows, which is devoted solely to HDR photography.

Wikipedia describes Bokeh as,

In photography, bokeh (Originally /ˈboʊkɛ/, /ˈboʊkeɪ/ boh-kay — also sometimes heard as /ˈboʊkə/ boh-kə, Japanese: [boke]) is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”. However, differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting—”good” and “bad” bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.

Bokeh is often most visible around small background highlights, such as specular reflections and light sources, which is why it is often associated with such areas. However, bokeh is not limited to highlights; blur occurs in all out-of-focus regions of the image.

Far too technical for me. For those interested, this is how I did it. The lights in the background are from a set of hazel branches which have LED’s attached to them and were about 4ft away from the Rose, which is in the foreground. Natural light was flooding the rose from the left hand side and I decided not to use flash or any other form of lighting.

Camera was the Pentax K-30, lens the Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3, focal length 93mm, Aperture f5.6, ISO 1600, shutter speed 1/20 second. Image Stabilisation was on, I didn’t use a tripod.

As post-processing is allowed for the 52 challenges I re-coloured the image using Topaz Re-Style.


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

I was thinking about this challenge and deciding what photographs to use this week. So I’m going to take you back to 2004 when I first bought a digital camera. A little Fuji S304, cost me an arm and a leg, but it opened up so many new possibilities for my photography. It’s still in working order and this is one of the first photographs I took with it. (I never throw anything away)

John Arthurs

I wasn’t experimenting. I took this photograph for a purpose. My wife was working on her family tree and by recording this digital photograph of the gravestone of John Arthurs, her great, great-grandfather, we were able to share it with other family members.

Digital opened up a whole new world, we were able to visit locations where past generations had lived and instantly record grave stones and their location for future use in the family tree.

Saint John the Baptist - Sampford Peverell

This is the beautiful church of Saint John the Baptist in Sampford Peverell, Devon and it is where John’s grave is located. I am standing almost next to his grave and by recording this viewpoint it allows others to find the stone should the churchyard get overgrown, as many do nowadays.

Finally I’d like to mention the decision by WordPress to drop the Zemanta Plugin since the start of 2014. For a good few years I have been using Zemanta to point to other bloggers who were taking part in the Weekly Photo Challenge, or articles from the web that were relevant to my post. Suddenly we have lost the facility. No notice, just an arbitrary decision. I am not happy to say the least. The folks at WordPress say that their new in-house Related Posts is far better. I disagree. In fact I would go so far as to say it is totally useless as i only points to posts from my blog and i have no control over what is considered related. At least with Zemanta I could select how many related posts to add and choose what i consider related.

However there is some form of workaround. You can install a plugin for Zemanta into your browser which seems to work except for WordPress related posts. So far I have been unable to get Zemanta to find any related posts for this weeks challenge.


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Abstract – Week 1/52 of 2014


Why do I put myself through it? In 2012 and 2013 I successfully completed a 52 challenge and I vowed that this year I would take a break….and yet, here I am again. Only this year I have made it more difficult because I am taking part in a themed challenge.

This weeks 52 of 2014 theme is Abstract and hopefully this photograph will fit the theme.


Rhyl Seafront 4

Today we had another high Spring Tide and with strong winds it was predicted that the sea defences would be put to the test again. Fortunately the winds were blowing from the shore out to sea unlike last time when they were the opposite way around.

It still made for some dramatic seas though and I thought you would like this one. I wasn’t that close as it seems in photographic. That would have been really stupid. So I stood off with my 500mm lens and zoomed in to get this close-up.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

At the time I am writing this I think everyone, no matter where they are in the world, should have joined me in 2014. So I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year and as we say in Scotland.

“Lang May Yer Lum Reek”

It used to be an old Scottish tradition at Hogmanay to take a piece of coal when visiting friends and family on New Year’s Eve. The coal would be put on the fire to keep it burning. The literal translation of Lang May Yer Lum Reek is “Long May Your Chimney Smoke“, thus in effect we are wishing our hosts long life and prosperity.

Street Musicians

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy

Bit of a difficult one this week as I don’t have too many photographs of people enjoying themselves.  Just about every photograph I have in my back catalogue has landscape, architecture or nature as the subject. It’s in these fields that I feel most comfortable and where I think my best work comes from.

A photographer’s best pictures are from deep inside him, and also some of the worst. Some photographers enjoy distinguished careers without ever taking personal photographs. Others, audaciously and arrogantly and courageously discharge their most private feelings through photography. Trouble is, sometimes it all adds up to baloney. – Burk Uzzle


Street Musicians

And so to this weeks challenge photograph. I had to go way back to 2008 to find this photograph I took on a business trip to Cape Town, South Africa. After rounds of  meetings, which seemed to go on and on I managed to sneak away for a bit of sight-seeing.

Walking down a side street near the Victoria & Albert Shopping Mall I found these three guys belting out some great Jazz. It was too good an opportunity to miss, so I sat down and listened to them for the rest of my brief escape from the meetings.

52/2013 Week 52

52/2013 Week 52

52/2013 Week 52

This is it! The final image in my 52/2013 Challenge and it seems appropriate that the “Grumpy Old Man” should feature.  Especially as he decided we were going to the beach today. It’s one of his favourite walks, lots of great sniffs and if he’s lucky he can waylay some poor passer-by and get them to pet him a bit.

He’s quite sneaky about it. The “Grumpy Old Man” spots someone in the distance and works out if they are coming his way. He’ll then move to position himself directly in their path, adjusting his track if necessary. Then when they are about 10 feet away he starts wagging his tail and those big brown eyes open wide as he starts to home in on them.

Suckers! If they bend down to pet him, he’s got ‘em hooked. Immediately he sits on their feet, they’re going nowhere, and then he nudges them to get on with it. “Grumpy” then milks it for all it’s worth, even resorting to telling them a story if that will keep them there.

Well that’s it for this year with the 52 Challenge. Will I do another one? Who knows. I keep saying no, I won’t…..but you never know.


Feral Horse

Weekly Photo Challenge: One

It’s Saturday evening and I’I’m sitting at home writing what will probably be one of my last posts before the holidays. Outside the wind is howling, rain is battering the windows, but I’m lovely and warm.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have taken the time to press that “Follow” button. Your comments, likes and suggestions mean a lot to me and I hope that in turn you get something from my ramblings and photographs. And now to this weeks challenge….

Nelson Mandela

I took this photograph of the Nelson Mandela bronze sculpture in Cape Town, South Africa.  It’s one of a group of four sculptures in Nobel Square, paying tribute to South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the late Nkosi Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, former State President FW de Klerk and former President Nelson Mandela. As a group photograph the background looks very cluttered, but individually the photograph is so much simpler.


The moon is one of those things we all photograph at some point in time.  It’s one of the easier objects in the sky to photograph and because it’s so bright any stars near it will just disappear into that inky blackness. Go on – admit it. You’ve been out there at night with the camera pointing to that big disk in the sky.

For my next photograph I’d like to take you to Cumberland Island, Georgia, USA. We took time out to visit the island on our way to Charleston and I grabbed this photograph of one of the feral horses that roam the island

Feral Horse

The horses roam freely on Cumberland and legend has it that they were originally brought to the Island by the Spanish.  Of all the sights to see on Cumberland, the horses are one of the most sought after by visitors going  to the island.

Back to the United Kingdom and Denbigh Moors. Crossing the moor one day in search of a hidden lake I came across this lone tree near the side of the road. I was struck by the fact that the tree was upright and not too twisted by the winds that are ever-present on the moor.

On Denbigh Moor

Mynydd Hiraethog (also known as the Denbigh Moors) is an upland region in Conwy and Denbighshire in north-east Wales. It includes the large reservoirs Llyn Brenig and Llyn Alwen, and the Clocaenog Forest, which has one of Wales’s last populations of red squirrels. Its highest point is Mwdwl-eithin, at 532 metres (1,745 ft) above sea level, making it higher than Exmoor. Moel Seisiog is another 468m (1535ft) summit, which is also the source of the River Elwy (53°05′N 3°42′W). On its western edge, overlooking the Conwy Valley, lies the Moel Maelogan wind farm.

Here’s another lone tree in a totally different setting.

Lone Tree in Rapeseed Field

This big old tree  sits just off the coast road in a field all on it’s own. I drive past it quite a lot but have never considered photographing it until one day I realised that the farmer had planted rape plants which are well-known for their bright yellow flowers. It was just a case of waiting for a beautiful sunny day, but not too long, in case the farmer decided to harvest the field.

Now to something completely different. This is a Common Darter, or at least I think it is.

Common Darter

The Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) is a dragonfly of the family Libellulidae native to Eurasia. It is one of the most common dragonflies in Europe, occurring in a wide variety of water bodies, though with a preference for breeding in still water such as ponds and lakes. In the south of its range adults are on the wing all year round.

Burnham lighthouse stands out on the sands at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. The day I visited I got in a rainstorm and had to shelter under the lighthouse. Since I was last there the stairs have been replaced.

Burnham Lighthouse

My final “one” photograph is of a young gull in flight. I prefer to photograph them rather than the fully grown adults, mainly because the markings are so much better.

Young Gull

Well that’s it from me. To those of you who celebrate Christmas have a good one and I hope Santa pays you a visit.

In the meantime I’ll be back next week with my final photograph of the 52/2013 challenge.