Industrial North Wales

North Wales has a rich industrial heritage, probably best known for slate mining, but there were also copper and lead mines in existence.

Today’s post is really an experiment. Although I like the them I’m using on my blog I’m not too happy about the size of the images that are displayed. It was so different when I was using Flickr to host the images because you could just click on an image to see it full size. But that doesn’t happen now that I’m using the WP Media Server.

But I’ve been advised that there is a solution, so as an experiment let’s see if it works. Hopefully, once this is posted if you click on an image you will see a larger version.

Archway At Dorothea
Archway leading to the stables at Dorothea Quarry

Dorothea Quarry was one of the many quarries producing Welsh Slate, which was highly prized for its quality and shipped all over the world. Sadly like nearly all of the quarries, Dorothea no longer produces slate and has fallen into disrepair. At one time you could wander freely around these old quarries and there were some great photographs to be had, but increasingly they have become fenced off due to “elfin safety”.

Woodshop
Workshop in the National Slate Museum

Fortunately that industrial heritage has been preserved at the National Slate Museum, Llanberis. Here you can see the workshops and on the mountainside there is a marked trail through the quarry, fenced off either side, with magnificent views to the Snowdon Mountain Range.

Workshop Tools
In the National Slate Museum

I’ve just tested, using the preview button, as I’m writing this post in the WP desktop editor and it works.

Now you will be able to see a much larger version of my images if you click on them

 

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Never Trust A Weather Report

It’s Tuesday, night and I’m at home planning a trip to Llanddwyn Island for the following day. Being tidal I need to check the tide times, Low Tide is 09:15 and High is 14:38, More than enough to get on, have a wander round, take some photographs and get back without getting my feet wet. Now for the weather. Cloudy with sunny intervals, not great, but workable. At least it’s not raining, because Llanddwyn is open and exposed with almost no shelter.

Next day finds me at Newborough Forest and it’s howling a gale, wind speed gusting up to 50 mph, dark skies and looking like there’s going to be a downpour at any moment. That’s the problem with driving to a location, You’re sort of isolated in the car and not entirely aware of the weather outside. It looked so good when I was passing by the mountains of Snowdonia. Well I’m here now so I might as well get on with it.

Way To The Beach
Wooden walkway leading to the beach

Parking for Llanddwyn is in the Newborough Forest Beach Car Park, currently it ill cost you £5, I don’t know if it goes up in the summer months. Once you’ve parked, you can choose to take the boardwalk on to the beach or walk through the forest to get to Llanddwyn Island. I chose the forest route because the sand was being whipped up by the wind and didn’t half sting exposed skin.

Rejuvenation
Using old trees and fences. sand, driven by the wind, can form new dunes

Walking through the forest is quite eerie, apart from the wind, whistling through the tall pines I didn’t see or hear another person until I got onto the beach, near the island. Come to think of it, the car park was pretty empty when I arrived. Maybe people knew something I didn’t.

A Walk In The Forest
You can walk through the forest to Llanddwyn Island

It’s a fair old hike, about 20-30 minutes through the forest but eventually you come out onto the beach and then it’s a short walk across to the island. When the tide is out, you’d never know you are on an island. When the tide comes in I’ve been told as long as it’s not an exceptionally high tide, you’d still be able to get across and maybe just get your feet wet. But with the high winds driving the waves onshore I decided to allow myself three hours to get some photographs before making sure I was off the island. That’s more than time enough, because if you are reasonably fit you should be able to walk around and visit the important sights in about an hour. Of course stopping to take photographs can take longer.

Celtic Cross
Perched on a rocky outcrop, this is the first monument you can photograph

Once your on the island the first monument you see is this Celtic Cross. It stands in an elevated position at the side of the path. It’s nothing fantastic, twice I’ve photographed it but never got anything I would consider putting on a wall.

Just across from the Celtic Cross stands the ruins of Saint Dwynen’s church. She is considered to be the Welsh equivalent of Saint Valentine

The Church Of St. Dwynwen
St. Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine

There are two classic views for photographers to the island. This is one of them, include a sunset or the stars at night and you’ve got a real seller. Just be aware the car park closes at 23:00 and wardens come around to check. Apparently you are not allowed to stay overnight in the car park but I don’t know what would happen if you did to get that nigh time photograph.

Cross and Bench
One of the classic views from Llanddwyn Island

The most classic view is probably this one which includes the cross and the lighthouse, maybe even get the bench in as well if you’ve got a wide enough lens.

Cross and Lighthouse
This is considered the classic photograph from Llanddwyn Island

From the island you can see right across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia and Caernavon. Well you can if you’ve not got grey skies and low-lying cloud.

Snowdonia View
Looking over the Menai Strait to Snowdonia and Caernarvon

On the island there is a small terrace of cottages, which between the 17th and 19th century housed the Menai Straits Pilots. The pilots guided the many ships, carrying Welsh Slate to the entire world, through the narrow and dangerous Menai Straits. In the photograph above the straits look nice and wide but they soon narrow as you get closer to Bangor before widening out again near Penmon Point.

Cottages
Cottages on the island, I’ve never seen anyone in them

It’s time to leave the island. I’ve still got plenty of time to get across to the mainland and the forest which you can see in the photograph below.

Shelter
At the start of the island there is an information board and shelter

This little building is the only real shelter on the island so I was lucky that the rain held off. Slowly but surely the tide will come in and creep up the beach until it meets up with the tide coming in from the other side of the island.

Anyway, a nice walk through the forest for me, something to eat and a cup of coffee when I get back to the car and then time to head home.

Postscript:

You know I mentioned at the start of this post that it looked quite good in Snowdonia, well on the way home I decided to divert into the Ogwen valley and see what it was like.

Ogwen Valley and the path to Cwm Idwal

What a difference, hardly any wind at the lower levels, the sun was out, some clouds over the mountains but they were moving quite fast, must be windy up there, But all in all, not too bad. If only, (how many times have I said that before after a day out) the weather had been this good on Llanddwyn Island

Well that’s it. I hope you enjoyed the photographs – Mike

A Look Back In Time

Way back in 2013 I wrote about the sea defences that protect Prestatyn and showed a series of photographs taken at sunset. When I look back at that post I realise how cringe worthy my photographs were then, mainly due to over enthusiatic use of HDR processing. Nowadays I would do those photos completely differently, so I thought it would be interesting to compare what was then and and what is now. In each case I’ll show the “then” first, with the second being the “now”

Sunset on Prestatyn Beach

When you look at these two, the difference is not too bad, although I do think the bottom one looks more natural. Cropping to the “rool of thurds” has put a different perspective on the bottom photograph.

Wide expanse of beach area at Prestatyn

Lets look at another pair from the same post.

Footprints in the Sand

Oh! My goodness what was I doing in the photograph above. Mind you, I probably wouldn’t even have considered this photograph for inclusion in a blog post today. It’s pretty boring and has no obvious point of interest.

2 Footprints
Footprints in the sand made by me

You can see where this is going. Nowadays I generally veer towards a more natural look for photographs. Yes, I still use HDR but not the pumped-up on steroids version of yester-year.

This one below was originally titled Blue Hour on Prestatyn Beach and so I pushed the emphasis of light towards the blue end of the spectrum, easily enough to do in Lightroom. But I was so into pushing the colours and bringing out detail from the shadows that I often forgot to take care of lens flares or dust spots.

Blue Hour on Prestayn Beach

This is probably another photograph that I would reject for use on the blog. But I do prefer the more warm colour.

3 Ripples
Ripples in the sand caused by tide action

Over the years I have tried just about every HDR program that’s available for PC. When I want something a little bit grungy, usually abandoned buildings then invariably I will resort to PhotoMatix from HDRSoft but I don’t push the sliders, like I used to do. Today I’m more likely to use Exposure Fusion than Details Enhancer. If you’re a PhotoMatix user you’ll know what I mean.

This is supposed to be sunset and yet you can see every detail in those rocks below. There are no shadows to speak of and that’s what I was trying to achieve in 2013. Really.

Sunset on Prestatyn Beach

With the sun setting, those foreground rocks would never be like that. Come to think of it, even in broad daylight they wouldn’t be like that.

Hidden by the incoming tide, these rocks can be slippery when exposed

Halo’s around the groyne marker caused by pushing the strength slider in PhotoMatix far too high and then I think I added a touch of Glamour Glow from NIK Color Efex as it was then.

Groyne Markers on Prestatyn Beach

Compare this to the far more natural version of the same photograph below. I know which one I prefer.

5 Silhouette
Groyne marker silhouetted against the setting sun

Earlier in this post I mentioned the Detail Enhancer preset in PhotoMatix which if over enthusiatically used tends to give that grungy, way over the top look so indicative of HDR on steroids.

Thin Yellow Line

Compare that to the photograph below that, yes has been blened for HDR, but this time in Lightroom, then sharpened using Frequencty Separation in Photoshop. I hope you’ll agree it’s a vast improvent from it’s 2013 version?

6 Sea Defences
Concrete steps and a curved wall help protect Prestatyn against the sea

OK! My final photograph for this post. Oops look like I really went to town with this one in Photomatix.

Mind the Steps

I’ve alos learned how to correct perspective issues, which has been made so much easier in Lightroom these days

7 Warning
When the tide goes out the concrete steps can be slippery.

Well that’s it for this post. I hope you’ll take time to comment. Do you think todays version of the photographs is better than those from 2013. I really would like to hear your thoughts – Mike

A Mixed Bag, This Week

It’s been a week of contracts. New phone, car insurance, broadband, travel insurance, had to get that renewed as I’ve got some interesting trips coming up this year starting in March. Told the kids I’m going to take up SKI’ing, they thought I was mad. Anyway  bit of a mixed bag this week, photograph wise. So without further ado let’s get on with it…

First up is Valle Crucis Abbey, or to be more precise the ruins of the abbey. Although it is maintained nowadays. time has not been good to the structure and although it is safe to walk around the site, especially when the snow falls. One year when i visited that low wall was completely hidden, instant leg or ankle breaker.

Valle Crucis

A couple of years back I found this great little piece of artwork on the Wirral near Hoylake. It’s made from driftwood found on the beach and the structure is sound enough for kids to climb on it. It’s a great pirate ship, don’t you think?

Grace Darling

This bench sits at the side of a river in an area where the conditions are right for moss and lichens to grow. Not sure I’d sit on this bench because it looks as though it could be permanently wet.

Bench

Out on the Denbigh moors I found this building. Although it looks in disrepair and isn’t obviously habitable. There are official looking signs saying “No Entry”, and I have seen some plain unmarked vans parked right next to the door. Maybe it’s the entrance to a secret bunker. Or probably it’s just an old abandoned building out on the moors.

Abandoned

The only tree, honestly. You can see the ones down in the valley but this was the only one in view when I got to the top of the hill.

Lone Tree

My next photograph is a bit of a strange one. The structure in the background is the Point of Ayr gas terminal and I’m standing on the surface of the now defunct Mostyn Colliery. Lot’s of coal beneath me, but apparently it’s the “wrong type”. So they closed the colliery and flooded the mineshaft by opening a hole to one of the levels from the sea which is just behind me. At high tide, the sea rushed in and filled all the levels of the mine, which incidentally went out under the sea bed. Of course all this happened  a good fifty years or so and it’s unlikely they would ever be able to recover the coal now.

Tracks

A metal bar, left behind when the copper mine closed. I love that little patch of light as the sun broke through the clouds.

Steel Bar

I really am not sure what this was used for, but it’s at the side of the Menai Strait, so I assume it was used for winching something in from the water.

Winch

So that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the photographs.

Oops! I Forgot

It’s 4;30 pm on a cold Tuesday afternoon, here in the UK. I’m sitting at my computer when it struck me. I haven’t submitted anything for this weeks challenge. Although to be fair, I’ve been busy testing new software and working on a new project.

Now here’s the other thing, I haven’t taken any photographs, that I can use, since my visit to Budapest nearly a month ago. For me that is really strange…….So for this weeks challenge I’m going to have to rely on past photographs, taken from almost the same spot at two different times of the year.

I’m standing at Cwm Idwal, it’s January, the lake is behind me and I’m looking over the Ogwen Valley to Pen yr Ole Wen. As you can see, there’s been quite a heavy fall of snow and I remember on the day I took this photograph there weren’t too many people about.

Pen yr Ole Wen

It’s also the same day that I and another photographer, whom I met that day, got caught in a blizzard white out. At the time it was disconcerting because you can’t see much in front of you. But despite there not being too much shelter up there we decided to stick it out and see if it cleared. and fortunately after about five minutes it stopped snowing. Time to get off the mountain as soon as possible. It’s no great panic, we were both equipped to be there, but when you can’t see where you want to go, then it gets a little bit tasty.

Then we have this photograph, from nearly the same spot. Taken just over a year later in the February. Considering the month it’s surprising there’s now snow.

Pen yr Ole Wen

So that’s it for this week. It’s a quick one and I hope you enjoyed them – Mike

Architecture And More Architecture

During the time we were in Budapest we experienced some really dramatic weather. High winds, torrential rain, bitter cold days. But you still have to get out if you want to see the sights, These photographs were shot over several days and you can see that in the skies.

My plan with this set is to show you some architecture, both inside and out. Once again you can’t get away from tourists, hey I’m one myself, but in this set I decided in some cases to make use of them. So let’s get on with the photographs. This is the back-end of the Parliament Building in Budapest. It was the only place were there were very few tourists and it serves my purpose to show you the intricate work involved in the building’s architecture.

Parliament

And the same building from the opposite side of the river

Riverside

One of the places we visited, and we visited a lot in our 3 and a bit days in Budapest, is the Fisherman’s Bastion, high on the hill above the Buda side of the river. You can walk all round the bastion walls. But On the day I visited it was so busy.

Fishermans Bastion

We caught the bus up to the Bastion but if you’re fit enough and fancy the walk then you can always climb the stairs up from the riverside.

Passageway

You know I said it was busy the day I visited. I had sort of got this photograph all lined up, minus the young lady. It was pretty obvious what I was doing, yet she decided that her need to be photographed by her friend far outweighed my needs. Couple of seconds and I would have been finished. But no, she just walked right into the frame and sat down. Pretty girl, so I decided to photograph her anyway and feature her in this post. I’d waited long enough to get the photograph so if she wanted to add that little bit extra, fair enough. Come to think about it, it does make the photograph, so thank you.

Pretty Girl

Up on the hill again. Looking over the River Danube to the Parliament building and the Pest side of the river. Budapest is one of the cities that gets regular visits from ships cruising the river. That’s one you can see now. Floating hotels that sail down the European rivers making stops along the way at interesting places. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not complaining, I’ve been on two of these ships myself. The trip I did through France and one through Germany and the Netherlands.

Danube Panorama

So let’s get down closer to that bridge. It’s one of many that cross the river in Budapest. In another post I will show you this bridge lit up at night.

Chain Bridge

Whilst we were in Budapest we paid a visit to the Great Synagogue. It was a really grey and miserable day, fair bit of rain around so an indoor location was ideal.

Two Domes

Outside the synagogue is not that exciting but step inside and you’re in a world of fantastic architecture. Tripods weren’t allowed, but here’s a hint. Find a pew, and if you can rest your camera on it. Use a wide aperture like f2, set your timer for two seconds delay to avoid shake when you press the shutter and hopefully you will be able to get a reasonable photograph without bumping up the ISO too much.

Great Synagogue

During the WW2 the Great Synagogue formed part of the Jewish Ghetto and it was used as a shelter for may of Budapest’s Jews. In the courtyard of the synagogue is a cemetery in which over two thousand people, who died from hunger and cold during the winter of 1944-45, are buried.

Memorial Garden

OK! Lets go underground. The transport system in Budapest is fantastic, trams, buses, underground all link seamlessly and it’s my favourite way of getting round. As an added bonus, if you are an EU citizen and 65 or over you can travel for free. Just make sure you have a valid identity document with you at all times as the inspectors are pretty keen. I used my passport whilst we were in Budapest. Although there seem to be no checks don’t be tempted to not buy a ticket if you are under 65. The inspectors don’t wear a uniform, most are dressed very casually. First time you know they are there is when they put on a red armband and show you their identity card. No ticket, big fine. Not worth it.

Anyway the underground is pretty modern but some of the escalators are pretty steep and move really fast and they go deep, real deep underground. But on our travels we found this quaint underground line, where the stations look quaint and they’re just below ground. A few steps down and you’re on the platform. Even the trains are old and rickety.

Underground

….and this is where we ended up. At Heroes Square.. As usual you aren’t going to get a photograph without tourists so when these lovely ladies lined up for a photograph it was too good an opportunity to miss. So with a smile and pointing to my camera they nodded Ok and I took some photographs of them. The gentleman as totally unaware that I was there, that’s why they are laughing.

Heroes Square

Across from Heroes Square is Vajdahunyad Castle, which is now a museum. That concrete area in front of it becomes an ice skating park in Winter.

Vajdahunyad Castle

As you wander around Budapest you find many little hidden courtyards behind the facades of the big buildings. This one leads to a hotel. I love finding them and having a look, just to see what is there.

Secret Garden

Very often the doors are closed and then as you are walking around someone will open the door to come out. I’ve seen beautiful garden courtyards, stark concrete ones and even hidden shops.

Shoe Shops

Well that’s it. I enjoyed my visit to Budapest, despite the weather and the inability to capture photographs without tourists. It’s one of those things about travel nowadays, everyone does it and unless you are prepared to get up at dark o’clock you are not going to find any popular location without people. On this trip I decide in the end to embrace people, not literally, and use them with my photographs.

So I’ll leave you with this photograph taken at Fisherman’s Bastion. The young lady was standing there looking out over the city. I quickly changed to spot metering and exposed for the sky which more or less pushed her to be in silhouette. I quick touch up in Lightroom to complete the darkening down and there you have it.

Silhouette

It’s unlikely that I will visit Budapest again, which is why I was so determined to get out and about no matter what the weather. We walked miles, got drenched by a heavy downpour at one point, not much you can do when you are stuck on an exposed bridge halfway across the river. Travelled extensively on the public transport system and I took over 1000 photographs in the 4 days that we were there. Admittedly I was in tourist mode and knowing that I most probably wouldn’t be back I was determined to record as much as possible. Quantity over quality, probably, but it’s a one time shot. Better to have something to work with than nothing at all. At least that’s the way I see it. How about you?

Does this post meet the weekly challenge, probably not, but there again it’s all down to interpretation……..

Underground, Did I See Anything in Budapest?

I’ve just got back from a short trip to Budapest and am still looking at all of the photographs I have taken there. But as this is Wednesday and it’s almost time for a new challenge I’ll just include a couple of quick photographs from the trip.

First up is this one of a tunnel under the main road on the approach to the Chain Bridge. It’s used by trams which run along the riverside.

Grafitti

Second is this pedestrian tunnel under the same road.

_.jpg

That’s it for this week. But look out for my post of night shots from Budapest and if I have time this week I’ll be writing about the Great Market Hall as well.