Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Inspiration

How convenient that this challenge has just started. After quite a long break from blogging on Say It With A Camera I’ve finally started to get back into the swing of things with some new posts.

Last week I took some time out to visit a place I have been meaning to photograph for years, Gwylfa Hiraethog, which sits high on the Denbigh Moors in North Wales.

Gwylfa Hiraethog
High on the moors above Llyn Brennig Gwylfa Hiraethog is reputed to be haunted

Abandoned now and a total ruin, the lodge is reputed to be haunted, not that I saw anything.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But a photographer friend of mine say visiting at night takes on a more spooky atmosphere. At 496 metres above sea level, the lodge in the late nineteenth century was considered to be the highest inhabited house in Wales, with some fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

Not the greatest of photographs, taken with 75-300mm lens at 300mm this is the view from Gwylfa Hiraethog towards the Snowdonia National Park.

Snowdonia
Looking from Gwylfa Hiraethog towards the Snowdonia National Park

And from another side you can see towards the coast.  Looks so close, thanks to the power of the 75-300mm lens but in reality it’s about 20km away.

Sea View
Looking from Gwylfa Hiraethog towards the coast

Now it might be lonely up there, but it’s far from quiet. This area is used by low flying military aircraft from RAF Valley, training future fast jet pilots. Gets quite noisy at times but I just saw it as another photo opportunity. More on that in another post.

Anyway, moving on. I love the moors, vast open spaces with the occasional tree to break up the featureless terrain.

Lone Tree
Lone tree on the Denbigh Moors

There’s also a lot of reservoirs on the moors. It’s cold up there as well so swimming is not advised.

Warning Sign
Swimming in cold water reservoirs can be dangerous

Being in Wales, we get all signs in two languages, Welsh and English. Can be confusing at times, especially with road signs, but you soon get used to it.

Well that wraps it ups for this post. I hope you enjoyed the photographs and all that is left for me to say is “thank you” to both Snow and Amanda for hosting the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Mike

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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

Talacre

The semi-final of the World Cup is on. England are playing Croatia and everyone says “it’s coming home” (the world cup that is). England last won it in 1966.

However as a Scotsman, living in Wales, I’m off out for a bit of photography at Talacre with a few other togs who couldn’t care less whether England win or lose. I later heard they lost. So perhaps we can get back to some sanity in my house where “she who must be obeyed” is not screaming “c’mon ref he’s diving” or my all time favourite “oooooooohhh, he’s hit the post”.

So anyway down on the beach, timed for sunset (we didn’t get one) and an incoming tide. More on that later. To get to the beach you have to walk through the sand dunes before finally getting a sight of the abandoned lighthouse.

Through The Dunes

As you can see the sky is grey, and pretty flat so in order to get some interest in the photographs I’ve decided to add a 6 stop filter, with an 0.6 ND Grad and shoot some long exposures using a tripod and remote shutter release to steady the camera.With the incoming tide raining the waves a bit , the ND filter will smooth out the sea and hopefully I’ll get some good effects. The ND Grad should help bring some definition into the clouds as well.

Talacre Lighthouse

I’ve always been an advocate of “if you go to the beach check the tide times and height” and I did. I also noticed that where I was standing to take this photograph was a sort of sandbar and behind me was a dip. Ideal conditions for the incoming tide to creep in behind you, and it did. So there I am, thinking “just one more at a two second exposure” and then I’ll head further up the beach. My camera buddies had already moved and where shouting me to shift. When I turned around, oops. Lots of water between me and dry land. Fortunately I did have my wellies on so was able to wade through the water which was rising pretty fast and was just about up to the top of my wellies.

In reality I wasn’t in any real danger, because I could have run further along the beach and crossed where it was still pretty shallow.

But the moral is “don’t be distracted by one more shot and always be aware of what’s hapining all around you”. How many times have I told myself “no photograph is worth putting yourself in harms way”, and yet…….

So my final photograph is another of the Lighthouse.

Talacre

Last night was a bit of an experiment for me. I’m a proponent of shooting in RAW. I have been for years, but just recently I read an article about using JPEG if you weren’t going to be altering the photograph too much in Lightroom or Photoshop, which is generally true for me. Probably not ideal conditions for such an experiment but I decided to stick with it anyway. I’d also been reading about a different way of processing for Black and White and also decided to adopt that method as well. With the non, existant sunset and grey skies I thought that might be a good idea.

So there you are, a few from last nights trip to Talacre.

In The Doldrums

For the past few weeks I have I felt like I am in the Doldrums. Becalmed in a sea of indifference to blogging and photography, with no interest in either. There’s an area of high pressure sitting over the UK providing really good weather, we British always talk about the weather, and yet I am feeling low. That high pressure has brought some really flat calm seas and very wispy cloud coupled with some very good sunrises and sunsets. Yep! I’m not sleeping too well either so I’ve seen a few good sunrises these past few days.

Oh! And the World Cup is on, boring, I’ll leave that to ”she who must be obeyed” to watch. So, in an effort to shake myself out of this period of disquiet I went down to the beach the other night to see if I could capture a decent sunset and it wasn’t too bad.

Way off on the horizon you can see the amount of wind turbines we have in the bay. Some people find them a blot on the landscape, personally, I don’t mind them as they add a bit of interest to the photograph. That dark cloud you see, moving from centre to right of the photograph is from the gas terminal burning off excess gas. Normally you don’t see it and most people visiting the coast wouldn’t even know it is there.

To get this photograph I was standing on the rocks, the tide is incoming but I’m in no danger as it’s a gentle tide at the moment. To get the sea looking milky like this I used a 10 stop ND Filter at F22 giving me an exposure of about 2m 30s. Quite Ethereal…..

Tides In

Further along the beach I came to the NOVA Centre, a mixture of Gym/Fitness Centre, Swimming Pool and Café. The brightly coloured buildings really stand out on the sea-front and are a popular attraction during the summer months, even although it closes about about 9-30 pm

Nova Centre

Personally, I never use it, but it does make for a good photograph and a photograph similar to this is used by our local camera club, which I’m a member of. By the way if you want to see some great photographs from some very talented photographers have a look for @prestatyntoggers which will take you to our Facebook page.

Shades

Really looking good now. The sun has gone down and everything is flat calm. You can’t see them but behind that wall there are lots of people watching the sunset. Reminds me of Key West in Florida, where the tourists, including me, all gather to watch the sunset.

My final photograph is “Dechrau a Diwedd” which I’ve photographed many times before. It’s a metal sculpture celebrating the “beginning or end”, depending on where you start from, of the Offa’s Dyke National Trail, a 283km (176ml) footpath along the Welsh/English border. The trail, which attracts walkers from all over the world, mostly follows the remnants of Offa’s Dyke, an 8th century earthwork, ordered by Mercian King Offa.

If you are starting the trail from Prestatyn walkers would see the sculpture against the rising sun in the eastern sky, a reference to the start of their journey. If you are arriving in Prestatyn you see the sculpture against the setting sun in the western sky, a reference to the end of their journey. That’s of course if they arrive at sunrise or sunset, but you get the symbolism.

The burnished metal sculpture takes on the colours of the sunset. I could never tire of photographing this because every time I get a different photograph.

Dechrau a Diwedd

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

PS. At some time I must get around to sorting and deciding which photographs to use from my Japan trip. That happened weeks ago and although I have looked at them, that’s all I  have done.

I’m On A Roll…

You know the old saying “You wait an hour for a Number 10 bus and then two come along all at once”. Well I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment now that I have sorted out the problems I had with WLW. Actually it’s more like I have found an alternative that works for me.

So some more photographs. Thursday was such a beautiful day, sunny, clear blue skies, very little cloud, not exactly ideal for photography. But with weather like that I made the snap decision to venture into the National Park and take a good walk along with the camera.

The walk up to Cwm Idwal is one of may favourites. It can get busy, I’ve only ever been once on the track and hardly seen a soul. That’s the day I got caught in a blizzard which fortunately passed over quickly. I suppose I should have guessed, No one about, don’t venture far.

Anyway the photographs

Ogwen Fall

On the way up to the Ogwen valley I decided to stop off at the Ogwen Falls. Unfortunately you can only photograph from the side of the falls so this photographs doesn’t really do it enough justice. There’s another large section that I didn’t photograph. Well I did, but it doesn’t look right across the falls.

Devils Kitchen

Once you walk up to Cwm Idwal, it’s a pretty gentle climb even with photography gear, you can walk around the lake. Or choose to start the climb up to higher areas by following the path at the far end of the lake.

Of course if you’re like me, after a cup of coffee and a few photographs you start to walk back down to the car-park. Saying that i have walked around the lake several times before and gone up the path to higher areas but eventually turned back because it was too much of a scramble with the camera gear and the tripod.

So on the way back down I took time to photograph Pen Yr Ole Wen from the path

Pen Yr Ole Wen

And any walk up to Cwm Idwal wouldn’t be the same without photographing Tryfan, probably one of the best known mountains in the National Park and also one of the most dangerous.

Tryfan

Well that’s it. Just a few more photographs whilst I get used to using Open Live Writer to create posts for Say It With A Camera

A Murmuration Of Starlings

Previously I have mentioned how I am so lucky to live very close to the Snowdonia National Park. Living on the coast I also have the added bonus of having nature reserves used by migrating birds right on my doorstep. So last night I went out to photograph a phenomena that not everyone gets to see…a starling murmuration.

The Gathering

Each evening starlings from all around gather together to roost in the reed beds at Gronant Dunes. Slowly but surely they fly in, usually in small groups, from the countryside and towns where they have feeding during the day.

Groups

Those small groups start to become larger groups as they fly around waiting for other starlings to join in. Why do they do it? The thought is that grouping offers safety. It’s harder for predators like peregrine falcons to attack one bird when there is a flock of thousands. Safety in numbers as they say.

Murmuration

It’s also thought that the starlings communicate good feeding areas and by gathering in numbers it’s easier to keep warm during the night.

Lift Off

Slowly but surely more and more birds arrive and the sky is full of them. You can hear a sort of swishing sound as they fly about and the closer they get to you the noisier it becomes. “Take Cover……”

Bigger Yet

One thing I will say, don’t get underneath them. It can get extremely messy.

On The Move

Eventually, when the group is large enough they head of to their night-time roosting areas in the reed beds

Presthaven

Just behind this caravan park are the dunes and the marshes, home for the starlings at night. And there they are. One last flourish and down they all settle. It’s pretty safe out there. The marsh has lots of water making it hard for predators to approach the starlings .

Settling Down

Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this quick post – Mike

Where Are The Dragons?

Wales, or more specifically North Wales, where I live, is the land of magnificent castles, stately homes, railways, festivals and the scenery is superb. Fantastic sandy beaches, tumbling rivers, waterfalls, mountains and lakes. I think I’ll just let the photographs do the talking this week

Yes we have rugged coastlines, but look at the sandy beaches.

Heather

There are sand dunes and of course that old abandoned lighthouse that I love to photograph

Talacre Dunes.jpg

You can fish, even at night…..

Fishing

….although you shouldn’t leave your nets behind.

Net Blue

We get some fantastic sunsets

Purple Haze

And there’s that lighthouse again

Talacre Beach

We have an industrial heritage as well. I wonder who Karen is?

I Love Karen

Of course much of the heavy industry is long gone and we are left with the ruins.

Porth Wen Chimney

It’s not really a castle but we do have them, honest

Gwrych Castle Gate

Lead was also mined here

Minera Lead Mines

And we’ve got the odd waterfall

Waterfall

Plus mountains. One of my favourite walks. Take the path up to Cwm Idwal

The Glyderau

…and this is Cwm Idwal

Heather

If you turn your back to Cwm Idwal you get to see Pen Yr Ole Wen

Pen-yr-Olwen Reflections

Butt we also get snow.

52/2013 Week 4

That’s when you ate likely to see the ponies who live wild in the mountains. They come down for food.

Ponies

I did mention we had lakes. Didn’t I?

Reflections at Llyn Nantle Uchaf

With walking paths that let you appreciate the countryside. This one eventually leads to Snowdon.

Llyn Teym

Probably the most photographed bridge in Snowdonia. Despite it looking rugged, one of the main roads through the park is no more than a short walk of about 75 metres away. I’ve seen coach loads of tourist stop here to photograph this bridge and they think they’re seeing Snowdonia. By the way cross that bridge to the left and you’re on the path to Cwm Idwal

Afon Idwal

Another one of my favourite walking areas. I’ve been in this valley 3-4 hours and not seen another person. It is quite lonely but so peaceful and usually the only sounds you hear are the water tumbling down the hillside, sheep and birds calling.

Rhosydd Terrace

Yet in this remote valley, families lived and worked, mining slate. Above are some of the small terraced houses and below is the ruins of the church

Cwmorthin Chapel

Slate mining was probably the most industrial activity in North Wales with several large quarries extracting slate in vast proportions with Welsh slate, used to roof houses and buildings worldwide

Tracks

Well that’s it. I could have shown so many more photographs. If you want to know more about North Wales follow the link at the top of the page.