Macon, Is That It?

Wander around Macon in France and you’ll soon come to recognise that it does not offer a lot for photographers. Maybe I’m doing the town an injustice but without stretching to a bit of street photography I was really struggling to get a photograph. Now half of the problem was cars. They were parked everywhere and any building that was worth a click of the shutter had the inevitable car outside it. So I became a bit selective, maybe too selective, but it is what it is so here’s the photographs.

Chamber of Commerce

The first building I came across was the Chamber of Commerce, which seemed to be shut up. Getting low and close to the waterfall allowed me to get all of the building in, but I did have to do some perspective corrections in Adobe Lightroom to straighten the building.

Quite a few of streets are closed to traffic or so I thought. When I nearly stepped into the path of speeding moped I soon realised, there’s traffic and there’s traffic. But eventually I managed to negotiate my way to the Town Hall and those crazy but colourful plant pots.

Hotel de Ville

And right behind me was the Eglise St Pierre. I couldn’t get all of the building in with one shot. It was just too tall. So in the end I photographed the church in three sections, making sure each section overlapped by quite a bit. Then It was a simple task to combine the three sections using Adobe Lightroom’s “merge to panorama” module.

Eglise St Pierre

Inside the church, like many French churches, it’s quite ornate. Far more so than many of the simple churches I find in North Wales. There again, the churches in France are so much larger, almost cathedral-like in size.

Columns

Here’s a close-up of the area around the altar. Before you ask I have no idea of the significance of the green cloth. From a photography point of view id does add a welcome splash of colour.

Green Cloth

Sorry about this, but talking about cathedrals, Macon does have one. Well actually it has two. The 13th century one was demolished in 1799 leaving only two distinctive towers. Lot’s of cars parked outside so not worth a photograph. Then there’s the new cathedral of St Vincent.

Cathedrale St Vincent

Now if you want ornate, this is the place to go. All marble, lots of stained glass, well just look at it.

Ornate

So that’s Macon. No doubt I missed loads that I could photograph but to be honest as a town it didn’t really inspire me

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Llanrwst And I Got Wet

Now you might have noticed that I’ve changed the blog theme and there’s a reason behind that. I had a conversation the other day with a new reader to Say It With A Camera and after a while it became evident to me that somehow the aim for my blog had sort of gone by the wayside. Say It With A Camera was always intended to be about the photographs and yet there was I using a theme that spent more time advertising how I’d been Discovered, Freshly Pressed and in the Top 100 Blogs. You know I can’t even remember if that was photography or not. Worst of all, the photographs were small.

So I’ve gone back to a simple theme called Plane, taken out all the Widgets to give me a single column that hopefully will show the photographs so much better. Talking of photographs. All of these are 3 shot HDR using the Olympus combination of the OM-D E-M1 Mk2 and the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens which is hardly ever off of the E-M1.

Anyway it’s that time of the year when the “little house” by the river in Llanrwst becomes probably one of the most photographed buildings in North Wales.

Tu Hwnt I'r Bont
1/180s, f11, ISO 200

The building does have a chequered history but it’s a tea room now and a very popular one at that. Oh! and the getting wet. First of all the river is in full flow, higher than normal. I came along the river side and had to wade across a large puddle were the river had burst it’s banks. Then to cap it all. I’d just got the tripod set up, the camera was on the tripod and suddenly the heavens opened. Driving rain and where I was standing there is just no shelter.

Not really that productive down by the river, so whilst I was in the area I decided to pay a quick visit to the church, more to dry out a little before going back to the car, than actually taking any photographs.

But seen as I was there, why not? The light wasn’t too bad, late afternoon sun, breaking through the clouds, giving some nice patches of light and shade, ideal for a bit of HDR. Just as a matter of interest the church was built in the late 15th century, although there have been more modern renovations to the church which were carried out in the 1840’s.

Church of St Grwst
2.0s, f11, ISO 200

Next door to the church is a small chapel which was built in the 17th century by Richard Wynn of Gwydir. Inside the chapel you can find 17th century stalls, a lectern and a communion table. Several stone monuments, dedicated to members of the Wynn family, as well as a 13th century stone coffin, supposedly that of Llywelyn the Great can be found.

Gwydir Chapel
1/40s, f8, ISO 200

So that’s it. All in all I got wet and to add insult to injury, walking back to the car the heaven opened again. Then to add even more insult. As soon as I left Llanrwst, the sun came out, the skies turned blue, with those beautiful white wispy clouds. It would have been perfect down by the river, especially with the sun starting to dip. But that’s the weather in Wales for you.

Olympus Image Space–Llangollen Railway

It’s 6:30 am, just getting light and there is torrential rain falling. That’s not good! I’ve got a photography day out with Olympus on the Llangollen Railway today and it looks like it’s going to be a total washout.

Olympus, the manufacturers of my camera, the magnificent Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark 2, regularly run photography events throughout the country. It’s a chance to meet other Olympus users, talk with Olympus professionals, get technical advice and even borrow gear to try out for the day.

So 9.00 am finds me outside Carrog Station and the rain is still pouring down.

Carrog Station

At this point I should maybe explain that the Llangollen Railway is a heritage railway, running older stock along a stretch of line that had to be rebuilt. The stations have the old British Railways look as does much of their rolling stock. So for a photographer, there’s plenty to photograph.

Our day was extra special though, as well as David and Chris from Olympus on-hand to give us technical advice and help, we also had Duncan from the Llangollen Railway to give us some great info about the railway and later escort us around the workshops. Something most users of the railway don’t get to see. More photography opportunities.

My thought for today was to keep it simple. With the rain lashing down I was going to stick just the E-M1 and the Olympus M Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens. Olympus claim that “a clever system of seals makes the E-M1 Mark II splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof down to –10°C. So you can keep shooting in any weather and any environment”. And the same goes for the 12-40 lens, so now was a good time to test that out. Although I have to say I have used this camera and lens combo before in adverse conditions, but not for a whole day of working.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated, associated, authorised, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with Olympus UK. I use Olympus cameras and lenses because it’s my personal choice to do so.

One of the great things about having Duncan with us was that we were allowed access to areas the public doesn’t normally get to and as a welcome respite from the rain we were allowed to visit in pairs the signal box at Carrog station. Modern railway systems in the UK are fully automated so it’s only on heritage railways that the old system of levers connected to wires along the track is still used. Using the levers the signalman could control the points and signals along the stretch of track that he was responsible for.

Signal Box

Our train arrives on time and we are going to get on and do the short run up to Corwen station.

Diesel Train

This is a new stretch of line, about 2 miles, and currently there is a temporary platform. Although Duncan did tell us a new permanent platform was being built about 400 metres further up the line.

Corwen Station

What’s it like on the train. Well for a start the carriages are old but they have so many features that I can remember as a young man when I used to travel by train a lot. I mean, little compartments that seat about 6-8 people. Perfect for sleeping. Here’s a little story about this type of carriage. When I was just 18, boy that’s a long time ago, I was living and working near Bristol. About once a month I used to go home to Glasgow and catch the overnight sleeper. None of the luxury of a proper bed for me though. Right at the very front of the train, and it was a long one, with sleeper carriages and car transporters, there was one carriage like this, right next to the diesel units.

Compartment Carriage

The idea was to get on, draw the curtains and hope that no one was willing to walk the far length of the platform to get into this carriage. The overnighter only had a couple of stops, so if you were lucky you’d get a reasonable nights sleep, quite cheaply. Didn’t always work out like that though and then you glared daggers at the person invading your space. But that’s another age.

Of course. sometimes they didn’t put the compartment carriage on and then it was slum it in the upright seats and boy they were uncomfortable, especially overnight.

Rail Carriage

So let’s get on with it. It’s still raining and we’re back at Carrog now.

Wet Carrog

There’s a short delay whilst the diesel unit is transferred to the other end of the train, ready to make the journey to Llangollen, via Glyndyfrdwy and Berwin stations. During the changeover I was able to grab a quick photograph inside the cabin of the diesel unit.

Diesel Cabin

I should mention here, that all of the inside photographs on today’s post were taken using the HDR function of the E-M1. I used bracket sets of 3 photographs (-2, 0, +2 Ev), all hand-held without a tripod. No HDR software though. I mainly use Luminosity Masks now to combine my bracket sets.

No Smoking

Oh! This brings back memories. No smoking compartments. Unlike today, these were few and far between on trains. Heaven help anyone who tried to light up in these sacrosanct carriages. If I remember rightly it was also punishable by a fine of about £50 for smoking in the “No Smoking” carriage.

There’s a short delay at Glyndyfrdwy as we wait for the steam train to come up the line on it’s way to Carrog. Apparently there’s a large group of American tourists on this train, from a cruise ship docked at Liverpool. There’s also a wedding party.

Steam Train

Next stop is Berwin, You can get off here for the Horseshoe Falls. It’s a bit unfortunate but just as you approach Berwin Station there is a bright orange barrier which stops you getting a better angle for a photograph of both the bridges over the River Dee.

Two bridges

As soon as we reached Llangollen it was straight to the workshops for our tour with Duncan. For these next few photographs I was tempted to use HDR software and get the photographs really grungy but in the end I decided to stick to my resolution to wean myself off HDR software and instead use Luminosity Masks.

Workshop

It was hard, but I persevered. Now this is where I know I made a mistake. Even although I was using HDR brackets I didn’t compensate enough for the extremely bright light coming from those overhead skylights.

Big Engine

If I had been using a tripod I would have taken more time over exposure, ISO etc., but I was having to be extremely quick as we only had a limited time with Duncan.

At last, the sun has come out and the bride is giving that Canon photographer a strange look. As much as I was tempted to go and grab some quick photographs I didn’t want to be like Uncle Bob. We’ve all seen them at weddings. Got a reasonable bit of kit, fancies themselves as a pro tog and generally gets in the way. The E-M1 is capable of handling a wedding, inside or out, but let the pro get on with it and just sneak a quick one from the other side of the platform.

Weddin Party

It’s finally time to head back to Carrog station, this time riding on the Puffing Billy. We always called them that when we were kids. There’s something about steam trains that diesel ones just can’t match. It’s not the steam or lack of it. It’s the smell. Although to be fair my journey back to Carrog wasn’t as smooth as the diesel unit on it’s way to Llangollen.

Puffing Billy

That’s it. I hope you enjoyed the photographs? If you get the chance come to Wales and get on the Llangollen Railway. Better still spend some time in the area, there’s some great countryside and Snowdonia isn’t that far away.

Corwen Station

Unit the next time – Mike

Sur Le Pont D’Avignon

Despite what the traditional French song says, the dance actually took place under the bridge. To be honest, for all that it is famous and immortalised in a song, the bridge didn’t really impress me that much. To give the bridge it’s correct title it is Le Pont Saint-Bénézet.

Historians have argued whether or not the Romans managed to span the River Rhone between Avignon and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. There is evidence both for and against. However, it is known that the original bridge with a span of 900 metres (980 yards) was built during the years 1177 to 1185, but that bridge was destroyed in 1226 by Louis VIII of France during the siege of Avignon. Around 1234 work started on rebuilding the bridge and it was used until it fell into a state of disrepair in the 17th century.

In 1644 the bridge lost four arches, then a flood in 1669 swept away most of the structure. Today only four arches remain.

Le Pont d'Avignon

Avignon is a great place to wander around with quaint narrow passageways, shuttered windows on the houses, some amazing architecture and the Palais des Papes. In English the Papal Palace. But once again I was disappointed.

The Pope's Palace

The palace has been turned into a museum. Apart from the walls there are not many of the original features left as you will see in this next series of photographs. But here’s the rub. The very few original features left, you are not allowed to photograph. But the building is large and impressive.

From the cloisters you look out to one of the towers. The other tower, the bell tower doesn’t even have the original bell. It was replaced some time ago

The Tower

Nice statues. I thought maybe they were off the walls or from inside a church somewhere. Nope! Modern day made.

Stone Figures

To be honest I gave up thinking about the history behind the building. Everywhere we went our guide kept telling us things were not original or the original artefacts had been removed. So I stopped listening to the guide and just went around looking for photographs of the more impressive features that I could take.

Grand Audience Hall

Of course, no tripods allowed and in low light that makes for difficult hand-held shots. You just can’t get away from people so they are included as well. Some look like blurred ghosts because my shutter speed was so slow.

Modern Art

Back into the daylight and the heat. It was hot, hot, hot, hotter than Arles. So wandering around some of the narrow passages in the shade was a bonus.

The Passage

The locals have shutters on the windows, keeps the heat out, whilst letting some light in. Can you see that little stone plaque bottom left of the photograph. The building’s not that impressive, but it was here that the Montgolfier brothers who are best known as the inventors of the hot air balloon made their first experiments in 1782.

The House Of Invention

Earlier I mentioned the architecture. Look at the theatre. I would have loved to have a walk inside but it was a strict “non” from the gatekeeper.

Theatre

Tourists are everywhere, heck I’m one myself…and where there are tourists there are tourist shops. Surprisingly, this one a bit off the beaten tracks did have some items at reasonable prices

Tourist Shops

And of course, you can’t get away from the inevitable painting seller. Don’t know if he painted them but I wasn’t tempted after seeing the way the one worked in Arles.

For Sale

Well that’s it from Avignon. I spent a lot of time on this visit waiting for people to move out of my line of sight so I could get a photograph but in the end it was impossible.

Come With Me To Arles, France

I’m in France, well to be more accurate, I was. I’m home now but I did take a lot of photographs whilst I was away.

Arles is situated on the River Rhone at the point where the river starts to become a vast natural delta. As such it was an obvious site for a Roman city. Founded in the 2nd Century BC, Arles became the effective capital of Gaul, until it’s fall to the invading barbarians in 471 AD.

In modern times Arles is associated with the tragic life of Vincent van Gogh and therein lies a problem. Most of the photographs have people in them, because so many tourists want to visit this classic Provence destination.

So let’s get on with the photographs. If you want to see any of them larger just click on the photograph. By the wonders of modern technology you’ll immediately be whisked to my Flickr profile to see the larger version. I am considering a theme change to get larger photographs shown.

I suppose it’s only fitting to start with a photograph of an artist painting down by the river. But here’s the thing, he wasn’t painting a scene of the river. No, he was knocking up a quick painting of a typical Provence house with lavender and a few trees outside it. Dress to impress and hope you can sell to the passing tourist trade.

Street Artist

Arles has lots of narrow streets, which is great. For one it keeps you in shade, temperatures were starting to rise to about 28oC (82oF), not too hot, but little did we know that it was going to get a lot hotter during the week. Secondly you get to photograph lots of light and shade.

Shuttered Street

It’s Sunday morning and the town is quiet as we wander around. I’ve had a good breakfast but I’m starting to get tempted by all those pastries that are on display.

Quiche, Anyone

Or perhaps a meal or coffee in a pavement cafe, they’re everywhere. Turn into a narrow street and you’ll find a few tables and chairs outside a cafe.

Street Cafe

Like I said, “they’re everywhere”……….

Street Scene

…….and just around the corner, there’s another one. Spot the pink umbrella in both photographs.

Brasserie L'Aficion

What about those Romans? Did they leave anything behind. Well yes and no. Probably the biggest structure is the amphitheatre. Nowadays it’s used for events, including bull fighting.

Roman Amphitheatre

More cafe’s but this one is especial. Remember I mentioned van Gogh. His first painting featured the cafe shown below on a starry night.

Le Cafe La Nuit

So let’s finish our journey in the centre of the city, at the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). On the ground floor I found this wonderfully cool area. By the looks of it the area feature in wedding ceremonies because there are lots of confetti on the floor. Dis you know that weddings in France are celebrated by civil partnership first. You can’t have a religious wedding until you have done the civil, which is the official ceremony, first.

Hotel de Ville

And so to the Place de Republique. The Hotel de Ville is to the left of the photograph and the Church of Saint Trophime to the right. The church was built upon the site of the 5th century basilica of Arles

Place de Republique

I hope you enjoyed your journey with me around Arles? Coming later in the week “Sous le Pont d’Avignon”

Point of Ayr – Long Abandoned

Normally on a Wednesday night I’d be at the Camera Club but with the floor being renovated in the hall it was time for a field trip. A place I haven’t been to in a long time is the  site of the old Point of Ayr colliery, located just a short walk along the coast from Talacre at Fynnongroew. The colliery was situated on reclaimed land right along side the Dee Estuary and entrance to the two original shafts were with yards of the sea-shore, with the workings extending out under the sea. In later years the colliery was taken over by the National Coal Board (NCB) and a new shaft was added in the early 80’s, but now coal came to the surface on a conveyor belt.

Despite extensive reserves of coal in the mine, the colliery closed in 1996, mainly as a result of reduced demand for coal-fired power stations. All of the buildings were levelled and today you would be hard pushed to know that a colliery even existed there, other than for this sculpture of a miner with a pit pony and a cart of coal.

Miner and Pony

I was there to catch the sunset, though, and on part of the land that was once the colliery, lies the Point Of Ayr Gas Terminal. Ironically, the move from coal-fired Power Stations was prompted by the introduction of more cleaner gas-powered ones and the gas from the Point of Ayr terminal is used to provide power to half of Wales.

The fenced off areas are overgrown but you can see the Gas Terminal’s structure beyond the trees…… and that was my idea for a photograph last night. Try and get a sunset with the plant structure in silhouette.

Point of Ayr

Of course, you need a decent sunset and last night it certainly wasn’t. Hardly a cloud in the sky, coupled with a dull orange glow, but you work with what you’ve got.

Since the last time I visited Point of Ayr there have been a few additions to the site. I mentioned the sculpture earlier and I also found this wheel, which represents the winding gear from a mine. Who knows it may even be the original wheel?

So with the gas plant in the background and the wheel silhouetted against the setting sun this was probably the photograph of the night for me.

Point of Ayr

One last little point. One of the old miners who used to work at the colliery told me an interesting story. On the final day of colliery operations they flooded the mine, by boring a shaft from the dock, coal was shipped by sea, and letting the high tide do the rest.

Right that’s it. I’m off on holiday. No doubt I’ll take a lot of photographs whilst I’m away. Many of them will be touristy, but hopefully there will be the odd gem amongst them, worth writing about – Mike

Photography Wind ups

Chris, gives his unique perspective on the world of photography

Photography Grouch

1 . Stupid watermarks on even worse images , Why do some people insist on putting indiscrete watermarks their photos  that take up quarter of the page or even worse plonk it right in the middle of the photo ! – I look at some of these and sit there thinking why would anyone want to steal that let alone print and hang it ! , you’d be hard pushed to give it away ! if you insist on marking your image make it small and don’t let it detract from your photo !

2. Fuji owners – The arrival of the new Fuji medium format camera is great in my opinion if only for the fact that all the Fuji snobs can no longer brag about owning the top of the range Fuji camera unless they are will to fork out the 6k plus  required – in that respect…

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