Talacre Lighthouse

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

I use Photoshop layers a lot in my post-processing of HDR images. Usually they will come out a bit flat after the tone-mapping and need a contrast boost. I may do a bit of dodge and burn and sometimes a soft warm glow. Oh! and don’t forget sharpening, all of which are done on their own layers.

Talacre Sunset

But I always feel there is room for improvement. In 1995 Tim Baskerville conducting an interview with Michael Kenna, an English photographer best known for his black & white landscapes, asked the following question;

Do you like to work through things that way; to go back again and again photographing the same places. …

Kenna’s reply was;

Yes. The first time, I usually skim off the outer layer and end up with photographs that are fairly obvious. The second time, I have to look a little deeper. The images get more interesting. The third time it is even more challenging and on each subsequent occasion, the images should get stronger, but it takes more effort to get them.

I’m like that in many ways. I first visited Talacre Lighthouse in 2010 when I moved to North Wales. At the time I was experimenting with the more extreme techniques and settings of HDR. Looking at the photograph above I can see I was making a real mess of it. It’s not only the HDR, it’s the composition as well.

By 2012 I was still having these indescribable urges to go really quite extreme with the HDR processing. Not all of the time, maybe about 25% of my photographs would get that extreme treatment.

Talacre Lighthouse

I mean, nothing is as blue as that and you can see the halo around the lighthouse. Although I have to say I think the composition looks a little better. Everything about this image screams HDR and overdone at that.

Then in 2013 I started to see the light (excuse the pun). Landscape photographs should be natural looking, or at least the ones that I publish, will be.

Talacre Lighthouse

So what does this have to do with layers? I think Michael Kenna was right. The first image I literally arrived on the beach, set up my tripod and took the photograph. With the second one I knew roughly where I was going to take the photograph from. But the third was completely different. Talacre beach is tidal. The only real constant is the lighthouse and even that is changing to some degree because the paint is starting to peel. The biggest change is the beach. Sometimes there are pools of water, sometimes there will be tree branches, or like in the photograph above you can see erosion. Nowadays when I’m photographing, I walk around looking for foreground interest, leading lines, light and shade etc. Mentally I’m composing the picture before I even set the tripod down and attach the camera.

OK! Here’s where you come in. Please take the poll. I’d like to get your view on HDR in landscape photography.

Orange Carpet

Orange and Green

Orange Carpet

On the way back from Valle Crucis Abbey we took a wrong turning and ended up high on the hills overlooking Llangollen. I say a wrong turning but sometimes I like to get off the main roads and follow some of the narrow farm tracks that criss-cross the hills and moors in this area. Why? Because I get to see some amazing scenery, if you stop, you don’t hear the sound of traffic and more often than not you can find some good photo opportunities.

This one caught my eye. The patch of green, with the little white dots of sheep, surrounded by the orange colours of Autumn. I used the tree to break up the dark sky and provide a little framing.

Valle Crucis Abbey

52/2013 Week 46

Valle Crucis Abbey

Hot off the presses, so to speak. Not long been back from Llangollen and Valle Crucis Abbey. It was a beautiful day and the autumn colours are getting deeper and deeper. I’ve featured the Valle Crucis before but for those of you who haven’t seen it here is some information about the abbey.

Valle Crucis Abbey (Valley of the Cross) is a Cistercian abbey located in Llantysilio in Denbighshire, Wales. More formally the Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Valle Crucis it is known in Welsh both as Abaty Glyn Egwestland Abaty Glyn y Groes. The abbey was built in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, Prince of Powys Fadog. Valle Crucis was dissolved in 1537 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and subsequently fell into serious disrepair. The building is now a ruin, though large parts of the original structure still survive.

Nostag 10

Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

These weekly challenges are getting weirder and weirder. I mean Habit, this week, Eerie last. How am I meant to find a nun wearing a habit, let alone photograph her. That’s if she would let me. And where am I going to find an eagle in its nest. They’re not exactly in abundance around here.

Oops! Got that one wrong. EE not EY…but I digress. What about this habit thing?

If photography is about anything it is the deep surprise of living in the ordinary world. By virtue of walking through the fields and streets of this planet, focusing on the small and the unexpected, conferring attention on the helter-skelter juxtapositions of time and space, the photographer reminds us that the actual world is full of surprise, which is precisely what most people, imprisoned in habit and devoted to the familiar, tend to forget. – John Rosenthal

I must confess, I’m having trouble with this weeks challenge. Sure I’ve got lots of habits, some I won’t share here, but this is a photography challenge so here goes…..


No! That’s not my habit. A lot of my photographs are landscapes taken in the Snowdonia National Park. This week I’m going to break the habit and show you some photographs from the coast, but no sunsets or Talacre Lighthouse.

Yellow Marker

Zapcat races are run on short courses with repeating laps. Generally they are close to the shore, ensuring that spectators get a great view of the action.

Delta Jet

The origin for Zapcats was the early 80’s in South Africa where local crews competed against each other with inflatable boats. The races were held on rivers and along the coastline.


Since those early days the technology has improved and racing has spread to many countries including the United Kingdom.

Now for something a little gentler. Out to sea we have seen the growth of wind turbine farms. You can see them in some of the photographs above.

North Hoyle Wind Farm was Wales’ first offshore wind farm, and the UK’s first major offshore renewable power project. Situated in Liverpool Bay, it commenced operation in 2003.

North Hoyle covers an area of 10 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi), and is located approximately 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) off the coast of North Wales, between the towns of Rhyl and Prestatyn.

Have you ever wondered how they get those massive turbines out to sea?

Wind Turbines

This ship takes them out, you can see some of the turbine masts at the front. I think this is also used to install the masts into the sea bed.

Also off the coast, although some time back, was the Nostag 10 which is a cable laying barge.

Nostag 10

It was laying electricity cables between North Wales and Ireland as part of a power-sharing project.

Right that’s it for me. I hoped you enjoyed this brief break with my normal habits.

Autumn Colours

Autumn Is Here

Autumn has finally arrived in my little part of the world. It’s one of my favourite times of the year, only matched by Spring.

Autumn for me is when colour really comes into the landscape. Sure Spring has a lot to offer but the beautiful reds, yellows and oranges of Autumn far surpass anything produced by Spring. Where better to see it than they Gwydyr Forest which is located in Conwy county borough and the Snowdonia National Park in Wales. It takes its name from the ancient Gwydir Estate, established by the John Wynn family of Gwydir Castle, which owned this area.

Golden Valley

Occupying an undulating plateau and reaching to between 700 and 1,000 feet (210 and 300 m) above sea level, the forest is divided by the valleys of the rivers Llugwy, Lledr, and Machno, all of which are tributaries of the River Conwy.

Within the forest there are numerous lakes including Llyn Geirionydd which lies in a valley where the northern edge of the Gwydyr Forest meets the lower slopes of the Carneddau mountains.

Autumn Colours

Llyn Geirionydd is the only stretch of water in Snowdonia where it is permitted to use power boats or water ski. In all the times I have visited I’ve only ever seen these canoes on the lake.

The lake can be reached by car from Trefriw or Llanrwst in the Conwy valley, the lane passing through the hamlet of Llanrhychwyn, or from the road through the Gwydyr Forest. Access is not particularly easy by either route.

Orange Glow

On a small hill overlooking Llyn Geirionydd stands the Taliesin Monument, which commemorates the sixth century Welsh bard, Taliesin (c. 534 – c. 599), the earliest poet of the Welsh language whose work has survived. He was chief bard in the courts of at least three kings of Britain, and is associated with the Book of Taliesin, a text from the tenth century containing his poems. He lived in the area, mainly on the shores of Llyn Geirionydd, where he is also stated to be buried.

The Taliesin Monument

Descending from Llyn Geirionydd, heading for Llanwrst and Betwys-y-Coed (don’t you just love the Welsh place names, I know I do),  I came across this newly formed lake. It wasn’t there in the summer but now that the rains are starting to fall it has appeared. Seemed like a good photo opportunity……too good to miss.

Lakeside Colours

Betws-y-Coed was founded around a monastery in the late sixth century. The village lies in the Snowdonia National Park, in a valley near the point where the River Conwy is joined by the River Llugwy and the River Lledr.

In the centre of the village the Pont-y-Pair Falls cascade over rocks and under a bridge, best time to see the falls is after rain and on a fine day.

Now the good thing about these falls is they are free to view. There’s a small car-park nearby (50 pence/1 Hour) which gets busy at the weekend, so if you can, visit during the week.

Just a little upstream from the falls there is a small picnic area where you can sit and watch the river pick up speed as it heads towards the falls.


This will probably be my last landscape photography post for a while. Over the next few weeks I will be concentrating on trying to perfect my bird photography technique, something I really need to improve. I’ll also be working on resurrecting my digital artwork, incorporating some of my photographs and stock images, through the medium of Photoshop.