Photographing Tintern Abbey in South Wales always presents a different challenge and opportunity. The first stones were laid in 1131 and the sheer scale of the abbey remnants is breathtaking.
When taking photographs in November, the main challenge faced by any photographer is the light. The tree-covered mountains either side of the River Wye rise up steeply and shade is cast upon the whole area pretty early in the afternoon. For this particular photoshoot, I didn’t arrive until around 1pm and the sun was already quite low in the sky. One whole side of the building was shielded in shadows cast by the sun sitting in the cloudless sky. With the help of a little bit of post photoshoot processing I was able to use this difficult light to try and produce something slightly different.
Tintern Abbey, managed by Cadw, is one of the best-known monastic sites in the British Isles. Even though many parts of the original building have disappeared, the remaining arches, windows and pillars are exceptionally well preserved.
The Abbey is in the shape of a cross and the main walls on all four ends remain and stretch high up into the sky. The detail is phenomenal and I would have loved to have seen those windows filled with stained glass.
Despite the blue sky, the temperature was really cold and you could only imagine how life would have been for the monks living and worshiping at the Abbey. There is much still unknown. Tintern Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery to be established in Wales, only abandoning the abbey 400 years later in 1536 during their suppression by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.
The photographs can be seen on my website and were all taken using my Canon 6D. There was enough light to use F22 and these were all taken handheld. In Lightroom I have made some adjustments to enhance the brickwork and reduce shadow.
Whether you are a photographer or not, I highly recommend visiting Tintern Abbey. It is one of the most amazing historical buildings in the UK and just gives a little insight into our religious past.
Paul Fears is a commercial and industrial photographer based in South Wales. All photographs of Tintern Abbey and other historical sites are available as downloads, prints, posters, canvas or framed. For further information either visit the website or contact Paul on firstname.lastname@example.org
It is so easy just to take those same old photographs when visiting a Museum like St Fagan’s just outside Cardiff in South Wales UK. The historical buildings are wonderful and reflect the amazing history of the United Kingdom and the temptation would be just to stand back and take those all encompassing photographs that show everything. I wanted to do something different.
St Fagan’s in South Wales is a natural history museum and has rebuilt buildings that were going to be demolished. They include farm house, institutes, police stations, shops and terraced houses and the aim is to show how people used to live. It is incredible to see how people were living only 100 years ago and I can only wonder at what the next century will bring.
It was a gorgeous day with a deep blue sky that was a perfect backdrop for some of the white buildings. Also, the sun created wonderful shadows over the textures of the buildings. I did not have a great deal of time, but constantly looked for interesting angles, textures and perspectives. There was the silhouette of the dog fighting pit with the sun behind, the chimney of an old terraced house, shadows on a weathered wooden door and an old man reading a newspaper sitting outside an old farm house. I tried to keep the compositions simple, whilst stimulating some intrigue. I came away with photographs that were just a little bit different.
Paul Fears is a Commercial and Industrial Photographer in South Wales and can be contacted on:
Chepstow Castle is one of my favourite castles, positioned on top of cliffs overlooking the River Wye in Monmouthshire, South Wales. Being located on the edge of the river, means that the castle has a very unusual shape, being more long and thin than castles located in basins such as Caerphilly. The castle dates back to 1067, when William the Conqueror understood the strategic importance of Chepstow with road links to Monmouth and Hereford, and was expanded and modified through to at least 1300. The castle was still being used in a military capacity in the English Civil War (1642-1651) and maintained as an artillery fort and barracks until 1685. Since 1984, the castle has been in the care of Cadw. It has also been used in a number of major films and television series including the Doctor Who 50th anniversary broadcast.
When you enter Chepstow Castle you end up walking uphill as the castle is built on a slope along the cliff top. The views from the castle across the River Wye are stunning and we watched as dark clouds gathered in the sky and rushed towards us. Inside, the castle boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe (approximately 800 years old), which are quite amazing.
I was looking to try to photograph the textures, colours and shapes of the castle like inside the Great Hall where they are still the remnants of ornate arches. We were able to walk along some of the ramparts, looking across in the nearby Chepstow town. Marten’s Tower is particularly impressive, but for me looking out over the walls next to the River Wye was the highlight. Building Chepstow Castle on the cliffs was a fantastic feat of engineering and the buildings twist and turn along the cliff top.
Just before leaving Chepstow, cross the river and gaze at the castle from across the other side of the water. For any enemy, this must have been a very imposing and frightening sight.
In Margam Country Park, near Port Talbot in South Wales, is a 19th century Tudor gothic mansion that many people would not even class as a castle. Margam Castle was built 1830 and 1840 by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-1890) in a style that would compliment Margam’s illustrious history and his own family’s lineage. The original mansion house had been demolished in 1787 and replaced by the Orangery, that still remains in the gardens today. Margam Castle was passed through inheritance to several owners unto it was requisitioned by the Government in 1939. In 1941, the trustees of the Margam estate then decided to sell the greater part of the property ultimately leaving an empty mansion and even though the estate was sold to Sir David Evans-Bevan in 1942, he never lived there and it fell into decline. Glamorgan County Council acquired the state in 1973 and, despite a terrible fire in 1977 that gutted the interior, restoration of the mansion continues today.
Architecturally it is quite splendid and the imposing structure dominants the surrounding park areas. The octagonal tower is particularly striking and sits in the centre of the mansion. When my children were young we would come into Margam Park and spend hours in the grounds, taking advantage of the wide open grassy areas for a picnic and to play rugby. I can remember sitting and looking across the expanse of grass at the dominant and imposing building silhouetted by the trees of the wooded hillside behind.
During our latest visit, we took the opportunity to walk to the magnificent Orangery, before following a path up a series of ornate steps up to the mansion. Despite the clouds overhead, the beautiful trees and flowers lit up the gardens and I can only imagine the splendour when the mansion was in its prime. From the grounds you can look towards the coast and see steam plumbing up into the sky from the vast Port Talbot steel works and it always makes me appreciate the industrial heritage of South Wales.
If you haven’t been to Margam Park before, I recommend that you visit. It is a great place to go with young families with expansive grounds to play in or if you have an interest in history and architecture.
The National Museum of Wales is not only houses one of the World’s premier art collections, including Monet, Van Gough and Rodin to name but a few, but is a stunning example of the wonderful Portland stone architecture in the Cathays Park area of Cardiff. Construction of a the building began in 1912, but with the onset of the First World War it did not open to the public until 1922, with the official opening taking place in 1927. The architects were Arnold Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer, although the building as it now stands is a heavily truncated version of their design.
The domed ceiling of the main foyer area is particularly photogenic, especially if you persuade the staff to allow you to lie on your back exactly under the centre of the dome to take the shot.
I was in Coffee Barker, a fantastic café in one of the arcades in the centre of Cardiff in South Wales, and had just finished the 2nd of two meetings. It was time to wander back to the car and so I clicked my fisheyes lens onto my Canon 5D, ready to take some unconventional images of the beautiful city. Firstly, there was the arcade and the tables lined up outside Coffee Barker. The arcades in Cardiff are amazing and I reminded myself to return and spend an afternoon photographing the arcades. I then ventured out into St Mary’s Street and took a photo looking down away from the castle. After crossing the road, I headed up towards The City Parish of St John the Baptist, where the blue skies and gorgeous clouds framed the church perfectly.
The walk around Cardiff Bay starts and ends at the Wales Millennium Centre and takes around 1 1/2 hours. So, what are the five sights to see?
1. Walk away from the Millennium Centre, past Techniquest and onto the bridge (A4232). From here the views both towards Cardiff (where you can see the Millennium Stadium) and Penarth are breathtaking. Get the camera out;
2. After dropping down and under the bridge, you follow the path along past Cardiff International White Water Centre until you reach a footbridge. From here you can see the small and large boats moored on the river;
3. Head towards Penarth and the barrage, taking the path back towards Cardiff Bay and gaze across the water. In the summer, the water is full of boats and activity;
4. Around half way along the path is a small exhibition about Captain Scott and two huge sails. Prefect photo opportunity;
5. Walk on past the Doctor Who Experience and back to Cardiff Bay. Now it is time to gaze at the wonderful Wales Millennium Centre. And don’t forget to get a few photos!
Photographs of all the above sights and more can be seen by following the links below.
I might be slightly biased, but I think that Cardiff is one of the most wonderful cities in the World. Having had the good fortune to travel extensively over the past 25 years, I have seen and experienced many cities. Still, Cardiff comes out on top. The capital of Wales is extremely cosmopolitan and the additional of buildings such as John Lewis are architectural wonders and have brought a new dimension to the city. Sitting next to the City Library at the end of the St David’s 2 shopping precinct, the building has sharp tight angled corners with smoked windows from which tired shoppers gaze as they drink their afternoon tea in the John Lewis café. And I should know as I’ve sat there often.
South Wales in the UK is blessed with some of the most well preserved castles in the world. On a hill just above Tongwynlais, just North of Cardiff as you head towards Pontypridd, there is a beautiful fairytale castle called Castell Coch (the red castle). Despite its appearance it is a relatively recently built castle, although on the foundations on more aged fortifications. The design is based on castles from Germany, hence the pointed turrets. It is beautiful and the perfect location for events such as weddings.
This was taken from the carpark of a block of offices on the opposite side of the River Taff using my Canon 70-200mm EF L lens. I got some odd looks from the office staff, but the soft light of winter was perfect for the shot. More photos of Castell Coch can be seen by clicking on this link to my website – http://paulfearsphoto.co.uk/index.php?cat=photographs&id=16&album=Castles.
It was another bleak day and I was up near Hirwaun in the Heads of the Valleys in South Wales. I had a meeting and took the opportunity to drive around the Hirwaun Industrial Estate, where I came across this house that appeared derelict. The gates were chained and the large garden was littered with all sorts of debris. I know from visiting a few weeks later that it is habited.