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:
Being a commercial and industrial photographer invariably means that my cameras are with me most of the time. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that I can stop and take photographs at every opportunity as I am usually racing from one photoshoot to the next.
However, on a glorious morning in late April 2015, I was on my way to a 7am morning meeting on the seafront at Barry Island, driving through the winding lanes of the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales, UK. The sun had just started to peak out from behind the rolling hills and golden light was spreading across the land. Just before I reached the small village of Pendoylan, I turned another corner and the view of the rising sun and mist filled valleys was just too much and I pulled over next to a gate to a large field. As soon as I got out of the car I noticed how cold it was, but remained undeterred. Opening the boot and my large equipment rucksack, I got out my Canon 5D, quickly chose the settings I wanted with a large aperture and rested on the ice covered gate to steady myself.
Looking across the landscape towards the rising sun, I could see that the far-off tree filled fields were covered with low lying mist. Trees just poked their heads up through the grey. In the field before me were some sheep and the orange glowing sun was illuminating them from behind. It looked beautiful and my job was to try and capture the scene in a photograph.
On my travels, I often get asked by keen photographers for tips. The number one tip is always to have your camera with you as you just never know what opportunities you may see. Taking the photographs of that wonderful sunrise took around 15 minutes and I still made my 7am meeting on time. You never know when you will see something that will ignite your imagination and, even if you don’t have your special camera, use a mobile phone. Photographs are all about capturing moments in time that will never be repeated. There will be plenty more sunrises, but none exactly the same as that morning just outside Pendoylan in the Vale of Glamorgan and I have that captured in a photograph for ever.
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 gatehouse of Caldicot Castle in Monmouthshire, South Wales
This blog on Caldicot Castle is the first in a series on photographing Castles in Wales. Photographing castles is one of my passions and being located just outside Pontypridd in South Wales means that many of them are not that far away.
Caldicot Castle is a wonderfully preserved example of a medieval castle located just outside Caldicot in Monmouthshire, UK. The castle dates back to 1158 when Humphrey de Bohun III, Earl of Hereford was passed the manor of Caldicot and built the stone keep and curtain walls of the present-day castle. Further details on the castle can be found on the Caldicot Castle website.
The castle is great to photograph, especially as you can walk around the entire perimeter. Walking up to the front gatehouse through the trees is a treat, especially with the colours of Autumn.
Christmas had come and gone and the New Year loomed and so it was time to get some fresh air in the wonderful countryside around South Wales. Not far from where we live is Garth Hill, made famous by the story and film entitled ‘An Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain’. The Garth Hill dominates the western skyline as you leave Cardiff and drive up the valley towards Pontypridd on the A470. From the top it is possible to see the mountains in the Brecon Beacons to the north and Cardiff and across the Bristol Channel to Weston-Super-Mare in the south. Dotted around the top of the hill are a number of tumuli or burial sites dating back from the early to middle Bronze Age, around 2000 BC.
On this particular day, the sky was blue and the rain had stopped and, like so many others, we walked up to the trig point on the top and then across to the nearly shear drop down into the A470 valley and the Gwaelod-y-Garth village and Taffs Well town. The views were amazing. It was a little hazy, but you could still see for miles and we could pick out the Millennium Stadium, the Wales Millennium Centre and Cardiff Bay.
I hadn’t taken my tripod, but I still tried some panoramic views of Pontypridd to the north and Taffs Well and the A470 to the east. If you live in South Wales and want to enjoy a pleasant walk with amazing views, then I strongly recommend you visiting Garth Hill. More photographs can be seen on my website.
As a Commercial and Industrial Photographer, I am always looking at different ways to photograph products and create something that is a little different. Leading up to Christmas this year, I have had the pleasure of working with Andrew Jones of Music For You and we spent a couple of hours in my studio taking photographs of his trumpets. The trumpet is a beautiful instrument and the three that Andrew brought along for the shoot were so different in colour and even shape. We wanted to do something for Christmas and so after rummaging around in the loft I managed to find some Christmas decorations and the fun then began.
We aimed for simplicity and producing clean, sharp and uncluttered images that he could use leading up to Christmas. The trumpet remained the focal point in every photograph, but I think we created something that is just a little different.
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.
Funfairs have a mystical feeling that takes me back to my childhood. The funfair would come to town and park itself on an open area of ground somewhere and metamorphosis from a stream of trucks into a plethora of bright coloured, noisy, stands, booths and rides that made me feel warm and excited inside. Often, the open ground would be transformed into a mud within a couple of days, but that still did not deter the visitors. There were chances to win a cuddly toy or terrorise yourself in the Ghost Train. And throughout I would walk around with my eyes wide open, often carrying a pink candy floss or chocolate ice-cream.
The funfair in Cardiff Bay didn’t have the rough edges of a travelling group, but even though I am now nearing 50, I still felt that tingle of magic inside. Out came the camera and I tried to capture some of that magic, using the amazing bright colours and exciting movement of the rides. I walked away happy to have experienced the magic of the funfair, just in a very different way to when I was a child.
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.