Photographing Historical Sites in Wales Tintern Abbey

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. Tintern Abbey-35

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.Tintern Abbey-6346

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 paul@paulfearsphoto.co.uk

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Castell Coch Photographed through the Eye of a Fish

The Castell Coch (Red Castle) is, undoubtedly, one of the most photographed castles in South Wales.  The fairy-tale dream of William Burges and the 3rd marquess of Bute, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, is perched on the hillside just behind Tongwynlais looking down the River Taff towards Cardiff.  It is as beautiful as it is strange and has many features that are similar to those seen in Cardiff Castle, another project worked on by Burgess and the 3rd marquess of Bute.  The architecture is quite stunning and evolved as the project unfolded.  There was a focus on maintaining historical accuracy, although this is disputed by many experts who simply say that this was borne from the minds of two dreamers who were in love with medieval times.  Castell Coch is managed by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment for Wales.Castell Coch-10

I have photographed the Castell Coch castle many times, but on this occasion I wanted to try something different.  It was November and the weather was pretty miserable, which isn’t unusual for Wales, and so my wife, Jackie, and I were going to spend most of our time inside.  Despite its appearance, Castell Coch is not that big and the rooms and spaces inside can be quite compact.  With that in mind, I decided to only shoot with my 8-15mm Canon wide-angle fish-eye lens to see what I could capture.

The lens made me consider compositions in a very different way, looking for framing and also to capture the glorious splendor of some of the rooms.  In fact, I think the fish-eye effect adds something to the image, filling the frame with colour and texture rather than focusing on one small feature.

Castell Coch Bedroom

 

I even managed to get a photograph with a little splash of blue sky as we were walking in between rooms.  The photograph uses the walkway on the 1st floor as a frame, whilst focusing on one of the pointed roof of one of the towers.  Down below, the circular courtyard can be seen in all it’s glory.

A selection of photographs taken at Castell Coch, both with and without the fish-eye, can be seen in the ‘Castles‘ section on my website.

Many of the castle photographs shown in the collection are framed or put on canvas for supply to customers all over the world and are only available through Paul Fears Photography.  For further details or to enquire about purchased a castle photograph mounted in a frame or on a canvas, please contact Paul by email on paul@paulfearsphoto.co.uk or send an enquiry via the website.

Abstract Photographs from St Fagans Museum

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 St Fagans Buildings-9710in 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:

Email:  paul@paulfearsphoto.co.uk

Tel: 07909 103789

Via his website

Castles In Wales – Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle

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.

Photographs of Chepstow Castle can be seen on my website.  Also, photographs of castles are available as downloaded images or framed photographs.  For further details please contact me on paul@paulfearsphoto.co.uk.

 

 

Castles In Wales – Margam Castle

Castle, Margam

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 photographs are all shot with a Canon 5D, all handheld with a little adjustment in Photoshop where needed to enhance certain features. More photographs can be seen on my website.

Castles In Wales – Caldicot Castle

The gatehouse of Caldicot Castle in Monmouthshire, South Wales

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.

The photographs in this collection just focuses on external views of the Castle and can be seen on the Paul Fears Photography website.

Photographs showing the Elegance of the National Museum of Wales

National Museum of Wales-1983-2The 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.

A selection of the photographs can be seen on the Paul Fears Photography website.

3 Views When Walking Through Cardiff

Fisheye lens view in CardiffI 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.

Although only the church photo is on this blog, the others can be seen on my website (although with other urban photos of Cardiff)

Photographs of Monmouthshire’s Three Castles

There are three wonderful castles to visit in Monmouthshire, Wales; Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle. Grosmont and Skenfrith are positioned near the River Wye, whilst White Castle is further to the west. All have origins that date back to the 1200’s although they were modified and extended extensively over time.Grosmont Castle

Grosmont is located up a short hill behind the town of Grosmont. It has a spectacular chimney, which stands proud at the back of the castle. When we were there, there was a boy and his father playing football in the grounds, which was lovely. The views from the upper levels are amazing.

Skenfrith is dominated by the central tower, which stands proud in the centre of the castle. As you stand in the grounds, you look up to see the tall hills and I could only wonder what it must have felt like to see your enemies approaching from afar.

Skenfrith CastleWhite Castle is the biggest of the three, with quite extensive grounds. The inner ward is protected by a twin-towered gatehouse and is surrounded by a small moat.

All three are well worth a visit. I have posted my photographs on http://www.paulfearsphoto.co.uk/index.php?cat=photographs&id=16&album=Castles and this weekend I will be displaying framed and mounted copies at a big event outside and inside Caerphilly Castle called The Big Cheese.White Castle

Castell Coch

Perched high up on the hillside overlooking Tongwylais, the River Taff and the roads that lead into Cardiff is one of the most beautiful castles in the UK. Despite it’s prominent position, this is a relatively modern castle and one that was never used in battle. The pointed turrets are reminiscent of castles in Germany and the ornate fixtures give it that fairy-tale feeling. Castell Coch (or Red Castle in English) is a favourite wedding venue, located up a steep hill from the small town of Tongwynlais and surrounded by native trees and fauna. These photographs were taken using my Canon 5D in April, when the air was still quite clear. I found a location across the River Taff in a the car park of some offices and used my 70-200mm zoom to get in close. The clouds did their job and gave the sky some life. I then relocated up the hill in front of the castle and, as it was relatively early, was able to set up my tripod and take some photographs without the scene being filled with visitors. The photograph in this blog is taken at that location.

The full set of images can be seen on my website – http://www.paulfearsphoto.co.uk/index.php?cat=photographs&id=16&album=Castles&sub_album=Castell-Coch,-Tongwynlais,-Cardiff

Castell Coch