When we get the opportunity, Jackie and I walk as much as we can. There are so many fantastic places to see in South Wales and the regeneration of Barry Island is one of them.
I have been going to Barry Island since I was a child and can still remember the excitement when Mum and Dad said we were going. There was sand and a huge funfair! What more does a child want?
However, Barry Island fell on hard times as people deserted the British seaside towns for cheap holidays abroad. Maybe also for the guarantee of at least a few days of sunshine. This once iconic holiday destination that attracted literally thousands of holiday makers each year, was in deep decline. And then something marvelous happened in the form of a BBC TV show called ‘Gavin & Stacey‘.
This brilliant comedy series, written by Ruth Jones and James Corden, introduced Barry Island to a whole new audience. Nearly overnight, people were starting to drive down to Barry Island to see if it really was as depicted on the TV show. At that was the beginning of the regeneration of a wonderful seaside destination.
Over the past few years, there have been huge amounts of investment into the sea front, a great deal of it provided from local and the Welsh Government. Barry Island is an example of how to transform an area and now thousands of people flock there all year round.
There are excellent walks right along the coast from around Whitmore Bay to Jackson’s Bay. The Barry Island promenade is now littered with an array of coffee houses (like the fab Bay 5), chip shops and places to buy your buckets and spades. Even the funfair has been rejuvenated and is in the midst of a major overhaul. It is alive with activities being organised along the front and on the beach, which is also constantly cleaned. This is a million miles away from the Barry Island I knew and loved, but so much better.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or send an enquiry via the website.
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.
It’s Sunday morning and the dust has finally settled after a Saturday to end all Saturday’s. In fact, now I understand why it is known as ‘Super Saturday’. Yesterday, I sat and watched three amazing games of rugby union and can only ponder at the potential of the sport if every game was played in the same way. There was passion, skill, strength, guts and huge helpings of excitement. It could even rival that ’round ball’ game.
Up until yesterday there was a general feeling that rugby union was becoming boring, dominated by collapsing scrums, defence, penalties and pedantic referees. Rugby fans bemoaned that the game no longer possessed players of the quality and skill of Gareth Edwards, Jeremy Guscott, Shane Williams, Brian O’Driscoll and Serge Blanco. The media highlighted structured games plans and dictatorial coaches who only wanted their teams to play in one style. How wrong could they all be?
In the eyes of the English press, I do believe that after that opening day victory they thought that the championship was England’s, but Ireland had other ideas. Out in Dublin they displayed why they were the Six Nations champions and masterly executed a plan to deservedly beat the English.
With a Grand Slam in their sights, Ireland arrived at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to play Wales. Since the opening match Wales had improved, beating Scotland and France and there appeared to be a renewed belief in the team. Again, I was covering the Legends Hospitality event in the Parc Thistle in Cardiff for Legends Hospitality, and before the match we listened to wise words and funny tales from Garin Jenkins and Kingsley Jones. We had to match them up front, was the general opinion, and Wales ended up doing that and much much more. In one of the most incredible defensive performances of all time, Wales beat Ireland. Records tumbled with the most tackles ever being made in a Six Nations test match (289) and with Luke Charteris, a second row forward, making 46 of them. What was more incredible in my eyes was the fact that Wales looked so comfortable in defence, organising and reorganising as wave after wave of green shirts assaulted the Welsh line. Shaun Edwards, you are a master of your trade.
So onto the final weekend with the three strongest rugby union teams in the Six Nations each playing potentially weaker opposition with points difference likely to determine the championship winner. Wales had to beat Italy by an unthinkable margin in Rome, Ireland had to rack up the points against Scotland in Murrayfield and England would then be left to get out the calculator to work out how many points they would need to beat France by at Twickenham. Even the most imaginative script writer in Hollywood could not have dreamt up what actually unfolded.
At 12:30, Wales and Italy kicked off in Rome with Wales just edging a tense 1st half. I was watching the game with my Dad and son in his house, whilst being fed by my Mam. What happened in the 2nd half defied belief. With power, skill and speed they annihilated the Italians 61-20. Tries were being scored at will, some started from their own try line. This was pure magic and the unimaginable was suddenly appearing possible. However, the Italians scored a last minute try and converted it from the touchline and I looked at my Dad and we both wondered if that would cost us the championship. However, we still had a very strong points different. I was quietly confident.
Ireland and Scotland were up next and this was the one I feared. Scotland had been really poor and were without a single win. My fears proved founded as Ireland totally took them apart, winning 40-10 and destroying Welsh hopes. My dream had been destroyed. My heart broken by the men in green. Ireland was now in command of the championship and England would have to do something truly extrodinary to win the tournament.
I had left my Dad’s by this time and was back home watching England play France. I expected England to win, but only just. France was due a big game after having a poor championship. I turned on the TV with France 15-10 up and thought that England’s chances were over. How wrong could I have been? In one of the most amazing performances I have seen, England ran France ragged, scoring try after try, but the French refused to give in. Out of nowhere they kept coming back, scoring tries and denting the English hopes. Ultimately, England just could not score the points they needed and the Six Nations championship was once again green.
On that incredible last day records had tumbled. A record win for Wales in Italy, a record win for Ireland in Scotland and a record win for England against France. After the Wales victory I honestly thought that we would secure the title and we ended up finishing 3rd. The quality of the three top teams means that we truly have potential World Cup winners and the Southern Hemisphere sides would have watched the games with wide open eyes and nervous stomachs.
Yesterday was one of the best adverts for the game of rugby union that I have ever seen and I just hope that all three sides can perform at these incredible levels in the Autumn World Cup.
Congratulations Ireland but I salute you, Wales and England!
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 sea was crashing into the coast, smashing against the rocks and sending spray high up into the sky and yet the sea fishermen appeared oblivious to it all. February stormy weather had hit the South Wales coast and my wife and I were out walking along a coastal path by Ogmore-by-Sea. Heavy mean looking clouds were rushing across the sky and the sun was constantly fighting to bite through and light up the glorious coastline. It was exhilarating!
Then I saw the first pair of fishermen. They were positioned on the edge of a rock face just metres away from where the sea was pounding against the rocks. Despite spray showering them, they stood and simply chatted, although they must have had to shout as the noise from the waves was deafening. Out came the 300mm zoom lens and I took a few shots to try and capture what I was seeing.
Further on there was further evidence of fishing madness. These keen but crazy sportsmen precariously perched themselves on rocks close to where the waves thundered into land. I wondered how, in the stormy seas, they would have a chance of catching any fish, but maybe that wasn’t the point. I was excited watching them and so the adrenalin must have been pumping through their veins as they defied the elements in pursuit of catching that special fish. Was this a classic example of the thrill of the chase?
As we walked back, the fishermen were packing up and walking home and I managed to get one final shot of a fisherman from Bargoed Sea Anglers all packed up and just gazing out across the sea. He appeared content, although maybe not with his catch of fish, but after winning his battle with the coastal elements.
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.
It is January and the temperature is around 4 degrees C with a wind-chill that takes it below freezing. I am wrapped up in around 4 layers of clothing, including thick socks and gloves and I am still cold. Not only is it cold, but there is a strong wind that whips up the waves that are pounding onto the beach at Porthcawl in South Wales, UK. And yet, I watch and take photographs as surfers brave the elements, striding out into the crashing froth is search of a wave to ride.
Rest Bay in Porthcawl is one of the best beaches for surfing in the area and on Saturday 17th January 2015 the weather was stormy and perfect for surfing. I couldn’t believe how many surfers were braving the elements and wondered how good those wetsuits were in keeping them warm. I doubted whether they were that effective.
The photographs I took hopefully tell the story and I particularly like the one with the surfer striding out into sea carrying his surfboard. The collection can be seen on the Paul Fears Photography website.