On ‘THE LOOKOUT’

I put off a holiday to Ibiza for many years because – for some strange reason – I associated an old holiday from hell story from a former work colleague and San Antonio with a huge sign in my mind’s eye that stated in bold lettering, KEEP OUT! Lively resorts have never been my scene and, when the island was mentioned as a potential holiday destination I couldn’t help but appear dumbstruck. Surely there are other destinations…

Was it ignorance or my own arrogance that had prevented me from opening myself up to the possibility that I would be pleasantly surprised by casting my own misplaced judgments to one side? Again, I was in that familiar predicament of being on the lookout for something… something more… something else.

Now as I look back through images from a September morning sunrise hike to Torre de ses Portes, after driving along Ses Salines and the saltworks, the image of the watchtower reminds me of the need to be mindful of ‘perspective’. The defense tower – now restored – can be dated to the 16-c and is located on Ibiza’s southernmost tip. It’s quite an isolated location with great views across the water (Es Freus Strait separating Ibiza and Formentera) to Hangman’s Island, where captured pirates were sent to the gallows, and Pig’s Island, where pigs smuggled from Formentera were kept. After careful planning and studying weather and a local map, I decided to head out to find this lonely tower to coincide with the golden light of sunrise.

My timing couldn’t have been better and I was fortunate to have some interesting cloud in a sky that could have been too bland. Armed with a tripod and just a polarizing filter screwed onto the lens, I set to work exploring the subject in the sunlight that would soon lose its magical glow. I had the location to myself and there was a concentrated diligence to ensuring I wouldn’t leave the location until I was satisfied I had explored all angles that were possible with the tools and the time I had.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of seeing an image and thinking that’s it, I need look no further but, I found myself continuing, like an excited and curious child, trying this angle and that and then, only ceasing when the sun had lost that magic light and the heat was beginning to be felt.

As I reflect on that memory of working the subject in relation to the sun and exploring different angles, perspective, my mouth cannot help but curl into a smile as I remember my first reaction at the prospect of choosing Ibiza as a destination. If only I had been willing to adopt a different perspective and not be so judgemental and defensive. The holiday proved to be one of the most enjoyable visits. I managed to observe and capture images that I didn’t think I would get and I had the space to reinforce a valuable lesson – on a personal level as well as a photographic one.

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VYRNWY TOWER

I have always preferred natural lakes to man-made reservoirs for photography, however, they are dominant features of the Welsh landscape – a landscape blessed by rain as much as its sheep. Some of the larger dams located in Powys and further north have served as poignant reminders of villages sacrificed to store and channel water beyond Welsh borders into large English cities but, apart from newsworthy anniversaries of protest and ‘hiraeth’ (Welsh), the reservoirs of Wales now attract hordes of visitors to spend their summer holidays.

Lake Vyrnwy (Llyn Efyrnwy) is a reservoir in Powys, built in the 1880s to supply the city of Liverpool with fresh water. The main image (mono) features the straining tower ‘…which is where the water leaves the lake at the start of a journey along an aqueduct and pipeline to Liverpool, around 70 miles away. It is called a straining tower because the water first passes through a fine metal mesh to filter or strain out material in the water. The tower stands in over 15m (50ft) deep water and is over 48m (160ft) high.’

The head of the Vyrnwy valley was flooded to supply the city of Liverpool with fresh water. Remnants of the small village of Llanwddyn can be seen when the water level is very low.

 

Lake Vyrnwy
Lake Vyrnwy

 

 

 

CHURCH OF ST ILLTYD

Beyond ‘Solitude’, lies the small monastic island of Caldey, home to its chief inhabitants and owners, the Cistercian monks.  It is no wonder that Caldey is known as one of the Holy Islands in Great Britain with a recorded history that goes back over 1500 years.

The island is reachable by a short boat trip from Tenby harbour or the beach, depending on the tide.  One of the tourist attractions on Caldey includes the restored 13th-c church of St Illtyd and priory.

I was fortunate on my first visit to enjoy a fine day without too many visitors and poor weather to prevent exploration of most of the popular pathways, however, I could have spent longer enjoying the peace and serenity which this island appeared to offer.

More info on Caldey Priory:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caldey_Priory

 

 

 

 

THE VITALETA CHAPEL

The Vitaleta Chapel Story

A visit to Tuscany was one of those must-do trips on my photo bucket list. After much deliberation and research, I chose to visit the Val d’Orcia region in May 2016 to explore its rolling landscape, villages and towns.

If one visualises atmospheric, fairytale landscapes, this is the location of rolling hills, photogenic farms, magical mist and sweeping tree-lined drives.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Vitaleta is a small sacred building, located on a hilltop on the road that connects San Quirico d’Orcia to Pienza. It wasn’t the easiest of subjects to locate on my second full day spent in the area. Perhaps for me, at distance, it was a sight that one could so easily blink and miss. Fortunately, the curiosity of seeing a car pulled up at the side of the road and a couple of tourists peering and pointing, guided my gaze in the right direction and there it was. However, I didn’t want to just look at a speck on the far horizon and wondered how I might be able to get closer. I didn’t have a detailed map with me and all I relied on was a rough idea of location and eyes to look for a road sign to an access road or track. This was easier said than done and I found myself driving up and down the main road between Pienza and San Quirico a couple of times before I noticed, what resembled a track and followed my nose eventually to pull in and continue the rest of the journey on foot to the rear of the chapel.

Although I had set out quite early, the morning’s sun had climbed to adopt a point in the sky that benefited the lighting of the field and architectural features of the rear rather than the front aspect as viewed from the road. I decided to treat the visit as a scouting mission to decide which aspects I could work with and make rough calculations for timing depending on the weather conditions. It was May, after all, and, after arriving at Pisa airport in the blistering sun, the next day was overcast with heavy showers and thunderstorms.

The weather during the first visit to the Vitaleta Chapel started out sunny but, as the day progressed, the cloud increased and by the afternoon there were showers.

Capturing The Vitaleta Chapel Image

I took a variety of images during my first visit – from the rear and, as the cloud cover increased, from the front. As a very popular location for photographers and tourists, it was to be expected that I would encounter other photographers there and, sure enough, as I made my way to the front facade, there were a couple of photographers with tripods. I had already accepted that to photograph this aspect (for the vision I had), the conditions were not really suitable as the cloud was not sufficient to mask bright, sun-filled areas in the sky. I would need to return another day and during the golden hour before sunset to get the kind of magic light I intended.

It was patience that enabled me to capture the image here.

On arrival at the location, there was a bank of cloud in the west that threatened to cloak the sinking sun and thus spoil the magic event. Unperturbed and hopeful, I set up the camera on the tripod, made a rough calculation of exposure and observed the countdown whilst looking to the west in the hope that the sun would slip out of a pocket in the cloud.

There was something quite mesmerising about the low, raking light of gold as it gradually slipped through the cloud and lit the chapel. There was a childlike sensation of magic and wonder – a reaction to a witnessed experience I shall never forget. At first, the facade appeared to become a shield of the most intense golden light – too bright to click the shutter. The right time would come but I had to wait just a little longer before the sun slipped low enough and less intense to make the first step of my vision a reality.

For further information on The Chapel of Our Lady of Vitaleta:

http://www.travelingintuscany.com/engels/pievi/vitaleta.htm