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.

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

 

 

 

 

SOLITUDE

I have looked upon this small tidal island (St Catherine’s Island/Rock) so many times over the years – in different seasons come rain and shine, high and low tides.  However, despite countless visits, I don’t think I have ever spent so much time viewing it so intimately in a photographic sense.  Perhaps the most familiar sights are those that become almost invisible with the camera as the personal search beckons exploration of locations further afield.  It is as though the most familiar become the most ordinary and why, why would I want to take the time here when there is bound to be more elsewhere?  But, this time I was content to stay long enough to observe the tide, the motion of cloud and the solitary island free of people and children climbing its rock.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Catherine%27s_Island

 

 

 

REMNANT

From cast iron structures to timber piles…

Swanage is a charming small coastal town in south-east England, UK.

The old pier (original Swanage Pier) was built between 1859 and 1861. It was used by stone quarries and all that remains of it are its timber piles.

Today the remains of the original pier are clearly visible from the second restored one.

This image was captured late June 2016.

LANDING

The location of this image is Dovercourt, a small seaside town in Essex, England, UK. Its neighbour is the port of Harwich which is clearly visible from the promenade and beach where the famous cast iron lighthouses stand.

Trinity House erected two lighthouses in 1863 to guide ships around Landguard Point. With the two lighthouses (known as the high and low lights) aligned, they indicated the right course. They were in use until 1917 and after fell into disrepair. They were later restored during the late1980s. Nowadays the deep water channel is marked by buoys, both lighthouses have become historic landmarks of interest and subjects for photography.

It was the low lighthouse that caught my eye as I walked along the beach one day in October 2016. The strange, 8 legged structure appeared almost alien-like on the horizon and I was seeking a simple composition comprising this tall metal structure set within the fluid motion of sky and sea.

As I approached, the causeway to the low lighthouse was visible (as I had wanted and planned) however, the tide was on the turn and I knew it would soon reclaim the path, therefore, I had to work quickly to capture the images I wanted. It was my intention to record atmospheric blur of clouds as well as water but, there was not much cloud in the sky and conditions were bright. The strongest neutral density filter I had on my person was a 10 stop – enough to blur water but I wouldn’t get enough of a long exposure on the sky.

As a photographer, I have learned to go out with no high expectations – particularly where nature/weather is concerned. I can only plan for certain elements, the rest is in the lap of the gods.

‘Landing’ was one of my favourite images from the day and appears the perfect progression from ‘I Hear Those Voices’.

Further information on Dovercourt Low Lighthouse can be found:

http://www.worldwidelighthouses.com/Lighthouses/English-Lighthouses/Privately-Owned/Dovercourt-Low

 

 

I HEAR THOSE VOICES…

Maggi Hambling’s memorial scallop shell to Benjamin Britten stands 12 feet high and is located on Aldeburgh’s shingle beach in Suffolk, UK.

The sculpture has proved controversial somewhat for some local residents but, as a visitor to the area during October 2016, I couldn’t help but make my own visual record of my visit.

This image was a long exposure captured during the afternoon of the 16th October in between interruptions of tourists and young children using it as a climbing frame.