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  • Writer's pictureMike Page

South Wales Revisited

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

As I shared in a previous post, Wales will always have a special place in our hearts. In the post I wrote about our beginnings in Aberystwyth and our son's pending graduation. Well that's just been held in July 2022 and so we drove over to spend another week in Tenby to take in the celebrations and spend some more time on the Pembrokeshire coast in what happened to be the hottest week in UK records. Whilst London roasted at a record 40 °C, the southwestern tip of Wales remained relatively cool thanks to the Atlantic climate. Still, the grass was a shade of yellow that I don't think I've ever seen in Wales - generally the weather-side of the UK.

Pembrokeshire Surf || Olympus 54 mm, f/9, 1", ISO 200

I'm actually going to split this blog-post in two and present days 1-3 and 5-7 here and day 4 in a separate article. 'What was so special about day 4?' I hear you ask. On day 4 we took a boat trip over the magical island of Skomer to visit the puffins during breeding season, a once in a lifetime trip. Well, maybe. But back to the rest of the trip.

Sunset over Tenby || Olympus 12 mm, f/8, 1/100", ISO 200

Tenby does my head in (translation for non-UK residents: "'confuses me"). It's on the south coast of Wales, which is in the west side of Great Britain, BUT the harbour faces east. Standing up at the castle, the sun sets over the town looking westwards. Everything feels topsy-turvy.

Tenby: South-west coast but east facing

Sadly, apart from the first day (see top) there was very little wind whilst we were there meaning that there was little in the way of surf and waves. This scene back towards Tenby from the headland above Lydstep beach with Penally on the left would look great with waves crashing against the rocks. This would be a great scene in a raging sea.

Pembrokeshire Coast || Olympus 12 mm, f/8, 1/160", ISO 200
Watching the Waves at Stackpole Head || Olympus 34 mm, f/16, 1/2", ISO 200

A couple of days previous to this we had had a little surge whilst walking around Stackpole head. Watching waves is like watching fire, it's repetitive but never the same twice. One of the beauties of digital photography is that you can waste shots with relative impunity (though I did start to get into difficulty on Skomer, but that's a different story). Unlike the days of film where you had a relatively limited number of shots and there was costs involved, an SD card lets you shoot away and it's possible to take multiple shots until you get the one you want. Of course having a magical camera that lets you take 1/2" exposures like this without a tripod helps 😉

The imaginatively named "Eight Arch Bridge" at Stackpole || Olympus 35 mm, f/8, 1/125", ISO 200

This was a fun composition to get right. In the end I opted for a standpoint where I could put the gate in front of the arches leading into the bridge and water. Optimally I'd have liked a little more water and a little less reeds, but it is what it is. I didn't actually notice the converging uprights on the gate until I opened the image on the PC, but they definitely contribute to the composition. I wonder if the gate designer did it deliberately, I suspect so.

When The Boy first went up we spent a week in a lovely cottage on The Gower but I'd struggled photographically with the new environment. Even though Sharon and I met and went to university in North Wales it was over 30 years ago and I found the light and the shapes of the landscape challenging, ending up being quite dissatisfied with the photos I came away with. Having spent that week in Llanridian in 2019 and more recently a previous week in Tenby, I felt like I was beginning to get a handle on things.

One thing we hadn't been able to do during our previous visit was explore the monastery at Caldey Island. It was the early stages of the pandemic and the monks were sheltering from the outside world. The main Benedictine monastery is still very much active and not open to the public, but the ruins of the old monastery (or should that be prior priory?) are open to all. The tiny church of St. Illtyd has some lovely stained glass:

St. Illtyd's Church || Olympus 18 mm, f/8, 1/5", ISO 200

There are two more churches on the island, the abbey and St. David's, which houses this wonderful piece of art. One of the other purposes of our trip was to hold a memorial service for my mother who passed away in March 2021. Dad and I had ordered lockets for mum's lockets with this Tree of Life motive on them. Finding the motive repeated here on the island felt special.

Tree of Life || Olympus 66 mm, f/8, 1/10", ISO 200

Although there are three beaches on the island, the only one that is open to the public is Priory Bay where the boats land, the others are protected nature reserves. Beachcombing there whilst waiting for the return boat revealed this shell protruding from the sand. Unlike the beaches on the mainland, the sands here were relatively untouched and it was possible to grab images like this without having to deal with footprints and the like.

Beachcombing on Caldey || Olympus 100 mm, f/11, 1/200", ISO 200

Midweek was the Main Event - The Boy's graduation. Wednesday turned out to be the least amenable weather for photography with overcast skies and occasional drizzle. The British universities still make a big song and dance out of graduation with gowns, mortar boards and all. So this is what a freshly baked Ist class Batchelor of Engineering from the University of South Wales looks like!

Proud dad moment: Boy done good! || Olympus 23 mm, f/4, 1/1600, ISO 800

The daily changing tides mean that every evening presented a different scene down at the harbour where we were staying. Here are a few more evening shots taken throughout the week, whether at the golden or blue hour. We didn't get the rainbow that we had back in 2020, but we did get some lovely scenes.

Tenby Reflections || Olympus 12 mm, f/8, 1/40", ISO 200
Golden Hour || Olympus 20 mm, f/8, 1/5", ISO 200
Tenby Blue || Olympus 11 mm, f/16, 20", ISO 200

Some more coastal scenes:

Black-Headed Gulls at South Beach || Olympus, f/8, 1/200", ISO 200
Freshwater Bay to St. Anne's Head || Olympus 29 mm, f/11, 1/160", ISO 200
Angle and Milford Haven || Olympus 54 mm, f/16, 1/60", ISO 200

This last image was one of my favourites from the trip (apart from Skomer, coming soon, I promise) due to the palette of colours.

Sea Holly at Freshwater Bay || Olympus 12 mm, f/5.6, 1/640", ISO 200

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