Wales At Waters Edge – exhibition, talk and landscape photography workshop

Llandudno off-season - from Wales At Waters Edge
Llandudno off-season – from Wales At Waters Edge

Well, the exhibition is now showing in Gallery 2 (upstairs) at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and very good it looks too! The Arts Centre, on the main University campus,  is probably the most comprehensive in Wales,with two dedicated gallery spaces,  theatre, cinema, concert hall, ceramics spaces, and numerous other facilities  – including a grand total of three coffee shops! I had my first exhibition there about twenty-five years ago, although I cringe now at the thought of the photographs I proudly presented. You may have heard about the Arts Centre for all the wrong reasons recently – senior staff suspended by the University on apparently spurious grounds,  followed by the “retirement” of the former Director of 28 years, Alan Hewson. It was Alan who offered me that first exhibition opportunity all those years ago so I have a lot to be grateful to him for.  How the remaining staff manage to cope with the increased workload just doesn’t bear thinking about. The exhibition programme is still taking place as planned, however, and Wales at Waters Edge is showing until September 7th.

The exhibition is based on the photographs in the book of the same name, which was published last year. It examines all aspects of the coastline, so conventionally unpromising, man-made subject matter has been sought as well as the stunning landscapes that Wales is rightly renowned for. It would be impossible to do justice to the subject without tackling both. As a consequence both the book and exhibition have also become an exploration of our relationship with nature. Recognising that the audience for an exhibition may be different to that for a book, I have selected and arranged the images using different criteria. I had to reduce the number of images by more than half, and decided to bias the selection towards the built coastal environment. That may seem strange, but there are some very interesting developments around these shores some welcome, some not. If the audience recoils at the sight of some of them,  I feel I will have succeeded. Having said that, though, there is still one group of large (30″ x 20″) wild landscapes and another section devoted to coastal birds.

So please do visit! Let me know and I will meet up with you if I can.

There are two linked events at the Arts Centre. On Thursday August 8th at 6p.m. I will be giving an illustrated talk – entry free of charge.And from Thursday 29th August until Sunday 1st September I will be leading a landscape photography workshop based at the Arts Centre. For further details, please click here

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Lovely weather – but spare a thought for the landscape photographer.

What little colour I could find above the Dyfi Valley.
What little colour I could find above the Dyfi Valley.

After what seems like an eternity most of us are enjoying some warm sunny days. Living up in the hills as I do it is several years since I’ve been able to wear shorts and a tee shirt all day long for several days in a row. And I’m finally getting some serious wear out of the flipflops I rashly bought one September several years ago…….

But for the landscape photographer these conditions are the pretty close to the bottom of the barrel. Wall-to-wall sunshine with barely a cloud in the sky do not a happy photographer make, especially in mid-summer. Sunrise is so horribly early that an enormous effort is required to get up in time and without cloud disappointment is often the result. This week the sunsets have hardly been any more interesting and the disturbed sleeping patterns don’t help either. The predominant colour – often the only colour – in the landscape is mid-green.

I’ve recently been commissioned to provide some images for a footpath promotion project in the Dyfi Valley, just north of Aberystwyth.   They aren’t the most spectacular locations but they are very pleasant mid-Wales landscapes. However one is normally judged on one’s best work, and that is often made at the right time of year and in the very best atmospheric conditions. Most photographs I produce during the next month will, I suspect, be disappointing for the client.

My first efforts last Sunday morning made me realise that this wasn’t going to be an easy job at all. The best ‘views’ from just this one walk were in several different directions. They will need to be photographed at different times of day to make the most of the polariser which I usually use. And this uninterrupted sunshine really doesn’t help at all. Partial cloud cover acts as giant diffuser allowing gentle light to penetrate into the nooks and crannies that direct sunlight cannot reach. Without it the landscape looks harsh and uninteresting.

But I love mid-August onwards, well into September. The landscape seems to come alive as wild grasses wither, bracken begins to turn golden and all sorts of other subtle changes take place. And if you visit the right parts of the country the senses can be assailed by the intense pinks and purples found in heather moorland. It almost seems like a different season, and in fact, according to the Chinese Five Element theory, there IS a fifth season, rather uninspiringly translated into English as ‘late summer’. Some of the other characteristics of the season include ‘earth’ as the relevant element, ‘afternoon’ as the time of day, and ‘spleen-pancreas and stomach’ the bodily organs. But maybe we don’t need to go there…….

Back in the present,  I’ve been able to pack a few postcard and calendar orders off to customers in the last couple of days, so some progress has been made. But it feels so desperately wrong as a photographer to be hoovering the office, spring-cleaning the van and making marmalade, while outside the sun is beating down.

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