Deliberate Movement

This morning, it was time to get out early before the rain set in. Or so I was told by a wide awake hound at 6.30am, 7am, 7.15am, 7.16am, 7.19am and then, after a short period of snoring, at 7.45am. The wind was howling but despite thick grey skies, there was no sign of the rain that had been promised. So after a brief breakfast interlude, we were off to Fairwood Common.

I had an idea to take some long exposure photos of the trees moving in the wind, so along with me and Rufus and the camera, I took a tripod and an ND 1000 filter. I was picturing images of sharp, solid tree trunks and blurred upper branches but when I got to the woods I was surprised to see how strong the wind actually was. Most of the solid tree trunks were also moving. Woods are not the safest of places in high wind but after checking the trees, I was reasonably happy that nothing was about to fall on us.

While Rufus explored in the leaves and mud, I set up the first of several exposures of between 20 and 30 seconds. The filter is so dense that I have to compose and focus before hand as there is nothing visible through the viewfinder. It slows the picture taking process down, which is fine and is something I need to do. I was pleased with the results in the viewfinder and the previews afterwards. These kinds of photos are hard to plan perfectly as the movement of the trees is random, so for each set up I took several exposures to get some choice over the final results.

By the time I’d take three of four different set ups, Rufus was getting a bit bored. I could tell by the way he sat next to the tripod and stared at me with his much practised puppy dog eyes look. It worked; we moved on and he got a small biscuit treat for his trouble.

Finally happy with the pictures I’d taken, I put the camera and tripod back in the car, and we went off for a proper walk which included barking, running, chasing sticks and following mysterious scents borne on the ever increasing wind. By the time we’d explored the whole area, it was staring to rain and it was time to head off back home.

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Adventures in the world of slow

After yesterday’s fun in the snow, today was always going to be a little slower. And in a triumph of wordplay, I decided to head off to the River Tawe to start using slow shutter speed techniques with my 10 stop ND filter on the waterfalls.

As if to confirm the slow nature of today, a selection of Sunday drivers littered the roads. It’s not just their inappropriate use of speed I dislike, it’s the generally poor standard of driving that comes with the Sunday driver; braking hard at the speed sign rather than slowing to meet it, failing to indicate and wandering all over the road to name three. All three of these were in evidence today.

At the river, we wandered and strolled, occasionally stopping for me to take long exposure photos. Slightly more occasionally, we stopped for Rufus to catch little stones, chase them into the water and for him to bark at me if I got anything wrong with either activity. Things that count as being wrong are:

  • Not throwing a stone
  • Throwing a stone in the wrong place
  • Taking too long between stone throwing
  • Taking too long to operate the camera
  • Not handing out enough treats

He’s a good teacher though, and is never slow to correct me if I make mistakes.

Before we knew it, we’d been out for over an hour. The clouds were beginning to peep over the hills and the temperature was starting to drop again as the sun became obscured by the first signs of the approaching rains. So we set off back to the car. I was surprised at how far we’d come along the river, which is well below the level of the road, and it took a little longer to reach the car than I had expected.

Our journey back included encounters with a driver who seemed to indicate at every roundabout junction, but never acted on the indication. I actually got quite good at anticipating where he was going by the position of the car on the road. Despite his attempts to run me off the road, we arrived home and settled down to a day of slow.

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Dave’s day of fun

I had a vague idea of two things I wanted to do today. Walk part of the Pembrokeshire coastal path near Tenby and revisit the Red Kite feeding centre, near Llanddeusant. The two are many miles apart. I accepted the challenge.

Driving down to Tenby, the road changes abruptly from fine dual carriageway to barely capable A road. And this is the main artery to three of our key ferry ports. I expected traffic, even on a Wednesday, and I got it. First of all it was someone driving to the speed limit. But one in their own mind. I worry when I see someone doing 30mph in a 60mph zone. Not because I’m in a hurry (I’m not, I enjoy driving and these days I keep the speed down to improve the fuel consumption) but because they are either unable to drive faster or are not aware of the speed limit. Then we hit roadworks. I think the driver in front panicked because there were so many signs and lights. The good news was that the roadworks were for a new stretch of road that should make the journey quicker and safer for traffic.

I finally arrived at Penally to find the red flags of the firing range fluttering away. I was pretty sure that would mean the coastal path was closed and sure enough, as I got to the top of the cliffs at the end of the South Beach, the gate was closed and the guard was watching. Still, the views out to Caldey and St Margaret’s islands were spectacular. Walking back I decided to take a different route off the beach and suddenly I was in the middle of a caravan holiday park. I spent a little while trying to find the exit. I was tempted by the pool, the funzone and the tennis courts, but I was on my way to the second destination and I was running a little late.

The Kite feeding centre was about 90 minutes away, although I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like as the route was the same for much of the way. At least this time I wasn’t behind the snail. It wasn’t too bad and by the time I reached the centre, I had about 30 minutes to spare. So I had a coffee. In the hide, the wind seemed to be blowing right through the open end. It was cold standing there, but as soon as the Kites began to swoop and circle, I forgot about it. I had two cameras with me, set to different focus and exposure setting, and I swapped between the two. This was very much a test of the settings as well as another attempt to get decent photos of the magnificent birds as they fed. In the end I took some 700 pictures (and sorting them out afterwards, I got rid of around 150 – some were doubles, the majority were out of focus as I had expected).

On the way home I decided to call in to the quarry at Foel Fawr. It’s a regular place for Rufus and me and the area around is very photogenic. I had the infra red camera with me so that came out and I spent about 30 minutes climbing the hills and snapping away.

Today was one of those days without a firm plan and was all the better for it.

The Tenby route.

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