It is not often I get asked to create a visual record of an afternoon tea party. So I was delighted to be asked by Liz to attend her joint birthday celebration with her Mum recently. The weather was kind and I managed to survive all the formal photo requirements necessary on these occasions!

Actually, one of the photos of the large formal group is included here because of the tale it tells. It may not be technically perfect, but for a record of the moment when I said to the group, “Shout something inappropriate” and the youngest child took me literally, it is perfect. I bet that you can identify the Mum. Can you guess what he said though? It is the last photo of this small set.

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Cal Smyth is an author of three books who lives in Swansea. He specialises in thrillers and one of his stories is set in Swansea, which as we all know is a den of iniquity! I know Cal from playing 5-a-side football at the local college on a Friday afternoon and he knows my interest in photography from a particular photo I created of him after football a couple of years ago. I’ll include it here after the more recent photos.

Cal wanted a new set of profile photos for personal and promotional use, so we agreed a location and date and set to it. The selection I have included here are my personal choices; apologies to Cal if they’re not his!

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It seems appropriate to start sharing my favourite photos of Canada with a family collection. After all the main focus of the holiday was to spend time with Ma, Sis, her hubby and those terrible daughters of their’s. There will be later collections of the Okanagan Valley (the gorgeous area of British Columbia that they live in), Crossfit events (Kim is a very keen member and it was international tournament time) and some mindful photography practices. But first up, the family.

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That crazy Mexican dachshund, Stanley who is settling into his new home just lovely

Kim and I spent a day up at Apex, a 45 minute drive from her house. Whilst this photo makes her look like she is a terrible skier the truth is we were pretty similar in ability; averagely competent!

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Mum will not be over delighted to see photos of herself here, but I have chosen ones not too close! The photo above is of her completing a Mindful Photography activity near the Okanagan Lake. The one below is at the Kelowna Marina.

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The following three photos were all taken on Easter Sunday during the Easter Egg (chocolate) hunt that the elderly kids still insist on doing.

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We all took a walk out around the hills surrounding the lake with Kim’s friend Lindsey, who has a dog business. She had 12 dogs with her on this jaunt.

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Kim and I visited the restaurant she works at, Poplar Grove Winery, just outside Penticton. It is a fabulously located venue with some lovely wines

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The photos above and below were both taken on the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. This old rail track has been turned into 600km track through British Columbia. We managed a 2 hour walk!

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Mum in front of her favourite mountain, outside of Kelowna

Laura took part in beer league hockey over the Spring Break. Not sure if that’s the right title for what was going down, but it involved hockey, ice and beer and was enjoyed by participants and audience

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These three photos were taken at ‘the trestles’ in Summerland and star Kim, Morgan and the hound Stanley

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Spring flowers down near a lakeside beach in Summerland

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Those lovely women plus hound almost walking on water at the lakeside

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The irrepressible Laura K!

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Mum, Mike and Morgan at the Crossfit. Favourite photos up next!

I have been very slack of late. Perhaps the unrelenting rain and general drabness has smothered my creativity. Oh no, that can’t be right as I have been posting daily Instagram photos from my phone. No, I have to face it I have just been otherwise occupied.

However, the wall to wall sunshine today got me out and about early this morning, with both my camera and dog. Ah, what a little bright light does for photographic opportunity. I was drawn to the colours, the shadows and the frost on my mindful photography practice.

Here are my favourite few photos

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Wales is well known for its rugby, singing, daffodils and sheep. Perhaps as today is the first weekend of the Six Nations 2016 I should be blogging about the chances of Wales winning the tournament (which are pretty good), but I have been overwhelmed this morning by the reason for all those sheep. After all you can’t have sheep without grass, and you can’t have grass without rain. And boy has it been raining this morning.

This morning, despite the deluge, I felt the need to be out walking. I pulled on all my waterproofs and equipped myself with a camera small enough to fit in my water tight pocket. After all, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. My intention from there was just to pay attention to what was happening and create a few mindful photographs that captured the experience.

It was a fine intention and one that could be just about achieved by carefully sheltering the camera under my body or shop awning, but the rain still gets in. So these three photos tell some of the tale. The header photo is of the path through Brynmill Park, cleverly disguising itself as a river.

By the time I reached the Uplands, a ten minute walk, the torrent had found its way through the gaps in my waterproof apparel. This photo captures my mood, and the suggestion I should just take my medicine almost brought a smile to my face (not)

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Obviously, after completing my shopping chores, somewhere to dry out was required. I sheltered in a local cafe, once most appropriately named Steam, but now re-branded Squirrel. Perhaps it was apposite; I must have been nuts to venture out!

I sat there facing the scene you see below, watching the locals scurrying about, hooded and hunkered. I reflected that the rugby later in the day was likely to be attritional, but at least the sheep would be happy – it’s still warm enough for the grass to be growing!

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Mindful photography is about being present with what you see. It is also about adapting to the situation. I often use a simple set up for my practice; usually a single focal length lens (a 40mm) on my DSLR. This is my go to, walkabout lens.

I choose to use this lens because the focal length is very similar to how we see (which is around 43mm, albeit with a greater width and a mind that looks to zoom in). Using one lens regularly, particularly one that is similar to how we see improves our seeing and how best to create photos that reflect what we see. Using this one lens I become attuned to the camera’s way of seeing. I begin to think in terms of how the camera will record the scene.

Over time this photographic thinking, which includes colour rendition, the framing, composition and the dynamic range of the light, becomes learnt and familiar. With continued practice, reviewing the outcomes and adjusting my technical choices, I begin to know what to expect from my camera. Through this doorway lies the possibility of reacting more instinctively to the scene, allowing my subconscious to make more of the technical and compositional choices. In this moment I let go of trying (to take a great photo) and allow the creation to occur. Through this process the possibility that there may be something of me, and the way I feel about the world, in the photo becomes more likely.

When I first tried shooting a whole year using just one lens I did it for reasons of artistic impression. Using just one focal length creates a unifying similarity to your photos. This can be beneficial if the photos you are creating are part of an ongoing project. It is ideal for those 365 projects that comprise of one photo a day. Then along the way you will also reap the benefits of instinctive creation and greater connection between what you are seeing and how you feel about the the world you are experiencing.

The photos that accompany this post illustrate my musings. A visited Caswell Bay, the Redcliff end, with Taylor to take him surfing. However, I decided to take my camera with the 40mm lens on, rather than the big zoom, and not shoot surfing photos. Instead I would see what was there and respond to my experience. I chose a black and white edit because of the high contrast of the scene.

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Over the last couple of months I have made two visits to London. Each time the coach has arrived in enough time to deposit my bag at my accommodation, before heading into the city to explore a little dusk time street photography.

Unfortunately, my photos from the first trip were not backed up before my hard disk drive collapsed under the strain. Most of my edited photos from 2015 are currently missing. Many I have in their original raw state (nearly 2000!) but the November London photos have vanished. I know – always back up your work.

The photos here are my favourites from a couple of hours around Piccadilly Circus, the photo above being my absolute favourite. I had noticed that the intermittent rain had brought out the umbrellas and was considering using the big advertising lights at Piccadilly Circus as a backdrop when I saw the potential for a silhouette. I only had to wait in position for less than 10 minutes before the couple came past, sheltering together under their umbrella. Result.

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We have been fortunate over the last few days to experience a little sunshine in between the showers. As it has pretty much rained every day since November I have been very keen to get out and experience the sun.

Whilst I have been walking I have particularly been drawn to the interplay between the sky, sea and land. Each of the photos below is a favourite that illustrates that relationship. The light, patterns, textures, reflections, contrast and colours all have called me to create a photograph that demonstrates the demarcations and echoes between each of these elements.

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A couple of days ago I went for my regular circular walk. As Monty is currently away experiencing the Gower I decided to strap on my headphones, put my music on random and follow my eyes.

The walk takes me down local urban streets into a large park. Halfway round Singleton Park there is a cut through between Swansea University and Singleton Hospital that links up with the boating lake and park. From there you can cross the main road onto Swansea Beach and walk back amongst sandy footprints towards town, before heading back across the main road, up through the bottom of Singleton Park and back to the house.

What a joy to be able to experience this variety of views and terrains. The walk is around 4 km and takes between 40 and 80 minutes depending upon the number of photographic stops and prevailing wind!

The four photos I have chosen represent the three main areas traversed. For the photo that heads this post I was intrigued to contrast the urban telephone lines with nature’s more colourful lines. The second photo below was created to set the portentous sky against the dazzling lime green, golden sunlit trees. The third photo juxtaposes nature’s winter bones with ugly man-made purpose; also lit by the same golden morning light. The final photo was created to reflect the lines of beach, wet sand, sea with yet more ominous clouds.

What a difference a little golden light makes to creation of beautiful photos!

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As the father of an avid surfing son I often get dragged out to explore new surf spots. This way I have ventured out to places on the Gower, such as Pete’s Reef, Bluepool and now Oxwich Point, that I would probably not visit otherwise.

Oxwich Point, I am reliably informed by Taylor, only works as a surf break when there is a huge swell, low tide and south – westerly winds. These conditions have been pretty regular over this holiday season, as big swells have piled in on the back of ex hurricanes and Storm Frank.

It is a 10 minute walk out from the Oxwich car park, down to the Point. Most of the way there is a sandy route, only as you get close to the end is rock scrabbling required. The day we went there was a 50 mph wind whipping round the headland, providing a challenge just to stand upright whilst watching Taylor catching clean breaking 5-6ft waves.

It was interesting to be stood almost at 45° to the breaking wave, but unfortunately Taylor was then mainly surfing with his back to me. So I had to wait for a top turn to get a glimpse of his face – generally a desirous effect even for a surf photo! Anyway, here are my favourite few, with a final portrait as requested by his Grandmother.

 

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Would you like to take part in a monthly photo project? All you’ll need is a camera and a Facebook account. It’s just for fun and for the pleasure of having a monthly photo challenge.

I will be posting one word a month that you will then represent in a photograph. There are no rules. Whatever the word suggests to you visually is OK. All you have to do is post the photo each month to the Facebook Group page Twelve Photos.

Feel free to share the group with your friends. Let’s get social! The word for January is Beginning

Looking forward to seeing your photos.

Yesterday Surfing Santas took to the waves for a competition run by Llangennith-based WSF Surf School and Langland Bay Riders Surf Club in aid of Wales Air Ambulance and Waves for Water charity.

I braved the horizontal and torrential rain to collect a few photos at Langland: bringing Christmas to the Gower waves.

 

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I recently won 2 tickets to see Guy Garvey in one of those innumerable subscription email draws. After I adjusted to the surprise that these things did actually lead to a real prize arrangements were made.

The key photography decision was what camera to take. After the recent events in Paris I expected security to be rigorous and that taking the DSLR in might not be possible. I opted to take my Canon G7X, a high end compact with a 1″ sensor. This would be better than my mobile phone camera which really struggles in low light situations.

Once Guy started I took a few test shots to see how the camera performed in the light. I was about 10 metres or more from the stage and the camera has a limited zoom, so holding it high to avoid all those heads in front was a must. I had the camera set up on an average aperture (f4 is equivalent to a mid range setting on this camera) and the ISO on auto, so that I didn’t have to worry about shutter speed. Despite all the stage lighting I was getting ISO ratings at the top end 6400 – 12,800, so I knew that there would be a lot of digital noise in the photos.

The camera struggled to focus sometimes and the split-second shutter lag often meant that getting the shot I was trying for was hit and miss. Generally I watched for the light and the more successful photos are the first two below, where the lighting situation created interest.

I converted all the chosen photos into black and white to handle the digital noise. Generally there were few other adjustments, apart from to remove objects that distracted from the photo’s object (Mr Garvey!).

Creating photos where the conditions and camera impose limitations is a stimulating exercise. In fact, imposing limitations where there are none can often result in the most original and inspired photos. I have used wide apertures, set shutter speeds and de-focus to limit how I can create photos. The practice is invigorating!

What do you think of the photos? The gig was excellent. Guy Garvey’s new album ‘Courting the squall’ is diverse and multi-layered, with trademark poetic lyrics. Give it a go.

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If you should find yourself in London between now and March 2016 I recommend that you visit the Alec Soth Gathered Leaves exhibition in the Media Space at the Science Museum.

This is the first major UK exhibition from this award winning American photographer and surveys a decade of Soth’s work, highlighting his career as one of the world’s top photographers. The exhibition includes four of his signature series, including the UK première of his recent project Songbook.

I particularly found his Broken Manual series inspiring. Soth explores what it is to desire to run away, survive and look into who we are. His work documents several men living unsupported in the wilder parts of America and is melancholic and moving.

The exhibition has a refreshing attitude to photography. You are encouraged to take photographs of the photos and share. The photo above illustrates my desire to capture the relationship between photo and viewer; present, engaged and inspired.

 

Photos have the power to convey emotion. The way we choose to compose the scene and the technical choices we make can combine with the content to represent a feeling, through visual metaphor or symbolism.

Sometimes this is deliberately created at the moment of pressing the shutter. Sometimes it reveals itself later; maybe a happy accident or subconscious guidance. Either way it is a powerful way of communicating with the viewer.

The truth is in the viewing. Of course the emotion or feeling that the photographer intends to convey may not be what the viewer experiences. Cultural background and personal experiences guide our interpretation of visual imagery. That there may be several interpretations is not necessarily a weakness of the photo. Inspiring diverse emotions from one photo may be a strength.

Let’s look at some examples from a recent walk around Langland Bay. Notice the feelings that these photos generate for you before you read the text below.

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Photo 1 suggests uncertainty for me. Through a shallow depth of field I have created the representation of an unclear future, we cannot see where the path may lead. Though if we consider the truth of the scene, we know that Monty can see the way forward.

Photo 2 is in a similar vein to Photo 1. There is a degree of uncertainty and also potential barriers to what is unseen

Photo 3 suggests positive possibility (blue sky, sunshine), but also change (the autumnal leaves). For me these elements combine to imply change, opportunity and a hopeful future outcome.

Photo 4 uses a strong symbol to suggest that there is a clear direction we need to go. However the indistinct background could imply that the journey’s experiences may be uncertain.

What feelings did the photos inspire for you? Post your thoughts below in the comments box.

I have recently spent a few days at Charing Cross Hospital, as part of my ongoing care and investigation into my laryngeal condition. The stay was unplanned and helped to allieviate an acute situation.

Having not planned to stay I was unprepared. Fortunately Beci was able to gather suitable, clothing, food and some reading material for me. But I was without camera.

I have never been impressed by the camera on my mobile phone, but the best camera is the one you have with you! I also found it enlivening to push the boundaries of what was possible with the Sony Xperia phone camera.

Using the manual features of software and careful technique, particularly for longer exposures, I was able to create a few evocative and abstract photos I really liked.

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