Weekend of 8th & 9th December 2018….my account of the workshop

I usually run my Glamorgan Heritage Coast and Gower workshops on consecutive days as geographically they are close together and make a good 2 days of coastal photography. Autumn to spring is generally the best time of year for these workshops as they are mainly south facing and the low light means we are able to shoot all day.

This is my account of my December 2018 workshops; the Saturday at Glamorgan Heritage coast has downpours and sunny spells while the day on Gower was mainly dry after a fabulous dawn. We  managed to get some great images on both days with strking light and compositions.

So with thanks to Jon, Jennine, Helen and Becky for your company and for your images, here’s my blog. You’ll see that we captured a wide range of locations over the two days!


Glamorgan Heritage Coast workshop itinerary (subject to change!)

Dawn start at Penarth Pier

I arranged a dawn start at 7.30am at Penarth Pier. There was some colour in the sky but perhaps not the red sky we’d hoped for! We started by getting some mixed lighting which is effective on the pier as the shelters are lit up quite nicely.

Setting up with Jennine at Penarth Pier at dawn – and hoping for a great sunrise!

Getting ready to capture sunrise on Penarth Pier

We waited for the colours to appear but it wasn’t the most interesting moment of the day! The most effective composition here can be the pespective lines of the pier with the sun rising behind. The only additional challenge was the number of fishermen at the end of the pier.

The best of the dawn light. The additional irritation was the christmas lights strung across the street lamps! Absolute symmetry is important with this kind of shot.

When the café opened at 9am we went in for a coffee and toast but as we were drinking it the clouds started to build up and the light changed completely – so we quickly dashed out the make the most of the light!

We firstly shot towards the clouds with the hope of light beams appearing. However the cloud build up and movement didn’t create the effect that we were hoping for. However, our attention quickly turned towards an emerging rainbow looking in the other direction!

Helen capturing the rainbow: The most amazing thing about this rainbow was that it lasted about 90 minutes! The cloud barely moved inland as the light hit it from the sea, so there was an extraordinary amount of time to capture images.

A panoramic image of the rainbow, created by stitching 4 wide angle images together. Generally you’ll need an ultra-wide lens and shoot in portrait format to maximise depth, particularly with a double rainbow such as this one. The shadows created by the supports of the pier made interesting lead in lines.

The rainbow over a distant view of Cardiff Docks

Aberthaw Power Station

We then went on to Aberthaw Power station with its great position on the south Wales coastline. There’s also an interesting ruined barn above the pebble beach and a structure out to sea to photograph.

Helen photographing the Power station: We tried capturing the power station with a reflection in the sand.

The sand patterns made an interesting simple composition. This type of image usually works best backlit

Llantwit Major

Our next location at Llantwit Major a few miles down the coast certainly presented a few challenges! Firstly I left my entire collection of ND filters at Aberthaw and had to drive back in a bit of a panic. Fortunately they were still there safe and sound near where we parked the cars! Then while I was away, Llantwit Major was hit by a torrential downpour which soaked everyone (ad sincere apologies to Jennine who wasn’t there when I told everyone I was going back to Aberthaw and thought she’d been left alone on the beach! But there were some great opportunities for water movement in front of the cliffs at llantit major before the rain came. Be aware though that these cliffs are extremely fragile with frequent erosion and rockfalls. Don’t stand underneath or near to them.

Nash Point

A few miles west from Llantwit Major saw our final destination of the day. Fortunately the rain largely abated (although not completely) and we were able to descend to the coastline to attempt to capture the great views at Nash Point (the top banner image on this blog was taken from ther but on a previous trip – our skies weren’t as effective)!

Setting up to capture the light at Nash Point

The classic view of Nash Point captured with a long exposure.

Finally we headed to the pub at Monknash for a review session to finish the day before I drove everyone back to Penarth for the trip home.


Dawn start at Bracelet Bay, Mumbles

Three of us (myself, Becky and Jon) opted for the dawn start at Bracelet Bay, Mumbles on the Sunday mornng and we were rewarded with some great light! As the sun came up we weren’t sure what was going to happen but then the sky lit up and we got some great shots!

Jon preparing for the sun to come up behind the Mumbles Lighthouse at Bracelet Bay

This image was a 2 second exposure which created movement in the water. The sky was turning increasingly red. When taking images of this type you need to think about what shutter speed you want to use and what movement you want to show. Get as close as you can to the water (with safety in mind at all times, particularly with choppy seas!) Wait until the waves are retreating to get water into the shot.

Another 2 second exposure shot with a 6 stop ND filter and 3 stop graduated. It has made an interesting effect on the waves as well as beautiful colour.

You may find that your neutral graduated filters either get wet with salt water (and are impossible to clean) or mist up in damp conditions. If so, remove them and bracket exposures instead as lens glass tends not to suffer from the same problem. You can then either blend them manually or use HDR.

After a coffee at the café overlooking Mumbles Pier, we carried on with photography in the area.

Becky came along with a glass ball which we practised with.

Becky and Jon photographing the shoreline below Mumbles Pier. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go onto the pier as it’s under repair at the moment.

Langland Bay

We then drove on to Langland Bay further along the coast for a brief stop. The most interesting aspect of this beach is the beach huts and we practised with some perspective shots. Perhaps not the greatest location but we were just passing!

Jon and Becky photographing the perspective lines of the beach huts.

Three Cliffs Bay

Three Cliffs Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the UK; a stunning beach backed by dramatic cliffs. We parked the cars alongside the Three Cliffs Bay Café and after stopping for a quick coffee we walked along the cliff top. There’s also a castle inland overlooking the bay.

We originally intended to go on to Three cliffs Bay and then on to Gower at sunset. However there was so much to photograph here that we spent the rest of the day exploring both sides of the bay.

We reached the iconic viewpoint overlooking the bay. We were there at a perfect time with light cutting across the bay, some nice cloud build up and the tide out which revealed the sand patterns.

The finished image – a panoramic shot of 4 stitched images that captures the whole bay.

Try to resist the temptation to go to too many places and travel around too much. You’ll often get a greater range of images and learn to visualise by staying in one area and exploring features, angles and viewpoints but in wide scale and detail. This is why we made the decision to remain at three Cliffs Bay rather than leave early and travel to Rhossili Bay. We also knew that if sunset had looked promising, we’d still have got some great results at Three Cliffs Bay

We then walked down to the beach and photographed the pools under the cliffs.

Horses galloping on the beach at Three Cliffs Bay: We also captured some great shots of horses on the beach and practised panning and movement. The backlighting on the beach worked perfectly for this

The opportunity of catching the galloping horses was unexpected; we noticed them as we were walking along the cliff-top; Becky was particularly keen to capture them and practised with different angles and shutter speeds. The best were definitely when the horses were galloping with their legs showing movement.

Finally we drove round to the other side of the bay and went back to the beach to capture the great sand patterns and pools left once the tide had gone out. These look different every time I go there! Unfortunately by this time the clouds had gone which diminished the effect of the images. However we got some nice low evening light.

Before we finished we noticed that the low sun made some interesting details in the sand. This is the kind of thing that makes a good photomontage.

We then stopped for a brief review session before heading home at the end of a great day to be out with our cameras. It was difficult to imagine a more prefect winters weekend for coastal photography; Saturday’s downpours definitely added to the experience!

Laugharne – Monday 10th December 2018

It’s not a part of this workshop, but on the following day (Monday 10th December), I had a 1-1 with a client in Laugharne (best known for where Dylan Thomas lived and worked) and we met up at dawn at the Estuary. There was a lovely sunrise and well worth another early start; enough here for a workshop, possibly not but a great location for a dawn shoot.

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If you’d like to join this years workshops let me know or please check on:

Contact: Nigel Forster
Telephone: 07815 089835
Thanks for reading this blog and feel free to share it with anyone you think might be interested in reading it.

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