Take Me To The Stars

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Today’s Thursday, and yesterday I promised something colourful and high energy … which made me think of this rocket blasting off as part of the beautiful Millennium Window at Goodrich Castle. Given a choice, I always prefer to finish a project on a Thursday rather than a Friday; gives me a real sense of achievement for the weekend, and a day to get into the next project so that I can chew over it over the weekend.

This looks great on my Mac as the desktop wallpaper; I’m sorry if it doesn’t work out quite so well if you’re running Windows.

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Yellow Quarry Tipper Lorry

I don’t know when the quarry was first created, but we know that Trallwn Quarry was owned by Edwards Davids in 1880 and we have photographic evidence that the quarry had been established by 1900. Today, the quarry is operated by Hanson Aggregates, and is known to have manufactured a material called SMA used in resurfacing roads in South Wales. The quarry is also said to be famous for its blue pennant stone.

In both 2004 and 2006, the emergency services were called to the quarry to rescue teenagers who had found themselves in difficulties.

The River Taff flows along the eastern foot of Craig-Yr-Hesg, and it’s believed that this is the most likely location of Pont-yr-Hesg, “a great bridge of timber” described in the works of John Leland in 1540, but believed to have been destroyed by the late 1580’s.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Place

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My desktop picture today continues the colourful theme (if a little loosely), with this wonderful sculpture in the Forest of Dean. If you’ve never done the Sculpture Trail, I highly recommend it as a great relaxing day out, a wonderful stroll through the trees.

I’ll try and dig out something with a bit more energy to help us all get through to the weekend 🙂

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Tree Bark

Download the full-size picture (1200×1600) to use as your desktop wallpaper. Oddly, the full-size image on Flickr seems to be already rotated.

Continuing this week’s theme of colour, my desktop wallpaper today is this close-up of some orange/red tree bark, taken at the wonderful Westonbirt Arboretum back in 2006. I find colours like this to be galvanising, demanding action.

I’ll try and pick something a little more soothing for tomorrow 🙂

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Bridge Over The Glamorganshire Canal At Pont-y-dderwen

North of Navigation, in the shadow of the Giant’s Bite and Cefn Glas, stands one of the few surviving bridges that used to span the Glamorganshire Canal. Built in 1792, this bridge is 7 miles from where Canal Head used to be. This whole area is teeming with relics of the industrial heritage of the route along the canal:

  • Just a few hundred yards from this bridge is the eastern end of the Cefn Glas tunnel, which ran under the mountain from Penrhiwceiber to Quaker’s Yard via one of the lost viaducts over the River Taff.
  • Behind is the Giant’s Bite, an odd stone quarry dominating the skyline to the west.
  • Across the river runs the Penydaren Tramway, the route of the first steam railway journey in the world.
  • The tramroad runs near Pontygwaith and its historic bridge over the Taff.
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Graffiti Inside The Treforest Tin Works

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It’s Monday, and I’m in the mood for colour to kick off a new week. My desktop wallpaper today is this bright and energy-charged graffiti that I found daubed on a surviving wall of the old Trefforest Tin Works back at the start of 2007.

Just the thing to drive away the Monday blues!

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In 2009, the Rhondda Cynon Taff local authority, in conjunction with the Arts Council of Wales, erected a new piece of public sculpture just outside Pontypridd. Christened Unity, the sculpture stands on land beside the Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, and is intended to bring new visitors into one of South Wales’ most exploited and neglected former mining towns. The sculpture represents three aspects of Pontypridd’s heritage: the town’s famous bridge, the mines that populated the town in the 1800’s and 1900’s, and the way that the British fleet relied on both coal and locally-manufactured chains.

Unity or Lunacy? You decide.

The sculpture is largely invisible to anyone travelling up the major road from Cardiff until you’ve passed the turn-off for Pontypridd, which limits its ability to draw passing tourists into the town. In common with both RCT and Cardiff’s local authority, there’s no memory of the Glamorganshire Canal incorporated into the sculpture – without the canal, the Chainworks would never have come to Pontypridd in 1816. And there’s no incorporation either of the Taff Vale Railway, still in operation today and visible from the site of the sculpture.

Time will tell whether this piece of public sculpture will be an asset or a communist-red (as opposed to white) elephant for the town, but it seems unlikely to become as iconic a piece as the Angel Of The North.

The Photos

Unity

Unity

Unity

Thoughts On The Day

My earlier shot of Unity from up on the Common provoked a fair few comments on Flickr, and in the ensuing conversation I’d mentioned that I would try and wander over to the site and shoot it up close and personal.

There seems to be a trend in our cramped little country of Wales (well, in South Wales anyway) of spending public money to create iconic structures, but overlooking the importance that photography plays in turning a structure into something iconic (think of the Sydney Opera House), and Unity is the latest addition to this trend. This thing is simply a bitch to photograph.

I’m lucky enough to own a decent 10-20mm wide-angle lens, but even with that I was seriously struggling. The old adage about ultra-wide angle lenses is that a photographer should use them to make stronger pictures; they’re not for fitting everything in. Well, I tell you know – when it comes to shooting Unity, they’re most definitely for fitting everything in … if you don’t mind tramping through the muddy ground beside the sculpture or taking your chances and standing in the middle of Broadway (which is a bit too busy for that to be a sensible option). This thing is like a stealth fighter – light seems to just slide off it, making autofocus almost impossible.

It’s no accident that I only managed three usable photos out of the whole shoot 🙁

I have no idea how folks armed with point and shoot pocket cameras or (shudder) camera phones are going to photograph this puppy. A quick look through Google suggests that no-one is, despite the fact that it’s been in place over six months now. If I was an auditor measuring whether or not this investment of public funding was a success or a failure, I’d be wondering whether a piece of art no-one is photographing was a good way to spend public funds.

For myself, I think it’s great to see that RCT occasionally remembers that Pontypridd is supposed to be the county town, but it feels like this was built without anyone really thinking about how it would support desired outcomes. It’s on the wrong side of the roundabout to be visible to tourists travelling north to the Brecon Beacons (these are the folks whose money we want!) because the A470 is quite sunken at this particular stretch, and if you can see it travelling down from the north it doesn’t matter anyway, as there’s no southbound sliproad off into Pontypridd for passing cars to take. Visibility from the Taff Trail cycle network is poor too, but that doesn’t matter so much because that already takes cyclists into town.

So, at the time of writing, as a resident of Pontypridd myself, I’m left wondering how this 100,000 GBP sculpture that passing tourists can’t see and no-one is taking photographs of is going to help in the regeneration that Pontypridd so desperately needs after many years of neglect by RCT? If you have any answers, please leave them in the comments below.

Post Production

The main work I did on these photos in Aperture was to bring out some of the detail in the shadow, balance out the ultra-strong red (which has a tendency to turn purple in direct sunlight) and add a vignette effect to draw the viewer’s gaze to the sculpture itself in the middle of the shot. I first experimented with the vignette effect on the first shot of Unity that I took earlier in the year, and with the positive feedback decided to use it on these shots too.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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The Lower Gun Deck, HMS Victory

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Concluding the Portsmouth theme for this week, my desktop wallpaper today is the reason we were in Portsmouth … the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and HMS Victory. (Actually, the first time we visited the dockyard we were trying to find the Royal Armouries, having seen road signs from the passing motorway. We still haven’t found the Armouries – the signs seem to peter out once you leave the motorway – but instead have enjoyed several wonderful visits now to the amazing dockyards).

The modern history of our little island nation is tightly bound with the achievements of the Royal Navy, and the Historic Dockyard is the place to visit to find out more, and to see our history so well preserved. If you’re travelling to Portsmouth, or just passing by like we were, it’s well worth both the detour and the price of admission.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back on Monday with more recommendations, and don’t forget to check out my other photos on Flickr if you can’t wait.

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Looking Down Spinnaker Tower

Download the full-size picture (2592 x 3872) to use as your desktop wallpaper. You might prefer to rotate it first 🙂

After yesterday’s choice of the glass floor of the Spinnaker Tower from ground level, my choice today for desktop wallpaper is the view down to ground level through the glass floor. Taking photos from here is an absolute nightmare; kids of all ages love playing all over the glass floor, making it very difficult to get a shot that doesn’t include either a kid or their reflection. But it’s well worth it … the view from here over the harbour is just stunning.

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Daffodils Beside Brown Lenox

I recently went over to the site where the Newbridge Chainworks operated by Brown Lenox and Co, Ltd, once stood. The site is reached by a bit of a torturous route if you’re going to stick to public footpaths; one has to walk round to Pontypridd Railway Station, and then round the outside of Ynysangharad Park and cross the sliproad that goes down to the A470. And then you have to go all the way back afterwards. I’m assuming that they’ll do something to improve this if they build a supermarket on the site.

(Of course, we could still be discussing this in another 10 years time …)

But, whilst I was there, I couldn’t help but notice this wonderful spread of daffodils growing beside the road. The setting sun meant that the light was against me (I’d already used the best of the light to take some snaps of Unity, which I’ll upload soon), but I like the gritty look that the conditions ultimately gave this photo.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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