Anthropogenic Crap

Cider bottle left on a wall in Cardiff near Splott and the Magic Roundabout.

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The Rediscovered House

Recent clearance work on Merthyr Road has made it possible to see this old house from the road for the first time in at least 10 years.

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The East Glamorganshire Hospital

Driving home from doing the shopping this afternoon, Kristi spotted this chimney out of the corner of her eye. Naturally, we just had to go and investigate, and with the last light of the day, we managed to snag this photo of what was once the East Glamorgan Hospital.

Built during World War II, the hospital was finally closed in 1999 after the opening of the new Royal Glamorgan Hospital over to the north-west of Llantrisant. Sadly, the handover did not go as smoothly as one would like, with human tissue samples reportedly discovered by the workmen who came to clear the site, and with patients of the mental health unit left with nowhere to move to.

Today, most of the site has been cleared for a large housing estate, but the iconic chimney still remains. Searching online, it isn’t clear what the site is used for today; the road shown in the picture has a sign insisting that the place is private and off-limits (which we respected), bearing the title of the Pontypridd and Rhondda NHS Trust. Their website is still online, but the trust itself has been replaced not once but twice … a damning inditement of the inefficiency in government-run organisations over the lifetime of the current government.

If you’re able to shed some light onto what this site is used for today, please leave a comment below.

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Cardiff Bay Railway Station

Back in June, I took part in the annual Photomarathon for the first time. It was definitely weird using a chemical camera for the first time in six years! Like many of the competitors, I also had my digital equipment with me, and I’m really glad I did, because as the sun was setting I was wandering past Cardiff Bay’s run-down railway station, and was able to snag this shot.

This station sits at the southern-most end of the oldest surviving railway line in South Wales – the Taff Vale Railway (TVR). Sadly I haven’t been able to find any photos online of what this station looked like when the docks were in full swing, but books such as the Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canal do have some photos on the printed page if you’d like to compare.

This is the very first HDR shot I’ve processed since being forced to upgrade from PhotoMatix Pro v2 to v3. I’ve used v2 for all of my HDR work to date, but sadly it doesn’t work under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Still, first impressions of v3 are very encouraging!

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Disused TVR Bridge

Pontypridd stands on the banks of the River Taff and the River Rhondda as the gateway to the valleys beyond – and the mineral and coal riches that were exploited between the late 1700’s and the 1980’s. From its first bridge in 1750, built to allow travel to market without crossing a deadly river ford, via what is possibly the world’s oldest surviving railway bridge, to the modern road bridges of today, it has always been necessary to bridge the rivers at Pontypridd in order to get from A to B.

Thoughts On The Day

I was taking a week off between jobs to get my annoyance with my former boss’s behaviour out of my system, and it was a real relief to get out and about with the camera. The weather was lovely, and what could be better than a walk through Pontypridd taking shots of the different bridges that have sprung up in this market town?

I’m always surprised at how Pontypridd has failed to capitalise on Cardiff’s growth. Why hasn’t it become a booming commuter town for everyone who can’t afford the house prices down in Cardiff itself? Sitting at the very northern end of the Taff Vale, the old TVR railway splits north of Ponty to take travellers up the Rhondda Valley to Treherbert, up the Cynon Valley to Aberdare, and up the Taff Valley to Merthyr Tydfil. That gives Ponty three times the amount of trains passing through each day.

Today, Pontypridd feels more important to the folks who travel down from those valleys than anyone else, marking as it does the half-way point in the journey from the tops of the valleys down to Cardiff. I guess the history of its bridges shows that Pontypridd has always been a place people travel through rather than a destination in its own right.

The Photos

Disused TVR Bridge

I believe that this bridge is probably all that remains of the Llancaiach TVR branch that ran from just north of Pontypridd up to the Albion Collery.

White Bridge, Pontypridd

The Old Bridge, Pontypridd

The bridge that Pontypridd takes its name from. Built in 1750 by William Edwards, at the time it was the longest single-span bridge in the world. Today, it is used as a footbridge.

Telephone Box Beside The Old Bridge, Pontypridd

There aren’t many red telephone boxes left these days. This one stands at the western end of the Old Bridge, Pontypridd. You can see from this shot just how steep the Old Bridge actually is!

Towards The Bridge To The Park

From the top of the old bridge, you can look down the River Taff, past the sadly run-down Taff Vale Precinct on the right to the foot bridge that links Ynysangharad Park with the main shopping area of Taff Street.

TVR Branch Line Up The Rhondda

This bridge carries the Rhondda branch line up to Treherbert. The line was opened in 1841, not long after the main TVR route was opened. At the time of writing, I don’t know whether this is a Brunel bridge like its sister bridge is to the east.

The Steps To The Signal Box

The Pontypridd Signal Box stands between the TVR branch line up to Rhondda and the main TVR line up to Abercynon and beyond. These steps appear to be the main route up to the signal box. The signal box itself appears to be disused today.

The Lost Rail Bridge, Pontypridd

Today, it’s a road bridge carrying traffic from the A470 up to the north end of Broadway and past Pontypridd station. But before this was built, there was once a railway bridge somewhere in the same area, carrying trains from the TVR over the Taff and onto the Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport railway.

Like the bridge, the PCN railway is long gone, but its trackbed survives as part of the Taff Trail cycle network between Pontypridd and Nantgarw.

The Abercynon Iron Works Bridge, Pontypridd

This is without doubt my personal favourite bridge in Pontypridd. Built in 1850, this bridge allowed the small iron works on the western bank of the Taff (which today has been lost under a housing estate and a popular local park) with the Glamorganshire Canal. I believe this bridge used to carry a light railway or very short tram road.

Today, it’s a wooden-floored footbridge, and I often cross it after visiting the Yummy Kitchen on the way home from work.

The Iron Works Bridge Again :)

I like the Abercynon Iron Works bridge so much, here’s a second shot of the bridge from down below.

I’ve been over the Abercynon Iron Works bridge hundreds of times, but it was only when I went to photograph it that I discovered that it goes over more than just the River Taff.

I’ve never seen or read about any sort of tram road running along the western shore of the River Taff, so today I am at a lost to say what went under the bridge here. Maybe this is simply a modern addition to enable access to the river bank from the park?

Towards The Machine Bridge

You can just about make out the arches of the old Machine Bridge at Glyntaff. According to GaAC, this bridge was built to carry the Doctor’s Tramroad across the Taff to the Doctor’s Canal, where goods from the Rhondda were transferred onto canal barges and shipped downstream and into the Glamorganshire Canal proper.

GaAC speculates that this might be the oldest surviving railway bridge in the world, predating all of the bridges that carried the Penydarren Tramroad down from Merthyr to Navigation. This view has also been expressed in a local news article about a threat in 2003 to demolish the bridge.

Fancy that, and yet there’s no sort of plaque or anything information-like on the bridge itself that I’ve ever seen.

The Metal Lattice At The Machine Bridge

Unfortunately, I took no notice at all of the old Machine Bridge at Glyntaff when it was still in use by cars, so I have idea what this lattice framework is for, or where it originally fitted into the bridge’s construction.

The New Road Bridge Beside The Machine Bridge

For many years, the Machine Bridge was the main road link between the A470 and Treforrest. The fabric of the bridge couldn’t withstand the traffic, and the bridge was for a time threatened with demolition. Thankfully, common sense seems to have prevailed, with a new road bridge having been built immediately south of the Machine Bridge.

Today, the Machine Bridge is a footbridge, closed to traffic, but popular as a car park with council workmen or their contractors.

The Bridge Opposite Castle Street

Isn’t this a beautiful bridge to look at? I’m afraid that, atm, I don’t know anything about it, but I certainly would love to.

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

The Bridge Opposite Castle Street

It wasn’t easy to pick just one photo from this group, but this is the one that I like the most. I just think it does a great job of showing off a very beautiful bridge 🙂

Post Production

This set of photos marks the start of the next evolution in my photographic style. I’ve been using HDR for several months now, but this time I was determined to put together a workflow that brings the HDR images closer in initial appearance to regular, single-frame photos. Before HDR, my favourite style had been the slightly desaturated look of the Taff Vale Eastern Ridge Walk set. What I wanted was that look, but with the added detail that HDR brings. Too many HDR photos just lack a certain subtlety – as do too many single exposure shots, it has to be said!

Since taking these photos a year ago now, I’ve refined the HDR workflow over and over before finally coming back to these photos and re-processing them for publication at last. I promise that I’ll do a full article on the workflow in the near future, but the main points are to avoid over-saturating the original HDR image, and then using Aperture 2’s new Saturation and Definition tools to bring out the best of the HDR detail whilst toning down its exuberance at the same time.

Sadly, I’ve been too short of time to thoroughly research each of the bridges in this set. There’s also one bridge missing – Brunel’s bridge that carries the Taff Vale Railway north from Pontypridd station over the River Rhondda towards Abercynon. I only noticed that whilst doing the write-up. Doh!

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The Millennium Centre, Cardiff

This one has been up on Flickr for several months now, but somehow I forgot to actually write a blog post about it to match!

Cardiff Bay has been (almost) completely transformed from abandoned dockyards into the playground of the wealthy in South Wales. At the very centre of this new role proudly stands the Millennium Centre, a world-class arts venue for Europe’s youngest capital city. And, when the sun strikes it at the right angle, it positively radiates.

There are good reasons why just about all the best photos of the Millennium Centre tend to be from this angle.

Known locally as the Coal Scuttle because of its distinctive shape and colour, the Millennium Centre is a surprisingly difficult subject to photograph. If you think of its rivals around the world – most notably the Sidney Opera House – they are iconic buildings standing proud and prominent, an absolute delight to photograph and very difficult to photograph badly. Sadly, like Cardiff City Centre after it, Cardiff Bay hasn’t been so much designed as a whole as had individual efforts constructed next to each other. This has left the Coal Scuttle with mostly obscured lines, and as a photographer I’m left with the impression of a fat cartoon character trying to hide behind skinnier friends.

I think this is a real shame. This is truly a great venue, with a real will to put on a world-class programme of arts to match.

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Sunset On The Hill

Although the glorious Easter weekend weather is largely behind us now, for a brief moment this evening we had just a tiny reminder of how beautiful the sunsets can be around here …

It’s also the first shot taken with my new Nikon 70-300mm lens. I’m certainly looking forward to getting it out into the field for a full Merthyr Road photo shoot 🙂

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Lane Control Beside The Canal

If you drive down the A470, over the Gabalfa fly-over and into Cardiff city centre, you’ll be familiar with one of the peculiarities of the roads in Cardiff. I’m not talking about the continuous experimentation with partially-closing St Mary’s Street; I’m referring to where four lanes of traffic goes down to just three as you reach Blackweir. On the right there’s the long, thin car park with the beauty of Bute Park beyond, and overhead the direction of traffic is controlled by these new digital signs. That car park has been built over the top of the old Glamorganshire Canal.

The new signs were installed either in 2007 or 2008 (I didn’t make a note of exactly when), and they replaced older mechanical signs that sat on top of the same gantry. (I have a similar shot of the old signs that I’ll dig out and post later). You’d have thought that they could have given the gantry a lick of fresh paint at the same time, wouldn’t you? 🙂

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Cardiff City Hall At Dawn

The most common advice given to new photographers is this: always have your camera with you. You never know when you’ll come across something worth taking a picture of. That was certainly the case in March 2007, when Kristi and I enjoyed this beautiful scene on the way to work.

This is Cardiff City Hall, opened in 1904. The tag-line for Cardiff is that it is Europe’s Youngest Capital City, but I wonder how many people realise just how modern its magnificent civic centre is?

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The Gatso Is Your Friend

Like most drivers, I hate speed cameras. Too many of them, especially over in England, seem to be sited in places where they are most likely to generate revenue. This camera in Cathays, Cardiff, is one of the more sensibly located cameras. It’s placed outside a private nursery / school, on a road that has a major cycleway down the opposite side.

The car park on the opposite side has been built where the Glamorganshire Canal once ran, and the lane disappearing off into the distance is approximately the route that the canal used to follow up towards Gabalfa.

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