Celsa UK, Cardiff

Enjoy The View From The Garth as part of my Merthyr Road series on Flickr.

If there’s one part of the landscape that dominates views of both Taff Vale and Cardiff, it has to be the Garth. But what can you see from up on the Garth? That’s what I went up there to find out.

Thoughts On The Day

The day was a tale of two directions. To the south, towards the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff, conditions were very difficult for landscape photography, with the sun reflecting off the Bristol Channel beyond the South Wales coastline. The photos shot facing that way all suffered from limited contrast and colour; I ended up converting those to black and white to make the most of them.

To the east, towards Caerphilly and Taffs Well, the light was much better (well, in between the rain drops πŸ™‚ ). I was able to get nice, crisp shots of most of my subjects, and I was able to leave those photos in colour.

To get up the Garth, I recommend hiking up the road from Gwaelod-y-Garth. A couple of sections of the road are steep, and like me you might find using a walking stick helps with these bits, but for the main it’s not too hard on the legs or the knees! You can reach Gwaelod-y-Garth easily from Taffs Well railway station car park by using the footbridge to cross the River Taff. Don’t be tempted to try a short cut through the new housing estate on the site of the former Pentyrch Iron Works; I couldn’t find a way through from there to the old village behind it, and had to double back πŸ™

And, as to what you can see once you get up there …

Celsa UK, CardiffCelsa UK, CardiffCardiff Barrage and PenarthAberthaw Cement WorksThe Millennium Stadium and The Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Radyr SidingsGarth Quarry, CardiffHill In The DistanceTaff ValeWar Memorial, Ynysangharad Common, Pontypridd

Trig Point, The GarthRailway Bridge over the TVRRailway Bridge over the TVR With TrainGeneral Electric, NantgarwCraig Yr Allt, Nantgarw

Railway Viaduct, Taffs WellPentyrch Iron Works and Garth Works, circa 2007Walnut Tree Station, circa 2007Walnut Tree Viaduct, circa 2007

Panoramic Shot

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

General Electric, NantgarwThis photo of the General Electric plant at Nantgarw is my favourite photo from this shoot. Being up on the Garth provided the perfect elevation to show how GE’s factory dominates the entire hill side and the communities that it surrounds.

I also like the photo of the War Memorial (simply because it’s a great demonstration how just how much reach the Sigma 80-400 mm lens has) and my shot of the Millennium Stadium in the heart of Cardiff (because it shows just how central the stadium is).

Post Production

Whilst I was up on the Garth, I also took 14 shots of Taff Vale to stitch together into a single panoramic image of Taff Vale. At Jon Pearse’s recommendation, I bought a copy of Calico to do the stitching, and I’m very happy with the result. The beautiful thing about Calico is that it does all the work for you, and (unlike some competing tools) it doesn’t complain when you want to stitch 14 images together πŸ™‚

Now, getting the final panoramic shot uploaded to Flickr … that was far harder than generating the shot in the first place!

Found On Flickr

This old postcard provides a great view of the Walnut Tree Viaduct with the Garth beyond it. With a lot more care and thought into how the heritage of the South Wales valleys could be protected and developed, this could have been the view that greeted visitors leaving the M4 bound for the Brecon Beacons.

I think it’s a shame that it isn’t so.

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I took advantage of the recent May bank holiday weekend to head on up to the top of the Garth, and shoot some photos of what I could see. Whilst I was up there, I took these 14 panned shots of Taff Vale.

Panoramic Shot #1

Panoramic Shot #2

Panoramic Shot #3

Panoramic Shot #4

Panoramic Shot #5

Panoramic Shot #6

Panoramic Shot #7

Panoramic Shot #8

Panoramic Shot #9

Panoramic Shot #10

Panoramic Shot #11

Panoramic Shot #12

Panoramic Shot #13

Panoramic Shot #14

There’ll be a full article on The View from the Garth in the next few days, but I wanted to share these 14 photos separately. How many things in these photos do you recognise? Please head on over to Flickr, and feel free to add as many notes as possible for as many things as possible.

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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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Past, Present and Future In Cardiff

I liked my original black and white shot so much that I went back a few days later and took this early morning shot with the Nikon. I took five separate exposures, and combined them into a single HDR image using Photomatix.

Cardiff’s Past: In the foreground is the Bute Dock Feeder, which took water from the River Taff and brought it down to the Bute West Dock. The Bute Dock Feeder was built sometime between 1830 and 1836.

Cardiff’s Present: Dominating the skyline is the futuristic-looking apartment block recently featured in the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.

Cardiff’s Future: See those cranes just poking out above the bushes on the left? They’re hard at work creating the St David’s 2 Shopping Centre.

Want to know more? Read the blog entry that accompanied my original black and white shoot as part of my Merthyr Road series on South Wales history.

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Towards Pontypridd

View the Unofficial Taff Vale Eastern Ridge Walk as part of my Merthyr Road project on Flickr.

High above Taff Vale, Eglwysilan Road runs south from Pontypridd to Nantgarw. On a sunny day, the route makes for an excellent – if exposed – walk down Taff Vale to the Taff Gap. Along the way are the summits of Cefn Eglwysilan and Mynydd Meio with their radio transmitter towers, and the ancient settlement of Eglwysilan itself, a former seat of power in the valleys. There are also excellent views west into the Taff Vale (provided you get up there early enough before the sun shifts to the west!) and also east into the Rhymney Valley and down to Caerphilly.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no official Taff Vale Ridgeway Walk at all, so (with my tongue firmly in my cheek) I’m dedicating this article to the unofficial Taff Vale Eastern Ridge Walk πŸ™‚

Thoughts On The Day

It’s May Bank Holiday weekend overe here in the UK, and what better way to enjoy the sunny weather than a hike up Cefn Eglwysilan and a gentle stroll down the eastern side of Taff Vale to Nantgarw? It took me about an hour to hike up from Pontypridd, and then another four hours or so to wander down to Nantgarw, taking plenty of photos along the way.

According to Sheet 171 from the cassini.com Old Maps series, Eglwysilan Road has been there at least since the late 1700’s, and it seems likely that the route has existed in one form or another for centuries before then. Eglwysilan Road used to run up from Nantgarw to Cilfynydd, but at some point in the last seven years the route north from Pontypridd has been deliberately blocked with boulders. Even before the boulders were added, the route was only passable in something like a Land Rover.

The walk started at Ynysangharad Common, Pontypridd, where the road heads up towards Pontypridd Golf Club. Once I’d cleared the houses, the first real view I had was of the Hanson Aggregates quarry at Craig-Yr-Hesg, and a look back down towards the communities of Trawlln and Graigwen. I ignored the turn-off to the right for the Golf Club, and continued up the steepening track. Although it’s a single track road, it’s quite heavily used by cars, vans, walkers and the occaisonal jogger or two.

At last (for my suffering right knee at any rate!) I broke clear of the trees and reached the cattle grid that officially marks the northern end of Eglwysilan Road. Even if you go no further, the hike up to this level affords lovely views towards Abercynon, the blocked off greenway route, and back down towards Pontypridd. If the steep walk is too hard on you, why not drive up to the cattle grid and enjoy both the views and a much gentler walk up at this level?

From here, Eglwysilan Road runs south along the ridge line, and that was my eventual planned route. But first I hiked up the last slopes towards the summit, taking in another view of Abercynon, and also a fantasic view of the head of Taff Vale with the Rhondda Valley behind it. My objective was the three radio masts up on the summit of Twyn Hywel. At 382 metres at sea level, it stands at the same height as its twin 800 metres or so to the south, Cefn Eglwysilan. On 8th January 1974, at 2:39pm, the Receive (Rx) tower collapsed at this site.

There’s a trig point on Cefn Eglwysilan, and from here I enjoyed another great view of Pontypridd, and also a first look at the University of Glamorgan. I was also able to snag a nice shot of one of the surviving sheds from the old Treforest Tin and Iron Works. (I’ve published some of my shots from inside the old tin works in an earlier article; there will be more articles about the tin works later in this series). I found the walking up here fairly easy going, with no real problems for an able-bodied person. There hasn’t been much rain at all so far this year, which has led to the ground being unusually dry. I suspect that in previous years the ground would have been quite boggy in many places!

From the trig point on Cefn Eglwysilan, I made my way back down to Eglwysilan Road, which afforded a great view down the valley towards the Taff Gap. Unfortunately, I was shooting into the sun to get the shot, but hopefully it provides some idea of just how narrow and cramped Taff Vale really is. There were many sheep grazing up on the hill, and although most of them ran off as I made my way south along the road, I managed to capture this curious lamb and also this grazing sheep with the Treforest Tin and Iron Works in the background. I also bagged this fantastic shot of the University of Glamorgan’s main campus buildings. Sheep were everywhere, mostly out in the blazing sun, although some had the sense to hide away in the shade.

Eglwysilan Road crosses a few streams along the way, and in one of those I spotted something odd. I couldn’t make out what it was on the day, but looking at the photograph now, it was either a child’s stuffed toy (which is what Kristi believes it probably is), or a poor unfortunate animal (which is my guess).

Just north of the ancient village of Eglwysilan, I came across my inspiration for the title of this article. A small sign, nailed onto a wooden fence post, declared that the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway Walk went that way, back over the hill and down into the Rhymney Valley. Grumble grumble. The Rhymney Valley has an official ridgeway walk that runs along the Taff Vale side of the Mynydd Eglwysilans, but the Taff Vale does not? I’m sorry to say that I’m not surprised. It’s something of a re-occuring theme throughout the Taff Vale and Taff Valley πŸ™

Blink and you’d miss it, but Eglwysilan was a seat of major power in South Wales for centuries. The ancient parish ran from Taffs Well, Castle Coch and Thornhill in the south, Pontypridd in the west, Cilfynydd in the north, and Caerphilly in the east – totaling some 12,000 acres. William Edwards, builder of the famous bridge that gave Newbridge (now Pontypridd) its name, and one of the contributors to the maintenance of the church building at Eglwysilan, is buried in the graveyard of the Church of St Ilan alongside his wife. The graveyard is also home to two ancient yew trees. Both trees were reported in 2006 to be leaning dangerously, and may need propping in order to preserve them for future generations.

The church building has been dated back to at least 1200 AD, and it may stand on (or near) the site of a monk’s cell. Associated with the church is a story about a 17th century priest who encouraged the newly-deceased to be buried with their valuables – which, along with his two daughters, he duly robbed. During the English Civil War, it is said that Parliamentarian troops used the church as a stable for their horses.

Eglwysilan Road heads south out of the tiny village, running along the western slope of Mynydd Meio. From the road I had clear views of Upper Boat and the car park at Tesco. Looking up the hill to the east, there were distinctive trees like this one, and this one, as well as a cargo container standing in a field minding its own business. It must have been one hell of a flood for it to get beached all the way up here πŸ˜‰

Immediately after the cargo container, I took the steep path up to the top of Mynydd Meio. There’s a trig point up here, affording a great view north back to the masts on Twyn Hywel. There are also radio masts on top of Mynydd Meio maintained by Surf Telecoms, but they lie inside fenced-off farm land, and I was forced to make my way back down to Eglwysilan Road by following the fence. The masts could be seen from the road as I continued on the way south. The BBC website contains a video of the folk story The Banshee of Mynydd Meio, by Huw Davies. Mynydd Meio is also a popular place for handgliding, and is included in Caerphilly’s plans as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. (See also Caerphilly’s Countryside and Nature conservation plan).

After heading past yet more sheep, the hill to the east opened up to give a first view of Caerphilly, and a lovely view of the modern-day settlement at Nantgarw. Here, the hill started to descend down to Nantgarw, heading past the site of a former colliery (whose name I don’t yet know), which I’m guessing is what this curious red post is connected to. There were picturesque blossoms to admire, and then the end of the road – Nantgarw, and a bridge over the Taff Trail.

From Nantgarw, it was an easy walk down the Taff Trail to Taffs Well Railway Station at the old Walnut Tree Junction, where anyone else who’d like to try this walk can hop on a train back up to the starting point at Pontypridd.

All in all, I had a very relaxing walk in great weather (I have the sunburn to prove it!), and I’d strongly recommend that this is one walk that you should get out and do for yourself at some point (maybe the upcoming Bank Holiday at the end of May? πŸ˜‰ ). I wouldn’t recommend this walk in windy or wet conditions. The top of the Mynydd Eglwysilans are exposed, and in poor visibility I’m sure they’re quite dangerous.

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

I took something like 175 photos on the day, which I whittled down to the 55 that have been published on Flickr. Here are my favourite photos from those 55.

The StyleThis shot of the style, taken south of the village of Eglwysilan, is the photo I’m happiest about colour-wise. Although I like the composition and the way that the detail in the wood has been picked up by my Nikon D200, it’s the colour of this photo that I’m really drawn to. Of the 55 photos I uploaded, this is one of only 3 where I didn’t edit the colour at all. I tried it with the desaturated style that I’m currently favouring, but it looks so good unedited that I just didn’t want to change it at all.

Btw, I’ve no idea where the footpath over the style goes … I decided to leave that for another adventure πŸ™‚

Burned Fence PostWith the almost total lack of rain we’ve had recently, hill fires have been a big problem this year. On the way up from Pontypridd, my eye was drawn to this fence post which has survived just such a fire. I love the way that the fire damage has brought out the pattern in the wood grain, and I think it contrasts nicely with the green shoots beyond.

The GreenwayOne of the things I really enjoyed about this walk was the sense of openness once I’d made it up above Pontypridd. With its narrow terraced housing all crammed around the A470 (and, before it, the Glamorganshire Canal), Pontypridd can feel as constrained as it feels spacious up on the hills. This photo (along with the photo that opens this article) does a great job of capturing that feeling.

Mynydd MeioDespite the vingetting from the 18-135mm camera lens, I’m drawn to how empty this simple shot is. All there is is the vast sky above Mynydd Meio and the radio masts at Twyn Hywel in the distance to the north. What could be more relaxing than that?

Taff Vale Is BornThe 18-135mm lens makes up for is contribution to the previous shot in this shot of Pontypridd. There’s an enormous amount of detail in this photo, and that’s largely thanks to the amazing sharpness that this lens can produce. Nikon forums on the web are already calling the 18-135mm lens a classic, and when you view this photo at original size, you’ll see why.

Post Production

It’s working out that, for every hour I spend out there taking photographs for the Merthyr Road project, I spend another hour writing the blog article, and another hour creating the write-ups for the photographs published on Flickr. Not too bad when it’s a short set of photos, but for all-day trips like Trevithick’s Tramroad and now Eglwysilan Road, it can take all week to get an article published.

So, this week, I’m trying something different. Instead of hiding my photos on Flickr until the write-ups are done, I’ve published them straight away. I’ll work on the write-ups during the week, and when they’re complete I’ll let you know with a blog posting. I’ll also update this blog posting as I go along with the list of sources used for this article and the photos.

Speaking of sources, that’s another area where I’m trying something different. I’m currently evaluating DEVONthink Pro from Devon Technologies, along with its sister product DEVONagent. I like the idea of having an offline archive of the web pages used as sources for these articles, especially one that’s searchable and easily classified. On top of that, the Pro Office version includes OCR technology, which might allow me to make a searchable archive out of my rapidly growing collection of books about the South Wales Valleys.

Found On Flickr

Unfortunately, when I searched for Eglwysilan on Flickr, nearly all the photos that turned up were mine from this shoot! (All the photos for Twyn Hywel and Mynydd Meio were mine, too).

I’m wondering if I need to do workshops in the local area to explain what Flickr is and how to upload photos to it?

Sources

There’s a surprising amount of information available about Eglwysilan, considering the modern-day settlement is little more than a church, a pub, and a couple of houses. From it, a lot can be learned about the communities of Taff Vale below.

A full list of sources will be provided as I make progress on adding write-ups to the photographs.

Hanson Aggregates:

Is This Your Car?

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City Hall Reflection

Earlier in the year, I headed down to Cardiff to take some early morning shots of the Bute Dock Feeder. I spotted this reflection of Cardiff’s City Hall on the rear window of my car after parking up, and couldn’t resist taking a shot of it with my beloved Canon Digital IXUS.

It doesn’t look so great at 100% (hey, it’s a reflection on a less-than-spotless window πŸ˜‰ ), but I still find it a lovely little shot that I wanted to share.

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Robert Price Timber and Roofing, Taffs Well

The start of something a bit different, this week. When I’m out photographing the (normally historic) subjects and routes for my Merthyr Road project, I’m always coming across sights that appeal to me as a photographer, but which don’t really fit in all that well with the photos I choose for the final article published here on my blog. Rather than lose these photos, I’ve decided to give each shot its very own article.

First up is this shot of Robert Price Timber and Roofing in Taffs Well. Their timber yard is bounded on the east by the A470 trunk road, and on the south by the former Rhymney Valley Railway line from Walnut Tree Junction (the line now forms part of the Taff Trail cycle route).

Something (maybe a tramroad or railway) used to run north to south through the ground where their yard now stands. There’s a surviving bridge that the former Rhymney Valley Railway line crosses on the south side of the timber yard, and hunting through the trees to the north of the timber yard, there’s the remains of something that looks like it could have been a bridge support.
UPDATE: the something is the remains of the Cardiff Railway route from Tongwynlais to Rhydefelin Halt.

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I went back up to Abercanaid this morning and shot some additional shots of the Graig Chapel Burial Ground. In my original diary entry, one of the lessons I learned was that I hadn’t shot enough coverage – I had no shots of the Burial Ground as a whole, nor really of how the Burial Ground fits in to the surrounding area.

You can see the four additional shots as part of my photo set on Flickr.

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The Graig Chapel Burial Ground, Abercanaid

View all of the photos from this shoot as part of my Merthyr Road collection on Flickr.

After the extremely wet weekend the week before, I was determined to get out and about this weekend, and to continue my exploration of the old Glamorganshire Canal route between Merthyr and Cardiff. Guided by the excellent Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canals book, I headed north to Merthyr and traced the canal route south from Chapel Row.

At Abercanaid, I came across the remains of the Graig Chapel burial ground (the east side of Graig Road, the whole section north of Anthony Grove). I’m not exactly sure when the Chapel itself was demolished; it appears to have been still standing in 1996, and it appears to have been demolished due to subsidence. Looking at the photos from 1996, it looks like the burial ground wasn’t adjacent to the Chapel, but without more research I don’t know enough to say for certain.

Today, the burial ground has gone to ruin. Many of the headstones either lie flat in the undergrowth, or have been vandalised and are no longer there. During my visit, I spotted about half a dozen headstones still standing, and I did my best to record the names on the surviving headstones.

Tomorrow, the headstones will be gone. Glenn Kitchen, represented by Hugh James Solicitors of Merthyr Tydfil, has posted notice under the Disused Burial Grounds (Amendment) Act 1981 that he will remove the human remains, headstones and other memorials for re-internment at Pant Cemetery, Dowlais, on 4th May 2007. It is his intention to “erect a building for residential use” where the burial ground currently stands.

Thoughts On The Day

As I came south along the old canal towpath into Abercanaid, it wasn’t the burial ground that caught my eye. On the opposite side of Graig Road stands a pretty detatched house, and it was that house that I originally stopped to photograph.

I’m not sure how I feel about the intention to turn the burial ground into a residential building. I’m not religious, and when my time comes I’d rather be cremated. I don’t particularly want my remains to go into the ground. But, on the flip side, there are plenty of other folks who feel differently, and I was certainly distressed that the local authorities had allowed the burial ground to end up in the condition it is in today.

It’s my intention to return to Graig Road over the coming months to make a record of the building that Glenn will build on this spot. I’m curious to see what sort of house ends up there. It’s not often you stumble across a small piece of history in time to record it happening.

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

House And HeadstoneThis photo showing one of the surviving gravestones, with the house on the opposite side of Graig Road, is my favourite photo from this shoot. I like the crispness of the image and the general tonal range of the shot (although the blown highlight of the side of the building lets it down a bit).

Three Lessons From The Shoot

  • Shoot enough coverage! Lord knows I didn’t. I only have one shot of the plot as a whole, and only one shot showing where the plot sits in relation to its surroundings. That simply isn’t enough. I’ll be going back as soon as opportunity allows to bag some additional shots to complete this shoot.
  • Pay attention to your highlight warnings. Most of the scenes that I shot of the weekend contained shadows and highlights that stretched my D200 beyond its limits. It’s easy enough in Aperture to recover information from the shadows, but blown highlights simply don’t contain any information at all. The usual technique for dealing with this problem is to fit a neutral density gradiated filter (aka an ND grad). I don’t have any ND grads to fit the large diameter of my Sigma 15-30mm lens. Instead, I stopped down by a third (or often more), to try and limit the blown highlights to just the open sky instead.
  • Don’t limit yourself to just one attempt at a shot. I’m not saying go snap-happy – I don’t believe in the idea of quantity over quality – but do remember that you’re shooting digitally. You can take as many shots as you want, and all it costs you (worst case) is a little bit of time to edit out the really rubbish ones on-site (to avoid having no room to take any more shots). If, like me, you prefer to shoot in RAW mode, 8 Gb cards are now very affordable. I reckon you could fit something like 600+ compressed RAW images on a single 8 Gb card.

Post Production

The workflow I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago is working out well for me. I’ve picked up a copy of ScreenSteps, and I hope to post a tutorial about this before the end of March.

Found On Flickr

I’ve been unable to find any photos of Abercanaid on Flickr for this week’s blog posting. As well as using Flickr’s normal search facility, I also tried looking at the geotagged photos map. Although the map insists that there are 9,500+ photos taken in the Merthyr Tydfil area, not a single one actually appeared on the map at all πŸ™

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Tearing Down Cardiff

View these photos as part of my Cardiff set on Flickr.

It was a crazy week at work (I clocked up 56 hours last week, and I was by no means the only one), but there was still time to pop over a couple of streets to where the demolition of Bridge Street is well under way. The whole area is being cleared to make way for the St Davids 2 shopping centre complex, which is due to open in 2009.

Aim Of The Shoot

Although I’m currently looking around for a good urban landscape shot, the real aim of the shoot was to switch off from work for a few minutes and give myself a little recharge over lunch.

Thoughts On The Day

The demolition team have erected screens around the doomed buildings. Whilst they protect the public from stray bits of rubble (and some – but not all – of the dust created by the work), the screens also prevent photographers from seeing much of what is going on.

Fortunately, this is what car park roofs are for πŸ™‚

The only downside was that the car park stairwells were full of beggars and junkies obliviously shooting up. The lifts were still in working order, but I think that the safest way to do this would probably be to drive up onto the roof.

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

Goodbye DillonsMy favourite photo from the shoot is a close-up shot of the muncher about the tear up a little bit more building. I think it’s an appropriate metaphor for the way that our worship of the great God of Commercialism continues to eat away at everything that has gone before. It is relentless in its pursuit of hoovering up more money. The thing that gets me, though, is that I’m not sure who is going to be doing the spending once all the new stops have opened. The shops aren’t replacements – they are additional units. There’s only so much money to go around, and folks can’t live off credit forever …

Three Tips From The Shoot

  • If you’re trying to photograph a static subject, keep an open mind on where you can move to to find the right view. At street level, everything was obscured by the safety screens, but by finding a high vantage point, it was possible to get a much better view.
  • To find the right pictures, pick a print medium (book or newspaper) and imagine what sort of photos would go in that medium. This time, I was trying to imagine what sort of photos would accompany an inside spread for a newspaper article. As I rarely read newspapers, I don’t have much of an idea about this, and I think that comes through in the photos that I took πŸ™
  • The extra reach of a larger telephoto zoom is rarely needed, but there are times when nothing else will do. My Sigma 80-400mm lens takes up a lot of room in my camera bag, it’s heavy, the optical stabilisation drains the batteries on my D200 like nobody’s business, and most of the time there isn’t enough light to capture sharp images. But it stays for moments like this, when there’s only one chance of getting the shot, and I can’t get close enough to use a faster (or lighter) lens.

Post Production

Although I’d taken my camera in hoping that the damp conditions would improve, they didn’t. I ended up converting the photos to black and white in the hope of adding a little more depth to the images.

Unfortunately, this is one set of shots that it will be impossible to reproduce when the light does start to improve as we go into March and April. By then, Bridge Street should be cleared … but they still have to demolish the Central Library building πŸ™‚

Flickr Favourites

I didn’t manage to find any other photos showing the demolition work going on that I liked, but here are a few other photos of Cardiff that did make it into my Flickr Favourites.

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The Way Up To The Taff Precinct

Nothing represents the decline of Pontypridd better than the rotting Taff Vale Precinct and the regeneration plans (and local councillors for that matter) that have come and gone in the last six years. A post-war shopping precinct that reminds me of similar places from a childhood in my beloved Yorkshire, the sooner they tear this place down and start again the better.

Unfortunately, the proposals to replace the precinct have smelt as bad as the precinct itself. One previous plan called for the building of a car park within Pontypridd’s War Memorial Park – another Pontypridd landmark that successive Labour and Plyd Cymru administrations are famous for neglecting. With the rise of out-of-town shopping over at Talbot Green (30 mins by car from Pontypridd today; much more accessible once the Church Village by-pass has been completed) and more recently at Merthyr Tydfil (15 mins by car), plus new developments down in Cardiff (the St. Davids 2 project, and the new shopping area to go along with Cardiff City’s new stadium at Leckwork) to go along with the many existing shops of our capital city, Pontypridd isn’t just being left behind, it’s having the wealth sucked out of it – and indeed out of the entire borough. And that’s something that the entire Rhondda Cynon Taf district cannot afford forever (as those of us in the south of the district have the heaviest council tax burden).

Thoughts On The Day

I hadn’t actually gone out to photograph the precinct. I ended up wandering through it looking for a good spot to continue taking photographs of Pontypridd’s Old Bridge. I walk past the precinct twice a day on the way to the train station and back, but before today I’d never done anything other than hurried past as fast as I could, doing my best to avoid the youths who hang out there on an evening outside the Bargain Booze shop.

This time, though, I ended up wandering about underneath the precinct – well, as much as I dared, which I confess wasn’t very much. Even with the low winter sun and a very bright day, the empty car park underneath the precinct was as dingy as I was unsure, and I didn’t feel safe venturing inside to see what else is under there. God only knows how the council expects anyone to feel safe parking their car there on these short winter days! I can’t imagine that the place is any more welcoming during the long summer evenings.

I didn’t find a good view of the Old Bridge either πŸ™

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

Underneath The Taff PrecinctThis colour shot peering into the darkness is my favourite shot from this shoot. The reflection of the supporting column in the water, the blown highlights from the incoming sun, and the way that the photo very quickly drops off into darkness – they all sum up for me how I remember my walk beneath the precinct. I’m also very fond of the black and white version of the same photo.

Three Tips From The Shoot

  • If you’re out and about alone, make sure someone knows where you’ve gone. I didn’t see anyone at all underneath the precinct, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always safe to wander around down there. You’re much more likely to have an accident than be assaulted anyway, no matter where you go to take photos. The last thing you want is to be in need of assistance when no-one knows where to look for you.
  • Do your best to avoid blown highlights. The huge contrast between the low winter sun streaming in and the darkness of the car park was a metering nightmare. My trusty Canon Digital IXUS did a great job in the end, but practically every photo still ended up with badly blown highlights. You can often recover parts of a picture from dark areas, but there’s nothing in blown highlights to rescue.
  • Make sure your battery is charged (or carry a spare). There’s a good reason why I never made it back up those stairs to take photos of the rest of the precinct!

Post Production

Unlike last week’s shoot up at the Cefn Coed Viaduct, this time around I’ve uploaded both colour and black and white versions of all but one of the photos. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, to be honest. Normally, I convert photos to black and white as a way of salvaging uninspiring colour originals. But, this time, I felt that the colour photos were good enough to see the light of day too.

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