Two chapels, two gigs. St Davids Tabernacle and StudiOwz

The latest venue for Boia Gigs was the crypt of the Tabernacle chapel in St Davids. A gothic design built in 1877, the chapel is an imposing building but unless you are a member of the tiny congregation, you’d be forgiven for not noticing it on your way through St Davids. Downstairs is usually used for Sunday School but last week opened its doors to host Dan Bettridge (Ogmore, Wales) and The Brother Brothers (Brooklyn, NY). One of the attractions of live music is hearing a little background about the songs and the ideas behind the lyrics. The Brother Brothers were brilliant at filling in the history that inspired their writing and some of the covers they performed, but were also funny and engaging which made for a great show. As identical twins they referenced other familial duos from down the ages and are adeptly carrying on the tradition. Go see them if you get the chance. They were supported by Dan Bettridge who showcased his great guitar sound and songwriting.

John Blek returned from County Cork to Pembrokeshire last night to play at StudiOwz before he takes to the stage at the Tabernacle Chapel in St Davids tonight. When I heard he was playing at the studio I knew that John’s songs were perfectly suited to it and it was a treat to hear his music there. Plucking out his melodies and delivering his soul rending lyrics in such a venue was spellbinding. In the crowded world of male singer songwriters, John Blek stands out as a true talent with plenty of outstanding songs that should be getting more radio play over here. Look out for chances to see him live and buy his records.

Emily Barker at StudiOwz

I was lucky enough to get along to Owain’s new studio in the wilds of mid Pembrokeshire for a really special gig the other night. A Boia Gigs event with a very limited amount of tickets on offer made for a really intimate night in the company of Emily Barker, with Lukas Drinkwater alongside. Owain has created a beautiful space to record and perform music in an old chapel, now lovingly converted into a dream studio. Emily performed her songs for a small, captivated audience to make for a magical first gig in this unique setting. A perfect place to record music and a brilliant venue for this kind of tiny event, it was great to be there as the first one unfolded. New life given to a space that has seen song, emotion and spirituality within its walls from the beginning; it’s a wonderful thing to see its history continue in a fresh form. In attendance was Jeff, who told me that 4 of his sisters had been married in the chapel and both his parents lay at rest in the graveyard. His smile as he left showed that the new chapter is a welcome turn of the page.

As usual, keep an eye out for Boia Gigs events in Pembrokeshire. There are some excellent nights ahead.

Latest gig shots

A quick selection covering the latest Boia Gigs events in St Davids. Becca Mancari was a recent highlight, I’ve been spinning her Good Woman album a lot since seeing her truly brilliant and moving show. There was the welcome return of Twin Bandit from Vancouver and Cardiff based Ivan Moult was sublime. Steph Cameron was the first to grace the stage at the City Hall as the latest venue for Boia Gigs events. March saw Kacy and Clayton arrive; a great show and a little dark humour to go with it. See details for upcoming shows… Boia Gigs on Facebook.

The National Parks at 70 - Competition success

I had some success last week! Having entered several images into a competition to capture a moment to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the designation of the first National Parks; I had an image shortlisted. A shot of a horse at Newgale which I will remember taking for a while.

Seeing out of the window that the light was great and there might be a good sunset, I jumped in the car and headed down to Newgale. When I got on to the beach I soon realised I'd underestimated the weather. It was bitterly cold with a biting wind and I didn't have any gloves with me. I took a few shots on the beach then had to retreat to the car to try and warm up my hands. As I was thinking of calling it a day, I saw a lady leading her horse over the pebbles and onto the beach. I gave my hands a final rub and hopped out of the car and back on to the beach. They only stayed for a short while on the beach and in the water before heading back to the trailer but in that time I managed to get a few shots. The blue sky above made the sea a great colour and the dramatic clouds in the background were a blessing. The picture is looking towards the Southern arm of St Brides Bay with Skomer Island offshore.

The gallery was shared in print in the Times, Telegraph, Guardian on the BBC and widely online and social media. There were some great entrants, a well deserved winner and another shot from Pembrokeshire by Steve Burnett of an owl in flight over bluebells; on Skomer Island I suspect. The full collection here…

Winners Gallery in the Guardian

Faces of the Hunt. Boxing Day at Lacock, Wiltshire

Happy new year to all my readers! I didn’t take many pictures over Christmas but on Boxing Day we went to go and have a look at the horses, dogs and people seeing off the hunt from the village of Lacock in Wiltshire. We enjoyed the sights and kept our support for Mr Fox low key… Here are some fairly unflattering pictures of some attendees.

Winter at West Dale Bay

West Dale Bay. Not a beach I visit too often but I decided to head down here today; a cloudy and blowy December afternoon. I’ve upgraded my kit recently which makes it easier to make panoramic or ‘stitched’ images because my computer no longer scratches its head and freezes when I ask it nicely to help me create one. In the distance is Skokholm island; a bird reserve inhabited mainly by manx shearwaters, puffins, the usual auks, like razorbill and guillemot, and also storm petrels.

I think this one would look great as a big canvas print. Get in touch if you agree and have a wall it would suit!

Trinant. A Pembrokeshire farm

I went to the Preseli Hills the other day to go and have a look at Trinant farm. Long abandoned; it was once a sheep farm where the owners would have lived and worked. There are a number of these abandoned farms in Pembrokeshire. Presumably the farm became unprofitable and the house, in its awkward location on the Southern flank of the hills, wasn’t a property that anyone wanted to take on. The house is slowly decaying where it stands but inside you can still see the fireplace and other features that hint towards the past and the lives lived within the walls. There are no cables visible so winters must have been cold and dark. Records show that children were born in this house and I wonder if their descendants have ever stopped by to see how their ancestors lived not so many generations ago.

Tenby Blues Festival 2018

At the weekend I had the pleasure of being the official photographer for the annual Tenby Blues Festival. Over the three days the daily Blues Trail has a timetable of acts playing in local pubs, restaurants and hotels before the main evening events take place in the De Valence Pavilion. The festival has been going for over a decade now but this was my first time sampling it. It’s always great to see high quality acts in Pembrokeshire especially when they have made the effort to come from another continent to get here and this year, Malcolm, Chris and the rest of the team put together a great lineup. Here’s some shots of the weekend… and you know me, I couldn’t resist popping out to get a shot of the sunset on a beautiful Sunday night in Tenby.

Dave Arcari kicked things off single handed on Friday night with a high energy show…

“Dave plays like he got his skin turned inside out and pretty soon my skin was inside out too listening and it was all good. That boy bleeds for you – he a real down deep player and a soul man…”  Seasick Steve

Afterwards The Paul Garner Band from London took to the stage and the night was rounded off with some groovy blues from Lighnin’ Willie and the Poorboys.

Saturday night kicked off with Husky Tones , the duo creating a fantastic sound with guitar, stand up drums and vocals. The British blues legend, Eddie Martin followed with his band before The Reverend Shawn Amos brought the night to a close with a sensational show.

The audience on Sunday night were given a real treat with Jodie Marie and Bella Collins teaming up to produce what was for me, the standout performance of the weekend. A spine tingling set made all the more amazing for the fact that they’d barely played together. That’s chemistry I guess. The result was sublime and had the audience on their feet at the end. They made way for Catfish which was a change of pace before the night and the weekend was brought to a close by the soulful voice of Kyla Brox and her band.

A great weekend of music and a festival that is well worth checking out. A good excuse for a November trip to Tenby.

Look out for tickets for next years event https://www.tenbyblues.co.uk/

The Slocan Ramblers and Christopher Rees

A rainy November night in St Davids. We had the pleasure of listening to Christopher Rees, from down the road in the Rhondda Valleys and from further afield, The Slocan Ramblers from Newfoundland, Canada. Foot stomping Americana and Bluegrass from some masters of playing and songwriting.


Porthselau Beach

Porthselau beach is a small bay not far around the coast from the popular Whitesands Bay but being a little harder to access, it’s far less busy. On this particular day, I was alone on the beach as the beginnings of a big swell sent waves rushing into the bay and up the sand (chalk it up as another wet sock day). The following days, storm Callum arrived and caused a fair amount of flooding and damage.

The last of the days light managed to peep through gaps in the clouds to add a barely perceptible warmth to the rocks and add a bit of illumination to the green of the cliff face. Autumn was making it’s presence felt and giving a taste of the Winter to come as heavy clouds scudded across the sky and the wind had a bite we haven’t felt for a while.

Apparently, Porthselau has an interesting history. The beach is said to have a tunnel that connects to a nearby farmhouse and allowed smugglers to safely get illicit alcohol ashore. Also from this beach, whilst out walking one morning, a former high sheriff and magistrate named Thomas Williams spotted the ships that formed the French invasion of 1797. He was wary of the boats and through his telescope realised that upon the deck stood a crowd of troops and despite flying British colours, he didn’t fall for the trick and sent a messenger to St Davids to raise the alarm.

Live Music: Joey Landreth, John Blek, Nathan Bell and Rosey Cale

More visitors from over the water came to St Davids to play Boia Gigs events. Joey Landreth came over from Canada and a little closer, from Cork, Ireland, John Blek included St Davids in a mini tour of the UK. Another fantastic couple of evenings showcasing some brilliant songwriting and sublime playing. The pick of the tunes for me was this one from John Blek…

In October, Nathan Bell came from Tennessee to play us some captivating Americana folk songs coupled with evocative story telling. Drawing on the experiences of a life as a working man in the USA, Nathan intertwines his songs with reflections on life, love and modern America. Support came from the talented local singer songwriter, Rosey Cale showcasing her self penned works and exceptional voice.

Live in St Davids: Hillfolk Noir

The band describe themselves best:

"Fronted by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Travis Ward, Hillfolk Noir is a trio of neo-traditionalists playing traditional music on traditional instruments for non-traditional times. They call it Junkerdash, and it’s a sound brewed from folk, bluegrass, punk, string-band blues and other influences musical and otherwise."

All I would add is that they were proper bompin'.

Another great night courtesy of Steve at Boia Gigs.

Midnight in the Ogwen Valley

A look at the forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend suggested it would be a good time to head up North to Snowdonia so I did just that and the conditions didn't disappoint. Wall to wall sunshine and warmth by day giving way to clear moonless nights. Trying to combine hobbies doesn't always work out too well. I went walking and scrambling with friends during the day and in such circumstances I rarely get in the zone or position to take photos. I managed some phone snaps in the blazing sunshine but by the time the light began to turn golden, we'd headed down to get a well deserved ice cream and collect our medals. No complaints from me. But as I've discussed here before, going to take photos requires solitude which is usually for the best as it can be a maddening process getting a good shot; Many minutes pass by experimenting with different angles or walking back and forth and around and about trying to get a composition just right, often followed by curses before walking off then returning to the same spot because a more attractive cloud has drifted into the scene when my back was turned. It's not that enjoyable for someone who expects a walk in the style of a normal person especially as more often than not, the results don't please and never see the light of day. This is the only picture worth sharing here after a few days spent in Snowdonia.


At night I said my goodbyes and found my solitude in the Ogwen valley. Stood opposite the grand peak of Pen yr Ole Wen, waiting until nearly midnight before the last of the days light had faded away and let all those stars shine in the deep blue darkness. Adding to the magic of that night, as the last cars headed home down the valley, the aurora lent purple to the palette and a green smudge across the horizon above Bethesda and Bangor.

This shot is taken only a hundred metres or so away from where my last Snowdonia picture was taken in my post from 12th February. Promise next time I'll go somewhere else!

Live Music: Twin Bandit and Sky Barkers

On Thursday at The Meadow in St Davids, I went along to take some pictures of Twin Bandit (a folk duo/band from Vancouver, Canada) and local duo Sky Barkers playing some beautiful tunes. We don't often get live acts making the effort to journey all the way to play for us in Pembrokeshire so it's been lovely to have Boia Gigs attract some quality acts to St Davids.

Twin Bandit are on a European tour and had been in London the previous evening before flying to Amsterdam the following day; from Britain's largest city to it's smallest before hitting mainland Europe, we appreciated the effort! Be sure to check them out if they are in your neighbourhood.

The Meadow is also recommended as a great place to get fed and watered if you're in St Davids.

You have a talent for capturing expression and the feeling of that show. We are so grateful, it was a beautiful night and it’s such a joy to remember it by these pictures!
— Twin Bandit

Panning for gold

Soundtrack: Kurt Vile - Goldtone

Sometimes (often) I get a bit lost for inspiration; I stand in the kitchen and munch on cashews or glug a cup of tea mulling over where to go and no place appeals. I slowly get my stuff together and sit in the car growing frustrated at my indecision, feeling like I've exhausted all local options, feeling like I can't face the process of finding a spot and creating an image. The light will be bad, the wind will be too fierce, the tide will be wrong.

The light is threatening to disappear.

When the situation starts to become ridiculous I start the car and drive. Left or right is the first decision and the next junction comes before I've reached a conclusion. I start to get a little despairing and often it turns out to be the best recipe for a decent shot. A 'f*ck it' attitude is often useful creatively. Head to the coast, park the car, grab the camera, leave the tripod in the car, watch the sun go and the last light turn to a thin band on the horizon. Golden Hour turns to Blue Hour; waves race out of the gloom. Start shooting.

Panning the camera from one side to the other gives this effect. Waves, clouds and horizon are rendered in silken tones and a sense of the atmosphere of standing beside the water in the gathering gloom is conveyed. Don't you think?

I often listen to music to help find inspiration. The above tune seemed to go well. Thanks to Kurt Vile.

Following John Piper's lead in Snowdonia

I've spent a bit of time in the hills recently. A trip to Snowdonia a couple of weeks ago and the Western edge of the Brecon Beacons this weekend. Below is a shot from the Snowdonia trip, a view down the Ogwen Valley.

The artist John Piper painted many scenes in Snowdonia and I had in mind his paintings whilst wandering around up there as the palette at this time of year is typical of his work. He ended up spending time there after initially being sent on an uncompleted commission to draw the interior of Manod Mawr quarry where artworks from the National Gallery were stored during the Blitz. He fell in love with the area and rented a house in the Ogwen valley during the winter months.

More info on John Piper

The light was fairly flat for me this time but Piper understood the importance of immersing yourself in the landscape and here’s two fantastic quotes for anyone trying to understand how time to fully absorb the nature of a scene is essential to interpreting it...

Each rock laying in the grass had a positive personality: for the first time I saw bones and the structure and the lie of the mountains, living with them and climbing them as I was, lying on them in the sun and getting soaked with rain in their cloud cover and enclosed in their improbable, private rock-world in fog

The rocks can look grey in a leaden light, and then do not, commonly. Against mountain grass or scree, against peaty patches near tarns, on convex slopes, in dark cwms, the same kind of rock can look utterly different, and changes equally violently in colour according to the light and time of year. The rocks are often mirrors for the sky, sometimes antagonistic to the sky’s colour.”

I’ll be returning to spend more time in Snowdonia to follow Piper’s lead and hopefully get better light and more drama.

Blue Planet II

As I'm sure everyone knows; the BBC natural history programmes are very special pieces of television and Blue Planet consistently delivers incredible footage. Very often we are witness to animals and behaviours that are stranger than fiction and this series hasn't disappointed. Scenes like this one below are brilliant examples of how nature, given millions of years to evolve, can create such breathtakingly beautiful creatures with abilities and environmental adaptations that are truly fantastical. My only wish is that these scenes inspire and persuade those people with influence to do all that is possible to protect these ecosytems which have developed to be perhaps the most amazing examples of life in our or any other galaxy. To allow a species or ecosystem to become extinct is to turn the clock back to zero and squander many lifetimes of evolutionary development. The plants and creatures on this planet are truly it's most precious jewels and losing them is a colossal tragedy.