In April I went to Costa Rica for a holiday. Not being well equipped for serious wildlife photography my aim was to enjoy the trip and to get some shots where I could. Costa Rica is a country that makes it easy to get wildlife pictures even if you are under gunned as far as a long lens is concerned. With so many birds and animals around, you can find yourself in close proximity and therefore able to get good images. Costa Rica has made itself the number one destination for eco tourism and it really delivers with so many national parks and wildlife centred attractions. The country as a whole has a lot to teach us; with no army, high standards of education and healthcare and almost totally powered from renewable sources; it seems to be doing a lot of things right. The people also seem to be totally onboard with the way the country has embraced ecology based tourism as a major income stream. Everybody we met was very proud of the wildlife that we had come to see and were happy to share their knowledge by pointing out the things we could hear but not see, or that were hidden away in the dense cloud forests. All in all we were impressed and inspired by what we saw. A beautiful country, wonderful people and summed up by the phrase ‘Pura Vida’; a phrase the locals use as greeting and farewell or pure exclamation of joy. Meaning ‘Pure Life’, you really do get the feeling that life in Costa Rica really is how life should be; lived in harmony with the environment and recognising it’s value to the people and to the wider world. Since returning to Wales I still find myself missing seeing hummingbirds flitting around the bushes or large iguanas hanging around in the sun. Both sites that you soon get used to. Also, the country has great surf, volcanoes and amazing coffee!
Ben Ottewell from the band Gomez played the St Davids City Hall on Friday night. It was a special night for lots of people in the audience as Ben’s distinctive voice has been part of the soundtrack to life for a good few years. The album Bring It On wasn’t ever far from the CD player long after it came out in 1998 and the following year, Liquid Skin peaked at number 2 in the album charts and cemented their reputation.
At the Q awards John Lee Hooker held a stack of Gomez albums in his hand. The blues legend, who held the discs without being prompted, astonished the audience with his praise. 'I done listen to this record over and over and I can't find no defect,' Hooker said. 'The kids like it, and the older folks are gonna catch up real soon.' - Reported by The Morning Call
Along with some Gomez favourites, Ottewell plays his own songs at live shows including a few from his latest album; A Man Apart. The distinctive voice is still great and the songs, new and old, are timeless.
I did some studio work for Rosie Jacobs Designs recently. Rosie is a Pembrokeshire based designer producing handmade scarfs from selected tweeds. I own one of her pieces myself and they’re beautifully made, unique and super stylish. We had a great shoot with Lily, a Cardiff based model and Mat modelling the mens collection.
Working with Mother Goose Films, I spent a good deal of last Summer out and about shooting pictures along the length of the Wales Coast Path for their marketing resource. All the way from the Southern start on the Severn, along the Glamorgan coast, Gower and Pembrokeshire, through Ceredigion up to the Llyn Peninsula, Anglesea and the North Wales coast to the other end of the path near Chester. At 870 miles we didn’t quite cover every footstep but certainly shot some highlights. It was at times exhausting but always great fun and despite battling with poor conditions in some locations; waiting for the light to show the landscape at its best, we managed to get a collection of images and video from the length of the path that really shows off what a wonderful resource it is. As a long distance walking route or for a quick dog walk; it’s really very special to be able to walk every mile of the Wales coast.
If I travel to North Wales it is usually to head to the mountains and if I go East it’s usually for the draw of the city as we are somewhat spoiled by the wonderful coastline here in Pembrokeshire; but it was a revelation to get to spend time on lots of other parts of the Welsh coast and the path takes you through the lot. From industrial sites backing up onto the sea, to estuaries, towering cliffs, huge beaches and hidden bays, woodland, big city and tiny village, the path covers a lot of terrain. It was also a pleasure to meet up with so many lovely people along the way. Everyone had a story to tell about why they are drawn to the coast and what the path means to them as part of their daily lives or as a holiday destination.
The images are now available to use as part of a marketing toolkit for businesses or individuals requiring pictures from the coast path…
For access use the password: WCP2019!
Even on the most beautiful evenings, you can always find a beach to yourself in Wales… the downside is that with no one else around, sometimes I had to jump in front of the camera as it sat on the tripod and do a bit of modelling myself!
Almost the end of the Boia Gigs winter season, there’s been some fantastic shows to finish off the run. Joey Landreth returned along with support from The Accidentals who graduated from playing together in their high school orchestra in Michigan to touring internationally. They brought great energy and lovely strings and were a real joy. Last night, Lowri Evans and Lee Mason, from up the road here in Newport Pembrokeshire, reminded us of the quality of her distinctive voice and songwriting before William The Conqueror, a three piece from Cornwall, really rocked the place. Effortlessly driving solid grooves and great melodies through the venue; a thoroughly recommended live act.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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
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/
Sunset at Newgale on a beautiful Autumn evening. A little camera movement helps create texture and reminded me of Turner and his paintings… I can’t claim the same level of artistry; as my painter friend pointed out that she wished she could just jiggle a canvas to create a painting!
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.
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.
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.
We've been lucky with Spring this year. Pembrokeshire has been at its best with sunshine and warmth and times when the wind has dropped to nothing. Here's a shot from my local spot, a good place to sit and watch the day draw to an end.