Miniature landscapes at the Pendon Museum

Last weekend, after I’d visited the World Pooh Sticks Championships, I went on to the Pendon Museum. Pendon is just five minutes drive from the Pooh Sticks site and houses three large miniature landscape scenes, a small shop, and a tea room.

The museum was founded in the 1950s by Roye England, and although I’m new to the world of modelling the thing that makes it stand out to me is the attention to detail in the models. I got chatting to some of the friendly volunteer staff who told me that alongside some of the commercially available models there’s a lot of custom built models. Not only do Pendon build their own models, they also run workshops on modelling techniques. One day an American clay sculptor visited and was so taken with the place that she hand made several of the figures exactly to the requirements of the Pendon scenes… you don’t get much more unique than that!

From a photography point of view there’s so much to shoot, and with the relaxed atmosphere, tea and coffee on tap, and protection from whatever the British weather is doing, I could easily spend an entire day here. Sometimes it’s hard to choose a maximum of ten photos from a collection to blog, and this is one of those occasions… even after a couple of rounds of culling I still had 33 photos to choose from, so I hope those I’ve settled on give a good feel of the Pendon Museum.

I’m a big fan of macro photography – taking photos of really small detailed things, generally insects, flowers, and the like. I’ve often seen people use these techniques with Lego mini figures to create fun photos and scenes – a friend of mine, Al Power, seems to have hundreds of the figures and often amazes me with some of his photos. Recently I spotted some photos from Matt Lincoln advertising a Jisc event, which were taken using a different type of mini figure (see examples here and here). It took me a while to realise that these were actually figures from the model railway world.

I browsed a few model shops and a whole new culture opened before my eyes. I expected model trains and railway-related figures, but there’s so much more variety available, even including some adult themes – something I wasn’t expecting to see! So I’ve bought a few figures and some time soon I’ll blog some photos with them.

To capture the photos below I went armed with my macro lens (Olympus 60mm), fisheye lens (Samyang 7.5mm), and walkabout zoom lens (Olympus14-42mm), and a Lens Skirt. The Lens Skirt is basically a flexible fabric pyramid with no bottom and a hole for the lens at the top, it allows me to cut out any reflections when I’m taking photographs through glass. I bought it for taking photos at aquariums and have also used it to take landscape shots from the top of tall buildings. It’s very simple and very effective.

Wakestock 2013

Sometimes my holidays in north Wales coincide with the Wakestock wakeboarding and music festival. Wakestock is not as mainstream as the big UK festivals, like Glastonbury, Tea in the Park, or Reading and Leeds, but I’m sure no other festival is set in such a lovely location with easy access to the beaches and the sea. The Wakestock festival site is between Abersoch (where I stay when I’m in the area) and Pwllheli, and has music stages, camping, food outlets, etc. and the wakeboarding competitions happen in Pwllheli harbour and Glasfryn Parc.

I’m not into water sports, but as the festival site is a short bus ride from where I stay it’s a good opportunity to see some live music. Especially as I can do it without the need to camp! 2013 was my second Wakestock adventure, and it’s sad to say that it seems to be suffering from the poor economic conditions in the UK as the site was about half the size it was when I went a few years ago. Still, that didn’t seem stop people having fun and the atmosphere there had a real buzz.

On the Sunday when I went the headline acts were Kids in Glass Houses, Zane Lowe and Example, both acts certainly drew in the crowds. I’ve seen Zane Lowe previously and knew that his set would be really high energy and a great performance. I’d not seen Example live before, so he was a bit more of an unknown.

I only took my small Samsung Galaxy camera as I didn’t want to carry around my big camera and lenses. So the pictures aren’t the best quality, given the low light conditions. But a friendly security guard did allow me onto the sound stage for a couple of minutes to get photos from above the crowds – it’s occasional luck like that which sometimes you need as a photographer to get photos a bit different from everyone else’s. Next time I go I’d be tempted to take the big camera to get some much higher quality photos. Wakestock has a safe feeling to it so I wouldn’t be too worried about the risk. Of course, if the Wakestock organisers read this and want to give me a press pass for next year’s Wakestock I’d definitely take the big camera!

Aberglaslyn Pass Walk

It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged some photos – I’ve been away on holiday in north Wales, and the next few blog entries will be about that trip.

North Wales is a beautiful part of the world, with a rugged mountainous terrain which drops to some stunning coastal shorelines; an ideal place for photography. I’ve been to north Wales many times and have experienced the rainy climate the mountains bring, but on this holiday I didn’t see rain once. I wanted to walk along the Aberglaslyn Pass whilst I was there and deliberately chose the coolest day of the week. Unfortunately the cloudy skies don’t make for a great backdrop in some of the photos.

My walk started at the National Trust car park at Nantmor (grid reference SH597462 – where you can park for free if you’re a member), taking me to Beddgelert and back. The majority of the walk is alongside the river Glaslyn, which gives great opportunities for some photos of the river and its surroundings. The river is home to some otters, but I didn’t spot any on this walk. Close by the river is the railway track of the Welsh Highland Railway, a heritage railway that runs between Caernarfon and Porthmadog. A few years ago I spent a weekend helping to lay track for this railway before it opened, and it’s great to see and hear the trains in action and smell the steam engines. The river path crosses the railway track and eventually reaches Beddgelert, a village with a lot of history.

As well as some shops and pubs, Beddgelert is home to the resting place of ‘Gelert’, the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great. The story, as written on the tombstone reads:

“In the 13th century Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, “The Faithful Hound”, who was unaccountably absent. On Llewelyn’s return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The Prince alarmed, hastened to find his son, and saw the infant’s cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood. The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound’s side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog’s dying yell was answered by a child’s cry. Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The Prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here.”

After stopping for some lunch at Beddgelert, walking up to the station for the Welsh Highland Railway and onto Gelert’s Grave, it was time to walk back along the river.

Lightscape Photography Exhibition

When I first got into ‘serious’ photography I bought a DSLR camera and did a couple of evening class courses run by Oxfordshire County Council Adult Learning. These taught me all the basics at a beginner and then intermediate level. I then signed up for a third course of ten lessons aimed at building a portfolio for an photography exhibition.

The exhibition, called Lightscape, ran over a weekend in June 2010 in Witney, Oxfordshire. My classmates and I did everything to set the event up – from hiring the room to laying on some refreshments. I even did a bit of promotion on the local BBC radio station, being interviewed by the lovely Louisa Hannan.

As part of this course we picked individual themes for our photographs.  My theme was ‘Extreme’s of Time’; all the photos I exhibited were take with either a very fast or very slow shutter speed to produce some interesting effects. My photos from the exhibition are below.

A Little Wedding

After weeks of playing with various blog settings, the 1st June 2013 seemed like as good a date as any to write my first blog post. And what better to subject for my first blog than the wedding of two of my friends, Andy and Ellie, or Mr and Mrs Little as they are now.

Andy and Ellie got married on 4th May (or ‘May the fourth’ as the Star Wars fans, like Andy, would say), at Caswell House in Oxfordshire. The weather had been mixed, but just in time for the ceremony the sun broke through and a rare outdoor wedding was possible.

There was an official photographer, but all guests were asked to take photos and share them on Facebook. I’m no wedding photographer, I’m not sure I’d want the pressure, but always enjoy the opportunity to photograph people in an environment where they’re willing to be snapped.

I took 115 photos on the day, and here’s just ten.