Caer-r-r-dydd, Cymru! (Cardiff, Wales)

(English below)  Nid wyf wedi penderfynu ar hyn o bryd beth yw’r swydd hon mewn gwirionedd; ffotograffiaeth neu deithio … felly ychydig o’r ddau …

Nid wyf erioed wedi bod yng Nghaerdydd ac eto trwy gydol fy mywyd, mae’r Gymraeg a Chymru wedi bod yn rhan o lawer o atgofion. Fy brwsh cyntaf gyda’r Gymraeg oedd tra’n i’n gweithio fel darlithydd yn Saesneg mewn prifysgol yng Ngwlad Pwyl. Yng Ngwlad Pwyl?? Roedd gan yr Adran Ieithyddiaeth Saesneg Bennaeth a oedd yn “Celt-ophile” go iawn ac roedd yn ofynnol i fyfyrwyr gymryd tair blynedd o Gaeleg Cymraeg neu Iwerddon i gwblhau eu gradd. Roedd fy ngŵr, ar ôl gorffen gradd o’r fath, wedi cael gorchymyn eithaf cadarn o’r Gymraeg ac yn aml yn darllen straeon megis “Y Lindysyn Llwglyd Iawn” yn Gymraeg i’n bechgyn bach. Yn y dyddiau hynny, y ‘gair gyfrinachol rhyngom ni y gallem adael parti diflas neu sgwrs oedd “tatws” yn Gymraeg! Mae’n debyg bod fy nghyfenw yn enwog yn ogystal ag enw brodyr fy mam-gu (Gethin), felly mae’n debyg y bydd Caerdydd yn le lle’n hwyrach neu’n hwyrach, byddwn yn dod i ben … fe allwch weld ble mae hyn yn mynd….

A few weeks ago, my husband and I, plus in-laws, spent an incredibly beautiful two weeks in a Georgian village, called Freshford; in the middle of the Somerset countryside, just 15 minutes by train from Bath.

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I have never been to Cardiff and yet throughout my life, Welsh and Wales has been a part of many memories. My first brush with Weslsh was while working as a lecturer of English at a university in Poland. In Poland?? The Department of English Linguistics had a Head who was a real ‘Celt-ophile’ and students were required to take three years of Welsh or Irish Gaelic in order to complete their degree. My husband, having finished such degree at such university, had a pretty solid command of Welsh and often read stories such as “The Very Hungry Catepillar” in Welsh to our little boys. In those days, the ‘secret word” between us to leave a boring party or conversation was “potato” (“tatws”) in Welsh or the sayings of “dim problem” or “Rwy’n hoffi toffi coffi!”, which I still say now (to myself). Years previous to getting married,  I had been to a wedding in Brest, France, where everyone, including the children, were running around speaking Welsh, Cornish, Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic, Breton or any other variety of Celtic lingua-franca. My dorm room at the local school even included a full-sized harp in the corner! My surname is apparently Welsh as well as my grandmother’s maiden name (Gethin), so I guess Cardiff is a place where sooner or later, I would end up visiting…. you can see where this is going….

So, setting out for a day trip on my own on this Bank Holiday, while the rest of the crew were out cycling around Somerset, I only knew four things about where I was going:

-they speak Welsh

-it is on the water

-there is a castle

-and on a Bank Holiday Sunday, it is extremely unlikely to arrive at your destination and then depart from the same place using the same mode of transportation (the English seem to delight in shutting down major sections of track and road on the only days were families can have fun together).

I wasn’t diappointed – by any of the above…the train only went as far as Newport, next a coach to Cardiff, then arrival at a rather dismal train station with a rather dismal walk under a railway bridge, up a hill, across deserted streets and along to a pedestrian mall filled mostly by pubs, which were being cleaned up after a busy and messy Saturday night. Not the most encouraging of beginnings. Followed by the comment of the counter girl in the only open cafe (Starbuck’s) of “Have you been here before? I’m English, what do you think of Cardiff? Not so nice, is it?”, all was not looking too good…. well, not yet anyway.

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In the sunshine, and after a coffee, Cardiff  (Caerdydd) turned out to be a rather lovely place to be but you had to look for the gems hidden away around corners and through alleys. Hidden between the facades of old buildings are narrow entrances into magical Victorian laneways (arcades) topped with glass roofs and lined with plaster cornicing, tall, wooden-framed windows and pretty lanterns (also found a fantastic vegetarian cafe where you can sit “out” under the glass roof, surrounded by Welsh conversation: Crumbs Cafe, Morgan Arcade).

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And, yes there is a real castle in the middle of the city…

 

Beside the castle is a very pretty park where you can take a boat to the waterfront “Mermaid Quay” area on Cardiff Bay – the “locals” told me it was faster than taking the city bus to the waterfront.

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It was a real suprise to hear how many familes and children are now speaking Welsh as their first tongue in the park and how much “Welsh pride” is to be seen on the streets (and an idea just in case you don’t know how to dress your Welsh child for their first day of school…). I was having difficulty with the post-processing of the red hair of the little girl I saw walking down the street until I looked again at the original shot and realized that this was the actual colour of her hair! Beautiful red.

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Sailboats, the Norwegian Church (where Roald Dahl attended), music, singing, sunshine it was hard to start the journey back to Somerset… so “Yn agos at Loegr” (“time to go back to England”), for as a lovely English friend used to say with her crisp, perfect vowels, “its teatime“….

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**PS….why has this post wandered into the ‘travelogue’ genre and less about photography? Welll… I am still having a technical love-hate relationship with my new lens (actually more hate than love) as it is a manual focus, and the ol’ eyesight is fading with old-age, and I don’t like the results I have been getting, and, and, and….. I know it is a case of practice and more practice but for this trip, I relied on my iPhone with varying results (resolution ?? definitely for one)….I think I still need more practice…. Hwyl am nawr! (Bye for now…)

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Eccelston SQUARE

Yesterday was cold in London: frost on the top of cars and bright red mailboxes, commuters folded into their coats and thick scarves as they rushed to (delayed yet again) trains at Victoria Station. Only  a few streets away from all of this frenetic movement, there is a little oasis of calm and reflection locked away behind a metal gate in Eccelston Square– a natural escape for the few to enjoy in a busy city. Walking past the gate, I was drawn to the contrast of straight angles and curved lines, the juxtaposition of forged iron and the natural forms of trees and leaves.

This shot also led me to think about the effect picture format has on the way we view images. Playing with the focal point of pictures – where is the eye of the viewer drawn? – as well as symmetry and form; lines, grids, and texture, I have been thinking about how a square photo format can enhance symmetry and draw the eye to the centre of the image.

Here are two versions of the same photo – one traditionally rectangular, the other using a square format. Which version is more effective? Which one do you prefer?

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“In Flow” – thanks Otto!

I “borrowed” (stole?) today’s title from a photo blog that continues to have an important influence on me, and has raised some great questions and topics which have impacted the way I am learning to visually think about photography. The blog is called In Flow  by the talented Norwegian photographer Otto von Munchow. Highly reccommended for anyone involved in creative pursuits or who just wants to explore new ideas.

Flow…. in London, the flow and tides of the Thames defines the city; its post codes, neighbourhoods, history, even the way people pronounce and use words, are defined in part by the Thames and one’s location in relation to its flow. For an inland city, flowing water has a powerful hold on the city. There is a little square, across from Borough Market, between some office towers and within sight of Tower Bridge, which is cross-crossed by sunken troughs of flowing water. I took a shot there several years ago which I turned into a photo-etching, and now I have returned to take more photos with the hope of making prints from them sometime soon. Please let me know what you think and how to improve!

 

Did it!

Overcoming obstacles is difficult and takes courage, overcoming one’s own insecurities (yes, we all have them, those “Am I good/talented/creative enough?” moments in life), requires a deep breath and some reckless daring….so I dared. I entered a big competition for the first time; the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. Will I win? Probably not BUT this particular competition gives feedback on the photos submitted….good learning and practice for the next moment of bravery. If anything, be inspired and use this as the first step and the encouragement for getting your own creative endevours “out there” somehow; enter a competition, create a new photo or art blog, curate a small exhibition at home and invite friends. All good practice and good fun!

Please have a look and please share…. https://www.lensculture.com/magnum-photography-awards-2016/event-submission/203218?utm_campaign=62-submit&utm_content=submit&utm_medium=social&utm_source=fb-social

How I feel today…

Photography has a powerful influence in my life and thinking – it helps my confidence and self-esteem to grow, allows me to explore my thoughts and relationships to the places where I live and the people I know, and provokes me to challenge the conceptions and opinions I hold in new and bolder ways. My camera can be a mask, a magnifiying glass to society or a window on the the world.

Lately, with the sudden and unexpected loss of several very special people in my life, including my father, my camera has been a valuable tool for exploring my emotions and feelings in ways that words cannot. This capture happened quite by accident and I didn’t even notice it until I downloaded some old photos. It captures the way I am feeling lately. Each time I look at it, I can see myself as each of the ‘characters’; am I the one needing support and feeling alone or the one walking away, so lost in their own thoughts that they can’t notice someone else’s needs?

There is a lot of grainy ‘noise’ in this photo and I think that it is symbolic of the formless, grey ‘noise’ that can fill our thoughts and hearts in times of saddness and loss. It think I will keep it in this one.

….oh and by the way, it is a beautiful, sunny, warm day today – I think it is time to get out into the light now and find some happy things to capture this morning!

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Another Monochrome Madness 2:43 “Curves”

Time for the first Monochrome Madness  of 2016! As always, I love Leanne Cole’s initiative to inspire and develop photographic creativity (http://leannecolephotography.com). I highly recommend Leanne’s blog as it is treasure trove of her own photographs, introductions to other amazing photographers, photo tips, as well as links to other excellent photo blogs.

Here is my MM entry for February. I find that every time I choose and process a photo to send in, I learn an incredible amount about my own photographic style, what makes (or doesn’t make – and there are a lot of those!!) a good monochrome shot, and the powerful moody effects that black and white tones can elicit in our imaginations.

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MM2-34: Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness

I love Leanne‘s challenges and the positive and encouraging feedback which she ALWAYS gives! Her Monochrome Madness was the first public photographic forum that I had the courage to enter last year and now I am a huge fan! It is also great learning to see what other photographers are doing and how different people interpret express the same challenge in very different and creative ways.

It is really worthwhile to have a look. Why not? Give it a go and try one of your own photos!: http://leannecolephotography.com/2015/11/25/mm-2-34-monochrome-madness/

Here is the photo that I submitted – used on my post about Paris and very excited that it was included in this edition of Monochrome Madness.

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