Thursday, 26 November 2009

A Big Picture in Wales

At last we have been able to do our second field trip. The weather has been so bad in the last few weeks with torrential rain, floods and gale force winds that we had to postpone our scheduled day out. The trouble is that the schools need to know in advance to fit in their timetables. Anyway, this time it worked out pretty well. The visibility was very good and the clouds dramatic, giving the children plenty of opportunities to get good landscape pictures.

Cheryl and I arrived at the comprehensive at 9.15 – just in time to follow the two minibuses to Neyland, where we parked at Brunel Quay, not far from the statue to the great man (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, that is). The wind hit us straight away, not bothering to go round us! Excitement got the better of the bitter wind and the kids wasted no time at all making pictures of the sea, clouds, the monuments to the town’s great history and the quayside itself. Walking round looking at the new bridge, the beaches and the rails set into the tarmac, lots of very good photos were being taken. Almost the final thing arriving back to the buses was staring up at the bronze statue of Brunel with a ship in one hand, a train in the other and his trademark stovepipe hat firmly on his head. Grateful to be back in the warmth of the classroom for the last morning lesson, we took time to look through all the day’s photos.

Above: Mliford juniors enjoying taking pictures despite the cold at Neyland

This is one of the main advantages of digital photography – looking in the back of the camera at your work before it is downloaded and getting a real sense of how well the session has gone and how many are cracking images. This time the challenge has moved on. Today the children had to choose their first, second and third best pictures, show them to me and give reasons for their choices. I was very impressed by the quality of the work. There has been a general increase in ability to look through the camera and compose a picture, as well as the all-important measure of holding the camera steady to reduce blurring from shake. The single vital thing, though, is the joy and satisfaction they are all getting from picture taking.

Next week we’ll go to Pembroke Castle if it’s raining and Sandy Bay if fine. The new challenge will be to say something about the landscape and the things in it – for instance, why is the castle where it is, and what natural forces have helped shape the land forms – and at the same time take great pics.

Above: Milford Comp kids at Brunel Quay

Well, after a short lunch exploring the Mackerel Wharf, we met the juniors, who had walked down to meet us. Two new children have joined the group, making a full complement of fifteen. Both Katie and Ieuan are very keen. Braving the cutting wind, we walked around the wharf taking pictures of the sea and sun, the boats in the marina, reflections in the puddles and all sorts of other images that fired the kids’ imaginations. Like the comp, the juniors are getting a lot out of their picture taking and are producing some very good work. We were all ready to go back to the warmth of the school for the last part of the day. It was so cold! I’d forgotten how much colder you feel when wind chill is added – next week I’ll wear proper winter gear.

Looking through the day’s photos and appreciating the care they all have taken was a very nice experience. The challenge of choosing the three best (and why) was taken up with enthusiasm. Also, we started to take the pictures more carefully, trying to look at the whole picture as well as the main subject. Next time we’ll look at the things in the landscape and ask ourselves how they came about or why they are there.

Ken Day, photographer

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