Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Carmarthen schools enjoy their final field trips

Queen Elizabeth High go to the seaside

A fine morning greeted the students from QE High when we arrived at the beach in Ferryside. At the mouth of the Tywi River, we were opposite Llansteffan Castle, where two weeks before the children of Johnstown Junior School had visited. From this side of the estuary, the castle was very dramatic across the water and the village, church and big house made a number of nice scenes. The children were not slow in capturing these landscapes, together with many other possibilities in the shore itself with patterns and textures in the sand, flotsam and seaweed. The jetty and shoreside buildings provided other creative opportunities.

Above: Queen Eliizabeth High students and staff on Ferryside platform

One of Ferryside's significant features is, of course, the railway. The main line between Swansea and Carmarthen runs round the coast and up the Tywi estuary. The trains are quite frequent, though many do not stop here. Taking pictures of the trains, and the station from the footbridge and the platform gave our students some exciting shots. Before leaving, we all gathered on the platform in front of the signal box for the group picture. The exhibition is going to be wonderful, judging by the quality of the images we looked at back in school.

Johnstown Juniors in the formal garden of the Bishop's Palace

A short bus ride from Johnstown is the Bishop's Palace at Abergwili. Home now to the Carmarthen Museum, this fine building has beautiful grounds with mature trees, lawns and shrubberies. The first thing we did was to tour the gardens taking many photos of the magnificent trees in their late autumn finery and on the way making the most of details in the leaves, bark and fungi.

Above: Johnstown Juniors on the grand staircase at the Bishop's Palace Abergwili

Completing the circuit, we made the most of the curators' invitation and spent the rest of our time in the museum itself, enjoying the displays of the history and archaeology of our great county. There was much to see, ranging from mineral samples, through paintings to the great stone frieze depicting the death of General Picton at the Battle of Waterloo. We were allowed to take pictures inside, but not with the flash on our cameras, due to the bad effect that bright light can have on some of the exhibits. It was a real treat for the kids to get this opportunity and thanks are due to the staff at the Bishop' Palace for their hospitality.

Next year

This was the last field trip for the two Carmarthen schools in this part of the project. When we resume in January, we will undertake the three classroom sessions, learning about downloading images, making folders and choosing and naming pictures. This will start on the nineteenth of the month. Prior to that, on the tenth, we begin work in the last two schools in the project, Pantycelyn Comprehensive and Rhys Pritchard juniors, both in Llandovery.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A great day out for the Carmarthen schools

Queen Elizabeth High visit Gwili Railway

We had a lovely morning with the students visiting the Gwili railway at Bronwydd. The weather was fine and the light excellent for photography when we rolled up to be greeted by volunteers at the station yard. The yard was a good place to start and we took lots of pictures of the rolling stock before making our way to the signal box, where everybody except wheelchair users were able to climb the steps and see all the levers working and observe the work going on outside on the rails by the road crossing. Next, we crossed the line and went onto the station platform, which gave new perspectives and lots of photo opportunities for the kids. The enthusiasm for the assignment was a joy to see.

Above: QE High in front of Haulwen at Gwili Railway

Back over the line and to the engines themselves, we were give a guided tour and were able to get shots of both the machines and all the fascinating details of massive wheels, pistons, boilers being refurbished and lots of other railway items. Finally, we got to stand next to the lovely 'Haulwen' saddle tank engine, which was fired up especially for us. Here we were dwarfed by the machine for the group shot. There is no doubt that the students were inspired by the visit to take many excellent pictures, as was evident from the one-to-one sessions viewing the work back in school.

A huge thanks to the staff and volunteers at Gwili Railway!

Johnstown Juniors and Llansteffan Castle

What a castle! And so close to Johnstown. A short journey in the bus took us to the village centre, where we walked up the lanes to the castle, taking pictures of the church, Plas, trees and landscapes on our way. After the final climb, we entered via the gatehouse and spent nearly and hour exploring and photographing the towers, walls and views. The castle's situation on a promontory at the mouth of the Tywi provides magnificent scenes of Carmarthen Bay, the sands of the estuary and across to Ferryside. We could have spent more time there, but before leaving, the group picture taken in the middle part of the Keep, demonstrates the kids' happiness at taking part in the project.

Above: Johnstown kids and staff at Llansteffan Castle

After the walk back to the village and more picture-taking, we boarded the bus back to school. Viewing the afternoon's best three shots from each child, it's obvious that they all have taken on the project with great enthusiasm and have produced superb work.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Swansea schools' photos in the Grand Theatre

Wow! Penyrheol and Penybryn schools end of project exhibition was a fine thing to see. On two floors of Swansea's Grand Theatre, there were hundreds of photographs to admire. Each student had visited four locations, which landscapes ranged from seasides through rivers to city parks, taking and average of 100 pictures each time. Not only were their ten best shots displayed on their own boards, but there were nine shots of each of the eight beauty spots they had visited. It took quite a time to absorb the quantity. The quality, on the other hand was immediately obvious. With no exceptions, each student had produced stunning images, many of which would not look amiss in the pages of magazines. Many of the visitors left comments like, "lovely photographs", "very impressed" and "what a delightful exhibition". Parents, teachers and visitors alike were captivated by this show.

Above: Pen-y-Bryn with their goody bags - and the Lord Mayor

What was also obvious was the children's pride in their achievements. This was no more apparent than when the Lord Mayor of Swansea, Councillor Richard Lewis, presented every pupil with a gift bag to commemorate their participation in the project. In the bag was a certificate, a framed copy of one of their best images and various 'freebies'. Later, they will receive a dvd containing all the work they have done throughout the project, portraits, group shots at the locations and, perhaps best of all, a picture of them with the Lord Mayor. After the speeches, the presentations and the photo calls, there was another kind of opportunity – a lovely buffet, with sandwiches, pies, pizzas and many other delights. It was also a nice to chat with his worship and to observe the pleasure on the kids' faces at other people's acknowledgements of their achievements.

Above: Peyrheol students together with Swansea's Lord Mayor

All this happened on the first day. The next and last day of the exhibition, we had lots of visitors, including some of the students who weren't able to come on the first day. It was another excellent culmination of two schools' participation in this project, one in which we are proud to be involved.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wonderful light for the trips to Botanic Garden and Carmarthen

Queen Elizabeth High

What a wonderful day for photography! On our arrival at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne, the sun was shining with that distinctive late autumn light. 'Golden' is sometimes used to describe it and we certainly made the most of it in the beautiful surroundings of Wales' own botanic garden. The trees were at their colourful best and there were a surprising number of plants in bloom, making the overall effect extremely attractive. There were landscape views, including the meadows, mature native trees and the stunning Great Glasshouse seeming to rise from the ground itself.

Above: QE High students relax in the Olive Grove of the National Botanic Garden of Wales

On the way up the meandering walk, the feature waterfalls, flower beds and rock beds illustrating Wales' geological history all made for endless subjects for photography. The students were fired up with enthusiasm and took hundreds of photos, snapping away at everything that took their fancy. Arriving at the glasshouse, there were many more photo opportunities, both outside the building, with the dramatic landscapes, and inside, the huge range of world wide Mediterranean type plants. We made our way to the central area known as the Olive Grove and had a fun time having the group shots taken. Later, back in school, there were many stunning shots to view when the children showed me their best three of the day.

Johnstown Juniors

It may not have been the exotic surroundings of the Botanic Garden, but the afternoon we had together taking photos of Carmarthen was a great experience for Johnstown Juniors. The weather was fine and clear as we arrived at the car park in front of the train station and our planned walk first took us to the platform where a train was waiting. Next, we walked to the old road bridge, stopping to photograph County Hall and the Towy Works building across the river. On the bridge itself, we were able to look downstream to the new foot bridge. The clouds were quite dramatic at this point, adding to the creative possibilities.

Above: Johnstown Juniors on Carmarthen's newest bridge

Crossing the road, we made for the vantage point that is the old castle. Not much remains of this medieval structure, but the Round Tower, the Square Tower, together with views of the Old Police Station and Gatehouse presented many captivating views. Looking back, were able to take in a large section of the valley. Completing the circuit, we walked to the new bridge, taking plenty of time to take pictures of the views of the town and the river in both directions. Here, we stopped and took the group shot. Looking at the work in the classroom, it's obvious we lots of talented photographers in the project.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Ysgol Penyrheol

It has been a very successful project with Penyrheol. In fact the students had got on so well with the final tasks that we were able to take time and have fun taking the last of the portraits and the group shots.

Above: Penyrheol pupils and staff having fun

We started a bit formally with everybody lined up a little tensely, but then as we relaxed more, the group interacted in amusing ways and we got some fine pictures. A sense of camaraderie has been a characteristic of this group from the beginning and the photos taken of them in this session reflect that.

Ysgol Penybryn

The students at Penybryn have done wonderfully well. All the classroom tasks have been completed and, apart from some detail work, what had to be done was to take everybody's portraits and to do the group shots. Very much like Penyrheol, the students here are very supportive of each other.

Above: Penybryn students and staff in relaxed mood at the end of the project

This quality was very helpful during the portrait taking, with several of the young people acting as facilitators, gathering in the others and helping with the names. Later, after we'd got the mug shots, there was more fun as they enjoyed the process of lining up, learning to relax in front of the camera and interacting in a natural way. The results were very good indeed.

Everybody is now looking forward to seeing their work at the exhibition in the plush surroundings of the Grand Theatre.

The Big Exhibition of both Swansea schools' work

Please note the following dates and place:

2nd of November, 12.30pm - Grand Theatre, Swansea: Presentation of gifts to all students by the Mayor of Swansea

3rd November, 9.00am to 5.00pm - Grand Theatre, Swansea: Exhibition open

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Carmarthen schools have a great time on their first field trips

Queen Elizabeth High

The sun shone on our field trips today, and although there were a lot of logistical matters to sort before we could leave the school in two buses, it stayed fine all the time we were out. It was a relatively short trip to Carmarthen Park, but there was a lot there to photograph, including the Gorsedd Stones, the ornate Victorian bandstand, many trees and the unique cycling track. So we made the most of this opportunity, taking hundreds of pictures. It's fair to say that all the students enjoyed the experience and they took some terrific photos. Back in school, we got into the practice of looking through the day's work and choosing the best three, then showing them to me one at a time.

Above: QE High students and staff enjoying the sun at the Carmarthen bandstand

The habit of looking at all the session's images helps the budding photographers' confidence and, hopefully, the comments guide their future work. Judging by this day's collection, it's going to be a great exhibition.

Johnstown Juniors

What an enthusiastic group! It was difficult holding them back on this, our first field trip. On the way to Johnstown Park, we stopped off at the school's own garden and found some lovely subjects to photograph, including stunning close up shots of many kinds of foliage and even a large plastic frog. A short walk away is the park and playground with the small river running through it.

Above: Johnstown Juniors in the school garden

It is very interesting that in such a small area there can be so many photo opportunities. Two stones bridges, lots of river textures, several different trees and plants on the ground provided ample subjects for the children. We spent an enjoyable hour there. Back in school, it was a real treat to view the kids' best shots – so much creativity unleashed is such a short period. There's no doubt that this project has a beneficial effect on these children.

The Big Exhibition of both Swansea schools' work

Please note the following dates and place:

2nd of November, 12.30pm - Grand Theatre, Swansea: Presentation of gifts to all students by the Mayor of Swansea

3rd November, 9.00am to 5.00pm - Grand Theatre, Swansea: Exhibition open

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Heads down to get the IT work done at Swansea

Ysgol Penyrheol

We had another successful day at Penyrheol for the hard working kids. Building on last session's good work, the students completed the tough job of finalising their choices down to the best ten images. Once they'd done that, everybody opened a Word document and typed in the number of each picture followed by a title for it. This is a more difficult task than it might sound. In a very few words, the title has to describe the substance of the photograph, whether it's a simple place name, or perhaps it is more poetic and describes the photographer's response to the scene and its contents. Sometimes, the first thing that comes into your head is the best – however silly it might at first seem. Once that part was done, a separate piece of typing has to answer the question, "Why do you like the picture?” Again, this can be as simple as a few words, or as complicated as you like. What's important, though, is to put it in your own words – and it doesn't matter about the spelling at all.

Above: Penyrheol class sorting through the hundreds of photos

Normally, the kids' portraits are taken in the last lesson (this one being the second to last), but we got on so well that I was able to take them in the last period. Using my brand new camera, the portraits came out really well. Next session we will finish any bits left over and take the group shots, hopefully with all the staff who accompanied us on the field trips.

Ysgol Penybryn

What a good afternoon we had! Nearly all the students had gone through their complete set of work and had made the all important choices. This made the task so much easier and by the end of the session we had even made most of the descriptive documents. Next time we'll have to make sure everything is finished and also do the individual portraits and group shots.

Above: Penybryn students hard at work on their choices

The Big Exhibition of both Swansea schools' work

Please note the following dates and place:

2nd of November, 12.30pm - Grand Theatre, Swansea: Presentation of gifts to all students by the Mayor of Swansea

3rd November, 9.00am to 5.00pm - Grand Theatre, Swansea: Exhibition open

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Back to work for the Swansea Schools

Ysgol Penyrheol

After the long summer break, it was great to get back to work on the project and to be welcomed warmly by the kids at Ysgol Penyrheol. In their new IT suite, we had plenty of room to move and lots of lovely computers that worked perfectly. Apart from having to transfer the students' photos to their workstations, there were no hitches and everybody was able to learn the processes of downloading images from the camera and making folders in which to place them. In fact we got on better than is usual at this point in the schedule.

Above: Penyrheol students concentrate on making difficult choices

By the end of the session, we had finished the main jobs for the day and had begun the task of making the tricky choices of which of the hundreds of photos
taken during the five field trips should be put in the folder marked '20 best'. It's always such an important part of the project and one that needs care. What's important is to choose ones that each photographer really likes, whilst making sure the quality is good – sharp, level, well exposed – and there is a range of different subjects. So, there are lots of different things to bear in mind.

Ysgol Penybryn

There was also a warm welcome for us at Penybryn School. It was a pleasure to meet everybody again after the holiday.

Above: Penybryn practice on the computers

Our task was similar to Penyrheol's and all the students were ready to go. However, there was a problem with the IT equipment, which slowed everything down. Some of students managed to see their pictures and others were able to observe, but, in the end we had to make different arrangements. A member of staff, using the new CHRT provided computer, will go through each student's pictures with them, choosing their best 20 and putting them into a special folder. So, by our next session, we should be ready to take on the next stage of dividing those pictures in two for the final selection. Dealing with the class in two halves will also help with the workload, whilst utilising the fastest of the computers.

The Big Exhibition of both Swansea schools

Please note the following date and place

2nd and 3rd of November, Grand Theatre, Swansea 12.30 pm

Carmarthen schools new budding photographers

Queen Elizabeth High

Wow! What a wonderful new school. The combined comprehensive that is QE High is a school fit for a new century and Cheryl and I are delighted to start a new project here. The special unit is full of smiley people and we were made to feel very welcome. Due to an administrative error, we started a bit late, but that didn't spoil the pupils' joy at receiving brand new high spec cameras to use for the project. As usual, there was no delay in their finding out how to operate these amazing pieces of equipment and everybody was soon taking practice pictures of each other.

Above: Queen Elizabeth High pupils and staff in the grounds of the school

A little later we made our way to the school grounds where there was a good range of subjects to photograph from playground structures to semi wilderness. After taking a few fun pics of the group, we went back to the classroom and the students showed me their best shot of the day. I already can see that we have lots of budding photographers!

Johnstown Juniors

What a lively lot the kids of Johnstown Juniors are. The newest group on the project are enthusiastic as can be and paid attention while we went through the boring bits of talking about the work they'd be doing. As soon as the cameras were distributed, they were away taking pictures of each other in the classroom as if they had been doing it for ages, hardly needing any instruction. At first, we took pictures of the landscape through the windows, but quickly the rain eased a little, so we went out to the shelter of the bike shed.

Above: Johnstown Juniors shelter from the rain while taking their first pictures

Here there is a surprisingly good view north to Carmarthen town. We could see the Picton monument, the tower of Christchurch and further on an interesting hilly horizon, as well as groups of buildings. Back in class and looking at their best shot of the day, it's clear that we will be seeing some really good picture taking here.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Llanelli Schools’ Triumphant Exhibition

Ysgol Coedcae and Ysgol Maes y Morfa

It was a triumphant exhibition for the two Llanelli schools. Stradey Park Hotel was the venue and its luxurious surroundings were an apt situation for an event that was attended by so many wearers of 'bling'. By that I mean all the mayors, mayoresses and chairmen of community councils and county council who wore their dazzling gold chains of office. It was very pleasing to see the Mayor of Llanelli, the Chair of the Llanelli Rural Council and the Chair of the County Council there to make a fuss of the kids and to compliment the children's work. Quite rightly, their worships all were extremely impressed by the quality of the images in the show and they all stayed behind after the speeches to add their positive comments. With so much good work on show, it took everybody a long time to get a real sense of what was in the exhibition.

Twenty nine pupils, each with their ten favourites, plus nine extra shots from each of the locations, plus over six hundred smaller pics in the collages adds up to more than one thousand photographs on show. Together, the two schools had taken nearly eleven thousand pictures on eight field trips, plus the initial forays in their school grounds.

Above: Two of the Maes y Morfa kids with the dignatories

Tuesday at the launch and there must have been at least eighty people admiring the photos. Without doubt, every one of the visitors was highly impressed – not just by the beautiful images, but also by the joy on every child's face. The sense of pride in their achievement was palpable. They had endured horrendous weather for most of the field trips to come back with pictures that anyone could be pleased with. The Mayor of Llanelli, Councillor Dyfrig Thomas presented each pupil with a goody bag with a framed print of one of their favourite pictures and various other gifts. Later, they will receive DVDs on which will be all their photographs. The prints at the exhibition will go on show at the schools and the cameras and computer equipment will stay with the schools for continuing projects.

The Chairman of the County Council, Mrs Tegwen Devichand had great praise for both the children's excellent photography and the project itself, which she thought was doing unique work in raising the pupils' pride and self esteem.

On Wednesday, we had a visit from Assembly Member Helen-Mary Jones, who was very complimentary and stayed for over an hour taking in the show and talking to the family members who had come to view their children's work. She said she realised that the project, which involves ten schools from around the region and one hundred and fifty pupils visiting forty locations, has a national significance. Bearing that in mind, she suggested that a final exhibition in 2011 could be at the Senedd in Cardiff. It's a very exciting idea and we hope it can be arranged.

Above: Cheryl Kit with Helen-Mary Jones, AM

Later that day, pupils from Penybryn School in Swansea came to visit the exhibition. It was a good opportunity for them to get a real sense of what they were working towards. Also, we had a visit from one of the teachers at the Rhys Pritchard School in Llandovery, which is one of the two from that town we will be working with next year. This time in 2011 we will be having their exhibition. In September, we work with the Swansea schools to teach the principles of computer work with images and we begin with two new schools in Carmarthen. The dates for the Swansea exhibition are 2nd and 3rd November, which will be held in the lovely surroundings of the Grand Theatre.

Above: What a wonderful exhibition!

This is the end of the school year for the project and it has been a brilliant first half. All the objectives have been met and all the outcomes achieved. The hard work (and endurance of very bad weather – not to mention the loss of a favourite hat!) has, most importantly, brought a grin to lots of kids from six schools in west Wales.

Have a great summer.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Final field trips in Swansea

Ysgol Penyrheol – Caswell Bay

This, our last field trip took us the furthest away from the school to Caswell Bay on the south Gower coast. The weather was a little disappointing at first, with low cloud and a cool breeze from the sea. Being near midsummer, though, the light level itself was good, with even illumination. This meant that shadows were not an important feature of picture taking.

Above: Penryheol staff and kids air surfing on the beach at Caswell Bay

The children were happy to be there and keen to go off and take photos of the coast line, the sand, the rock formations and rock pools. We were lucky that the tide was nearly out, revealing the rocks and caves on both side of the bay. Back in school and looking at their best three shots, the entire class had done excellent work. The exhibition next autumn will be good to see.

Ysgol Pen y Bryn – Singleton Park

What a treat! Our trip to Singleton was very enjoyable and by the time we arrived, the clouds had parted and the light substantially improved. The upper part of the park was a revelation. The first things we saw were the beautifully situated Gorsedd Stones, which provided lots of potential for interesting photos, both as individual stones and as the whole arrangement. It was also a very good spot to take the group photo shot. Moving on, we went through a gate in the high stone wall into the Botanical Garden to see a feast of colour.

Above: Penybryn class on the Gorsedd Stones in Singleton Park

Magnificent describes the floral displays only adequately – there were wonderful flowers in profusion and the kids took lots of photos. Actually, there were many other possible pics here: stately trees, squirrels, a pond, birds and (more fun here) water sprays. There were more photos taken in the Botanical Garden than anywhere else on our previous field trips. It is gratifying to see the pleasure these young people are getting from the project, not mention the satisfaction from making genuine pieces of art.

This was our last session before the end of term and the last of the field trips for the Swansea schools. When we resume in September, we will be doing the three sessions in front of the computers, downloading from the cameras, creating folders and choosing the best pictures for the exhibition. Enjoy the summer!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Landscapes Everywhere!

Ysgol Penyrheol

To the sea at the Discovery Centre

It was just the weather for a jaunt to the seaside with our cameras. The sun was out, it was warm, the skylarks were up and singing and the sea was there in front of us with Gower not far away across the estuary. It was a photographer's paradise. There were landscapes everywhere! Not only were there seascapes, with sand, waves and distant views, but there also were masses of possibilities in the foreshore, the buildings and the other architectural patterns and textures. The Millennium Coast Park is somewhere we came with another school in the depth of that long cold lonely winter.

Above: Ysgol Penyrheol - Gower's thataway!

That time, we had very little time to take our pictures because of the deep freeze; this time, though, it was balmy weather all the way. It didn't take long for the class to realise that the creative possibilities were virtually endless, and they went off to exercise their shutter fingers in every direction. It is fair to say that everybody took some excellent shots here and that the exhibition will be all the better for them.

Ysgol Pen y Bryn

The lake and crowds of wild geese

For those people, like me, who go to Llansamlet just for the shopping and the industrial units, the lake there is unknown; but just off the main road opposite the car main dealers and the repair shops is this haven for wild birds, fish and humans. It's also a place that's ideal for taking photos. What with the views across the water, with its reflections from the sun, its crowds of wild geese, ducks and swans, and trees, bees and wild flowers, it was just right for budding photographers to take loads of pictures. Take pictures they did, enjoying their time immensely. Back in class and looking at everyone's best three shots, it was evident from the quality of the work that the project is succeeding in providing a unique opportunity for these young people's creativity to blossom.

Above: The Ysgol Penybryn class enjoying the lake at Llansamlet

Next session will be our last before the summer holiday and also the last of the field trips. When we get back together in September, we will have three sessions at the computer face learning about the other part of digital photography and getting down to sorting the pictures for the exhibition.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Final sessions in Llanelli

Ysgol Coedcae

It seems a long time ago that we started the project here in Llanelli, but looking back over the blogs, I see that it was on the 9th of February – so only four months. A lot of good work has been done by everyone since then and today we saw the last session at Coedcae, where the class finalised their choices for the exhibition and wrote the titles for the images and what was special about each one. Using those brilliant new laptop computers, the kids made short work of these final tasks. Meanwhile, in the next classroom, I took a portrait photo of each pupil, a print of which will be centrally placed on their individual exhibition board. With a few minutes to spare, we took some group shots, including some funny ones of the staff.

Above: Ysgol Coedcae class and staff at the last session

Ysgol Maes y Morfa

The class at Maes y Morfa also finished their work today, heroically working hard to complete the final tasks in front of the computers. At the same time, as we were racing the clock to help them, I set up the camera for the portraits, taking the kids' pictures between the computer sessions – and between the two end computers! Anyway, we made it, apart from a couple of absentees, whose work will be completed in normal class time. Mr. Crawford, their class teacher kindly volunteered to take the group shot, too, because we ran out of time to do that item. However, the pupils have all taken some brilliant pictures and we're all very excited to be seeing them at the beginning of July up on the exhibition boards.

Above: Maes y Morfa kids doing a great job at the computers

The Exhibition

So, the big next big thing will be the exhibition, where all the kids best photos from both schools will be printed and mounted on special boards. This is where the mayor and lots of other important people will come to admire their work. It will be on for two days in the Stradey Park Hotel on the 6th and 7th of July. On Tuesday the 6th at 12.30 the Mayor of Llanelli will officially open the exhibition and all the pupils will receive a prize from him.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

More sun in Swansea

Ysgol Penyrheol

We're really getting going now. Everybody in the class has got the big idea and is having fun creating pictures of the landscape. A short trip in the minibus took us to Loughor, where we parked near the boat club overlooking the estuary and the road bridge. The sky was dramatic, with big clouds, mostly white, but a couple were more threateningly dark. Set against the metallic seeming water with a few boats on the foreshore, it was a photographer's dream and the kids took some brilliant images here. Close to the main road bridge the severity of its lines made some for some striking pictures, especially contrasting it with the sand, mud and water.

Above: Class of Penyrheol at Loughor Castle

Close by in Loughor is its little known castle. On the top of a big mound are the remains of a building that had a strategic importance to the Romans, as well as being a much contested site during the medieval period. For us, though, as photographers, it provided opportunities for interesting compositions. Standing against the sky, but with houses close by, the remaining masonry has lots of creative possibilities. A large chunk of stonework has fallen, making intriguing shapes and we had an interesting time interpreting the stones stairs, windows and walls lying on the ground. Judging by the images they showed me when we got back to the class room, I have no doubt that all these kids have talent.

Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn

If anything, the light had improved from the morning, so that when we arrived at the Swansea Marina, it was ideal for photography. Even the wind had warmed quite a bit, making the afternoon very pleasant indeed. Reflections in the water, large numbers boats anchored in the former docks, buildings all around, some new, some from our industrial heritage: all were chances to get our photographic juices going. Then there was the Dylan Thomas Centre and his bronze sculpture, around which we clustered for the group photo. One of the visual themes for this field trip turned out to be bridges. There was the iron structure of the former swing bridge, foot bridges connecting parts of the marina and, lastly, the magnificent Sail Bridge, which is a beautiful piece of contemporary engineering.

Above: Penybryn class and Dylan Thomas at Swansea Marina

It was a memorable field trip, one that the class enjoyed and inspired them to produce excellent work. So, congratulations to everybody!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Hard Choices

Ysgol Coedcae

It's great to have new equipment. Today's session with Coedcae was made so much more successful by having the new laptops, which we used for the first time in our last lesson. Now the class can do the work of making the hard choices with ease, knowing we are unlikely to encounter technical problems. Willing year ten students joined in to 'buddy' each of our young people. This made progress very good indeed.

Starting with the twenty favourites, we carefully chose pictures from our four field trips and the first session, where we took the brand new cameras out into the school grounds for a practice. As a guide, four or five from each of the field trips and four from the school session were chosen. It didn't really matter if there were a few more pics in this first folder, because in the next phase, we refined the images down to the final ten. These will be the shots that are printed for the exhibition. Hard choices indeed!

Above: Coedcae kids with buddies tackle tricky choices

Everybody succeeded in compiling their ten best and by the end of the morning's classes, they also had made a list of the pictures in a text document and most had at least started writing their comments about each photo. It was a very pleasing morning.

Ysgol Maes y Morfa

Last time we met, there were problems with the computer system and class size, making it difficult to complete our tasks. Today, it was altogether a different story. The group was split into two, giving us more time with each student, despite having only a bit under an hour with each set. I think the kids also realised how important the afternoon's work was going to be and made a big effort to succeed.

Above: Maes y Morfa kids making choices about their best shots

And succeed they did. There were a few technical problems, but nothing that we couldn't solve and at the end of the afternoon, everyone had gone through the two processes of choice making, and many had started the list making. This will make our last session in front of the monitors so much easier. Of course, we also need to take all the portraits; this will take a good while.

What's very clear to me is that the exhibition is going to be full of excellent work from both schools and I look forward to it immensely.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Out in the sun in Swansea

Ysgol Penyrheol

It's always a pleasure going out on field trips, but especially nice when the sun shines. Today, the minibus was not available, so we took a walk instead. The car said it was 9.5 degrees, but when we got going, I was too warm with my big coat on. We must have walked for about 15 minutes from the school and it really was a mystery tour – everybody seemed to know where we were going and what we would see, but not what the area was called. So after a while walking through suburban streets we came to a place where there were lots of fairground rides being painted and showmen's caravans parked. Right next to it was a semi-wild piece of ground with a bridge over a small river. We had arrived. It turned out to be ideal for taking pictures of plants and trees and moving water and even a horse in a field. We didn't know its name, but this place was a perfect example of ‘waste ground'.

Above: Penyrheol class happy in the sun with their cameras

Back in class, the children had taken lots of interesting pictures. Most had picked up on the idea and gone off to use their own imagination. It hadn't taken much instruction or guidance from us adults for them to come up with some great work.

Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn

Everybody was ready to go. The minibuses were outside with their drivers waiting, the class excited. However, we had to delay a little while six new students joined the group – they had to be presented with their cameras and basic instructions given. That didn't take long and we were soon off, driving north over the motorway and along small country roads to Felindre Reservoir. The weather was still and bright, the trees just coming into leaf and the water rippled, reflecting the sun. Wow!

Above: Penybryn kids at Felindre Reservoir

What pictures we took! We walked along the dam, with the water to our right and fields, trees and farms downstream to our left. There was even a man fishing. So, there were lots of opportunities, and the young people all made the most of them, snapping away at everything in this lovely landscape. This is the lower of two reservoirs on the Lliw river and it supplies drinking water to much of south Wales, including Cardiff. It could be said that, in this case, the actions of man on the landscape have had a beneficial effect, creating a wider variety of habitats than were here before the dam was built. However, it probably didn't seem like an advantage to the farmers who lost their fields in the 1920s.

Let's hope for more weather like this for our other field trips.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

New enthusiasm in Swansea

Today, Cheryl and I have been to two schools in Swansea to start new projects and were met with great enthusiasm from everybody at both.


This morning we were at Ysgol Penyrheol, where children from year nine were eagerly waiting for us. As has become normal for us starting a new project, there was lots of excitement being held back while we introduced the ideas behind what the kids will be doing and experiencing. Once we had done the 'chat' and the primary assessment forms had been completed by the class (this helps us to get some sense of how much skill and experience with digital photography the children have at the beginning), the cameras were distributed. This is the time everyone feels like it's Christmas again!

Above: Penyrheol class and staff in the school grounds

The part where the kids began using the new cameras by taking pictures of each other was fun for them. Soon we went outside to the school grounds, where the basic principle of holding the camera steady in two hands was practiced and the self discipline of looking at the landscape through it explained. Also as usual, we took group shots to commemorate the beginning of the project. Looking at the best three photos from each kid was very encouraging. It was clear that they all had grasped the big idea and also had done some very promising work. I look forward to the next session when we have our first field trip.


After lunch we set off to our other school in Swansea. At Pen-y-Bryn special school Cheryl and I were made to feel very welcome by pupils and staff alike. Everybody was waiting patiently for us and we were only too delighted to get started with the programme. Just as in Penyrheol, the kids at Pen-y-Bryn were very keen on the idea of getting a camera and going out in the landscape with it. They were lightning quick at learning how to use the cameras and the whole school was soon fair game for these budding photographers. Everybody joined in the fun.

Above: Pen-y-Bryn students with new cameras

It was raining, but that didn't put these young people off. Out we went, snapping away at the trees, play ground, surrounding houses, everything in the landscape close to the school. Back in class, I looked at their best three shots and was very pleased with the results of the first session. Next time, we need some good weather for our first field trip.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Really BIG Picture Show

At last the day dawned. The children of the two Milford Haven schools have been through a great deal to get to the culmination of the project, the big exhibition. I hadn't been involved with the printing of the hundreds of photos, so arriving at Cedar Court on Wednesday I was shocked at how huge (and magnificent!) the show actually was. I shouldn't have been surprised. Thinking about the number of students involved – fifteen from each school – and the fact that each was having ten of their best shots on two display boards, plus boards full of their other pictures of the places we had been, it wasn't really that surprising. That makes a big roomful of stands with photos on them. It's just as well then, that the Milford Haven Port Authority kindly let us use suit 4A for the exhibition – so a very big thank you to them.

Above: Everybody who was at the exhibition seemed to enjoy it

Anyway, as soon as I arrived I took off my jacket got stuck into helping with the last minute details. Cheryl (helped by her husband Frank) had been working all hours to put the show together, bringing it all from Carmarthenshire, erecting the stands and arranging the pictures in the proper order. Needless to say, it was all ready for the first guests as they arrived. There were lots of important people there including the head teacher of the comprehensive, MP Stephen Crabb, CEO of Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust, Robert Parker, reporters from Radio Pembrokeshire and the Western Telegraph, as well as representatives from organisations that are generously supporting the project, including South Hook Terminal and Countryside Council for Wales. Like many people, the Director of South Hook was caught up in the flight delays caused by the volcanic dust in the atmosphere. The Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr. and Mrs Tony Eden, kindly attended and the Mayor presented each of the children with one of their best pictures in a frame and a DVD of all their work on the project. When you add all the students, their teachers and those parents who could make it, it was a pretty big crowd for the official opening.

Above: Lucy Swanell of CCW, Robert Parker and Cheryl Kitt at the exhibition

After the speeches and the scrimmage for food, Cheryl and I were able to get a sense of what people thought of the exhibition itself, the work by the kids and the project as a whole. The overwhelming response from people there both on the first day and on Thursday was of awe and surprise. The quality of the pictures was what most people commented upon. Some said they thought there was work in the show that could be in magazines or as prints in frames. Others remarked that it goes to show you what kids can do when they are given the opportunity. There was so much to see that quite a number of people stayed on to go round a few more times to ensure they missed nothing. The project's sponsors were very pleased with the exhibition and the way it indicated the quality of the delivery of the programme.

Above: The Mayor commends the children's work

As for myself, I was very moved by the work and by the children's responses to the great achievements they have made; also by their pleasure at seeing pictures they had taken under very difficult circumstances being praised so highly by teachers, parents and VIPs alike. I can only hope that the people who attended the exhibition were as inspired by the pictures as I was inspired working with the young people who created them.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Last Field Trips

Coedcae Comprehensive

Just when we thought the weather was getting better! Today was a return to the biting winds and driving rain. Never mind that, though; the class enjoyed their last field trip, going all the way to Pembrey airport, where, with the kind co-operation of owner Capt. Winston Thomas, we sheltered inside the cafe and took pictures through the windows of the landscape, control tower and vehicles moving around outside. There was quite a number of flying related art works, certificates and objects on the walls that we also photographed. After a while what were told it would be ok to jump in the minibus and drive over to where the fire truck was now parked, which was close to two parked light aircraft. As I said in our briefing before leaving the classroom, this landscape is almost perfectly flat, as is needed for an airport, and the wind has nothing to break its power.

Above: Coedcae class endure driving sleet to take pics at Pembrey airport

Despite the sleet hitting us horizontally, we got some good shots of the runway, fire truck and aircraft before retreating to the bus asap! Feeling we had exhausted the creative possibilities, we made our way towards the school. We decided to have a look at a somewhat different kind of landscape, breaking the journey at the sports ground at Pwll. Here the ground is flattened, too, but for an entirely different purpose. This meant we were taking photos that illustrate its features, including the octagonal pavilion, field and posts. The other thing about this particular landscape is its exposure to the wind from the sea. The far edge of the playing field has a row of small trees that are bent away from the prevailing winds.

Maes y Morfa Juniors

Brave we are! North Dock today was a place best avoided, due to the harsh weather. However, brave it we did. Sheltering for a short while inside the Discovery Centre, we took plenty of shots from the balcony, until the cold forced us back in. Outside again we took pictures of the amazing building from a number of windswept angles before setting off in the teeth of that gale towards the sculpture of the phoenix.

Above: Maes y Morfa class & Mr Crawford shelter for a moment in the doorway of the Discovery Centre

Symbolising the new Llanelli rising from the ashes of its former industrial self, the bird stands proud on its pillar, raising its wings into the wind. The kids photographed it from all angles before retreating back along the esplanade to the bus. Tough though it was, taking landscape photos in those circumstances, a lot was achieved today. Checking everybody's best three pics back in school, I was pleased and little surprised at the quality of today's work.

Next Time

Having done one practice session in the school grounds and four field trips, we have completed the first part of the project. Next time we meet, it will be in front of computers. The first task will be to learn how to create and name a number of folders, into which will be placed photos from the five sessions. Two further folders will be made for ‘Best 20' and ‘Best 10'. Learning how to download images from the camera to the computer will be our other task.

Ken Day

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Trips to the Mansion

Llanelli Coedcae Comprehensive

A bit closer to home today, we made a trip to Parc Howard, Llanelli's famous mansion, with its gardens, park and outdoor leisure facilities. We were lucky with the weather all this morning – it was a bit dull, but the rain held off while we took photos of the duck pond, gardens, trees and the mansion itself. For the rest of the morning, we explored the grounds, with the views to the sea from the bowling green, trees coming into bud and then went on to have a look at the Gorsedd stones.

Above: Coedcae kids relax on Gorsedd Stones in Parc Howard

All of the class were excited by the grand mansion, and, of course, many knew it already as a place to visit and enjoy in leisure time. The grounds and the park offered many creative opportunities and, as with all our field trips, it was important to keep bearing in mind as we took pictures, what was special about this particular place in the landscape. Some very good pictures were taken today and I'm confident that next week, when we go to Pembrey airport for our final field trip, we will take the best shots of all.

Maes y Morfa Juniors

Just as we broke for lunch, the weather broke too. By the time Cheryl and I arrived at the school it was raining quite hard. Thinking there would be greater shelter from the weather, a decision was made to go to Parc Howard instead of the North Dock area. Unlike this morning, we were met by a schools inspector, who was monitoring the project as part of the inspection that was going on at Maes y Morfa. Like us, he didn't seem keen on the rain! Nevertheless, we persevered with our task, braving the weather to take pictures of this special place. Just as we did this morning, the kids made a circuit of the gardens and grounds, ending up at the Gorsedd stones.

Above: Maes y Morfa kids and staff happy despite the rain at Parc Howard

The rain was a good deal lighter most of the time, so we managed to get all the pictures we needed and well very pleased indeed to find the mansion open at the end our tour. We spent a few minutes inside snapping away at the amazing displays of ceramics, as well as trying to place the building in its landscape by taking photos of the views through the windows. Back in class, as well as showing me their best three shots – which were very good – the children did some writing for Mr. Crawford, their teacher, about the three field trips so far. Next week, our plan is to make our final field trip to North Dock, calling in at the amazing Discovery Centre.

Groomed Landscape

One of the outcomes from our work during this project will be a greater understanding of the different types of landscape we have experienced. Parc Howard is an example of a landscape created entirely as a place of leisure, initially by the wealthy Buckley family for their own use and, for nearly one hundred years, in the keeping of the people of the town. Every tree and flower was planted, every area carefully tended and each stone and pathway placed exactly. You might say it is a groomed landscape.

Ken Day

Friday, 19 March 2010

Last Session

Milford Haven Comprehensive

It seems to have gone really fast. It’s difficult to believe this is the last session with the Milford schools. We finished off our work with the pictures this morning by making the final agonising choice of ten of the pictures we had taken over the last few months. Luckily, there were plenty of good images to choose from. Still, it was quite a task to refine all those pictures down to just a few. With that job done, the kids spent some time thinking of titles for each picture and making a list on a Word document. Next and last job of all, they had to think about what was special about the picture for them and to add that to the list. We very much missed our sixth form students today. They were involved with a Duke of Edinburgh Award event elsewhere, but their help has been very useful.

Above: Milford Comp kids and staff at the final session

Milford Haven Juniors

Working really fast and with great determination, the juniors worked through their tasks to complete the project. Like this morning, the sixth formers were doing their DEA and so were not able to help. Nonetheless, we chose our final ten, gave those names, thought hard about why we made the choices and created a list as a Word document. Not only that, but we also took each kid’s portrait and really smiley group shots as well. Phew!

Above: Milford Juniors and staff final session

With the children’s thanks ringing in our ears, Cheryl and I made our way back to Carmarthenshire with a feeling of satisfaction that the project had done the job it was meant for. Two groups of very special children in Milford Haven have been excited by photographing the landscape, learning through the project how to use a camera and what to do with the images back on the computer. For me as a photographer, it was wonderful to appreciate how creative each one is and to be part of the journey those kids made.

Ken Day

Friday, 12 March 2010

Getting to Grips with Technology

Milford Haven Comprehensive

This morning was spent in front of computer screens practising how to create folders, move files and then working with pictures. As often happens, we had a few unexpected problems with the system, making things a bit challenging. However, we triumphed over adversity and worked through the plan very successfully. When we had completed our tasks, we learned how to download from the camera. Then we opened one picture we had taken on a field trip, one with some details and various colours. With that image on the screen, wording – usually it was the name of the place where the pic was taken - was added and then we had fun changing the colours in the picture by using different tools from the school’s photo imaging software.

Above: Milford comp kids get to grips with IT

And fun it was! The creative possibilities are endless and everybody had a very enjoyable time making their photos look completely different. For the first time, the children were joined by ‘buddies’ form the sixth form. As part of their Welsh Baccalaureate, they came to part of the lesson and gave our students the benefit of their expertise in IT by helping out occasionally. In this class there was one sixth former to two of our students and they were very helpful indeed. We then started the process of making the tough choices about which photos should go into our top twenty favourites.

Milford Haven Juniors

The juniors did pretty much the same work as the comp, though we had a full complement of sixth formers to help out and a technical officer present to sort equipment or software problems as they arose. It was just as well he was there because there was less time than with the older group. However, today we had plenty of buddies from the sixth form – one per student, plus a couple extra – on hand to help and to encourage. I must say that they did a great job and I look forward to them taking part in the future. Nearly all the kids managed to choose their twenty favourites, no small job considering the sometimes hundreds of shots that needed to be examined carefully and the best put into the new folder ready for next week’s final tasks.

Above: Milford juniors and sixth form buddies tackle the tricky choices

When we meet next week, we will continue working by firstly, cutting the twenty favourites down to ten, then giving each one a title (which will be on the display with the photograph at the exhibition) and finally saying why we chose that particular image. Also, we need to take pictures of all the students, which will be on their display boards next to the ten best shots.

Ken Day, photographer

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Thank goodness for the sun!

Llanelli Coedcae Comprehensive

Thank goodness for the sun! I began to think it would never return, but today it was brilliant for our second field trip. A quick run in the minibus took us to Kidwelly Castle, where Cheryl had arranged, with Cadw, free entry for the class. Very few people were about, despite the fine weather; so we had the castle mostly to ourselves. It was a great opportunity for the children to take photos of one of Wales' important castles. The light was very clear, giving strong shadows, which helped to bring a sense of drama to the pictures of the towers, walls and masonry.

Above: Coedcae comp taking their shadows in Kidwelly Castle

There were lots of chances to take interesting compositions through windows and in dark corners. We tried to make sense of why the castle was there and what it was for. Castles, especially in west Wales, are important parts of the landscape, and our assignment for the day was to think about this as we took our photos. Back in the classroom looking at the children's three best pictures of the day, I was very pleased at the quality of their work. They all had images that are good enough to go into the final exhibition.

Maes y Morfa Juniors

What a change in the weather! At last we were able to go on our field trip and not shake and shiver after a couple of minutes. The light was still good for our trip to Machynys golf club, where the owners had kindly let the class take pictures by the main building and of the landscapes along the road. Some excellent work was done here of the greens, the road and environmental features such as ponds, ornamental plantings and trees.

Above: Maes y Morfa juniors at the Machynys clubhouse

Jumping back in the bus, we went a mile west to the new housing development at Pentre Nicklaus, where the views to Gower and along the estuary are beautiful. The children were inspired to take lots of good images of the sea, sky and beach. Again, everybody has taken some superb photographs, some of which, I'm sure will go into the show.

Ken Day, photographer

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Biting Wind

Llanelli Coedcae Comprehensive

In spite of the biting wind, we decided to carry on with our field trip to Burry Port, and what a time we had – short and shivery, that is! The minibus took us to the harbour, first to the east side and we thought it best to do the training part in the bus, which was just as well because, despite all of us being well wrapped up, we couldn’t stay out for very long. And nearly the first thing that happened was that my hat flew off in a gust of wind and landed in the harbour! Even I had to laugh.

Above: Coedcae kids braving the weather at Burry Port

It was good hat, though and I really missed it for the rest of the day. We took lots of pictures of the boats, the railings, the buildings and the sea (not to mention my hat in the water) before nipping back in the bus briefly to go round to the other side of the port where the old lighthouse is situated. Here we took as many photos as we could before making it back to the bus before we froze. Back at school, I did the normal thing of looking at the children’s three best pictures and was very pleased indeed at the quality of the work, even though some were obviously taken with shaky hands.

Maes y Morfa Juniors

A trip to the Elli Centre for the juniors was a really good idea. Lots of interior shots of corridors, details of fruit on show and other goods made for some interesting compositions. On the way back to the minibus we also took pictures of some of Llanelli’s most important buildings including Eglwys Elli, Ty Elwyn, the old cinema and the newly refurbished town council building. Great pics were taken today and I’m very pleased with the work as we looked at it on our return to the classroom. I’m certain we’ll get some very fine work next time we go out on our second field trip.

Ken Day, photographer