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