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.