June '14

01st July 2014
As is often the case, I didn't have any scheduled, paid-for, in the bag, jobs in June. It's very precarious not having commissioned work to build things around. It plays havoc with cash flow for one thing, and it means spending more time on my most hated endeavor - touting my latest work.

I'm a terribly bad salesman. I'm far too introverted, and I hate singing my own praises almost more than I detest hearing the hollow tin-can thunder of pushy self-sellers.

So, June was like most other months, driven by the weather, how I was feeling (not too good as it happens), what photo-ops seemed worth chasing or creating. Luckily there was an unusual spike in print requests, about a dozen, and these, together with some TV research work, will cover the diesel bills for a while.

June - a month of 'following my nose', of warm, brief summer freedom, of golden sunsets and of dancing to my own tune… Ahem.

Perfect weather for the flowers, insects and little birds inhabiting our gloriously unkempt Ceredigion hedgerows. Mile upon mile of cash-starved but bug-rich roadsides brimming with life. Except for bees. I've seen hardly any bees at all this year. It is a silent disaster.

Llys y llwynog (Herb Robert)

Even atop Pendinas, where you can stand tall and peer down your nose at the architectural hotchpotch of nouveau riche excess to one side, and old school council estates on the other, with the academic sprawl that is modern Aberystwyth plumb between both, feeding both edges and keeping them apart.

Despite my breathless wandering through the dark tunnel and up to the ancient fort - many bugs, but no buzz, no bees.

And woe! another bug - the dust bug 'got' my camera. The silent unseen hated grime that ruins a day's shoot, somehow got in there splattering my sensor with its innumerable blobs. But such was the heat rising, that Aberystwyth was, anyway, reduced to a mirage, a wobbly, un-sharp waste of a sweaty trek.

A couple of days later, care taken and money spent, a clean camera to catch some beautiful light as it touched upon Nanteos Mansion, once a kingpin estate, then run-down and deliciously dilapidated home to a holy relic (The Nanteos Cup), recently restored and re-invigorated top-of-the-pile luxury hotel.

Then a few days later a family run to north Wales, passing by Rhyd-ddu, and a moment of homage to my favourite poet

then homeward and the little town of Bala clings to it's Urdd credentials for as long as it can, the streets festooned with bunting, long after the circus of "Europe's largest cultural youth festival" has moved on.

A call came from a wonderful and generous local farmer that a shearing crew would be working up high in the hills. As the day dawned, the sky broke open, pouring rivers of rain over the always-soggy uplands. Not a day for shearing after all, though some 200 ewes had a short back and sides early on, before I arrived.

The next day at Bwlch Nant yr Arian - a forestry site now partly devoid of forest due to Ramoram disease, the Red Kites were oblivious to the lack of greenery and abundance of day-trippers, as they spiraled and danced on the breeze, performing all manner of aerial contortions for their free afternoon tea at the feeding site.

By the time I'd wandered down to Penbryn, south of the county, the weather was back to 'glorious'. Blue sky, light breeze, calm sea, and few people. But I lacked the photographic killer instinct, and couldn't bring myself to take even a sneaky, sly-shy shot of the naked sunbathers!

I continued to wander around, re-shooting for stock, places which had changed significantly since my last rounds, such as Lampeter Rugby Club, who's field of play is always in beautiful condition, more like a bowling green than a rugby pitch, and their hugely, newly upgraded clubhouse.

Back in Aber, and a friend's get-together, a lovely meal at Gwesty Cymru, then a stroll down the prom to kick the bar. However, as this was an "end of an era" event, a photo call was made. Moments later, while camera was still in hand, this beautiful lady walked by...

I somehow lost my shyness and hey presto, the picture appeared the next morning as one of the Daily Telegraph "pictures of the day", and elsewhere on the web, and the following week in the Welsh weekly current affairs magazine "Golwg" as news picture of the week. The lady is Laura, and you'll see her from time to time, calmly paddling her SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) around the Aberystwyth bays.

Some days later I was down at Theatr Felinfach at the launch of "Bywyd wrth ben-ôl buwch" - the tales of an AI man (Artificial Insemination, that is). Gwasg Gomer had very kindly asked me to photograph the author, Aneurin Davies, for the book cover, and so it was with great pleasure that I attended the launch, and took a good few snaps as a keepsake for Aneurin and his famiy, and for the publisher's file.

I probably haven't mentioned my do-gooding which now extends to Wales Air Ambulance. I attended the Aberystwyth Show to accept a cheque from the show committee for £1600 for the charity - £800 of which was a pound-for-pound donation by Barclays Bank. Wonderful stuff, and I'm glad that all my account fees are going to a good cause ;-) Post cheque presentation, and a quick dash around the field with my camera.


… little horses...

… old lorries, cars, motor bikes, traction engines.

It wasn't just the daylight which lit-up the landscape and provided endless opportunities for a decent picture, but also the dying embers of sun sinking into the sea out West. June became the sunset month (last year it was mainly May).

A couple of days before the event, the Ras yr Iaith organiser asked if I'd be willing to follow the race and take stills which could be used to engage with communities and document the day. How could I possibly refuse an old friend and yet another good cause? So, heads - a relaxed day around the Ceredigion countryside, in the lovely sunshine, or tails, 12 hours of over-heated dashing from location to location, no time to eat drink or think… which side of the coin would it be?

But before I could gather my thoughts and polish my lenses, there came a call from the local farm - there would be shearing at Rhosgoch! And there I spent a couple of hours photographing a local crew toiling incredibly hard, and trying to capture the explosive energy of the ewes as they dash, light and cool, towards freedom. Lovely people, lovely day.

I couldn't drag myself to Machynlleth for the start of Ras yr Iaith (Race for the Language) - but joined the fun at the next stop - Aberystwyth

...thence to Tregaron



...New Quay


...over the border to Carmarthenshire and Newcastle Emlyn

finishing off in Cardigan

...with music and speeches

but no chips.

The following day, long before I'd recovered from the Ras (to say the least), there was a display of classic vehicles on the prom, under the aegis of the Aberystwyth and District Rally Club (I wasn't in a fit state to visit the Uni open-doors event during the morning - sorry Aber Uni - grossly over-tired from the previous few days).

Then (oh dear, it's like being on a never-ending fairground ride) off to Cardiff to see family, and for Marian to join her old buddies at the University of Wales Dictionary to launch their new, wonderful online service (It's FREE!!). Fiddle with it here.

I'd promised to take some pictures of the Tywi and a particular farmhouse for a magazine, so on the way to Cardiff, we took a detour. I mustn't name the house just now. You'll have to wait for the magazine to appear on the shelves first!

Dryslwyn Castle and a little bit of the Tywi river

On arriving home, suitably shattered, what was on the answerphone, but news of the last batch of shearing - at the picturesque mountain nook I wanted to photograph. So another few hours in the high hills (two lots of ear popping to reach it).

I suppose that I should mention that a few pictures have appeared in the press, books, magazines, websites etc, though I'm loath to mention them.

In the last picture you can see a picture I took of a reredos at a (fairly) local church, reproduced in the Gregynog Festival Programme. Visit the festival website to see the amazing range of events put together as a labour of love by a tiny band of enthusiasts. Or follow them on twitter @gregynogfest

And what a lovely way to end the month - another Clarach Bay sunset.

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