Another of the great joys of the hobby of photography is its flexibility. You can stay indoors and compose a still life scene or travel around the world – either scenario gives us the chance to use our artistic skills and imagination.
Last night’s guest speaker (Graham Harries) found his lock down project by walking within 5 miles of home in his native Wales and observing the changing countryside as it reclaims buildings taking them back to nature.
His initial observations were the World War 2 defences comprising block houses, tank traps, gun emplacements and bunkers. It is not widely known that these were built across Great Britain in the early 1940’s after the fall of France when it was realised that the key ingredient to the German success was the use of battle tanks. With a little research the position of these defence gems can still be found and Graham had found some, often completely covered in brambles and Ivy, and photographed them. This naturally led on to a variety of dwellings, grand houses, farm houses, outbuildings and farm workers cottages all disappearing in front of our very eyes – many of them holding the key to stories from a bygone era (like the terrace cottages one of which was once occupied by the stunt man from the 1956 film Moby Dick).
Our host speaker’s excitement was tangible when he discovered a new fading “treasure” albeit an old petrol station or a derelict chapel. His advice was to take some images then and there as a plan to return might be greeted with greater degradation and the chance will be lost forever. His research has found that in his local area there were 6 great houses – Park House 1803 abandoned after WW2 whose owner married the niece of President U S Grant – who knew? Other discoveries included a decaying Airport fire engine, at least 15 miles from a small airport, why was it there? The sheer size and grandeur of the walled garden, outbuildings and stables of these properties begged so many questions and Graham was keen for answers. One of his star finds was ESCOED MANSION home of Lieutenant General Thomas Picton who died at Waterloo in 1815. Its magnificence in its hey day was still evident, as it fades away images from within the mansion and round about could probably be the last ever seen as it disappears. A warning to all of us who were tempted to pursue this sort of project was issued advising of the dangers of such places, falling roofs, rotting stairs and falling debris.
The second element of the evening was the use of the Drone – quite clearly our speaker understood the legal and technical requirements of these fascinating “eyes in the sky” and the other view obtained was evident as we saw sea views, football pitches castles, tree shadows and some spectacular photographs of the National Botanical Gardens of wales with its magnificent glass dome.
The available range of subjects were Paxton’s Tower, A bright blue tractor in a green field, a cross road section of a highway, The Elan Valley, the drained NYAV reservoir with Pen Y Fan in the distance, French farmers’ fields with Mt Saint Michel in the distance, A WW1 cemetery, A Neolithic burial site (Arthur’s stone). A wonderful view over the whole of Llanelli leading up to the Black Mountains, Night shots revealing a fairy land, the light ship JUNO, moored up ready for scrap, which played a significant part in the D-day landings, up river to the Baglan Bridge on to the steel works at Port Talbot for a view we would never normally see, from the M4. Sewerage works, the Gower Peninsular and Worm’s Head and Cnardy Viaduct, where Graham revealed his wish to use the drone to photograph a steam train passing over.
The sad site of the regular flooding of Carmarthen as the Towy bursts its banks. We were astounded at seeing an Icelandic Long House, converted to a museum, The area where Nobel’s dynamite factory spread over countryside fighting its way back, Chesil Beach near Weymouth, sea side tank defences, wonderful Angelsey, through to North Wales, brick works, slate mines, Witford Lighthouse, a solar farm and a not so old council estate dying for want of attention and finally, the spectacular Autumn colours of nature taken from above.
This was a thoroughly marvellous evening with something for everyone with a Photographer of great enthusiasm who, it is clear, has a head full of ambitions targets to fulfil and who has never been accused of being bored. For more of this inspirational polymath visit: http://www.gphotography.org.uk