Rhossili Bay, Swansea

Top 8 locations for hard-core photographers ( Part 1)

The Grand Pier at Weston-super- Mare was reopened in October 2010 following a devastating fire in July 2008. The new, modern pavilion, situated at the far end of the structure, makes a great photographic subject either at sunset or during the hours of twilight when the pier is lit along its entire length.

  • How to get there Exit the M5 at junction 21 and follow the A370 through numerous roundabouts to reach the seafront at Weston-super-Mare (four miles). Turn left near the Ferris wheel, and follow the one-way system round to the right and on to Marine Parade. Continue past the entrance to the pier and take the third turning on the right to park in the Sovereign Centre car park. From here it’s only a short walk to the town’s pier.
  • What to shoot Different views of the pier, and seascapes.
  • Best time of day Sunset is good, ideally on a relatively high, receding tide.
  • Nearest food/drink Boardwalk Café,  Grand Pier, Marine Parade, Westonsuper-Mare, BS23 1AL, 01934 620238, grandpier.co.uk.
  • Nearest accommodationThe Sandringham Hotel, 1-9 Victoria Square, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1AN, 01934 624891, thesandringham.co.uk.
  • Other times of year The pier faces west, making it a great sunset location at any time of year.
Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

This part of Bude in Cornwall off a variety of viewpoints. The large, sandy beach is good for capturing abstract patterns and reflections after the tide has gone out, and to the north there is a sea pool, which fills up at high tide. To the south of the beach is Efford Down, which offers spectacular views of the breakwater and coastline, and has a photogenic folly, the Pepper Pot.

  • How to get there From the A39 (Atlantic Highway), take the A3073 to Bude. On entering the town, continue straight over the roundabout on Bencoolen Road and take the first right on to Ergue-Gaberic Way. Park in the car park on the left by Bude Canal. Walk along the canal, keeping it to your left, and enter Summerleaze beach from either side of the canal; Barrel Rock and Bude breakwater are directly ahead.
  • What to shoot Dramatic sunsets; long exposures of breakwater and sea pool.
  • Best time of day Late afternoon/evening.
  • Nearest food/drink Life’s a Beach, Summerleaze beach, Bude, EX23 8HN, 01288 355222, lifesabeach.info.
  • Nearest accommodation Atlantic House Hotel, 18 Summerleaze Crescent, Bude, EX23 8HJ, 01288 352451, atlantichousehotel.com.
  • Other times of year Year round.
Summerleaze beach, Cornwall

Summerleaze beach, Cornwall

Situated in the grounds of Longshaw Estate, Padley Gorge is easy to access and off opportunities. Burbage Brook runs through the gorge ers a variety of photographic
and cascades over gritstone boulders. Its banks are flanked by dense, intriguing woodland and some abandoned millstones.

  • How to get there Take the A6187 east out of Hathersage. Follow the road past Surprise View and Burbage Bridge and then turn right on to the B6521, just before the Fox House pub. After approximately half a mile, park on the right-hand side of the road and take the path down to Padley Gorge.
  • What to shoot Flowing water, rocks, woodland, gnarled trees and views towards Higger Tor.
  • Best time of day Good throughout the day, best after heavy rainfall.
  • Nearest food/drink The Fox House, Hathersage Road, Longshaw, Sheffield, S11 7TY, 01433 630374, vintageinn.co.uk/thefoxhouselongshaw.
  • Nearest accommodation The Fox House – as above.
  • Other times of year The location is well worth a visit in autumn.
Padley Gorge, Derbyshire

Padley Gorge, Derbyshire

Rhossili Bay marks the western tip of the Gower Peninsula in south Wales and is rightly regarded as one of the UK’s premier beaches. Photo opportunities abound, from the small tidal island of Worm’s Head to the wide arc of sandy beach. It is also the resting place of the 19th-century shipwreck Helvetia, whose timbers are exposed at low tide.

  • How to get there From Swansea, take the A4118. After approximately 15 miles,
    turn right on to the B4247 to Rhossili and park in the National Trust car park. From here, either turn left and walk along the cliff top towards Worm’s Head or walk back up the road and follow the steep path down to the beach.
  • What to shoot Telephoto silhouettes of Worm’s Head at sunset; panoramic views of Rhossili Bay beach; the graphic shapes of the Helvetia shipwreck.
  • Best time of day Rhossili Bay faces west, so late afternoon and sunset.
  • Nearest food/drink The Bay Bistro and Coffee House, Rhossili, Gower, SA3 1PL, 01792 390519, thebaybistro.co.uk.
  • Nearest accommodation The Worm’s Head Hotel, Rhossili, Gower, SA3 1PP, 01792 390512, thewormshead.co.uk.
  • Other times of year Late summer for heather and gorse on cliff tops; autumn when heather and bracken has turned golden brown; winter for dramatic seas and skies.
Rhossili Bay, Swansea

Rhossili Bay, Swansea

azores

Azores-the Lost paradise on Earth

As someone constantly in search of new playgrounds to explore and photograph, I first noticed the name “Azores” mentioned in weather bulletins. I was intrigued by a place where anticyclones—which create constant fair weather—are born.When a seafarer friend, who had once landed there during an Atlantic crossing, mentioned that each island was covered with lush forests, pristine waterfalls, and sunrises and sunsets to die for, I knew I had to go. “Be prepared to be amazed,” he said.

The items I carry in the trip

  • Fujifilm X-T1* and Fujifilm X-Pro1 bodies
  • Fujinon XF 10-24 mm f/4 R-OIS*
  • Fujinon XF 14 mm f/2.8 R
  • Fujinon XF 35 mm f/1.4 R
  • Fujinon XF 18-55 mm f/2.8-4.0 R
  • Fujinon XF 55-200 mm f/3.5-4.8*
  • EF-42 TTL and EF-X8 flashes*
  • Gitzo GT 3541 tripod
  • GoPro Hero4 Black
  • GoPro Hero4 Silver

Sitting at 2351 metres atop Mount Pico, the highest point of Portugal, I contemplate the fiery light slowly invading a deep blue, inky sky. The orange-popsicle-coloured glow stretches above the horizon to reveal the serrated edge of the five-hundred-metre-wide crater and the stratovolcano’s imposing shape.

Inside the dead volcanoes of Azores

Inside the dead volcanoes of Azores

Volcanoes of Azores Island

Emerging from the dark lava, volcanic fumaroles dance devilishly, backlit by the morning star. I grab the widest lens I have— a 10-24 mm Fujinon—and, once the aperture is set at f/5, I steady the camera on my backpack. “You know, you’re incredibly lucky!” says my guide, Sonia Mendes, as the sunrays settle in and warm up the ambient air. “Most of the time, when I make it here with clients, we’re either above or below the clouds and we rarely see a clear sunrise.” We had started our climb in the wee hours of the morning at the visitor centre, now nestled far below at 1200 m. With the vigour of an Alpine infantry officer, Sonia, a sleek, tall woman from Pico Island, led me in total darkness to the summit. Even now in semidarkness, it’s easy to frame a picture that captures my guide’s salute to the sunrise, thanks to a large high-resolution viewfinder and OIS. The silence is uninterrupted.

The road leads to the ocean on Flores Island, near Fajã Grande.

The road leads to the ocean on Flores Island, near Fajã Grande.

Testing my camera for scenic views

Photographing a spectacular sunrise gives me serenity, but it also triggers a creative desire for the day to come that I can feel slowly percolating in my mind. I had recently switched systems, going from a full-size DSLR to a more compact Fujifilm APS-C. Having lugged bulky cameras and huge lenses around the world for years, I thought it was time to lighten the weight on my shoulders and rediscover the joy of photographing. Yet, I was concerned about working with a different sensor size, since it seems that, at least as far as sensors go, size matters. Would the 16.3 megapixels keep their promises? I certainly enjoyed the lightness of being DSLR-free on the way up. With two compact-system cameras, a flash and five lenses packed in a small Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW, I was able to go fast because I wasn’t weighed down. My adventure began five days before and three hundred kilometres away from Pico, on the island of Flores. Along with her nearby sister Corvo, Flores is covered with rich, densely woven vegetation. Both are included on the UNESCO list of biosphere reserves.

Ancient volcanic formations such as the gigantic caldera of Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire) on São Miguel Island can be seen everywhere in the Azores.

Ancient volcanic formations such as the gigantic caldera of Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire) on São Miguel Island can be seen everywhere in the Azores.

Visitors are lured here by a year-round humid subtropical climate with 24 cm of yearly precipitation.“It’s time to put the weather seal of the X-T1 to the test,” I thought while climbing the Morro Alto, near the island’s centre. A dense cloud was surrounding the various calderas—ancient craters now filled by lakes fed by the many streams of the central plateau. However, the wind was on my side, pushing the gigantic white masses away from the volcanic landscape. I was certainly glad I could hang my bag on the central column hook of my Gitzo tripod to weigh it down! When shooting landscapes, I still rely on a grey card from time to time. But with a camera that offers 256-zone metering, the quality of exposure rarely disappoints, and an occasional slightly underexposed image reminds me of the good old feel of richly saturated Velvia film.

azores

Vegetation is abundant on most of the islands, including here on one of São Jorge’s most beautiful trails, going from Serra de Topo to Fajã do Santo Cristo.

Walking around the moutains

After spending the day hiking around the Branca, Seca, Comprida and Negra calderas, my 16-GB card was already half filled with images having the most intense greens and hues of blue that I’ve ever seen in nature. The light seemed polarized by the cyclical movement of clouds. I thought the afternoon would be ideal for a view of Poço da Alagoinha Grande, a series of panoramic cascades falling from 300 metres into a Lost World-like scene, but the clouds eventually won out. The next morning, after a pleasurable and productive ferry ride, I reached the longest island of the archipelago to shoot some hiking images. With a 53-km coastline, São Jorge is dotted by numerous fajãs, fertile pieces of land created by the accumulation of debris from landslides and ancient lava flows. The landscape was stunning and my guides were keen to share the best of “their” island, so we decided to hike to Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo. The hike to reach the remote village was steep but offered plenty of arresting views. We entered the dense vegetation through dark tunnels created by the interlocking tree canopy and thick ground bushes.

azores

On the sevenkilometre trail from Miradouro das Lagoas to Poço de Bacalhau, there is a spectacular point of view overlooking the mall village of Fajã Grande, on Flores Island’s west coast.

The challenge of balancing the contrast between light and dark areas was nearly impossible, even with the help of the tiny dedicated hot shoe EF-X8 flash, which otherwise is fantastic. I was ready to give up on my nearly three-stop difference when I grumbled, “If only I had a collapsible reflector!” Dina, my guide, was not familiar with photographic equipment and asked me what I meant. When I explained the action of a reflector disc, she simply said, “Oh, but I think I have one!” She pulled out the survival blanket from her first-aid kit. In two minutes I cut some bamboo for a frame. We stretched the aluminum blanket on it and secured the makeshift light bouncer with some medical tape and voilà! With the sun’s help, I had two more stops and the shot was in the bag. We left the forest, and the ocean invaded the horizon again. After a week spent outdoors and in rural villages, Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, feels like a bustling metropolis.

I’m here to photograph a religious procession—an interesting transition from landscape photography to photojournalism. I dig out my second camera, an X-Pro1, from my bag and select an 18-55 mm f/2.8-4 zoom and a 14-mm f/2.8 fixed lens. I wander through the old city streets covered with flow ers placed there by neighbourhood associations to commemorate the Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, a religious Easter veneration dating from the 1500s. The crowd is dense with the Brotherhood, robed in red and black, and the faithful, ranging from children to older folks.

The light grey sky acts like a gigantic softbox, so there is plenty of light but no contrast. I dial down the ISO to 200, underexpose my images one- to two-thirds of a stop, and throw in a little fill flash. The colours are strikingly vivid. Frankincense perfumes the air, and the crowds slowly move into the streets behind the statue, while devotees, clad in black, pray aloud. I shoot late into the night, strolling the streets until my feet are sore. Slowly, the noises and fumes fade, but there is still plenty of light in the cobbled streets for a few last architectural images.

As the jetliner takes off, I take one last look at the archipelago. From way up in the sky, the Azores look like a small fleet of ships lost at sea. These remote volcanic islands are really as far off the beaten path as islands could be. The visit has filled up my soul and my memory cards. Whether you’re a sailor, an adventurer, an airline captain or a photographer, if you make it to the Azores by sheer luck or by good planning, you should indeed be prepared to be amazed.

bletchley park

House of games

BLETCHLEY PARK is one of the world’s great survivors.

The mansion, 50 miles northwest of London and dating to the late 1870s, was almost lost to the British nation twice. In 1938 a local builder was eyeing the parcel as a development site when the government stepped in, buying the property from the Leon family to house a Code and Cypher School.

And in 1992 bulldozers loomed again until local historians barred their path. Forming the Bletchley Park Trust, advocates saved the complex, where a secret wartime operation broke the German Enigma code, and recast the Park as a museum. Now appreciation for that act of preservation is reaching beyond Britain; of the site’s 150,000 yearly visitors, more and more hail from overseas. Those ranks will only swell thanks to The Imitation Game, the Oscar-winning movie about code-breaking genius Alan Turing.

The Imitation Game Poster

If you love The Imitation Game, be sure pay a visit to Bletchley Park where all the real events happenned here

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Park had been a country idyll, popular with shooting parties, until that 1938 purchase began the estate’s transformation into a hub of Allied counterintelligence work during the Second World War.

I visited on a raw December day with my father. Born in 1938, Dad grew up five miles away; he found it moving to return to a place he had not seen since leaving for Oxford University in 1956. As we neared Bletchley station he noticed through the railway car window a parking building on the spot where, during the bitter winter of 1947, he told me excitedly, had sprawled the coal yard to which his mother would send him to fetch household fuel.

The government chose Bletchley Park as a code breakers’ perch primarily for its location. With war against Germany imminent, Whitehall wanted its code wizards away from London and Luftwaffe bombs. The manse sits at a safe distance from the capital city, but within 200 yards of a railroad station. Nearby are the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, in the late 1930s fertile environments for recruiting the brilliant minds required for high-level intelligence analysis.

Entering the estate, one at first sees only motley brick-and-timber huts, splayed at odd angles like drab dominos. The bleak, utterly authentic scene makes it easy to picture streams of extremely bright young things, male and female, arriving hurriedly by foot and on bicycles three-quarters of a century ago.

bletchley park

The tour begins in the Visitor Center–wartime Block C, where clerks, mostly women, indexed the details of decoded messages in a giant cross-referencing system. The assignment was painstaking, a point made clear in footage of reenactments that runs continuously.

“To be successful,” an instructor tells newcomers, “you must be an enthusiast because there will be times when the work seems monotonous.”

Monotonous, yes–but vital. Eventually, Bletchley Park and environs employed 10,000 people. Some intercepted, some deciphered, some translated, some distributed, but all the intelligence they winkled out of myriad enemy radio signals mattered critically to the Allied cause.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the Bletchley Park team “the geese that laid the golden egg.” In July 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a message to British Major General Stewart Menzies, who headed the operation. Describing the intelligence gleaned there as “priceless,” the Supreme Commander said the Bletchley Park workforce had “saved thousands of British and American lives and, in no small way, contributed to the speed with which the enemy was routed.” The museum displays a copy of Eisenhower’s communique.

Visitors depart the center bearing an easy-to-use audio device that directs them around the rest of the grounds–another mark of the museum’s thoughtfulness. I, for one, am not blessed with undue mathematical competency, and would be lying if I suggested that prior to my visit I wasn’t a bit apprehensive. Ultra, Enigma, Bombe, Lorenz … Would I be able to keep up or would the topic’s complexity befuddle me?

Fear not. All is explained in lay terms, and old-schoolers can sign up for a comprehensive tour conducted by one of the site’s knowledgeable guides. We went with the talking machine, but did cross a guide’s path in Block B. Standing before a replica of Alan Turing’s Bombe, he explained to his companions how the computing mechanism worked.

“Turing,” the docent concluded, “is one of the great unsung heroes of British history and were it not for him we might be here speaking German.”

There is much to learn about Turing in Block B. The centerpiece is the Bombe, a functioning model of which testifies to its inventor’s genius. The mechanism is seven feet tall and six and a half feet wide. The original had 108 drums, each vertical set of three representing a German Enigma encoding and decoding machine. Early Enigmas had three rotors (later the Reich would add a fourth). A sender scrambling a message could set each ring at any of 26 positions; in effect an Enigma machine had 17,576 (263) settings. The Bombe’s drums could drive through every potential setting in about 12 minutes by electrically performing a chain of logical deductions based on a portion of plain text. Turing’s device rejected combinations that produced contradictions–as the majority did–supplying the code breakers with a small number of possible Enigma settings. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry–interactive touch screens and straightforward diagrams help “decode” Turing’s achievements in smashing the enemy code.

More personal exhibits illuminate the man behind the genius: Turing’s Swiss wristwatch and his teddy bear, Porgy. Perhaps that tatty stuffed plaything more than any other artifact at Bletchley Park affords a glimpse of Turing’s human vulnerability. And the secrets keep coming; recently during a renovation workers uncovered notes of Turing’s stuffed between the walls of Hut 6 as insulation, along with the only known examples of Banbury sheets–forms that the mathematician devised to speed decoding.

The visit ends in the mansion, an elegant Victorian building that overlooks the Nissen huts and a lake aggregated more than 200 years ago from the remains of medieval fishponds. Entering “The Main House,” as wartime workers called it, is a pleasing step back to the Old England of yesterday and recreated BBC memory. The red brick mansion fuses Tudor and Dutch Baroque architecture, with an eye-catching array of bay windows, tall chimneys, and crenelated parapets. One enters through a Gothic-style inner porch to encounter an interior of mahogany paneling, decorative plaster ceilings, elegant carpets, and whiffs of yesteryear. To the right of the porch is the lounge hall, on whose elaborate stone and marble chimneypiece stands a bust of Winston Churchill. A timber staircase leads to the first floor; the highest story is the attic, a century ago quarters for servants.

BLETCHLEY PARK

Bletchley Park House

Until November 2015 much of the mansion’s interior will house an exhibition featuring The Imitation Game. In the billiard room are the costumes worn by actors Benedict Cumberbatch (Turing) and Keira Knightley (the mathematician’s colleague, Joan Clarke). The ballroom holds the bar depicted in the film, and my father yelped with delight as he recognized brands of beer and soft drinks he had last seen 60 years ago. The exhibition also reveals that among the film’s cast of extras was a great nephew of Turing’s. How delighted he must be at his great uncle’s rehabilitation in recent years: Britain’s official apology in 2009 for hounding him to his death and, four years later, a posthumous royal pardon. Pardon for what? For the now-banished crime of homosexuality. In 1952 Turing’s country prosecuted him for being himself, driving him to suicide two years later, a stain on the British establishment well documented in The Imitation Game.

It’s taken 70 years and $12 million, but Bletchley Park offers Turing and company a fitting memorial.

As Her Majesty said in 2011, unveiling a sculpture at the estate honoring the code breakers: “This was the place of geniuses such as Alan Turing. But these wonderfully clever mathematicians, language graduates, and engineers were complemented by people with different sets of skills, harnessing that brilliance through methodical, unglamorous, hard slog…. You were history-shapers and your example serves as an inspiration to the intelligence community today.”

WHEN YOU GO

Only an hour by train from London Euston–one of the British capital’s central stations–Bletchley Park Is a stroll from the local train station. The Park Is on Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England; 44-1908640404, bletchleypark.org.uk

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Hut 4, where clerks decoded German naval messages during the war, houses the museum’s restaurant. Expect traditional British food-such as fish and chips, stew, sausages, a wide selection of sandwiches, and a choice of soft drinks and beer–at reasonable prices. Four miles away, Milton Keynes, the nearest big town, has plenty of budget and mid-range hotels, and someone staying in London easily can manage a day trip.

WHAT ELSE TO SEE

The National Radio Centre and the National Museum of Computing are In close proximity to Bletchley Park (admission to the former Is Included in the price of visiting Bletchley Park) and are well worth a visit. The Computing Museum houses a rebuild of Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic digital computer.

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