Friday roadtrip

Yesterday my wife Claire, my son Noah and I headed off on a roadtrip through Mid Wales to the edge of the Snowdonia National Park and then back down the coast through Ceredigion before heading home via Lampeter and Llandovery.

The journey in total was just over 260 miles. We left at 8ish in the morning and got home at 17:30, not bad for a day out.

We got to take in some of the most beautiful scenery in Wales. And visit some new places that we hadn’t been to before.

For Noah who is nearly 3 the journey was very exciting. From the tractor shop at Builth Wells to the cows, sheep, horses and red kites throughout the trip. The highlight for him though was two passes by an American special forces MC-130J (Hercules), once just outside Machynlleth and then again straight over the town at somewhere near 600-700ft. There was a very big “Wow” from the back seat. Another highlight was the choo choo train crossing the level crossing in front of us just outside Borth.

First stop was Machynlleth. The Powys town is full of history with the Clock Tower at the centre of the town instantly recognisable. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to visit, to photograph this beautiful places with its backdrop of mountains. Machynlleth was also the location of Owain Glyndwr’s parliament in 1404. Glyndwr was a legendary Welsh ruler and the last native Welsh man to hold the title Prince of Wales.The building on the site where the parliament once stood now houses historic artefacts related to him.

Another photo stop was the Museum of Modern Art near the Clock Tower before heading to the Pont-ar-Ddyfi bridge over the River Dyfi which sits on the edge of the town on the A487.

From here we headed to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Ynys Hir, famous for its Osprey visitors every spring. It’s one of the only places in Wales to see Ospreys.

The next section took us down the Ceredigion coast. First stop was Borth, somewhere neither me or Claire had been before. We all enjoyed a good walk along the pebbles even finding some perfectly shaped shells.

We then made the short trip to Clarach Bay another new location for us. Here we parked up over looking the beach and again had a nice walk in the fresh air. It was picnic time, taking in the sea views with hardly a cloud in the sky. The Welsh coast at its mesmerising best.

After lunch we travelled through Aberystwyth and on to Llanon. The views from the coast road just outside Llanon are spectacular. Our stop here coincided with a farmer feeding his sheep and lambs which were grazing in a field over looking the coast. They were perfectly placed to be in the foreground of an image with the coast behind them.

From Aberaeron we started to head home, via Lampeter, Llandovery, Brecon and Abergavenny.

Wales at its finest with spring well and truly in the air.

You can see more of my images here: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com

With Ceredigion images here: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com/Ceredigion

A life less ordinary

As mentioned in my first blog post I used to cover motorsport events with my brother Matthew.

We had always loved motorbike racing, an interest we inherited from our dad. In 2009 we started regularly going to motorbike races across the UK. We both enjoyed taking photos so we setup a Facebook page and started adding our images of the races there.

Our images were noticed by Arai UK who asked us to cover major sporting events for them. This led to us being media accredited photographers at the Isle of Man TT, Motorcycle Live (the motorbike equivalent of the motorshow) and the Festival of 1000 Bikes (similar to the Goodwood Festival of Speed). Covering the Isle of Man TT was very special for us. We both visited there for the first time in 1989 with our father. To now be the other side of the fence taking photographs, which would go on to feature in the Arai advert for TT 2012 and in the Isle of Man TT 2012 programme is one of my proudest achievements as a photographer.

I can remember taking photos on the inside of St Ninians Crossroads in 2011, just at the end of the start and finish straight. It’s a very fast 170mph-180mph part of the TT course. I was advised by the marshall to use a small electricity box on the pavement as my protection. I can still vividly remember the crowd whispers from behind the fence, over my shoulder “I wouldn’t like to be where he is”, “He’s brave”, “Anything happens here and he’s a goner”. Seeing a motorbike go past you at 180mph within arms reach is one of the most amazing experiences, the draft moving your clothes and the noise rattling through your bones. I loved getting in spots where only media access got you. The closer the better.

During this time we were lucky to meet many of our heroes, people I thought I would never meet. To name a few: Mick Doohan (5 times world motorcycle champion), Freddie Spencer (2 times world motorcycle champion), Giacomo Agostini (15 times world motorcycle champion), Kenny Roberts (3 times world motorcycle champion) and Eddie Lawson, who I had a model of on my shelf when I was 8 years old (4 times world motorcycle champion).

Sitting in the press room at the Isle of Man TT in 2011 chatting with Murray Walker on one side and Mick Doohan on the other is a memory that will live with me forever.

Having a Macdonalds with Keith Amor the Scottish Superbike racer and Jonathan Rea the now multiple World Superbike Champion from Northern Ireland, chatting about all sorts, now seems slightly surreal. Keith was great, always chatting to us and having a laugh, even letting us go testing with him at Jurby Airfield.

Other surreal experiences included watching the Red Arrows from within the Monster Energy VIP zone on Douglas Promenade during TT week. Looking out over a huge crowd lining the sea front.

We made good friends too, Jamie Robinson the former Motogp rider who now makes documentaries about motorcycles was the Alpinestars photographer and video maker at the time. We all had great nights out together. We still keep in touch over Facebook with Jamie living in California. The guys at Arai really looked after us and looked out for us we still keep in touch and some came to my wedding in 2013.

When Arai changed UK distributors for 2012, the new company brought their own photographers with them. We decided to have a break from motorsport photography and have both concentrated on landscapes since.

From 2009 through 2011 nearly every weekend was spent photographing racing. Finish work early on the Friday and hit the road. Our bbq’s were legendary, we even hosted Sam Lowes (now one of the leading British stars in Motogp) for a burger at our motorhome.

Writing this blog has brought back loads of fun memories, amazing times. I have 1000’s of photos from those years. Most of which have never seen the light of day.

No doubt we’ll do it again one day! But for now here’s a few images from way back when.

I’ve always loved the pictures where you can see the intensity of the riders eyes through the visor, so there’s a few of them included here.

As always you can see more of my images on www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com

If you want to see more of our motorsport images, head here: https://www.facebook.com/mnj.photography.uk/

All the images here are the copyrighted property of Nathanael Jones.

Guardian

I visited Six Bells this afternoon near Abertillery in South Wales.

The reason I went to Six Bells was to photograph Guardian. The incredible giant sculpture of a miner which looks towards the former colliery town with outstretched arms “a Welsh answer to Antony Gormley‘s Angel of the North.”

What is the significance of the sculpture? On June 28 1960, an underground explosion killed 45 miners at the Six Bells colliery. For the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2010, the sculpture designed and created by artist Sebastien Boyesen, was unveiled on the site where the pit used to be.

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This was my first visit to see Guardian. The landscaped park where he stands was quiet and I found the experience very moving. Information is displayed which tells the story of that terrible day in 1960 and the statue is engraved with the names of those that lost their lives.

Mining and Wales go hand in hand. Throughout the South Wales Coalfield reminders of the mining heritage are still clear to see. Pit head wheels act as markers as to where the mines once were. Growing up in a valleys town everyone had relatives or friends who had worked in a pit.

Everyone in Wales grows up knowing about the terrible tragedies. The Aberfan disaster in 1966, killed 144, 116 children and 28 adults. The true events of what had caused the disaster were shamefully covered up by the then government and only exposed years later. The Hillsborough of its day.

The Senghenydd disaster in 1913 near Caerphilly, killed 439 workers and one rescuer, and remains the worst mining disaster in British history.

Everyone knows about the struggles too, the miners strikes of the 1980s and the decline of the coal industry that followed.

The working pits are all gone now but some remain as educational facilities. In the UNESCO world heritage town of Blaenavon, is the Big Pit National Coal museum. Here you can tour the mine, going underground just like the miners did. You can see how cramped the mining conditions were, feel the heat of working underground, and see the underground stables where the pit ponies were kept. You can even turn your hat light off and experience the dark like you’ve never experienced it before. To say it is an eye opener is an understatement.

Mining has shaped the land and the people of South Wales. Communities still feel the strong bond and spirit that was built with the pits.

For me the reminders of the pits dotted around the valleys are vitally important to preserving our history and educating people. As a photographer they provide emotions which I try to capture in my images.

The struggles and loss which continue today, of the people who worked and lived in these communities, always needs to be told.

From the final sentence on the Guardian memorial:

“for coal mining communities everywhere.”

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Here we go

It starts

For as long as I remember I’ve loved the outdoors. As a child most weekends were spent exploring. My dad had a motto that if you took kids to shops on weekends it made them unhappy, as all they wanted was stuff they couldn’t have, so getting in to the wide outdoors was the perfect solution. Endless fun that didn’t make us grumpy and it didn’t cost anything either.

Most weekends found us either in the mountains of South Wales or having a bonfire on the beach and cooking a tin of beans.

As the grandson of a Cornish man on my mums side and Pembroke man on my dads side, I guess I was destined to love the sea and the coast. The sound of the waves breaking on the shore, even the sand blasting me in the face when the wind is blowing, I love it!

Photography

In 2007 I went to Canada to explore the wild outdoors with my trusty compact Casio camera, which was about 2 mega pixel and ancient by today’s standard. One day sailing between Prince Rupert and Vancouver Island on the BC Ferry, a bizarre incident took place where a British woman approached me as she had been told I was a professional from England. She asked to see my photos of Canada and asked if I would give a presentation of my images to the Women’s Institute in Kent. Ever seen a pro photographer use a compact camera? me neither! I don’t know who told her that but I owe you a thanks, I didn’t do the presentation but it did make me think maybe I should do more photography.

Fast Forward…I decide to buy a digital SLR. teaching myself shutter speeds, iso and composition.

Motorsport

By 2010 I was photographing motorsport events with my brother. We had both always loved motorbike racing, so why not, it was fun for us. Our images got noticed and in a short space of time we had just under 3000 followers on Facebook. We covered major events, the UK motorcycle show at the NEC, the Isle of Man TT. We met celebrities like Murray Walker and Guy Martin, we got given food, hospitality it was a blast.

It all cost serious money though, every weekend up and down the country non stop. Weirdness too, people copied our shots, copied our captions, followed us to stand in the same spot, copied everything. You couldn’t make it up! It was all a bit cut throat. It was one big learning curve.

My Ford Fiesta was soon starting to disintegrate and generally shedding parts in various places around the UK, just from the miles we were covering. The inside of the passenger door would fill up with water every time it rained and then freeze as a solid block of ice on cold days. This was a rock n roll lifestyle. When I was dating my wife, she would always ask what’s that water sloshing around in the door…my water feature!

Remember the motto from earlier…..why do something that costs you if you can do something better for free.

Landscape

So I started taking pictures of Wales instead and people seemed to like them.

Waterfalls, coast, wildlife and nature.

Then I started to use filters, getting creative and making different shots.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it” – Ansel Adams

Landscape is everywhere and it’s different everywhere. So many options of how you can take a photo. I became like the robot in Short Circuit…need more input, constantly reading and researching finding new places to go.

Why do I love it?

It means I’m out in the fresh air. My wife and our son who is 2 come with me.

In Wales, where I live I can be in the Brecon Beacons National Park in under an hour walking in the mountains or in an hour and a half walking on Rhossili Beach in the Gower, Newport Wetlands and marshes are 15 minutes away. All these places are different, have unique features. I could visit each one, every day for years and capture different things.

If it’s raining and I get drenched, so what it adds something to the photo.

And it’s not just Wales either it could be Cornwall, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District etc. the same applies.

This is why I love it.

Finally

I’ll end this post with one of my favourite quotes

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” – Ansel Adams

Every photo I make has me in it, hopefully as you join me on this adventure you’ll find you in each photo too.

I’ll be posting about places I go, images I capture and all sorts, it’s going to be fun!