Monday, 14 March 2011

Exciting last field trips for the Llandovery schools

Ysgol Pantycelyn

Today we went on our longest journey, all the way up to see the young Sawdde river below the source of the famous story about the Lady of the Lake, Lyn y Fan Fach. After a bus trip that took us to Llangadog, then up the mountain road to the Three Horse Shoes, where we turned left, we arrived at the village of Llanddeusant. Turning right and immediately left we carried on over narrowing roads and rugged mountain scenery to finally arrive at our destination, the parking area at the foot of the track up to the lake.

Above: Pantycelyn students by the Sawdde River

The weather was bright and the light good, which suited our purposes perfectly. The tumbling brook with the early spring sun shining on it was a very attractive subject for photography, as were the little streams running down the mountain and the glistening rocks. Making our way up the track, there were lots more opportunities for lovely pictures, with subjects ranging from dramatic landscapes through details of lichens to wonderfully gnarled and stunted trees.

It was a shame that we had to leave this lovely spot, but the wind was a bit too keen and the distance back to school a little too far to allow a longer stay. Later, in the classroom, it was obvious from the quality of the work that the children had enjoyed the assignment. It was also gratifying to see the improvement in standards: everybody has understood the need to look through the camera at the landscape and compose pictures that satisfy their creative urges and promote a greater understanding of the world in which they live.

Ysgol Rhys Pritchard

In contrast to this mornings outing, the juniors went to a very different landscape, one where wildness is actively managed to create parkland of great beauty. Llwynywermod is an outstanding example of a piece of countryside that has been enhanced over centuries to provide a wide variety of environments and visual elements. For the class there was much to get their creative juices flowing: rolling pasture lands with scattered veteran trees and newly planted replacements; a fast running stream with alder carr all the way along; ponds and rush filled rills; an ancient bridge that was on the drover road; a ruined mansion; and dramatic skyscapes that even had wheeling red kites.

Above: Rhys Pritchard kids and staff at the old drover's bridge

There was great excitement about a huge log of a fallen sweet chestnut and we took some group shots of the kids sitting and standing on it. We are very grateful for the opportunity to visit this wonderful place and hope that we might get a special visitor to the children's exhibition.

On the way back we stopped twice to look at different kinds of landscape features. First a stream running through a small woodland where a waterfall played the water into a pool. Secondly, a small quarry next to the road where the stone was exposed as a vertical cliff face. It was a busy afternoon and we just had time in the classroom to view all the kids' best three pictures. They were superb and it was a fitting finale to the field trips. Next we meet it will be after Easter and we shall begin the work on the computers.

Exhibition news

The Carmarthen schools exhibition will be on Tuesday 22nd March starting at 12 noon with an opening by the Mayor of Carmarthen followed by the presentation of prizes and a buffet lunch. It will take place at St. Peter's Civic Hall. The exhibition will be open the next day, 23rd March from 9 am until 5 pm and will be open to the public.

Monday, 28 February 2011

A church in the landscape and a warm welcome for the Llandovery schools' third field trip

Ysgol Pantycelyn

Eager to take a walk with their cameras, the students didn't take much cajoling to get started on their latest field trip. Walking from the school in the early spring sun, we went the back way to Eglwys Llandingat, which is on the south-western edge of town. It has a fine lych gate and stands in the midst of a large graveyard. Because of its situation, the surrounding hills can be seen in a number of directions, giving photo opportunities that were very welcome in landscape terms. Everybody made the most of this by framing some of their shots to include the yew trees, the church building and the distant scenery.

Above: The Lych Gate at Eglwys Llandingat is a nice gathering place for Pantycelyn

Though we were unable to go inside due to there being a class going on, we were able to maximise on outdoor possibilities by exploring the extensive grounds and taking plenty of pictures of gravestones, mosses, lichen and some early flowers. There was a lot of creative thinking happening, with new angles being used to good effect. Examples of this were getting right down on the ground to photograph flowers against the sky and looking up the side if the church's tower to emphasise the vanishing points. After we had taken the group shot in the shelter of the lych gate, we made our way back to school, where looking at their three best shots of the morning was a real pleasure.

Ysgol Rhys Pritchard

In a big bus today, we travelled up the Brecon road a few miles and turned off to go through the hamlet of Pentre Ty Gwyn. Further still up the very narrow road, we stopped at Pantycelyn Farm, where Mrs. Williams very warmly welcomed us. She is a direct descendent of the famous hymn writer William Williams. Not only is our other Llandovery school named after it, but also it is a place of pilgrimage for people from around the world. We timed it right because we had the place to ourselves and Mrs. Williams could devote her attentions entirely to the awed children. First, we took lots of pictures of the farm itself, which nestles in a shallow valley.

Above: Ysgol Rhys Pritchard children and staff welcomed to Pantycelyn by Mrs. Williams

There were many subjects here and it took quite a while before the kids were ready to walk up to the farm buildings where we were allowed in to admire the sheep and their newly born lambs. Trying to be a quiet as possible, the children photographed all they saw. Back outside, we went back to the farmhouse and, taking off our boots, we were welcomed into the Williams' home. Admiring the historic items, including paintings, plates, books and a grandfather clock, we then all signed the visitors' book. It had been a very interesting and educational field trip for us all and the children evidently were inspired, judging by the quality of their best three shots shown back in class.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Carmarthen schools take up the final challenge

Queen Elizabeth High Comprehensive

Working very hard, the students at QE High finalised the work for the project today. As before, we did it in sections and this worked very well, especially as we had buddies from the sixth form to help out. It is always tricky to decide what your best shots are and it's even more difficult to say why you took them.

Above: The class and staff at the last session at QE High

Nevertheless, everyone finished the tasks and we all were satisfied that we had done the best we could. There is no doubt that the exhibition is going to be very beautiful. Judging by the selections that people have made and the comments they have made about them, we will have a star of a show. Congratulations everybody!

Johnstown Juniors

It has been a long haul, but the rewards are very great. The class at Johnstown are stars. There are many fine pictures and, I hope, some very happy children. Today, we worked extremely hard to finish our tasks, which we did in the time limit. Some of the class were unavailable; so they will have to do the last bits in class time. That aside, it was a magnificent achievement.

Above: Students and buddies at the last session in Johnstown

Again, the year six buddies were on hand to offer advice and assistance. Their help was invaluable and it was great to include them in the final group shot. We had a lot of fun taking the portrait pictures and it will be lovely to see them proudly placed on their own boards at the exhibition.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Llandovery schools brave the weather in search of great landscape pictures

Ysgol Pantycelyn

Our second field trip was spectacular. In the minibus we followed the Tywi up through Cilycwm and Rhandir-mwyn to the dam at Llyn Brianne, stopping first at the viewing point. Here, in the distance, the dam itself can be seen, along with the huge ramp of the spillway. Today, we were really lucky in that the water was flowing down the spillway, providing a stunning backdrop. The students happily took lots of pictures of the views in every direction. We were lucky that it wasn't actually raining, but the wind was strong and the light levels good, even though there was no sun. We also photographed details of rocks with lichen, grass and fences before getting back in the bus to go up to the top of the dam.

Above: Pantycelyn class with Llyn Brianne's spillway in full flow

Here, it was altogether different! Being much more exposed, this area was affected by some pretty strong winds, making the experience very funny, while people were buffeted around. Despite this, the class enjoyed photographing this most stunning of mountainous landscapes. Waves on the reservoir itself, the water rushing down the spillway and the very size of this feat of engineering gave the children many creative opportunities. They were certainly inspired, judging by the quality of the images they showed me back in the classroom.

Ysgol Rhys Pritchard

By the afternoon, the light levels had improved, though the temperature still required the wearing of coats and scarves as we walked to the church at Llanfair y Bryn. Stopping off to collect the key, we entered via the lych gate, photographing the outside of this ancient building and the views before entering. What a beautiful church! There was much to take pictures of here, including the roof, stalls, pulpit and lovely stained glass.

Above: Rhys Pritchard kids around the old oak tree Llandovery

Having satisfied ourselves we had taken all the pictured we needed, we moved off down to the other side of town to the river bridge. Here the river and bridge offered plenty of sources of inspiration, as did the huge stump of the ancient oak tree on the far side. On the way back we stopped to ‘film' the train arriving in the station from the Llandeilo direction. The station manager and the conductor were very pleased to have an appreciative audience and were very helpful as the level crossing was operated from the station. Here was something all of us had never experienced.

It was certainly a good day for photography and the three locations provided the kids with different challenges, which they fully exploited. This was evident back in class, where it was obvious that everybody had taken excellent pictures. Roll on the exhibition.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Carmarthens schools soldier on

Queen Elizabeth High

Today, we worked hard at our second session at the computer face. For logistical reasons we had to dived the class into two parts. This meant that we had to work efficiently at making those all to difficult choices about which pictures to put in the '20 Best' folder. The task can be very tricky, especially when there are lots of lovely photos from which to choose.

Above: QE High computer session

With help from staff and buddies, though we were all able to get to the point where we could leave the work for our next and last class. Many students managed to achieve the even more tricky separation of the '10 best'. These, of course, will be the shots that will be printed up for the exhibition.

Johnstown Juniors

All, despite problems with the computer system, today had a great session. This entailed quite long waits for everybody while the files were copied to the individual computers. Nevertheless, buddies from year six were on hand to help out when things got going. Everybody achieved the goal of choosing their twenty best and some did better by getting to the final choices. Well done!

Above: Johnstown Juniors hard at it!

Next session, we will need to finalise choices and name the pictures, providing a caption for each one. Also, the individual portraits and final group shots will be taken.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Llandovery schools’ first field trips

Pantycelyn Comprehensive students go to town

We were lucky with the weather – it was cold, but not freezing and the rain stayed away – for the first time out for the students at Pantycelyn. It's only a short walk to the town from school and there are plenty of exciting subjects to photograph. The first stop was the car park beneath the castle, where we were able to get shots looking upward to the remains of the castle itself and to the stainless steel sculpture. A short walk up the hill and were next to the wonderful statue of the local hero Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan. Martyred in 1401 as a supporter of Owain Glyn Dwr, his shining monument overlooks the town.

Above: Pantycelyn visit the statue of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan

The children were quick to take lots of pictures of it from all perspectives. Further up, Llandovery Castle has dramatic landscape views of the town and hills around from its massive masonry walls. Pausing to take a group picture at the statue, we then walked to the market square where scenes of townscapes, buildings, the market hall and fountain made a contrast to the previous location. There were plenty of photo opportunities here, ranging from close-ups of cobbles and trees to roofscapes and town buildings. It was a very good example of a built environment and, as proof of the children's commitment to the project, it was gratifying to see the high quality of their work back in class.

Ysgol Rhys Pritchard look up to the Heart of Wales line

In contrast to the morning session, the children of Ysgol Rhys Pritchard chose to make the short journey in the minibus to Cynghordy. Here the huge railway viaduct dwarfs the local landscape. Built in the 1867, it carries the Heart of Wales railway line. It's a dramatic subject for photography and its dizzying height of ninety three feet gave everybody plenty of creative options, both as close-up shots of the monumentally sized stone blocks from which it is made, and as unusual perspective pictures. The viaduct curves away, allowing photos that fill the frame with pillars and arches. The clear but cold weather continued as we walked up the valley.

Above: The Rhys Pritchard team dwarfed by viaduct at Cynghordy

Now the fields by the side of the road were laced with shallow ice-filled depressions, which offered different creative options, especially viewed against the woods and pastures of the valley sides. Afon BrĂ¢n flows near the lane and we were able to take pictures of its fast flowing stream before turning back and getting images of the viaduct filling the valley. Back in the bus, we made a detour up the mountain, where we stopped to photograph the distant viaduct in its setting of the Cambrian Mountains. It was very pleasing to view the children's work back in class and to realise again the value of this project in raising their confidence.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Carmarthen schools begin work on their pictures

Queen Elizabeth High

Today we started the process of sorting the hundreds of photos the students have taken on their four field trips and their first session in the school. It's quite a task to create folders for each session, plus the two extras for the best choices for printing. Despite some technical problems, we all managed to learn how to make the folders, to download some files and to play with an image on the computers.

Now that the school is getting more flash drives, our next session in a fortnight will focus on making the tricky decisions about which of all those pictures we took will go into the 'Best twenty five' folder and from them the 'Best ten'. These ten will be the pictures that are printed and displayed in the big exhibition.

Johnstown Juniors

The children were as enthusiastic as ever when we arrived and were happy to get started on this second phase of the project. We were pleased to have 'buddies' from year six to help out. As usual in this part of the project, the first task was to make the seven new folders.

This went well and the next job to download images from the cameras was fast, thanks to plenty of space on the hard drive. Thanks to the buddies, everybody had lots of fun at the end of this session altering one of their photos by including text and changing the colours in very radical ways. We ended up with time to spare.