Caerphilly Castle

Nothing says British history like castles. The word originally meant a fortress or stronghold, though Disney has managed to make in synonymous with a medievalish looking palace. That isn’t totally their fault, though. Nor is it totally inaccurate. Castles were definitely inhabited by rich people. But not because they liked a grand facade of wealth. Rather, they liked to be safe from their enemy’s soldiers. Caerphilly castle is just such an example. It was built by a nobleman who’s family was intent on subjugating and dominating the surrounding area. Having a castle meant he could be relatively safe from attack, while having a base from which to deploy his men and maintain control. Being safe from attack wasn’t just theoretical either. In 1294 the Welsh, unhappy about being taxed and repressed, rose up. Morgan ap Maredudd led a force that attacked Caerphilly. Half the town was burned, but they couldn’t take the castle—in which our nobleman Gilbert de Clare was cozy and safe.

Ruins at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

In its day, Caerphilly castle was quite revolutionary. It had extra-fortified gatehouses on concentric defenses including artificial lakes and moats. It even had a semi-fortified island where the townspeople could come during a conflict. Just because it was a fortress didn’t mean the noble family shouldn’t live in style—so, their interior accommodations were rather lavish.

Hundreds of years of decay, shifting soil and possibly some intentional blasting during the English Civil War, while rendering it a little less grand, have given it the patina of age and authenticity that sparks your imagination. Yet, enough restoration has been done to guide your imagination in the right direction. Our visit was accompanied by cloud and rain—it seemed only appropriate.

Restored windows at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

The windows in this restored section of the castle show that accommodations for the noble family weren’t so bad as the shabby arrow loops on the exterior walls might suggest.

Outer defenses of Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Ivy growing on ruins at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Crumbling stone ruins at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Duck near water defenses at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Once upon a time, the water defenses may have repelled attackers. But they certainly aren’t repelling a variety of waterfowl.

 

Sunset Time Lapse

A while back, I posted a little time lapse of the blood moon eclipse. That was my first attempt at time lapse, and ever since I have been itching to do one of a sunset. I missed some beautiful opportunities last week when a series of storms delivered amazing cloudscapes. So, when the sky started to look interesting this week, I had to rush home to get my equipment ready. Nothing gets my heart pounding like the idea that I might miss a good opportunity. Whether it is an amazing patch of orange light on a snowcapped peak, or a dwindling supply of tasty food—I get greedy. Having missed my chance with the previous ones, when this opportunity presented itself, I cancelled my plans and got to work.

Location for my setup was limited to the length of my extension cord. I messed up my remote jack earlier this summer so my only reliable control option is tethering my camera to a laptop and using Canon’s EOS Utility. Set up on the roof of a horse stall overlooking Utah Valley and shooting at 5 second intervals for about an hour, this is what I got:

Well, that is mostly what I got. I actually got 38 frames with birds, bugs and helicopters in them. Since no bird takes more than five seconds to cross the frame, they would just pop up like blips giving it an old-timey dusty projector reel kind of feel. Not what I was going for. So, I photoshopped out the birds. 38 frames to fix seems like a lot, but out of 560, I’m counting my blessings.

My setup on the roof of a horse corral to take time lapse photos of the sunset. by Jameson Gardner

Here is my camera set up on top of the horse stall. The laptop is up there too on the other side of the peak. Normally it is kind of nice to use a laptop instead of an interval timer because the EOS Utility provides an onscreen preview of each shot. That was useless in this case though, because once I started shooting I had to climb down to avoid wobbling the roof.

Sun lights the interior of a storm cloud over Utah Valley, Utah. By Jameson Gardner

Here are a few shots I took on the days when I wish I could have done a time lapse last week.

Rays of light shine through clouds just before sunset in mountains above Alpine Utah. By Jameson Gardner

Rays of light filter through clouds and shine onto Utah Lake, Utah. By Jameson Gardner

Fashionable Bath

Our next stop was Bath. Having been there as a kid, the thing that stuck in my mind was steamy green water filled with treasure. As an adult, I am now also aware of a bunch of movies, based on Jane Austen novels in which, various characters travel to Bath accompanying so-and-so who needs a change of venue and who will be taking the waters to recuperate from such-and-such ailment. Of course, we rarely see anybody taking time to recuperate. We are much more likely to find them buying new dresses to attend this-and-that social events. That is because the dresses they brought, which were perfectly acceptable at thither-and-which country estate, will certainly not do in society at Bath.

Dress at Fashion Museum in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

Though Ms. Austen was writing fiction, I get the impression she knew what she was about and Bath has always been a pretty fashionable place. The steamy green treasure of my youth was really a multitude of one, two and five pence coins tossed into the Roman Baths. What are the Roman Baths? Why, only the most fashionable place to be during Roman times—a large complex of pools and saunas built on natural hot-springs.

1800 years may have changed the peoples opinion of public bathing, but it certainly didn’t render the town any less fashionable. They still had the spring-water, they now had the Royal Crescent, and the Circus (both fashionably arced places to rent an apartment) and they still couldn’t wear that old dress they brought from the country.

Today, Bath still has a sort of Georgian-tourist-chic about it, which I think is why my more fashionable brother and his wife spent several days there, while my wife and I kept our visit to one (we had to save time for crumbly Welsh castles). We did manage to hit the fashion museum and find out which dresses “would do” in society from 1700 up through last year.

Chandelier at Assembly Rooms in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

Fountain at Royal Cresent in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

Men's Jacket at fashion museum in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

 

End note: We also sampled the spring water. I’d describe it as tasting like the periodic table of elements—the fact that the water was 70-something degrees Fahrenheit didn’t really help 🙂 Also, In case you are new and were wondering, I always take all my own photos.

Glastonbury Abbey

Flowering vines growing from the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, UK. By Jameson Gardner Art

When we explained to our hostess at the countryside bed and breakfast that our next stop was Glastonbury, she told us that it was a very interesting town, “very spiritual.” I wasn’t sure precisely what she meant, but I had a vague notion that as the site of the ruins of an ancient abbey, it was likely a peaceful place where pious people could go to commune with the divine. It turns out that wasn’t really her meaning.

After we found a car park and I got change for the ticket machine from an auto parts store, we headed for High Street and the abbey. It quickly became apparent what our hostess meant by “spiritual.” High street was loaded with shops selling crystals, incense and energy spray (I’m not entirely certain what that is…). I’m not going to disparage anyone’s path to spirituality—I just wasn’t expecting the residents of a town that claims to be Avalon, the resting place of King Arthur, to make me feel like I was in Santa Fe.

The Abbey was completely different. The large expanse of grass and ruins, filled with myth and history, was quiet and peaceful in comparison. Though people speculate that monks may have invented the graves of Arthur and Guinevere to draw pilgrims in a time of financial need, it feels nice to wonder if maybe it wasn’t true, and maybe that patch of white flowers is growing there for a reason.

Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, UK. By Jameson Gardner Art

 

Whether you believe that King Arthur was buried here, or that the Glastonbury Thorn was really grown from a clipping of the tree that sprouted when Joseph of Arimethea drove his staff into Wearyall Hill, there is something about a place like this that makes you feel connected to those who have gone before. We didn’t have a problem wandering here for a few hours.

Marker at site of supposed tomb of King Arthur, Glastonbury, UK. By Jameson Gardner

 

White flowers in Graveyard by Lady Chapel at Glastonbury Abbey, Sommerset, UK. By Jameson Gardner

Schooner: Painting an Old Drawing

Sometimes you get part way into a project and decide to finish it later. Then, you find yourself clearing out space a few years down the road and wondering if there is someone to whom you can gift a half finished painting, or if you’d better just drop it off at the thrift store. Luckily, today’s is not such a story. I finally got around to painting the schooner that I drew several months ago.

Oil painting of classic sailing schooner by Jameson Gardner 2014

 

I started the drawing while working on my dimensional illustration project Five Months On the Ice as a way to satisfy my urge to draw something a little bigger after painting a pretty small ship for the backdrop of one of my images. I used some of the same reference I had collected for that backdrop and synthesized it into a new angle and composition.

 

schooner Drawing Progress

 

After the charcoal sketch was complete, I sealed it with matte medium and toned it a little in oil with burnt sienna and ultramarine. That is how it stayed for nine or ten months.

Sketch of schooner on masonite, toned with oil color.

Finally, I decided it might be fun to paint it, so with some of the same old reference, I got to work.

Schooner Ocean and Sky Painted

 

When I am painting over a drawing, I tend to compartmentalize things rather than working everything up together, as I would when painting from life.

Work in progress on schooner painting by Jameson Gardner, 2014

 

Once finished, I went ahead and framed it in this pretty mahogany.

Oil painting of classic sailing schooner in mahogony frame by Jameson Gardner 2014

The Countryside

I have a couple dimensional projects underway, but I don’t like to post those ’til I have a final image (I do have work in progress on Instagram). So, I’m sharing a few more photos from England. On our way from Lyme Regis to Bath, we stayed at the Burrow Hill Bed and Breakfast in the countryside. We arrived late and went straight to bed, but in the morning we realized what a beautiful area we were in.

View of English countryside in Somerset

 

Our hostess suggested we climb a hill across the lane. At the top, we were greeted by a 360 view of English countryside.

Teddy bear in the window of bed and breakfast in Somerset, England

This bear was part of the cute decor in our room.

Tree atop green hill beyond gate in English Countryside, Somerset.

The hill with the view had a single tree planted picturesquely atop it.

Photos from the Cobb

There is a scene from Jane Austen’s Persuasion where a group of acquaintances has gone out for a stroll on this breakwater at the harbor of Lyme Regis. If you’ve read the book or seen one of the movie adaptations, you know that this is the part where, Louisa, in stupid teenage thoughtlessness, jumps off a ledge to be caught by Captain Wentworth… but she misses and hits her head. I suspect our heroine Anne doesn’t mind, though, because she secretly wants Wentworth for herself–despite having jilted him eight years ago when they were engaged.

Well, my wife likes the book all the same, so we found ourselves at that very breakwater—the Cobb. It turned out to be rather pretty.

Sunset sky from the Cobb at Lyme Regis, UK. By Jameson Gardner Art

 

Wave breaking on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, UK. By Jameson Gardner Art

 

 

Foamy swell directly off the Cobb at Lyme Regis, UK. By Jameson Gardner Art

 

Boats in the Harbor near the Cobb Foamy swell directly off the Cobb at Lyme Regis, UK. By Jameson Gardner Art

The Marsh Path

I think these few photos really convey the mood of the little path at marsh’ edge on the day they were taken. It was the sort of place where it seems that man and nature have been together for long enough that they can respect one another. There is also a bit of delightful country gloom. This is near Keyhaven on the southern coast of England.

 

Country gate on lane near marsh, Keyhaven, UK. By Jameson Gardner

 

Flowers by path at nature reserve Keyhaven, UK

 

House and grounds at marsh edge Keyhaven, UK. by Jameson Gardner Art

 

Country path--Keyhaven, UK. By Jameson Gardner Art

 

Nelson, Swan and the Queen

These are just a few random shots that I decided to group for fun. This one of Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square is another of my stitching projects. So far I have been pretty happy with the results. Like Saint Paul’s and Big Ben, this one merged pretty well. The only one that hasn’t was my attempt to get a 360 panoramic from the top of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. I had to take a step between each shot to move around the dome and the resulting perspective doesn’t really match up.

Nelson's Column at Trafalgar Square, London. By Jameson Gardner

This Swan was at a little nature reserve near Newhaven. I’ll be posting more pictures from that area later. I have to admit that I edited an ugly house out of the background—it sort of ruined the nature reserve feeling.

Swan at nature reserve near Newhaven, UK. By Jameson Gardner

This last one is my wife taking a photo of Buckingham Palace. The flag was flying and we thought maybe we caught a glimpse of the Queen peeking out at us 😉

Woman photographing Buckingham Palace, London. © Jameson Gardner

Saint Paul’s

Here are a few more photos from London. Again, Saint Paul’s Cathedral was too big for my 50 mm lens. So, I just had to try to make interesting crops. I wish photos were allowed inside, there is definitely a different aspect of grandness when it surrounds and extends above you than when it sits before you. In fact, Christopher Wren designed the building to be optimally grand when viewed from both inside and out. There is a painted inner dome that you see when you look up from inside. Above that is a structural cone that supports the outer dome, which was designed to be taller and more visible from the outside than the inner dome would have.

Saint Paul's Cathedral London Detail

View of London from atop dome at Saint Paul's Cathedral, London

This is a view of the city from the top of the dome. It’s a lot of steps, but definitely worth it. Saint Paul’s Cathedral is built at the highest point in London and the 360 degree view from the top is spectacular.

Saint Paul's Cathedral, London detail

Above, one of the exterior shots where I was forced to find a composition within the limited angle of my frame. Below, I stitched together three shots taken from an alleyway as we approached the cathedral.

Saint Pauls Cathedral view through alley, London