Alison's North Wales Fuji Meet Photoblog
My view of our Caernarfon trip to Wales with a surprise meet with Finepix folk.
Earlier in the year Mike Hardisty put a suggestion forward to have a meet in North Wales and I was interested. I was hoping to have made the York meet but a close family wedding meant we were unable to attend the meet. I followed the forum threads with interest and Hubby Geoff and myself decided we would have a few days in Caernarfon if our health permitted, so we kept it secret and hoped we would get the chance to meet the group at some stage on the day.
We set off from home on our five part planned journey involving cars, trains and buses at 7am last Saturday 15th October 2011 the day before the North Wales meet. We arrived in sunny Caernarfon at our hotel ‘The Black Boy Inn’ a few hours later and had a refreshing drink while we absorbed the atmosphere. We chose ‘The Black Boy Inn’ as it dates back to 1522 and is one of the oldest inns in North Wales built within Caernarfon’s historic town walls and in the heart of the Royal town centre within easy walking of the 13th century castle.
Our room was a welcome retreat for us as weary travellers and I couldn’t resist taking a photo.The Inn’s wood panelling, creaking floorboards, low ceilings, narrow staircases and thick walls and wooden beams creates a cosy, comfortable charming atmosphere. I had researched that ‘the ghost of a nun is said to pass through the inn on her way to a nunnery that was once situated at the rear.’ Many ghosts have been sighted within the building. I did ask the owner as he showed us up to our beautiful room if he had seen any ghosts but he said no and neither did we, so Geoff and myself slept soundly.
The weather was glorious with sunny blue skies so Geoff and myself decided to bring forward our itinerary a day earlier and take photos of the inside of Caernarfon Castle that afternoon. Caernarfon Castle is the most famous and perhaps the most beautiful majestic medieval castle in Wales which was what its builder King Edward I intended. The noble castle itself had two gateways defended by strong gatehouses, seven towers lining its walls which were up to twenty feet thick. From the beginning in 1283 the castle was conceived as a military strong fortress-grand royal palace residence of special significance and symbolism.
This photo inside the castle grounds shows part of the upper ward showing from left to right the Granary Tower, the North East Tower and the Watch Tower. The ‘toothing’ on the towers indicates that substantial buildings were planned to line the curtain walls but were never built. The curtain wall is notable for its array of multiple arrowloops and the lack of wall passages compared with its southern counterpart.
This is one of the many windows in The Granary Tower which duplicates the Well Tower as its octagonal of four storeys surmounted by a turret and has a wall passage at ground level leading to a well chamber. Of the main rooms only the top floor which is unroofed is accessible to visitors. It is crossed by the wall-walk along the top of the curtain which can be followed across the King’s Gate to the Well Tower and so down to the courtyard again.
The heavy wooden door and metal padlock bolts which was between the North-East Tower and the Watch Tower. While traversing the wall passages, climbing the spiral stairs and viewing some of the great rooms at Caernarfon Castle we did wonder why the castle was built here on such a big scale. Apparently Caernarfon has long been enshrined in legend and history as the fortress and palace of great rulers. In 1284 a Prince, destined to become the first English Prince of Wales was born there.
From The Watch Tower in the Upper Ward I took this shot looking towards the Lower Ward. The King’s Gate and the Well Tower can be seen on the right with the Eagle Tower at the farthest point with the flag masts with the Menai Strait in view. In front of the Watch Tower in the courtyard where the circle is was the scene of much royal pageantry including the setting for Prince Edward in 1911 and the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales on 1st July 1969. An exhibition in the castle’s north east tower traces the history of the Royal title. Caernarfon Castle is an official World Heritage Site and run by Cadw.
The overall plan of Caernarfon Castle is shaped like a figure of eight, divided into two wards at the middle. There are seven unusual polygonal towers, two gatehouses and walls of colour-banded masonry stone. The King’s Gate to the right is a great twin-towered gatehouse demonstrating the immense strength of medieval fortification. If completed it would have been defended by a drawbridge, five doors, six portcullises and numerous ‘murder holes’ and arrowloops and spy holes.
To reach the Black Tower where we stood for this shot we had entered the doorway to the left of the Chamberlain Tower and made our way along the lower wall passage. The Black Tower was built against the side of the motte. The stair in the north-west corner of the tower gave access to this upper floor to the roof leading to the surmounting turret and a good vantage point for the beautiful views. The Chamberlain Tower can be seen here with the Queen’s Tower just visible and the masts protrude from the Eagle Tower. On the right the King’s Gate and in front of that is the Well Tower.
The Museum of The Royal Welch Fusiliers is situated within two towers of Caernarfon Castle and tells the story of over 300 years of history using film, sound, models and exhibits.(Photography was not allowed in the museum) We saw and learnt how the Regiment won 14 Victoria Crosses and read the words of famous writers who served with the Royal Welch during the First World War such as Robert Graves and Seigfried Sassoon and their war poetry. These two well-known writers served together in the Royal Welch and wrote poetry and books based on their experiences. I was particulary fascinated in these exhibits of the museum (being as I am a published poet myself) for it was very interesting to read the great outpouring of literature resulting from the Great War.
By now I was struggling with the steep stairs having already limited the labyrinth maze of passages and spiral steps to discover. We were beginning to get breathless too and so I sent Geoff on to look around the nooks and crannys to discover the priority photo opportunities and while I was waiting I took this photo. It made me think how the folk in Medieval times managed daily.
Restricted by now to our dwindling strength it took ages to climb the Eagle Tower a step at a time and the one we should have climbed first for the views. In this view from the Eagle Tower it looks along the full length of the interior of the castle, the lower ward is in the foreground, the narrower waist at the centre and the upper ward beyond.
Caernarfon is located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between North Wales and Anglesey, 8 miles South West of Bangor. During Edward I’s invasions of Wales this was strategically the best place to build a castle. One of the most imposing buildings in Caernarfon is the classical building of the County Hall built in the 13th Century the fluted ionic columns dates from the 1860’s and is currently used as the County Court.
After catching my breath back after the climb to the top of the Eagle Tower I spent some time taking shots of the views. In the Castle guide it says The Eagle Tower ‘is the greatest of all the castle’s towers and was probably at first intended to provide accommodation for Sir otto de Grandison, the King’s Lieutenant and first justiciar of North Wales.’ It was three storeys high with a basement and at this point point I was thinking ‘ What goes up must go down’ and began to prepare myself for the descent down slowly, but not before a couple more shots first.
Taken from the Eagle Tower this is the view of The Aber Swing Bridge which is a pedestrian bridge across the River Seiont between the Watergate entrance to Caernarfon Castle and the Aber Foreshore. The current swing bridge was built in 1970 and replaced an earlier bridge which dated back to 1900. Some photos to appear later were taken from the road which can be seen. I took day and night shots of the Eagle Tower from across the River Seiont from that vantage point.
Here is another view of the River Seiont and Caernarfon town centre and the location of the town creates a lovely view across the Afon Menai towards the south of Anglesey.
Caernarfon is situated between the picturesque Menai Straits and Mount Snowdon and is a busy Welsh market town and a major tourist centre.
The sun was still shining so we thought we would leave the castle and take some photos from the opposite side and we just managed to quickly get across The Aber Swing pedestrian Bridge before it closed to pedestrians to allow the ‘Queen of the Sea’ pleasure boat sail through for a forty minute trip on the Menai Strait.
The reflections on the water looked cool as the passenger boat passed by and the stretch of the town wall facing the Menai Strait still retains its medieval atmosphere today. We tried to book the boat trip on the Monday morning before we came home but the weather was very windy, wet and miserable and the boat trip was cancelled.
The best position to appreciate the splendid southern facade of the castle with its multangular towers and colour-banded walls is from across the river Seiont. From this vantage point The Eagle Tower where we stood at the top taking those photo views can be seen with the flag curled around the pole. (The farthest left one)
The beautiful blue sky and colourful buildings in the town centre looked so picturesque and quaint. Caernarfon was defended in two parts - the castle itself, and the town walls. Edward's strongest castles were concentric, providing optimal defensive capabilities,but the use of castle and town walls provided up to two lines of defence with the benefit of an ostentatious appearance - essential when considering Caernarfon's intended purpose. However, it should not be assumed that Caernarfon was a weak castle - its completed defences were formidable.
A day time shot of The Eagle Tower which is perhaps the crowning glory of Caernarfon and was finally nearing completion in 1317 when a carved stone eagle was affixed to it. Work had commenced here in earnest from 1283 but later in the 1280’s it seems the tower was provided with a temporary roof following the completion of the first three storeys.
By now Geoff and myself were getting tired. We had been up since 6am to travel to Caernarfon and it was just 3pm at this stage and we had done the castle tour and walked around the town walls and taken quite a few photos so we headed back to our hotel ‘The Black Boy Inn’ to refresh with a pint or two of cool refreshing cider and a hearty good meal. Just look at the size of that delicious chunky chip! We then rested up in our room and I checked the laptop for the updates on the Fuji forum threads about the North Wales meet that was taking place the next day and then we headed out for some night time photography.
This was the same shot of The Eagle Tower I had taken at the same location as the above castle photo of a few hours earlier.The lights on the castle were amazing and illuminated the colour-banded masonry stone.
The lights on the castle walls looked wonderful and this became the backdrop for the fantastic light display that took place the next day at the meet.
Caernarfon is a town of contrasts: a busy market town, a major tourist centre, the county town for Gwynedd and a major local commercial and administrative centre. On the town square stands a statue of a local MP who became one of Britain’s most renowned Prime Ministers – David Lloyd George.
The temperature was beginning to drop and I was so grateful that I was well wrapped up in my thick winter coat and warm clothing. So after taking this shot of the town we decided to call it a night and headed back to ‘The Black Boy Inn’ for a welcoming drink and to look at my photos on the laptop.
This is the inside of ‘The Black Boy Inn’ pub lounge in Northgate Street.(and where we sat at the meet before evening dinner the next day having an HDR session with Mike) "The Black" is in Northgate Street and in olden days this was the town's red light district. In Welsh this street is 'Stryd Pedwar a Chwech' (''Four and Six Street') meaning four shillings and sixpence'. Allegedly, for that sum, one could get a room complete with a bottle of gin and the services of a young lady for the night!
This photo was taken of the 'black boy' inside the Restaurant. On the outside of the Grade II listed pub (see my second photo) it has four pub signs, each showing a 'black buoy' on one side and a 'black boy' on the other. There are at least three explanations for its name. One says the name referred to a black boy brought into the country on a ship; another that it related to a navigational black buoy which existed in the harbour in the early days of the Inn; and a third says it refers to the nickname given to Charles II by his mother and the fact that Royalists met secretly here.
Well, after a good nights undisturbed sleep with not a ghost to be seen in the night, we rose early and went downstairs to the restaurant to sample the best breakfast we’ve ever tasted with full compliments to the wonderful cook. That beautiful Welsh breakfast kept me going all day until the evening meal. After such a hearty breakfast we walked around the town taking photos and naturally sampled a few pubs along the route while we waited for the Fuji members to make their appearance in Caernarfon. This photo was taken less than an hour before the meet up together and I guessed with strong intuition exactly where they would be, even to the exact spot where Steve would park his blue van. This was, after all ‘Ransome land’ and I could feel the vibes of him being very close. How right was I! My timing was turning out perfect as we waited to spring the big surprise!!
I spotted the group by the ice-cream van at 3.45pm and secretly started clicking the camera and then approached Glynis (Reiki Master) and I said “Hello Glynis” ...no response and a blank face..”Hello Glynis..I’m Alison Bruce-Stone” Then the penny dropped and we were hugging and laughing. By then the others were wondering who Glynis had met up with and then I went over and hugged Steve, Nigel, Sharon and Mike. After introducing Geoff, my husband to everyone, we were soon all chatting away. It was then our time to ‘tag the togs’ and stay the rest of the day together taking photos. Then it was finger clicking camera time and this was one of my first shots of Steve at 4pm on the Aber pedestrian bridge.
I must say that I was mightily impressed with Mike’s big camera. We stayed on the bridge for a while talking and taking photos of what we believed were ‘penguins’ and we saw a low swooping Kingfisher but I was too interested in seeing it that I forgot to take a photo.
We continued to walk, talk and take photos and had a look at the boats in the Victoria Dock which opened in the Spring of 1997 and then took some more shots by the maritime museum and the anchors. I took this one of Glynis taking the shot of the Castle as we walked to the town square to take some fun fountain shots.
After the fun in the town and a chat over a cup of coffee at an outside cafe, the temperature was really dropping by now and getting quite chilly. Steve and Glynis warmed themselves up in the van and yes, Steve’s work van is very tidy. Time was flying fast as two hours had already passed since we had all met and it felt like we had known each other for ages. Geoff took this one of Steve and myself by the blue Ransome van.
Glynis and Steve getting down to business of capturing the splendid sunset across the Menai Strait.
The sun was still setting after six o'clock and we were all still set up watching and taking photos. I captured Mike showing a passerby his camera while Steve was firing on all cylinders and grabbing the photo opportunity with both hands.
The glorious sunset was just beautiful.
I took a few shots of the sunset and then noticed Nigel’s camera showing the sunset on the camera screen prior to him clicking the camera and taking the shot. So not one to miss the opportunity I ‘pinched’ his shot. Thanks Nigel. Well, I did ask everyone when we first met if they had any objections in being photographed and having their photos posted in my photoblog.
‘Blue is the colour’ and my first Orb. This certainly was a fascinating and interesting experience to be able to participate in. The sun had set and the stage was now set in the same place for Nigel’s fantastic fascinating display. Nigel guided and showed me my camera settings and counted us all down to synchronize and shoot the shot as he spun his blue light.
A few minutes later and just after 7pm we were then treated to Nigel’s wire wool spin. The effects were creative and awesome and this was my first attempt of taking a shot thanks to Nigel’s knowledge. (Don’t try this at home kids..) Geoff was watching us all from the jetty wall and was enjoying watching the display.
There was just enough time left to try a last attempt at the light displays, so Nigel spun the wheel and placed it into different positions to create this effect against the backdrop of Caernarfon Castle this time. I was quite pleased with my shot and again I could not have done it without Nigel’s instructions. I learnt a few things about my Fuji HS10 camera from Nigel and I hope I can practice the techniques in the future.
Feeling tired and cold from a long lovely day, Geoff and myself slowly walked back ahead of the others to ‘The Black Boy Inn’ to refresh and go downstairs for our evening meal for all of us at 8pm. There was just enough time for Mike to show Steve and Glynis in the pub lounge before the meal the process of HDR work.
We had gone a full twelve hours since the delicious breakfast. I was feeling peckish but not a penguin in sight, so it was time to choose from the wonderful menu. The 10oz Prime Rump Steak was staring me in my face and tempting but I plumbed for the gammon again and Geoff had a curry. The day was making a few of us red faced at this point from the day’s sun and fresh air.(honest it was not the drink) Conversation flowed quicker than the drinks and the cameras were quiet.
Before we knew it the time was nearing ten, when I mentioned that we hadn’t had a group shot taken to show you all. I set up my camera on the tripod. So here is the North Wales Fuji Meet group of 16th October 2011. (left to right.. Mike Hardisty, myself (Alison Bruce-Stone) and my hubby Geoff, Nigel Thomas and his lovely friend Sharon, Steve Ransome himself and Glynis (Reiki Master) Then we said our Fuji fond farewells until the next time. (Geoff and myself stayed that night and left at 4pm for the journey home arriving before 10pm the next day.)
I would like to thank Mike for organising such a great event and a big thank you to all the group for such a lovely time together. I would also like to thank John and all the wonderful staff at ‘The Black Boy’ Inn for their kind warm welcome in also making this a wonderful memorable time for us in Caernarfon.
Thanks again and thanks for viewing my photoblog.
Best Wishes. Alison (and Geoff)
- So it might be warmer now, but it wasn't long ago that it was Baltic, as this #Fujifilm #S9600 owner's blog proves! http://t.co/sNVjkZe48E
- Sending one of these (mic, not camera) to @geekanoids to have a play with and let us know what they think http://t.co/oMdKC1XbZX
- Not quite sure how this #Fujifilm #HS10 managed to stop this fast-moving subject in its tracks - that's some skill! http://t.co/I2Vz8rGj80
- Perfect for British weather... http://t.co/CcYvg6Zr3b #rain #waterproofcamera http://t.co/K7E42nz2LZ
- @Lensflaredave the best kind ;-)