South Wales - Local Days Out

Easing out of lockdown - Local Days Out in South Wales

I don't know about you, but I'm finding the transition from lockdown to less of a lockdown a bit tricky. One minute I'm safely tucked up at home and the next minute, I can go shopping, play group sports and go out for dinner! The rules seem to be changing so quickly that I can't keep up.

Now that school is over (finally!), I've been thinking about local day trips that we can make as family, whilst still keeping to the current rules. As a Cardiff family photographer, I'm lucky to spend time with clients outside in lots of great locations, so I've got plenty of ideas!

I can't wait to get out and about and back to some of our favourite places.

So, here's my top 7 places that make great family local days out - without the crowds.

7 Local Days Out in South Wales (in no particular order)

southerndown beach local days out

1. Dyffryn Gardens

This place is a firm family favourite. We've been National Trust members for a few years now and so we regularly visit Dyffryn Gardens for a family picnic and stroll around the gardens. At the moment, you'll need to pre-book an arrival slot online. It's very straightforward. There's a one way system to get in and out of the gardens and it's so spacious, that there's loads of room for families to sit and enjoy the space without going near anyone else.

The shop and toilets are now open, so you can buy an ice cream and enjoy the peaceful views. Some of the smaller gardens and the play areas are closed right now but there's still plenty of space and things to see.

Here's a picture of my two, in the rain, when we visited last week.

dyffryn gardens

2. Porthcawl to Rest Bay

We do this a lot. We park at the quieter end of Porthcawl, usually in a residential street and then walk, scoot, skateboard or bike to Rest Bay. Once there, we'll enjoy a picnic or a swim in the sea. The lifeguards are now back on duty and more people are visiting the beach but as it's such a big space, there's plenty of room to find a quiet spot.

After the beach we normally head back to Porthcawl for an ice cream before going home. The shops and cafes are all now open and operating under social distancing rules. You can pop to Beales for some fish and chips or stop at one of the cafes on the esplanade for a coffee.

3. Three Cliffs Bay

The beaches in the Gower are some of my favourites in South Wales and this one is a stunner. We visited last weekend and it was glorious. There's a few different ways to get down to the beach. We found a random field, advertising parking and parked there but there's also official car parks, including one run by the National Trust. The beach is big and because it's not so straightforward to access, like it's neighbours, Langland Bay and Caswell Bay, it's quieter. Make sure you check the tides before you go though and be careful that you don't get cut off by one of the beach rivers that zig zag the bay. The walk from the car park is around a mile, so be prepared for a bit of a trek but it's worth it.

three cliffs bay local days outthree cliffs bay

4. Margam Park

You can lose a day in Margam Park. There's so many different parts that it can keep you occupied for hours. It's another family favourite of ours but we haven't been so far this year yet. It's now open from 10am-4.30pm. The toilets and cafe are open but the children's play area, castle, train and gift shop remain closed. They are restricting visitor numbers so it shouldn't be crowded.

family day out

5. Southerndown beach

A bit closer to home for us but I couldn't complete this list without mentioning my favourite local beach - Southerndown (Dunraven Bay). At the moment, the main car park on the beach remains closed but the car park at the top of the hill is open (£6 for any time longer than an hour, you can pay via your phone).

Due to the difficult parking situation the beach remains quieter than it's neighbour Ogmore and so it's a better option if you're looking for a socially distanced day out. Please be careful around the cliffs though. I've seen lots of people sitting underneath the rocks at the base of the cliffs and it's super dangerous. Rocks fall off the cliffs and you don't want to be there when they do.

There's also some lovely walks in the area. You can walk along the cliffs in both directions - heading towards Ogmore one way or Llantwit Major in the other direction. There's plenty of room up on the cliffs for a quiet family picnic. Just keep away from the edge. Probably not the best choice if you have small children or dogs.

southerndown beach local days out

6. Hensol Forest

A little hidden gem in the Vale. The forest is big but we usually follow the same path when we visit. We park in the car park near Welsh St Donats and do a figure of 8 around the forest. There's usually a few dog walkers and families around but it's peaceful and quiet most of the time.

hensol forest

7. Bryngarw Country Park

With over a 100 acres of parkland, there's loads of room to explore the area without bumping into anyone else. There's a pay and display car park and toilets available. The children's play area and cafe remain closed in July, but may re-open in August.

It's a fabulous location for a family photo shoot too - especially in the Autumn time. I love this image taken there on an Autumn shoot.

bryngarw country park

Do you have any more suggestions of local days out to add to the list? I'd love to hear from you with family day out ideas that avoid the crowds!

If you fancy a family photo shoot, there's lots of great locations that we can use, off the beaten track.

Get in touch to book your outdoor family shoot. You can see more of my work in my portfolios or follow me on Instagram for more recent shoots!

 


My lockdown highlights

Lockdown may have stopped me from shooting but I've still got some lockdown highlights to share with you!

Since the start of lockdown I've had to postpone so many client shoots. Family shoots, beach shoots, toddler group sessions, school class photos and commercial sessions. It was an abrupt end to what was gearing up to be a very busy Spring season. But, I've still been squirrelling away behind the scenes. It took me a few weeks to get my camera back out again, after trying to establish some sort of homeschooling routine for my kids and worrying endlessly about running out of bread and tea bags.

I started doing some shoots with my children, at home and in the garden. You can see my sessions with my daughter in my blog post - Lockdown photos at home, and some with my son, in How to shoot your own lockdown images.

But that's not all I've been up to. I tend to share news and information on my Facebook and Instagram accounts but not so much on my blog. So, I thought I'd write a post to share my lockdown business highlights with you.

I've been a Cardiff family photographer and Cardiff business photographer for 14 years but I've only recently started to share my work with industry peers. I'm quite shy (although no one ever believes that I am!) and so it's a strange feeling submitting and sharing work to the wider world.

It's such an honour to have my work recognised and featured, both online and in print. See below for my business lockdown highlights!

Italian Vogue

The first bit of exciting news was that I had a some images published on Italian Vogue! It's something I've been trying to do for quite a while and lockdown gave me more time to get around to submitting them. I'm so happy that they accepted these client images, which are some of my favourites.

 

Italian Vogue beach imageItalian Vogue

Vogue ItaliaJUNO Magazine

I also had an article and images featured in the latest edition of the fabulous JUNO Magazine. It's the second time I've been featured in the magazine and this article is all about how proud I am of my son, who is a ballet dancer, so it's even more special.

 

JUNO MagazineJUNO Magazine Feature

September brought another feature in JUNO Magazine!

This time, my daughter was featured as part of a home-school series. She's the one with the rainbow of books on the right.

United Art Gallery

My images have been published on the United Art Gallery, which was set up to showcase COVID 19 related art from around the world. I was so happy when they contacted me and asked if they could feature some of my 'Lockdown Ballet' series of images. You can see the whole set in my Lockdown Ballet post. Visit the United Art Gallery website to see some amazing and inspiring work from artists from all over the world.

 

 

United Art Gallery

Shootproof blog

I was also contacted by Shootproof - an amazing company providing an online gallery platform to photographers around the world. They have the most brilliant blog, which I read on a regular basis. They got in touch to say that they loved my personal branding work and that they'd like me to write an article to help other photographers start shooting personal branding images too. It was published online and emailed to all their contacts in May. You can read it on their website.

 

Personal branding photography

DIY Photography

DIY Photography also kindly published my Lockdown Ballet article, with tips to help shoot your own lockdown images at home.

DIY Photography blog

This Detailed Life

This Detailed Life is a new professional photography magazine to showcase artwork by photographers around the world, to educate and inform, and above all to inspire.  I'm very pleased to have had an image selected for publication in the first edition. The magazine is due out Summer 2020!

 

This Detailed Life

British Photography Awards

The British Photography Awards shared my COVID 19 Assignment on their social media pages.

First News

Even my son got in on the act and wrote a little article for First News, the award winning newspaper for children, which was published a few weeks ago.

 

First News

Cardiff Life Magazine

Just before we went into lockdown, I visited the independent shopping hub, Castle Emporium in Cardiff to photograph the indie shops and their owners for Cardiff Life Magazine. When lockdown hit, Cardiff Life Magazine stopped production for a few months but came back in September! Here's the 6 page spread featuring all my images!

Cardiff Life MagazineCardiff Life MagazineCardiff Life MagazineComing up...

There's a few other things in the pipeline too that I won't mention just yet but I'll come back and add them to the blog when they are released!

 


children garden photo shoot

Socially distanced family photo shoot

Your socially distanced family photo shoot

As a family photographer, based near Cardiff, I'm officially allowed to return to work. I'm allowed to meet up with one other family and so, is it time to pick up my camera bag and start shooting families again? Well, sort of. I've been thinking long and hard about how I can offer clients a socially distanced family photo shoot during these strange times.

I'm a stickler for the rules and so I want to make sure that it's as safe as possible to go back to working with family clients. I would not feel comfortable meeting families in a public place for a shoot. There are too many variables that I can't control (other people!).

So, I'm going to make some tentative steps towards going back to work in a safe and measured way.

I know that with my long lens, I can take photos at a distance of 2 metres, or further. I took the pictures below of my children, in my garden, at 2m away to illustrate the point.

With that in mind, as of this week, I'm offering very limited edition Front Garden Mini Sessions for the residents of Colwinston. There are 5 slots available initially. If there's interest in socially distanced family photo shoots, I may add more. I'll be giving 20% of the fee to the charity, 2 Wish Upon a Star, who provide bereavement support for families who have suddenly and traumatically lost a child or young adult aged 25 years and under.

I don't want to rush into a shooting frenzy and shoot multiple families in one day. It may take me longer but I only want to offer ONE mini shoot per day, to ensure maximum safety.

See below for all the details.

children garden photo shoot

How much is a Front Garden Mini Session?

I'm offering these mini sessions at a special introductory price of £60. This price may change in the future. The £60, includes a £12 donation to charity, your session and 3 digital images.

Can I buy more images?

Yes. You'll be sent a password protected online gallery of all your images. You can choose the three digital images included in your package and then add additional images, prints or products if you wish.

How do I book a Front Garden Mini Session?

If you're a resident of Colwinston and you'd like to book a socially distanced family photo shoot, please contact me via my website or email directly at gemma@gemmagriffithsphotography.co.uk. I will get in touch to let you know if there are spaces available and we can choose a date together.

Can I book a session if I don't live in Colwinston?

Initially, I'd like to start offering shoots in my village only. If the shoots are a success, I may roll them out to other villages too. Interested in a session? Please drop me a line and I'll add your name onto a waiting list. If I decide to extend the sessions, I'll be in touch and let you know.

What time will the session take place?

The best place for your shoot will be in an area of open shade. Once you've made a booking, we can chat over the phone to discuss the best time for the shoot to take place, depending on the chosen spot in your garden. It's likely to be early in the morning or later in the evening.

What safety measures will be in place?

I am only offering one shoot per day, so I'll come straight from my house (most likely on foot), with clean hands. I do own a mask but I won't be using one during the session as I'll need to direct you. I'll also bring a tape measure with me, to ensure that we're all aware of the 2 metre distance during the session. I will bring anti bacterial gel with me too. If you have young children, it's important to have a think about whether they are able to understand the 2 metre rule. If you don't think that they will be able to stay in a directed area, we'll need to discuss other options (holding them in your arms etc).

What shall we wear?

Don't worry about outfits, I will send advice once your session is booked.

Are you donating any of the money to charity?

Yes, I'll be donating 20% of the fee to the charity 2 Wish Upon a Star, who provide bereavement support for families who have suddenly and traumatically lost a child or young adult aged 25 years and under.

 

socially distanced family photo shoot

Follow me on Instagram to see what I've been up to during lockdown, or read my lockdown blogs - How to shoot your own lockdown images and Lockdown photos at home.

I'm looking forward to seeing you, from a safe distance soon!

Gemma Griffiths is a family photographer based near Cardiff. She works with families outdoors to create fresh natural images. 


Lockdown photos at home

When a family photographer can't work for weeks on end, it's time for some lockdown photos at home...

Lockdown

A week before the official UK Coronavirus lockdown started, we were self isolating at home. We were caught on the back foot a bit, without the necessary stockpiles of toilet roll and pasta. Friends dropped over food parcels (some included gin!). We felt worried. Panicked. Scared.

I wanted to capture this peculiar time and try to express how we were all feeling. So, in the beginning, I took a handful of images of my kids looking out of the windows. It felt right to look serious. The future was uncertain and bleak for many in the UK and around the world.

After a while, we got into a rhythm. I'm a list writer and planner by nature and I soon had a schedule pinned on the fridge (cue everyone else in the house rolling their eyes). We started to slow down. We slept longer and stayed up later. When it was warm over the Easter 'break', we pretended to be on holiday and we'd meet up in the late afternoon to drink coke (or gin and tonic) and play cards.  We decorated the windows with rainbows for the local children to spot. We started to go out for walks and bike rides. I calmed down a bit.

Creating

After a few weeks, I picked up my camera and started to experiment. I tried different things, like shooting indoors. I did a whole ballet shoot around the house with my son, to show how he's keeping up with his practice at home. You can see the Lockdown Ballet shoot on the blog. The images got featured on the Covid-19 related art website - United Art Gallery!

One day, whilst trying to help to my daughter with her history work, I noticed the variety of coloured books on the bookshelf in my office. I had an idea - to create a rainbow of books. Something pretty and joyful.  I grabbed an armful of books and presented them to my son. He's a perfectionist and expert on rainbows, so I asked him to blend the colours for me. My daughter, reluctantly, lay down on the itchy grass so I could take the picture (see below).

I took photos of her with the bluebells (all gone now) and learning to skate with a penny board we found under the stairs. March ended, April sped by and now it's the middle of May.

We don't know how long this situation will last. We're trying to take each day at a time and think about all the wonderful front line NHS staff and key workers out there, risking their safety every day.

I'm looking forward to being able to get together again with clients, whether it's in weeks or months, I'll be raring to go when the time comes.

More ideas

In the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram to see what I'm getting up to - I've got a few more ideas that I want to try out!

Stay safe everyone.

Gem x

lockdown image of two children looking out of a window

lockdown portrait

portrait of girl with rainbow books

portrait of a girllockdown walk, portrait of a girlskater girl portrait

quarantine portraitgarden portrait of a girlsunset portraitskater girl portraits

lockdown portraitgirl looking out of the windowgirl blowing dandelionlockdown skater portraits

garden portrait of a girlgarden portrait of a girlskater girl portrait of a girl


How to shoot your own lockdown images

How to shoot your own lockdown images.

I wanted to try and capture what it's like being in lockdown at home during this pandemic. My son is a ballet dancer and so is, of course, missing all his classes at the moment. He's been practising at home with videos from his teachers.

As I was watching him practice, I wondered whether I could do a shoot with him, dancing around the house. He's always moving. Whether it's dancing on the edge of my bedframe, on one leg, or cartwheeling across the lounge. We did a shoot together a few days ago and I thought it might be useful to share how we went about it and to help anyone that is thinking of doing their own lockdown photo shoot at home.

Here's 7 quick tips on how to shoot your own lockdown images, based on how I planned and shot these images of my son.

 

lockdown photo shoot

1. Research and planning

My son is a ballet dancer and has great natural poise but sometimes classical ballet poses need a bit of a tweak to look even better in photos. I follow some fantastic ballet photographers on Instagram - the awesome Richard Calmes and Magda Hoffman are two of my favourites and I love all the movement in their work. My son and I discussed, practiced and researched poses in advance of the session. Some things worked and others didn't. As a male dancer, he doesn't have the fabulous outfits that ballerina's wear and so we just had to work with him and his black tights. The most important thing was making sure that his 'lines' were as perfect as he could make them (taking into account his ability). No dodgy hand placements or bent legs if possible. If you want to capture a person's hobby at home, then take time to research other images in the genre. Work out what your subject can do and what they can't do. Tweak and adapt ideas to suit your subject and the environment that you have to work with.

 

ballet photoshoot in lockdown

2. Consider the setting

Doing a shoot at home is different to shooting in a studio or outside. There's a lot more general debris around a family home! I looked around my house for suitable areas to shoot (my bedroom, upstairs landing and lounge) and made sure that I cleared away any mess (the guitar, dumbbells, wet towels, paper work, abandoned socks and framed pictures). Depending on the sort of photography you like, you might like to include general household detritus. If not, then find an area that you can clear, or dress to suit your images.

 

ballet shoot

3. Outfits

Outfits for this sort of shoot are super important. I didn’t want my son to wear his usual ballet outfit, as things are different in lockdown.  I wanted a sense of informality but still needed to see his body shape properly. So, he wore his ballet tights, but with a t-shirt instead of a leotard. He wore his hair down too, instead of wearing a bun to add to the informal ‘at home’ feel. If you’re planning  a shoot at home then outfits should be a top priority. Try and avoid writing, or logo’s on clothing as well as pictures as they can be very distracting. Consider colours, textures and style of clothing and work out what you think would suit the situation. Do you want something colourful, joyful or fun? Or perhaps something more serious, classic and formal. Planning and thinking about clothing in advance will make a big difference to the end result.

 

ballet boy in lockdown

4. Find the light

I've spent a lot of time in the house lately! Haven't we all? So, I've become very aware of the light and shadows at different times of day. I knew that the sun would be shining through the lounge window, casting lovely patterns onto the carpet in the late afternoon, so I planned the shoot at that time. Look around your house, find the lovely patterns made as the sun moves during the day. Look for naturally shaded areas or bright spots, depending on what you like. You could plan a silhouette picture (shooting into the light), or use the patterns cast on the walls or floor to make interesting shadow images.

ballet photo shoot cardiff

5. Kit

I used my Sony A7iii for the shoot and chose my 35mm Sigma Art lens. I needed a wide angle lens, so I could capture him within the setting and not have to stand miles away (plus there wasn't enough room to use my 85mm!). Shoot with what you have. Use a phone if you need to! Work out in advance what you can fit into the frame before the session. I did a couple of test shots a few days prior to the actual shoot, just to work out what I could fit in and where I would need to stand.

lockdown photo shoot

6. Settings

I can't advise on what settings you should use for your shoot, as it totally depends on what you're shooting and the available light etc. I can tell you the settings used for this shoot though. For the static images, I used a wide aperture (f2.8) and a shutter speed of around 1/250. Upstairs my ISO was a little higher (400) as it was darker. Downstairs, there was more light streaming through the windows and my priority was to capture his movement, so I used a faster shutter speed (between 1/640 -1/800). My ISO was 100 and aperture f1.8.

Dance photography isn't easy. I'm no expert at this sort of thing but photographing my son over the years, I've realised it's easier to ask him to jump from standing, rather than across the frame, to make sure that I can get the focus correct. It took quite a few takes to get the images in this set. The slightest movement in the wrong direction can ruin an image. He's more of a perfectionist than me, and so won't let me use an image unless he's happy with it.

As with most things, practice make perfect, so just keep trying and learning as you go. If your images are too light or too dark or too blurry, consider your settings, change something and try again.

lockdown photo session

7. Processing

I knew in advance that I wanted the whole set of images to be in black and white. The woodwork in my house is a pale green colour and I didn't want it to distract the eye away from him so I thought black and white would look better. With that in mind I chose a dark outfit for him, so there would be contrast between him and the background. I processed the RAW files in Lightroom and did any small tweaks and cropping in Photoshop.

 

male ballet dancer in lockdown

 

Lockdown photo sessions can cover any hobby or activity. What does your child love to do? Can you work out a shoot that will show them in action? You could do a shoot showing them dancing, exercising, practising a musical instrument, painting, drawing - there's loads of options.  I'd love to see your lockdown images! Share them with me on my Facebook or Instagram accounts.

If you want to learn about dance photography - then check out Dance Photography Workshops from the fabulous Nina Mace.

Follow me on Instagram to see more of my work. Check out my work with families and local businesses in my portfolios.