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It’s been a long time since I’ve had that awesome feeling, that feeling you know that despite the wave nearly knocking you off your feet and soaking you from the waist down and completely swamping your wellies, that you’ve maybe captured something worth taking home within your camera.

Photography of this reckless nature used to take up a fair bit of my time, whether on the beach with fast running tides, or waterfalls and swift rivers, inevitably there’d be a damp experience waiting for my feet as my exuberance and enthusiasm for just one more shot had me taking risks which often ended with my Hunter wellington boots being filled with water.

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking back to the more frantic and stressful days of the past couple of years; my latter period in work and the time spent looking after my elderly aunt and uncle and I guess my frequent visits to the beach and to other photographic locations were an escape from the difficult realities of everyday life. Here then are some of my escapades from that period when I had that awesome wellie-filling moment!

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Traeth Ogwr sunsetFor some reason I decided to travel light and emptied all my lenses out at home and just had the camera and a selection of filters in my bag. I hadn’t been to the sea for a few weeks, not felt inspirational enough but decided on a whim to go to Ogmore for sunset. The sea was wild, but with an east wind all the spray was being blown back out to sea and one therefore tends to get a bit closer under those circumstances. Anyway, I was up quite high on the rocks here and thought I was safe but an enormous wave followed soon after this shot, I saw it coming and grabbed the camera and held it over my head. I was drenched, even sea water in a pool in the bottom of my camera bag. I took a few more until the sun fizzled out and then squelched my way back to the car with my wellies full of sea! November 2010.

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Sunset at Bwlch Gwyn, Ogmore-by-SeaOne evening in October 2009, I enticed my flickr friend Dave to shoot a sunset at Traeth Ogwr. It was my intention not to stray from there, but the pull of my favourite beach of Bwlch Gwyn only five minutes walk farther on was much too much to resist! Conditions were horrendous with a west wind at about 20mph creating enough spray to fog my glasses and at one point a huge dollop of sea foam wrapped itself around the front of my lens. I managed to drop my angle finder in a rock pool and got soaked by a huge wave which resulted in me giving up for the evening, the light had gone by this time anyway!

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Sunset at Bwlch Gwyn, Ogmore-by-SeaI love it here; an east wind is ideal when taking photographs at Bwlch Gwyn as you can get in really close to the waves without your camera getting covered in spray. The downside is that it is very easy to get caught with a sudden swell!
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Dunraven Bay, Southerndown

One day in April 2010, the sky had been teasing me all day, dramatic clouds followed by long bouts of grey and rain. I had sort-of arranged to meet up with a number of flickr friends at Dunraven Bay for a shoot-out at sundown. On my way there I drove through a horrendous hail-storm and arrived at the beach in the pouring rain; it was a waiting game, the sky in the distance was opening up and a sunset was hopeful.

Eventually we wandered onto the beach hoping for a sunset. It really wasn’t going to happen, the sky became darker and more threatening and to make matters worse I misjudged the speed of the tide and the next big wave swamped my camera and filled my wellies. Thankfully, no real damage done, but it took me ages to get it all sparkling clean again! I think this evening’s shoot produced the least shots ever for me, just five frames! After my lens was soaked I couldn’t get rid of the salt so had to surrender and put it away.

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Rest Bay, PorthcawlA photograph taken during an “opobs masterclass” with Pyle & Porthcawl Photographic Society Thursday in April 2009. As I was approaching Porthcawl I could see the drama building up in the sky and just knew I would be able to demonstrate my techniques with a practical session on the beach, it was high tide and longish-exposure photos would be suitable. The sea was raging and I did worry a little about salt spray until I saw the flag on the Golf Clubhouse was showing there was an offshore wind, bliss, photos without the worry of spray.

In my exuberance to get as many shots in to the 30 minutes beach session as I could I got caught out once or twice and managed to completely flood my wellies, much to the amusement of my audience, thankfully I was wearing shorts so didn’t have the misery of wet trousers as well. This photo is the one where I was caught out the first time as the icy sea water filled my wellington boots!

An email was later circulated to all PPPS members from Mal the club secretary which read:

“For the benefit of those members not attending last nights meeting I have to tell you that you missed something special. Those members that did attend found themselves taken from a comfortable warm environment at the clubroom to a windy overcast rocky beach at Rest Bay with 10ft breakers crashing on the rocks to watch the almost bizarre figure of Mike Stokes hopping from rock to rock in shorts and ‘water filled’ wellies setting up his tripod in what looked like extremely risky positions taking photos. I for one was very relieved when he stated that he had sufficient photo stock to continue with his demonstration back at the clubroom but this almost surreal memory remains with me.

Back at the clubroom Mike then turned into a magician converting a selected photograph (good enough for my portfolio) into a picture of competition winning standards, if he will forgive me for saying so it was like watching an experienced midwife delivering a beautiful child from reasonably good looking mother.

Thank you Mike from all of us lucky enough to be present at your evening, and for being a member, for we still have much to learn from you.”

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And finally, a photograph that was taken on the first of the summer evenings out and about with Bridgend & District Camera Club in June 2010. Bwlch Gwyn, with a huge swell and an east wind blowing all the spray back out to sea which were ideal conditions for this gorgeous beach. Twenty two members of the club were battling for prime positions on this lovely little cove.

Bwlch Gwyn, Ogmore-by-Sea

Oh . . . and I got a wetting, those waves were large and sneaky, creeping up when they were least expected and when you are on your knees it’s not so easy to run, just lift the tripod out of the way and you are left with one very wet photographer!