We’ve all become pretty good at using our phone during lockdown. Sending family pictures to loved ones we haven’t been able to see for a while. FaceTime and Zoom chats, and even phone calls. It was nice to get back to those things too. After a short while, the things we had to report back to our estranged family and friends was becoming a little, repetitive shall we say. You know what we mean I’m sure.

With only one session of outdoor exercise allowed per day during the early stages of lockdown in Wales, life wasn’t all that great for a while. Travel photographer Nick Smith decided to use this opportunity, and his daily bicycle ride, to capture images of his hometown Swansea. Leaving behind the professional tools of his trade, he used only a smartphone and the free photo-editing app Snapseed to produce this celebration of Dylan Thomas’ ‘ugly, lovely town’.

The result is TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, a slim volume of photographs recording a prolonged period of spring sunshine along a coastline strangely devoid of people. During a period of just over two months he cycled as far as the Mumbles Lighthouse more than 70 times, setting himself the challenge of taking just one photograph per day, while following five strict self-imposed rules. Nick Smith’s new portfolio provides an upbeat view of a seaside town that was at the same time suffering from the economic effects of lockdown that no-one will ever forget.

As if our world wasn’t filled with enough rules during lockdown, Nick set himself five more, and by the way, he adhered to them rigidly.

The five lighthouse project rules

  • RULE ONE: The only camera allowed was an iPhone 11 smartphone.
  • RULE TWO: The only editing allowed was via the free Snapseed phone app.
  • RULE THREE: Daily expeditions to be by bicycle to Mumbles Lighthouse.
  • RULE FOUR: One composition only per cycling trip. Cycle must appear in shot.
  • RULE FIVE: Expeditions must conform to lockdown guidelines and legislation

The camera Nick used was his iPhone 11, and as we use that for our daily snaps around the office, we know just how high quality they are.

He had a daily routine which included cycling to Mumbles Lighthouse. What transpired is one composition per cycle trip with his bike appearing in shot, at the same time he was sticking to his and the official lockdown rules.

The result, as you can see from a couple of the pictures here, are truly stunning and something which serves as a permanent reminder of this uniquely strange moment in our world history.

Nick Smith is a Swansea-based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in hundreds of magazines, books and newspapers over the past thirty years. Formerly editor of monthly magazines BBC Focus and Geographical, he has won a dozen journalism awards, including Magazine Editor of the Year.

Nick has a regular column in Outdoor Photography magazine and is author of six books, including the acclaimed Travels in the World of Books, described by Alexander McCall Smith as ‘a triumph’. His most recent book is A Camera in My Luggage, published in 2020. Click on the picture to order a copy.

Although Swansea through and through, Nick’s adventures have taken him to more than a hundred countries, as well as the North Pole and Antarctica. For those of a certain age, you may remember he was a founder member of Swansea’s legendary 1980s pop band No Flags Etc, that still features on CD compilations of the history of Welsh music. Or you can just take a listen below.

Nick’s book TO THE LIGHTHOUSE – Lockdown Swansea by smartphone and bike is published by Hazel Press in hardback. It costs £10 and you can get your copy here. LIGHTHOUSE