A Union meeting in Leeds gave me an ideal opportunity, someone was paying for fuel, to tag on a couple of days at the start and take some photos in North Wales. The forecast was mixed and none of the big sites could agree but snow was definitely on the horizon.
I drove down overnight and snow did slightly hamper progress. The rain and featureless sky meant I took it easy and had a lie in. It had been a long drive and sunrise images at my planned venue would not have been worth the effort. The weather was beginning to clear so I had a look at Llundudno Pier. Nice enough and a good start with some light and clouds.
I decided to head to the hills with the blue skies but on arrival at Llyn Ogwen I was met with very dreich conditions. Being the weekend there were walkers and togs everywhere and I made my way up the mountain hoping the clouds would break. I climbed as high as the clouds would allow but the view of Tryfan was covered in cloud that never cleared so opportunities were limited. A lovely walk albeit very boggy and slidy.
Next up was the famous lone tree at LLanberis. I was greeted with a little light and the place to myself. The tree was in water but not enough to create a decent reflection and the stones made the bottom of the frame a bit scrappy for my liking.
The weather was now looking decent with breaks in the clouds and I decided to head to Penmon for sunset. As seems popular in England and Wales they love ripping you off for parking. Three quid to get to the lighthouse and no facilities at all barring a place to park.
The tide was in to the lighthouse base and the slippy rocks made the walk/climb down to the waterline tricky. I felt like I had eels glued to the soles of my shoes but got there without incident. I love lighthouses so I was looking at all the various angles and came up with a couple I was fairly please with using pools for reflections and the algae/seaweed covered path as foreground.
The sunset never happened so I started to think about heading to my digs. Looking at the time available I decided to visit the Church in the Sea in the dark hoping for some stars or moonlight. On the way I took the opportunity to shoot the wee house at the bottom of the Menai Bridge. Nice little shot but typical estuary sand that was very muddy. The landscaper’s friend, Welly Boots, saved having to worry about the mud.
Down to my final shot at St Cwyfan's Church. I love some of the minimalist shots of the church sat above the horizon with nothing else bar sea and sky. The tide allowed for this type of shot but it was hard going as it was now pitch black and focusing and composition were done by taking high iso shots and adjusting from there.
On to Day 2 and I was up bright and breezy, well tired and windy would be more accurate. That dodgy fish supper probably.
My first port of call was Ynys Llanddwyn Island. I had looked online the night before and didn't see any info about tides and when to cross and the only comment I read said it was only an issue on big tides. I arrived 90 minutes before a middling high tide and walked a mile in the pitch dark along the beach. I love this part of photography as the only sound is the waves lapping the shore and there is a lovely feeling of solitude and peace. That is a rare commodity living in a house with two teenagers and a wife. On arrival at the island it was clear waders would be needed to cross the channel. If it had been summer the trousers would have been off but far too cold for that. Besides it was grey and no chance of a sunrise. I retraced my footsteps thinking of where to go now
I headed to the lone tree again hoping it might be moody and have some more water as there wasn't a breath of wind. The tree was nice and I got another shot I was happy with.
After a quick breakfast of banana and double decker it was back to Ynys Llanddwyn. Those few hours had seen a huge change in the weather and the car park. A fiver to get in and the place was busy. The light was decent but not in a favourable direction but I fancied a recce having now been here twice.
A couple of hours not getting much was interrupted by a blast of God Rays and an obliging fishing boat. Very quick change of settings and filters and manged to get one I am very happy with.
Another mile and a half back to the car in a tea shirt. It was around 13 degrees and so still.
Last port of call was South Stack. The weather started coming in and it was lashing down and getting windy. I sat in the car and watched the rain pass over from the trusty Mondeo. The light was gone and the sky not too interesting so I grabbed a few shots perched as close as I dared to the cliff edge and had a bit of a wander before tiredly calling it quits.
I always say if you get one shot then be happy. It was one of those days, 100 miles driven and probably 7 walked and I only like one shot. A big thanks to that fishing boat captain.
Day 3 of my Welsh trip, in my head that is being spoken in a Big Brother Geordie accent. The third early morning in a row and at last Mr Sun popped his head over the horizon. I drove from my digs in Anglesey up to Talacre. Around 90 minutes and on the beach for around 7.15. The tail end of the eclipse was visible for the first part of the journey and as I got out the car there was a rare orange glow on the horizon. Game on.
The tide wasn't as far in as I thought which was originally disappointing until I found a pool which allowed me to shoot into the colours of sunrise.
As usual the colour doesn't last long and I hurried round to the other side to get some pastel pink in the sky and the first of the morning rays. The light was still decent so had a go at getting some waves in the foreground.
Wales was great and although I never got great light on the first two days I came away with a few decent shots and topped it off with a great morning with miles of beach completely to myself.
The second part of the blog was going to be my journey home through the North Yorkshire Moors and onto the Lake District. The conditions were spectacular over the Moors with snow falling and lying. I was starting to feel shivery and other signs of the Norovirus were starting to be felt. I did take a drive to Ribblehead but there was far less snow than down the valley and it was shrouded in mist with no light. At that point my bed in Scotland was the only thing on my mind. A very long drive home but back safe and sound and nearly a week later I manage to publish this having lost half a stone and now feeling much better.
I had to collect a new set of winter tyres and alloys down in Northumberland so took the chance to make a day off it and get some pics. I managed to get up at the required 5.30am but on the way down the A1 I needed to pull into a parking spot to get forty winks to make sure I was driving safely. That changed my destination from Dunstanburgh to Bamburgh.
I have spent a good few hours on the glorious Bamburgh Beach but this was my first visit around high tide. As it was the weekend the beach had at least 10 fellow toggers looking forward to the light.
I had just got a grip for the D850 and decided to leave it on to see how the batteries would hold up. That was mistake number one. I set up for my first composition and the light and clouds were looking very promising. I guess most photographers will know that lovely feeling of excitement when the horizon is clear and there are some nice clouds waiting to be lit up. Everything was looking great and any competent photographer was guaranteed a few good shots.
The wind was blowing and the wee plate on the bottom of my grip wasn’t giving me the stability needed. It was also slightly loose and I never had an allen key with me. My next mistake was not noticing that my polariser was covered in salt spray from a previous outing. The light continued to improve and the waves were crashing in. One sneaked up on me and filled my wellies which only added to my dismay.
Filter cleaned and exposure shortened to help with the wobbly plate helped but the best of it was already gone and I just managed a few exposures.
Very disappointed I trudged off back to the car and had to drown my sorrows with a coffee and some pasties in Greggs.
Next stop was Roker Pier. The sea was a wee bit further out than I expected and I clicked away with some nice light here and there. Long exposures seemed to give the best results.
I’ve been pretty lucky since starting the blog and have taken quite a few images I have been very pleased with. Luck definitely played a big part but so did knowing my equipment and being able to click away on auto pilot. The D850 is a great camera and very similar to the D810 I am so familiar with. However, my curiosity and the lack of an l bracket has stopped me getting quite a few shots. The l-bracket is now here and I have spent some time with the camera. Next week will give me plenty opportunities to use the D850 as I am off to Anglesey for a couple of days and will then have some opportunities for night shots in Leeds or York and a day in the lakes.
Just back from a lovely 3 days on the gorgeous and thankfully quiet Isle of Skye. Donald would definitely have kept his troosers on in the Bothy I hired on Airbnb. Despite a lovely log burner it was a tad chilly with my breath clearly visible even with the log burner roaring away all night. Saying that it was far cosier than the back of my Mondeo which is my usual Landscape Photography abode.
I had travelled up on the off chance of some broken weather but for all the technology used to forecast weather Skye and Scotland seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to clouds and grey skies. Not to worry though as my previous visit had seen blue skies for two days and very harsh light. Give me clouds every day and for Skye the photos always look better with a bit of a moody and foreboding cloud at the top of the frame.
The journey up passed quickly with the help of a Spotify playlist and it was pretty much traffic free. I stopped for a couple of hours of sleep and planned to arrive at Sligachan for sunrise. I was on the road bridge in darkness waiting for the light to come but in retrospect I should have travelled to Elgol as the chance of light was slim and because the River under the bridge was about as dry as a Steven Wright joke the image never worked.
Next up was the Fairy Pools. If you have never been it is a busy car park even in January so go in the morning as early as you can. The lack of water again made this a tricky venue. Walking up I made my mind up that I would just shoot the top pool as it has the best composition and I may have to wait my turn. I was puffing like a 20 a day man when I reached the pool as I had foolishly taken loads of kit up with the thought of making a Vlog. The purple face and sweat put that right out of my head and I thought that losing a couple of stone would be far more productive than the recently purchased vlogging gimbal. I’ll definitely give it a go at some point but it seems a real hassle.
Anyways the Fairy Pools didn’t disappoint. The walk up saw the cloud shrouded conical peak of the mountain slowly uncovered and peak out in perfect time for my arrival. A very productive and gloriously solitary couple of hours in my wellies brought a huge sense of well-being. Perhaps it was the magical water or the crisp air but it was more than likely just doing something I love.
A spot of lunch in Portree and a spectacular Black Pudding and Bacon Wrap, that couple of vlogging stone can wait, was followed by a drive north towards my digs. I wasn’t sure about where to go as the allure of the Pools had made me a bit late but I decided on Neist Point. I got there a in the nick of time as it was already getting dark but never missed anything as the sunset was greyer than a John Major speech. It was still good fun on the side of the hill and again I was the only tripod in sight. Although the weather wasn’t great the compositions are so strong it was well worth a visit.
Day two saw an early rise and a sharp intake of breath as my feet hit the frozen concrete floor of the Bothy. No time to waste though as I made the 45 minute drive to visit the Quiraing for the first time. I listened on the radio to talk of 5G network coverage being deployed in Orkney but there were no Gs at the Quiraing and as I arrived in the pitch black I realised I never had a clue where to walk. I walked down the road and up a likely looking hill before looking round and seeing a small stream of what looked like fairy lights on the hill opposite. The thought of walking back 20 minutes to where I started didn’t deter me as you get a rush when waiting for sunrise, at least I do, and I was so early that there was plenty time left. I took consolation that the fairy lights walking along the ridge were moving horizontally so there wasn’t much of a climb. The walk along the Quiraing isn’t too tricky. It was narrow but clear and there are a few spots to stop and park a tripod. There is one small bit of “climbing” but even this 17 stone chunkster, with a giant photography bag, made like a mountain goat and got down and over easy enough. Another grey sunrise was witnessed but boy the view made up for it. I think this is now my favourite spot in the UK. It is a simply breath-taking panorama that awaits you and the walk is incredibly easy for the reward, well it is if you go the right way!
Next up was the Old Man of Stor. I went for a drive by and a waterfall took my fancy. I had hoped to take a shot with the loch in the foreground but it was fairly breezy so no chance of reflections.
As I planned to go all the way down to Elgol for Sunset I decided to just crack on although I did stop for a quick recce at Lealt Waterfall. I might try the descent another day but there wasn’t an obvious route. The road to Elgol was nice and quiet and I love when you round the final corner and see the Cullins as that stunning backdrop. Again, the skies were grey and the sea never had much energy. I was flagging too, truth be told. I spent a pleasant hour or two jumping from rock to rock but I never nailed a composition and left feeling I hadn’t done as well as I should. To me that is all you can do. You can’t control the sea or clouds but you can make the most of the opportunity and despite working away it never happened for me.
Another chilly night in the Bothy was followed by another trip to the Quiraing. The forecast had a tiny little bit of promise and I pulled up in the Car Park, the only soul on the hill. I walked to the spots I had found the day before and set up my first Panoramic shot. The clouds were thick but the sun was working hard to give a show. As the clouds parted the sky lit up pink and I walked as quickly as safety allowed to try and get as much colour as I could in my shot. That pink sky was as long lived as a Bacon and Black Pudding Wrap in my greedy digits and almost as quickly as it had lit up the light was gone. I walked back to the car and spoke to a family who had missed the show. We were the only ones on the hill on a Saturday morning, amazing, and I felt quite privileged to get a solo show.
I normally don’t look at my pics until I’m home but I couldn’t resist a sneak peak. What a disaster, my loaned D850(thanks Tony) had been played with by some idiot who thought he was customising it to his tastes and that cretin had left it in Square crop mode(I can't help it). That meant every image was short at either the sides or the top and bottom and I had missed 1/3 of every shot.
That same idiot decided to see what settings he had messed up and noticed a 5:4 crop. That looks good he said internally before forgetting to set it back to FX. Next up was Fairy Glen, I took a few shots but there wasn't any light or mood. Nice place for a visit and all the stones have now been removed.
Still in 5:4, eedgit of a man, I headed to Elgol again. I walked right past the headland but never really found a composition. The tide was lower and the sea had even less energy so that never helped. Another couple of hours went by and I again left with the feeling of leaving some shots on the beach.
With around 5 hours drive to get home I decided to pack up and head down to Eilian Donan Castle. Again a grey backdrop awaited me but at least you are guaranteed a bit of light when the Laird of the Manor switches on the floodlights at sunset.
A fantastic three days with a mix of frustration and satisfaction. I won’t wait too long before returning as Skye is magical.
Every photographer needs some local locations. A big part of that is that we don't always have the time or energy to travel. Secondly, it allows you to take shots in different conditions of the same objects and scenes. Mostly, for me at least, it allows you to start to notice the imperfections and get into the habit of looking for these annoyances before you click the shutter. There is nothing more annoying than getting home and realising that a few inches higher or lower or a step to either side would have made a big difference. Shooting the same scene trains the eye and gives you the chance to look out for those elements that can create unwanted tension or unseemly clutter. Photography is certainly an art but like most things practise and study will help you improve both technically and creatively.
So down to Portobello on one of the last days of 2018. The sky was blue and pretty much cloudless but the sun was low and the light good. The shots I had in mind were old photographic friends and would suit these conditions. It had been a few weeks since I have ventured out so this was a warm up on my local patch. Similar to a golfer hitting the range before the golf course but still satisfaction to be had from a well timed shot, either photographic or sporting.
The timing for my shots was long. The sea was calm and boring so no surf to use. Long exposures were the plan and I knew from the tide charts that my favourite Poo Pipe marker would be reachable along the shore and have enough water round it for a composition. The locals refer to the marker as Porty’s Eiffel Tower which requires a fair bit of imagination but on a sunny day I can see what they mean.
The first shot taken had a nice bit of light and I concentrated on getting a featureless horizon with as much negative space as I could muster. The previous shot I had taken some months ago had the Fife shoreline on the horizon and that was an element that could be omitted in my mind for a more minimalistic composition.
Next, I ventured along the sand to the Poo Pipe which leads to the marker. It is an ugly cast iron pipe but my timing was decent as the sea had swallowed the majority of the pipe and it was only visible in between waves. Using a 2 minute exposure gave a hint of the pipe and allowed me to use it as a lead in. The photo looked better in mono for me but I never had a choice as I had forgotten to cover the eye piece and had some light leak on the image. Another lesson to remind me for next time.
For the last bit of light I wondered round to the Joppa end of the beach and took a couple of shots of the groynes. These are lovely structures that help protect the shoreline and they also feature a marker at the end. I tried a few compositions and again previous experience had told me that images look better when the groyne posts sit under the horizon. A decent effort again but the light had started to hide behind the houses and I could have done with a few rays to reveal more detail and contrast in the barnacle covered wood.
A lovely way to spend a couple of hours and my eye has been sharpened for a wee trip up north in the next week or so.
The East Lothian coast is my local patch. I love it and there are countless pictures to be had in all conditions. I had a couple of hours to spare at sunset tonight, or this afternoon as it is so early at this time of year, so I headed down to North Berwick. The sea had a good swell and there was some lovely late golden hour light. I stood where I have stood a good few times and tried to hit the shutter at the decisive moment to catch the waves crashing over the pier. It is a shot I and other have taken many times but there are many choices in composition and of course the sea is never the same twice.
I was pretty happy with my efforts and probably secured my best shot at the venue so far. I enjoyed it a wee bit too much as when I went round to take the boating pond shot the sea had already covered my foreground interest. There was still a half hour to sunset so I toddled off down to Dunbar to take another Bridge to Nowhere shot. I have visited here many times shooting sunsets and Auroras but tonight there was a spring tide and it looked good for a minimalist composition and the blue hour produced the best image. This was exposed for 5 minutes with the tripod sat on top of the picnic table to get as much separation as I could between the bridge and horizon. Turned out well I think and again possibly the best I have managed from the venue. I particularly like the Bass Rock receding into the mist in the background.