Snowdonia Trip Part 1

So, I'm just back from a fantastic few days in Snowdonia, where I was in the company of a great set of lads (who happen to also be pretty decent photographers!) in Neil Burnell, Matt Holland, Matt Dartford, Shaun Mills, Dani Colston, Matt Garbutt, Greg Whitton, and Karl Mortimer where we did bit of exploring, a bit of socialising, and a little bit of photography. I'll have to write this up in two parts as there's a lot to get through and also not to bore you all in one go! 

This was my first visit to Snowdonia and I must say, I was very impressed - I'd say it's more akin to the Scottish Highlands than my own patch in the Lake District, in that the roads snake around and underneath the mountains much more closely than they do in the Lake District, and have a unique beauty all of their own. What's more you're only a 40/50 min drive from some fantastic coastline around Anglesey which is a real bonus. It's here where I started my trip:

Day one

An eye-watering 1.30am alarm was set so I could get to Penmon Point for sunrise, which for me is around 3hrs 45mins, not the worst drive in the world by any means and given I was off work for the whole week I thought I'd treat myself to an extra day in the area ahead of the other boys arriving on Friday. I didn't really have any expectations for the weather as it was really a 50/50 shot with the forecast, however after nearly killing myself a couple of times on some death rocks I got set up for a pretty pleasant sunrise which was developing across the sea. I'd looked at Penmon as a potential spot for good long exposure work, something I'm quite selective in doing as I feel it's far more effective when the subject is right, rather than using it simply as tool to smooth out choppy water (I don't mind choppy water). Here's a couple of images from both sunrise and about an hour after once the colour had gone from the sky. Personally I prefer the muted version as it was the sort of shot I had in mind before arriving here, what do you think?

After capturing several long exposures and practically exhausting the lighthouse from every angle I decided at 1100am it was time for food. Luckily there's a somewhat kitsch looking cafe (if you've been here you'll know what I mean) right on the beach front, so I got tucked into a bacon and egg bap, which I'm not going to lie I basically inhaled (I'd not eaten since 2am). After much needed sustenance it was time to find somewhere quiet and get in a bit of nap before making my way to Lighthouse number 2 at Llanddwyn Island.

I've seen many pictures of this famous lighthouse (I think it's the cover of the Fotovue guide book for North Wales) and despite my usual reluctance to head to such heavily shot locations I was pretty stuck for inspiration for a sunset spot, and this was fairly close by. After doing a bit of reading it looked like a really nice area however, after arriving I was surprised to find that you can't actually park very close at all to the lighthouse - if you plan on visiting here bear in mind from the main car park it's about a 30-40min walk along one of the many pleasant coastal trails before you reach the Lighthouse itself. I'll be honest on arrival the scene didn't do much for me (not helped by extremely dull light), it makes for a nice postcard type of shot and in the right light looks really nice, but composition options are pretty limited, you can't really stray too far from the obvious two or three spots to shoot it from, which doesn't really appeal to me much despite it being such a nice vista. After quickly deciding the light was going to do nothing, I fired off a few frames and headed back to the car. My early exit was vindicated as about 10 mins into the walk back the heavens opened and it didn't stop until the next morning. On the walk back I had a listen to the Colin Prior Togcast which I found both a bit grim and fascinating in equal measure. 'Not enough authoritative work' around the Landscape scene, I'd probably agree with that. 

So I made the drive back to Betws y Coed where I managed to once again inhale my food (steak & chips/truffle shavings) and after a well earned early night I slept like an absolute log, I had absolutely no chance for sunrise, which luckily was flat and grey anyway.

Day two

The next day started on quite a funny note, some harmless banter with some rugby lads at breakfast where one of them tried to nick my seat (he must have been the joker) while I was round the corner using one of those uber-annoying toast conveyor belt things. Unfortunately, for him, he'd picked the wrong person to try and mock infront of a room full of people, with it ending up backfiring on him quite spectacularly. I won't say what the lewd joke was but let's just say he came off worse, to the delight of his team mates who seemed to rejoice in this guy being taken down a peg. If you happen to be reading this pal you need better dressing room banter I've seen and done it all before! In fairness it was all taken in good jest and was a nice way to start the day.

I quick thanks to Lee Acaster (needs no introduction I'm sure, fantastic award-winning tog) for tipping me off to head to some woods opposite Moel Siabod cafe. I'd noted that the woodland all along the roadside on the drive to the hotel was rich in autumn colour (much more than back home) so it was nice to find I'd been pointed in the direction of the same set of woods. I literally walked 300 yards and ended up settling at one spot for a good hour, testing various focal lengths before settling on using the old manual focus Nikkor 135mm AIs 2.8, these old primes really are great for woodland work where you can slow down a bit and take your time. I ended up coming away with one of my favourite autumn images (I've not shot many this year mind). I also had Lee's advice in my head about composition, eliminating the sky where possible and distracting highlights which, now I'm aware of them, I see them in woodland shots everywhere, and can't 'unsee' them once I notice them.

After mooching around the woods 'til lunch it was time to go and meet up with the rest of the group at the house, that's where I'll pick up the second part where we attempted to shoot 'Storm Brian' and visited the rather epic Dinorwic Quarry.

Thanks for reading folks stay tuned for the next one