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

Shooting Local

Thought I'd write a quick blog while I'm having a quiet (ish) time with the camera of late. Just as a side note, where is bloody autumn?? I went into this period full of a hope yet it's rapidly being extinguished by heavy rain and wind, most recently Ophelia which has winged its way into town to blow more leaves off the trees! Ok perhaps that's a little dramatic, i'm a firm believer that you can still make great images in less than perfect conditions, you just have to work a little harder. So those grand vistas with sweeping autumnal colour might require a rethink, to something a bit more subtle which I'm more than willing to do. But hey, a wee break from the rain and gales would be nice!

I've been quite quiet lately with the camera (I've still gone out, just not as much) as I've been having a bit more time thinking about what direction I want to move in with my photography. For the most part I consider myself to be something of a reactionary photographer, i'm quite happy just chasing the conditions around in my car much like a dog with a frisbee would, with only a general idea of what I'd like to shoot on a given day. This in turn has led to some images I've been really pleased with and with which I have a more personal connection to, probably much more so than if i'd gone out to a 'location' on a more structured shoot. I still have a few favourite spots I like to go to now and again like anyone else does, however as much as it's fantastic living in the Lake District for photography, the choices of 'location' can be somewhat overwhelming at times, which seems crazy on the face of it but for me personally if i'm not getting anything out of the wider experience I don't feel I enjoy shooting the images as much. This led me to thinking a bit more deeply about what really drives my photography. In the end I've come to the conclusion that at this stage I really feel like I gain more by shooting locally. 

Anyone who follows my work will know that my 'local' is the Wasdale area - it's not lost on me that it's perhaps easier to come to the conclusion of shooting locally when your local is Wastwater and the Scafells! However after spending so much time in this area I think in the near future the bulk of my work will probably be coming from an area no further than 10 miles or so from my home - there is so much variety here in the landscape (fells, lakes, tarns, woodland, coast) that I don't feel I have to go chasing it around further afield. It also means that my chances of capturing the great conditions I want are greatly improved with living so close. I could of course be talking absolute rubbish and be sitting here in 6 months time thinking 'what have I done' but for the moment I firmly believe the images I make will be improved through a better, deeper understanding of my surroundings.

Also just a quick congratulations to those awarded in Landscape Photographer Of The Year 2017 - I was glad to see a couple of my favourite images from other togs this year do so well and be recognised. I had a shortlisted image but didn't make the final cut, so maybe better luck next year.

Here's a few recent images from the past month which I've shot locally, all within about 15 mins of my home (give or take), it's a bit of mix of Mountain, Coast and Woodland. 

Catch you on the next one :-)