From Dusk to Dawn: 24hrs in Anglesey

OK, so I managed to duck, dive, weave and wangle a full 24hrs to myself… and thanks to the support of some great family and friends I just completed 3 shoots on the beautiful island of Anglesey. Literally ‘years in the making’ I’ve had these images rattling around my head based on old memories, opportunistic scouting trips and hours of internet research for a long time now. That said, although these images are planned, they of course turned out quite differently to how I so often envisaged them. I guess that’s what I like about landscape work so much… you can plan it over and over but when you get on-site that all goes out of the window! So starting at Llandwyn Island on the South East corner of Anglesey, I’d been lusting after a lighthouse/sunset shot there for at least the last couple of years. Pretty much all year sunsets have great potential here but the problem was, the location is a good mile from the nearest car park and a sunset shoot meant it would be a walk back in the dark. This ruled out family coming along unfortunately (and anyway, they wouldn’t stand in the same place for 2 minutes, let alone 2 hours!). Also, this location has a tidal/safety element so that needed to be taken into consideration. In short, I was going it alone. With the weather bordeline acceptable, days leave booked at short notice, childcare negotiated, kit assembled, and planets in metaphorical alignment, I finally hit the road. Arriving in the car park with a couple of hours to spare, I walked along the beach, strapped-up with kit. It was quite hard going in the soft sand in places but the weather was beautiful… sunny skies with a smattering of high cloud and contrails, and light winds. The beach was fairly busy but there was so much space with the tide almost fully out, it wasn’t an issue. After mounting up onto the promontory of the island itself, I had a good look around as the sun sank lower. There are numerous interesting points here… enough to keep a keen photographer busy for days! Following this survey though, I was particularly drawn to the old lighthouse which I hadn’t given much consideration previously. It just struck me how forlorn it looked in such a grand location. More of a ‘conical stone beacon’ than a lighthouse, ‘Twr Bach’ was apparently built in the early 19th Century. Selecting my position carefully a wide angle stitch allowed for the sunset and newer lighthouse to be included in the shot. As the sun finally sank to the horizon it underlit the clouds and a faint sun pillar appeared. It was quite cold standing in the wind so I hunkered down a few metres away from my kit to warm in the dying rays of the sun. A flock of choughs wheeled about me emitting raucous ringing shrieks. Warmer now, and suitably entertained, I took several shots of the same scene as the sun sank lower, then a good 15 minutes after the sun had set I broke down the panohead and took some single shot ‘blue hour’ images in some of the other locations I’d selected earlier. As the glow faded from the sky and darkness came on, I began the walk back along the beach. So all’s well that ends well… a successful first shoot and a lovely sunset to boot. The only sting in the tail was that my front tire deflated on the way to the caravan and I had to change the wheel in a precarious location. It didn’t help that the jack collapsed, tearing off my cars side-skirt, while I was changing the wheel. By the time I limped back to the caravan near Lligwy I was stressed and shattered but also photographically elated, and sated for the time being. 2355a-master-web IMG_2430_2_3_4_tonemapped-web IMG_2420_1_2_3_4_tonemapped-webNo time for rest though as I’d set my alarm to get me up an hour before sunrise the next day (actually, I had hoped to go back to Hen Capel for a Milky Way attempt before that as it was just a short walk from the caravan, but a 2am check had reveled a clouded-out sky). Only a few miles from my base, Dulas Bay lay waiting in the dark and I chanced my luck down a ‘pokey’ lane on the spare wheel. Head-torch blazing and more heavily wrapped-up, I set off from the car and immediately encountered soggy ground which almost made me turn back. Seeing that the overnight cloud wasn’t as bad as forecast though, and sensing a lightening in the sky near the point where the sun would rise I forged on sporadically squelching, cursing and worrying about quicksand. The target of this shoot was the hulk of an old fishing boat that I’d noticed on Google Earth and that I’d reccied on a family trip earlier in the year, briefly. After a mile, during which I managed to stay on either tussocky or shingle ground, I reached the hulk and set-up. While I waited for the dawn I captured the waning gibbous moon, wreathed with a faint cloud corona, high above the carcass. In the other direction, a distant cargo freighter moved at a glacial rate, lights twinkling at the mouth of the bay. I briefly swapped to my 300mm lens despite the windy conditions to capture a shot of it, then went back to wide angle and focussed on the wreck as the sun slowly rose. IMG_2465_6_7_tonemapped-web IMG_2469-web   When the sun was a good 10 degrees or so above the horizon, all dawn colours were gone but it was still a beautiful morning. I decided to squeeze in one last location before heading home along the A55. Parys Mountain, my intended destination, was only a couple of miles away. I was glad to get back to the car due to the cold wind and tentatively navigated to the site in my wounded vehicle (I’d researched the route using Google Streetview in advance). After parking up and a short walk I reached the first point of interest within a few minutes. Once the largest open cast copper mine in the world, Parys is currently abandoned but it is still a really interesting place. The barren landscape and vivid hues of the soil and rock make it distinctly ‘otherworldly’. There are also a few interesting structures on the site including an old Windmill at the top. After exploring and taking a few images the day was becoming a little grey. feeling tired now and creatively a little drained, I headed back to the car. After a stop at the caravan to tidy up and secure it I headed back home with thought of image processing swirling around in my mind. All in all a great trip despite the tyre incident. For this shoot I was using my new Canon 6D, mainly my Canon 17-40L, Manfrotto X-Pro190 3W (review coming shortly), Panosaurus, Kood ND8 circular ND filter. I process my images in Lightroom, PTGUI (if stitched), Photoshop CC, and occasionally PhotoMatix Pro. Keep an eye on the blog as I’ll be reviewing the 6D shortly and hopefully heading into deepest, ‘darkest’ Wales for another adventure.

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