Sunrise Photography From Cwm Idwal In The Snowdonia National Park

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This would be the dramatic mountains and lake of Cwm Idwal.
‘Cwm’ which is Welsh for ‘valley‘ and ‘Idwal’ Which stands for ‘Lord of the wall‘ is located in the northern area of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales.
Conveniently, there is a National Trust public car park on the A5 near Llyn Ogwen, which is also the start of the Cwm Idwal walking trail.
For me however, I would only be going as far as the lake its self which is about a 15min walk from the car park and being a person who likes to be economical with my energy, this would provide outstanding scenery for not a lot of effort.

Sticky Out Tree and A Waterfall

    29mm, f9, iso 640, 1/100 sec

Immediately at the foot of the trail, I was greated by a fast flowing, tall waterfall. I was able to cross the falls easily thanks to a small bridge but, amazingly, what grabbed my attention in this caotic scene was a small tree, sticking out from the rocky bank above the water with the amazing, slightly snowy mountains in the background. With images of single trees like this, I prefer to have seperation between the tree and the background so they don’t overlap and blend into one another. I had my camera as low as possible, nearly touching the ground to achieve this shot.
It is also very important not to overexpose the highlights as there is nothing worse than getting back to your computer and finding that the sky has no detail and your left with just a white empty space where the sky once was. Exposure bracketing would be a great way to ensure you capture all the detail you need, but it will require software blending later on.

24mm, f9, iso640, 1/100 sec

*exposure bracketing is when you take a shot that your camera thinks is the correct exposure for the scene, but then also taking extra shots under and over exposing. I take 5 exposures which consists of -2 stops, -1 stops, correct exposure, +1 stops, +2 stops.

Llyn Idwal

The weather was predicted to be dry all over Wales this morning but this wasn’t the case. The rain and wind had seemingly followed me from Merseyside.
The path is made up mainly of rocks and the ground was very saturated so a decent pair of waterproof footwear was essential, I must get some for next time!
As I reach the lake edge, with wet hiking shoes, I struggled to catch my breath, not from the walk up, but from the shere beauty of view that greated me. A vast lake surrounded by spectacular tall mountains shrouded in cloud and it was just one of them moments where you can’t help but stand and stare.



A Compromise

I was instantly drawn to a group of large boulders at the water’s edge and thought these would be a great foreground for a long exposure. However, due to the strong wind and patchy rain, all my images either came out blurred or were ruined by rain drops on the lens. So instead I would have to make do with handheld, high shutter speed images which would freeze the movement in the water, but ensure a sharp image.
With the day being dull, I needed to bump my iso up quite high in order to maintain the depth of field I wanted and to obtain my target shutter speed of 1/100sec. Iso 1000 infact.
Never be afraid of uping your iso to get a faster shutter speed as it’s better to have grainy pictures than blurry ones in my opinion.
There were many others shots to be had at the lake but due to the time wasted waiting for the weather to pass, I would have to save them for next time.


A few handheld shots from the path on the way back down.






Andrew’s At It Again

As I look at my images in Photoshop, I can’t help but create another reflection image, to see what it might have looked like if the water was flat calm. Have I mentioned that I love reflections. I’m clearly addicted to them.



This trip turned out to be little more than a breathtaking scouting mission where I say Wow! And Awesome! a lot.
I certainly didn’t get any award winning images that’s for surebut it was a fantastic experience none the less.
I did attempt to explore a bit in the opposite direction to the lake where I spotted a couple of smaller waterfalls, but quickly abandoned it as there was no clear path and the ground was very boggy.
I’ve also now made a mental note of many compositions I’ve seen which will definitely make it easier next time. This also gives me a great excuse to come back again one day.

Coastal Photography in Llandudno, North Wales.

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12mm, iso200, 20sec, f5 (focus stacked)

Llandudno is a place I’ve visited on many occasions, mainly on days out or holidays with my family.

It has a certain nostalgic feeling and as far as seaside resorts go, it’s definitely one of the nicer ones.

There are so many things to see and do here from the Great Orme down to arcades and funfair rides, there is even a taboggon ride at the ski centre which is a lot of fun if a bit hair raising the first time. But Llandudno pier is what I have come to photograph which just happens to also be the place where we chose the name for our daughter, by looking at all the named souvenirs on offer.


27mm, iso200, 0.5sec, f16



Situated on the North Wales Coastline between Conwy and Colwyn Bay, it’s only a short drive from the A55 which makes access pretty easy and It would definitely be a good base if you wanted to explore North Wales.


My Dilemma

I arrived on the morning of 6th October, which was a Sunday, about 30 minutes before sunrise expecting the place to be derelict, I find that it is anything but, Wales Rally GB is in town and the promonade is rammed. Given that I am a keen Motorsport fan I was torn between photographing the rally cars in the service area or heading for the pier to capture sunrise, which is what I came for afterall. I stood for a few moments negotiating with myself what to do but in the end I decided not to allow these fancy pieces of attractive metal to distract me from my mission. Pier sunrise it is!


12mm, iso100, 1sec, f5


Heading past the Llandudno Grand Hotel, I find steps leading down to the beach. This side of the beach mainly rocks, stones and pebbles, not much in the way of sand but at least I had some foreground for my image.
The tide was receding (a bit like me), and it was far enough out not to cause me any problems, but close enough to still surround most of the pier.
On the horizon, there is a thin opening of cloud filled with a bright pink colour giving an incling of what lay beyond. 
“It’s going to be a good one!” I was thinking but …no. The sunrise gods had other ideas and quickly pulled their roller blind of cloud down, blocking my sunrise. Ah well, let’s see if we can still make the most of it, after all it’s still a fantastic place to be anyway. The first few shots I captured where in the blue hour and my focus was firmly on the beautiful old pier which stretched out into the sea (as piers usually do Andrew), and later as the sun came up I made use of my Nd filters to extend my shutter speed, there for smoothing out the water and blurring the clouds. I also went for a high key look with some of my shots, making them brighter than usual which suited the conditions quite well I thought.  

40mm, iso200, 5sec, f8


I also had a little wander down the beach to see if I could capture anything original or creative and this is what I came up with.

34mm, iso64, 0.6sec, f22 (focus Stacked)


The Great Orme

About 1 hour after sunrise I head up from the beach to the ski centre and follow the short but steep path up to my final location, The Great Orme. Llandudnos mini mountain gives superb views across the whole of Llandudno bay and can be accessed with just 5 mins of walking from the ski centre car park. It’s also home to goats and sheep and although there was no other people about, I was far from alone up here. Apparently the goats are pretty special too, a breed of wild goats that permenatly live on the Great Orme but not of them would come close enough for a picture. The sheep however were anything but camera shy and I’m pretty sure one winked at me when I was taking their picture. 


40mm, iso200, 1/400sec, f2.8



So all in all a great morning of photography and I came away with many images I was really pleased with. I’ve also been to a part of llandudno I hadn’t been upto before and got to see a few rally cars too. I love being out and about in the landscape with my camera, it gives me the perfect excuse to go to all these beautiful places and indulge in my passion. Although all the sunrise shoots I’ve done lately have been really cloudy and overcast, I’m sure that one day I will get my burning orange sunrise.

Oh yeah, if anybody finds a 62mm Hoya Pro Circular Polarising Filter on the beach, that would be mine……Doh!