Sunrise Photography From Cwm Idwal In The Snowdonia National Park

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Location

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.

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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.

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Conclusion

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.

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27mm, iso200, 0.5sec, f16

 

Location

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!

Sunrise

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. 

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

 

Conclusion

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!

 

Blundellsands, Hightown

One Step Forward; Two Steps Back

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Blundellsands, Hightown

Iso 200, 35mm, f13, 1/5sec

Unusually for me, I have a rare early finish from work during mid week. Normally I finish hours later with absolutely no chance of heading out with my camera.

This has now left me with a very tough decision to make.

Do I stay in to have an early night ready for work tomorrow or head out with my camera.

Decision Time

I’m going out!

I may not get another chance for a

couple of weeks and find it almost impossible to turn down this opportunity.

Where To Go?

With my mind made up, I check Google Maps on my phone where I have locations saved which I have been to or would like to visit so all I have to do now is to choose one that suits.

The place I had chosen to go was Blundellsands Sailing Club between Crosby and Formby, It has sea, sand and hopefully boats. I can also be there in less than 30 minutes which is perfect.

With the weather not looking promising for a decent sunset, I headed off in the car down the M57 motorway with my camera equipment and walking shoes; however in hindsight wellies would have been more favourable.

Blundellsands

As I arrive at my destination, I find that the sailing club car park is closed but this is no problem as there is a public footpath near by that allows direct access to the beach.

I throw my bag on my shoulder and change into my walking shoes then head off down the gravel path towards the shoreline. The first thing I noticed was a mast from a sailing boat extending up above the tips of the sand dunes giving me some idea of what lay beyond. Now filled with excitement that there is at least one boat still out today, I climb up onto the ridge to give me a better view of the area. To my joy there was more than just one boat, there was many.

Previous Visit

I have visited this location once before.

Last time I went south down the beach towards Crosby as there was no boats to be seen in the other direction. What I found was that the beach is littered with bricks and rubble which I can only imagine to have either been washed up by the tide or have been placed there as some sort of sea defence, but I’m not sure.

This was also the location where I sat next to a dead sea bird while capturing sunset without even realising until I started packing up my camera and tripod.

I couldn’t find much to photograph this way, but I did come away with a couple of keepers. The sunset was pretty good that night too.

Location Scouting

This time I headed north up beach towards Formby and my goal was to capture a picture of a boat with its reflection in the water.

I consciously made the decision to leave my camera in my bag and try to find a composition first before setting up my equipment. The idea behind this was that I would put a little bit more thought into my composition this time instead of taking multiple test shot while walking round and ending up with 300 images to edit through later.

The light was very flat, dull and the sky was grey with a hint of blue but this would have to do. I walk north for only about 5 minutes following the coast until I can go no further due to the way the estuary runs inland from here. Time to turn around and start taking some images.

Compositions

I attached my camera to my tripod and set up to capture my first image.

iso 200, 40mm, f6.3, 60 sec

My subject was an anchored boat in the estuary which was just about floating. I tried to use the estuary as a leading line upto the boat which I had placed on the bottom left third of the image but looking at the back of the camera it hadn’t come out quite as I envisaged which I think was mainly due to the none flattering light. However, having completed a moody edit on the picture in lightroom, I quite like it now.

Onto the next one.

By the time I’d finished taking this image, an opening had started to appear between the clouds and the horizon. This looked promising.

Iso 200, 12mm, f22, 1.6 sec

I had found a large tree branch lying on the sand pointing directly towards the sunset.

I used the timber to lead your eye towards the sunset and made sure to have the horizon on the top rule of thirds. I thought this image was ok but there is better to be had I was sure.

Sunset

iso200, 12mm, f13, 0.8 sec

My final spot was pretty much back to where I entered the beach and this would have to be my final location as sunset was fast approaching. As I was walking back to this spot, the sun had began to appear through the thin opening of clouds on the horizon. Big, bright and round It lit up the beach giving a very strong and beautiful magenta colour cast to the whole scene. Wary of the fact this would not last long I quickly tried to set up my composition but there was a problem, the ground was too boggy and my feet where getting stuck in the wet clay like sand. After moving Backwards and forwards, side to side it’s clear that I will have to overcome this challenge to get my shot and maybe sacrifice another pair of shoes.

Iso 200, 40mm, f6.3, 1/5sec

Iso 64, 12mm, f22, 4sec

Finally got it! I’ve got a boat, my reflections and a stunning sunset.

Heading Home

I’ve packed up my gear and I start heading home but I see one more composition which I had forgotten about. It was looking directly into the sunset with estuary snaking through the image as my leading line with two boats reflecting on the calm sea water. It would have been preferable that the boats were facing the opposite way, bow pointing to the camera but nevertheless I thought to myself, `I can’t leave with taking this picture’. I unpacked all my gear again, tripod, lens, polarising filter just so I was not leaving this image behind so to speak.

Iso 64, 25mm, f13, 20sec

Conclusion

This is a great place to visit for photography and I’ve only scratched the surface of this location so a third visit is definitely on the cards and next time, hopefully I can make it when the tide is in to capture even better reflections.

I set off on this journey with very little expectations due to the weather conditions but I ended up having one of the most colourful sunsets in terms of light on the landscape I’ve ever experienced. I came away having had a very enjoyable experience all because my desire to take images has brought me here. If I didn’t own a camera I probably wouldn’t have visited this location.

Oh, in case you were wondering, my shoes survived.

Email – Info@andrewgeorge-photography.co.uk

Website- www.andrewgeorge-photography.co.uk

Blundellsands Sailing Club – http://blundellsandssailingclub.co.uk/about

Ripples On The Dam

When it comes to landscapes, the number one thing that I like to photograph are reflections. It doesn’t really have to be any particular subject matter; I just always seem to find myself heading for somewhere that has water. Ideally, the water will be calm and still, however, I can achieve similar effects by using a long exposure.

Carr Mill Dam

My love for reflective landscapes has led me to some fantastic locations and one of my favourite places to visit is Carr Mill Dam which sits alongside the A580 East Lancashire Road, or ‘East Lancs’ as its more commonly known. This is partly down to the fact that its local to me but mainly because of the variety of pictures that are available here. There are trees, water, wildlife, and even a bit of architecture in the form of the 19 Arch bridge that stretches across the dam.

The 19 Arch Bridge taken October 2017

Heading to the Dam

Saturday 18th May.

My daughter has a friends party and the venue isn’t too far from the dam (you can probably tell where this is going). So I came up with the idea of dropping her off and spending a couple of hours at the dam with my camera; then I would collect her on the way back thus killing two birds with one trip…. Genius I know.

As I arrive at the dam, the wind is calm, trees are still, and there is a nice covering of clouds, a little bit dull, but I can live with that. I start thinking of reflections, long exposures, dramatic clouds and capturing the perfect photograph. As I get closer I see a small, white boat on the water, about 30ft from the edge of the bank, occupied by two people, ‘probably just doing some gentle fishing’ I thought so nothing to worry about there, I can still get my reflections with a long exposure; but this would mean editing out the boat later, so all in all a pretty good recipe for a nice picture.

The Waters Edge

I grab my gear out the boot of the car and head about 100 yards away to the waters edge. I look out across the water beyond the fishermen and I see a line of racing power boats. The serene atmosphere was suddenly broken by the sound of highly revving engines, as all the boats set off like greyhounds out of a trap, they start screaming towards me across the water. The two anglers, who turned out to be race marshals in their own motorised vessel, eagerly watch the boats as they take the corner at the end of the straight and head back down the water.

Camera settings – 150mm,1/2500sec,Iso 800,F3.2

Camera settings – 150mm, 1/2000sec, iso 640, f2.8

Camera settings – 150mm, 1/2000sec, iso 640, f2.8

A Lucky Coincidence

DAMN IT! (pun intended) no reflections for me today.

Luckily, I’m a big fan of motorsports so this was right up my street… Or East Lancs in this case.

I quickly equipped my Olympus Camera with my Olympus 40-150mm lens and started to capture the action using a high shutter speed of around 1/2500th of second to ensure I could freeze the boats within the image. However, I was keen to try out a technique called ‘panning’, where you use a slower shutter speed than normal, say around 1/50th of a second, and take a shot while tracking the moving boat across the water. This technique will allow you to have your subject sharp in the image but have a lot of motion blur in the background giving the feeling of movement and speed. I’ve seen plenty of pictures captured this way and can’t help but admire the skill of the photographer. My initial endeavour did not come with a high success rate, more likely because this was my first attempt and it’s a difficult method to master. I was probably getting around 1 in 20 shots which where usable. Most of them the boat was just a blur, a streaky mess. I felt that I did get better as the race went on but it’s all worth the effort for that one shot.

There is no better feeling than looking at the back of your camera and realising you’ve got the image you were hoping for.

I was made up with this particular one.

Camera settings – 150mm, 1/50 sec, iso 200, f8

I was also able to get a couple of pictures at the end of the first race when nobody was on the lake. I was photographing the boats near to a weir which fed into the Sankey Brook and I noticed two logs resting there.
I used the curvaceous overflow as a leading line into the image, the logs as foreground interest, smoothed out the water by using my 10stop filter screwed to the front of my Olympus 12-40mm lens. I was really pleased with the way this image turned out, definitely a keeper for me.

Camera settings – 14mm, 60 sec, iso 200 f9

Loved It!

Was I disappointed I didn’t get the image I was hoping for? ….. Nope absolutely not, I was in one of my favourite places doing something that I loved.

Email – Info@andrewgeorge-photography.co.uk
Website- www.andrewgeorge-photography.co.uk
Carr Mill Dam – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carr_Mill_Dam
Lancashire Power Boat Racing http://lancashirepowerboat.com/
Windermere Motorboat Racing Club http://www.wmbrc.co.uk/