I shouldn't start by saying this, but I was a little disappointing with last year's efforts at landscape photography in South Wales despite visiting three times.
I shouldn't be too hard on myself though, as I'm dependant on weather and tides for those precise weeks. In my May trip, the weather was lovely - just not for landscape photography! Strong sunlight and haze were my nemesis. While in November I was lumbered with overcast skies and flat light. Also, now that my sister (who I visit) is now into wildlife photography (check out her Instagram @louisamhocking), our choice of locations have to be a compromise or alternated between landscape or wildlife spots.
With the excuses out of the way, here are my 6 best shots from 2018 in chronological order...
#1 WHITEFORD LIGHTHOUSE AGLOW AT SUNRISE
Shown above, my photograph of the old cast iron lighthouse on the Gower's Whiteford Point was my first taken in South Wales in 2018 - and probably my favourite welsh landscape of the year.
During this visit to South Wales, low tide coincided perfectly with the sunrise on the Gower Peninsula to capture this image...
The low tide allowed me to set up my tripod pretty close to the lighthouse. The rising sun washed the cast iron relic (built in 1865) in golden light - in fleeting moments at is it ascended through the low lying cloud.
This was my first visit to the Gower Peninsula. The walk from the car park to the shore was beautiful and diverse - to include woodland, marshland, dunes and a shell covered beach. Wildlife was abundant too - we encountered ponies which I assumed to be wild, wading birds and a woodpecker. A recommended destination for any lover of the great outdoors!
I shot this with my old Canon 700D - which I upgraded to a 6D later in the year. A Hoya 10 stop filter allowed me to lengthen the exposure time to 30 seconds - smoothing out the water for a calm / minimal effect.
When I reviewed the image on the camera's screen, I thought it needed something of interest to the left of the frame. So I removed the filter to capture birds flying near the lighthouse, which I added in Photoshop.
#2 PORT TALBOT STEELWORKS
I couldn't help but notice the smoke billowing from the factory as I drove past Port Talbot Steelworks on the motorway one morning. I imagined that the busy industrial scene would make an interesting picture.
So later that evening, I found a vantage point on a hill overlooking the scene - just off the M4 motorway. As the weather had been quite flat that day, I envisaged a subtle moody image with grey cloud behind and the smoke from the steelworks to the front of shot. But as the sun set, it coloured the sky in fiery red and yellow tones. I had to change tact, and decided to shoot a long exposure of 4 seconds to include the red and white light trails circling the roundabout at the bottom of the frame to balance the sky.
OK, so I'll come clean! This wasn't taken in South Wales - although it was pretty close, and I was staying in Wales at the time! At the end of this trip, we visited The Forest of Dean on a damp drizzly day - unlike the hot hazy weather (which I found impossible to work with) we had experienced on the days before.
Armed with my new full frame camera (Canon 6D MkII), I was keen to salvage something in what I thought were even worse conditions. I decided to do my best with the weather I was dealt!
I usually I tend to plan my shots and almost know what I'll shoot before I arrive. This time though, I walked around looking for some "less cliché" images.
With a bland grey sky lacking any detail, constant rain and drizzle, I knew that stunning light would be unlikely. So Instead I looked for isolated trees lost in the mist - or mist giving depth to a cluster of trees.
About three hours into the walk without a single (good) shot taken, we were actually a bit lost as we found ourselves walking down a valley side covered by tall trees and into an open quarry. As the trees cleared, one of the views I was hoping for presented itself - trees shrouded with mist on the other side of the valley!
#4 CARREG CENNEN CASTLE
Unlike to tricky conditions of strong sunlight and haze of my May trip, on this trip in November I was met with pretty dreary weather - which was almost as tricky!. Overcast skies, devoid of cloud definition, casting dull diffused light - together with rain made landscape photography difficult and a little uninspiring.
We first headed to "Carreg Cennen Castle." Leaving in the early hours, I hoped that when we arrived on location, there'd be even the slightest veil of mist hanging around the castle to give a magical / fantasy scene.
This of course didn't happen - just a grey sky blotting out any warm sunlight. Trying to use the flat light to my advantage, this composition features a tree in autumn colour - contrasting against the gloomy cliff and castle beyond.
#5 EAST USK LIGHTHOUSE
Another early start during my November trip to South Wales and another overcast and showery day!
This image of East Usk Lighthouse on the Newport Wetlands nature reserve was taken early in the morning before a downpour - and before the sun ascended into the heavy sky.
#6 MORNING HIGHLIGHT
Taken at Llangattock Escarpment in the Brecon Beacons towards the end of my November trip - when the sun came out a little (but not for long!)
As I was walking with my back to the light, I turned around to see the rising sun pouring it's light over the escarpment into the valley. A very light mist made the scene appear quite magical.
I soon found this composition which looks through the back-lit grass covered spoil mounds - towards a tree, softened by the mist and seemingly basking in the morning light. In hindsight though - I wish I had attempted to "focus stack" the shot to sharpen the foreground.
I'll be making my first visit of 2019 later this month - I must try harder! (and fingers crossed for some better conditions). Keep an eye on my social media for some new images!
I hope you liked this selection of images (and my commentary), please let me know what you think on my social media channels, and if you have any questions, please ask. Feel free to "share" and all that malarkey!
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