A collection of photos from taken from easily accessible photography spots amidst the stunning scenery of South Wales...
When I took a week-and-a-half off work in August, I thought there would be no better way to spend a chunk of my holiday than in South Wales - to visit my sister (a British wildlife photography enthusiast herself - check out her Instagram @louisamhocking) and get out and about with the camera!
As my booked annual leave drew nearer, the British summer began to change for the worse. Rain was forecast for a lot of my visit. In fact, the drive up from Cornwall was so wet that I decided to fork out for new tyres on my car during my stay - to get about in the conditions.
I try to be more optimistic these days though - hoping that the unseasonable weather might add mood and interest to my images if shot in such a way to take advantage of the conditions.
Somewhat fatigued from work, I made a conscious effort to pick easily accessible locations to make my holiday more relaxing than the usual more arduous trips. So most of these images were shot just minutes from where I parked the car - instead of following a hike up Pen-Y-Fan or hours wandering the woods!
Day 1 (Saturday): No Photography!
On the first day of my visit, I had booked a canoes with Black Mountain Adventure, to paddle down the River Wye with my sister and a couple of friends. We enjoyed doing this a couple of years ago - but on this occasion, following heavy rain, the water level and subsequent ferocity of the river was too high. So, we were dropped with our canoes at Brecon, to paddle the Brecon & Monmouthshire Canal to Pencelli.
While we waited for our minibus to Brecon, the rain tipped down. We didn't let it dampen our spirits - but thankfully the rain soon subsided for our little excursion.
The scenery from canal was stunning. Our previous paddle down The Wye was nice, but I don't remember seeing such a mix of mountainous landscapes, intimate enclosed wooded sections, picturesque bridges and interesting boats as I did on the canal.
Day 2 (Sunday): Penarth Pier and Llangorse Lake
P E N A R T H D A W N
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/13 | 3.2 sec | ISO 100 | No Filters | Tripod
This was one of the first photos I took soon after jumping out of the car at Penarth. I was keen to get a shot in the bag of the pier in the dawn glow - before the lights went out (in fact, they stayed on for a while).
In my haste to get the shot, no filters were used. They weren't really needed. The low light was enough to force an exposure time of 3.2 seconds - which took the edge off the gentle waves, without losing them completely.
The faint dawn glow caught the metallic cladding, while the yellow lights provided interesting points of contrast in the predominantly blueish scene.
At the time, when viewed on the back of the camera, I thought that this would be my favourite shot of the morning. But in fact, I prefer the next two images...
P E N A R T H D A Y B R E A K
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/11 | 137 sec | ISO 100
Lee Big Stopper & Soft Grad filters | Tripod
This was shot just as the first glow of daylight appeared on the horizon.
With a shot in the bag, I had settled down to take more care. I fitted a 10 stop filter to smooth the sea and streak the clouds emanating from the light for a softer, more artistic image. The soft water and sky also give a cleaner backdrop to the pier.
P E N A R T H S T E E L S U N R I S E
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/14 | 120 sec | ISO 100
Lee Big Stopper & Soft Grad filters | Tripod
As the sun rose through a cloudy sky, I moved to the other side of the pier and positioned myself to capture the golden colour through the pier stanchions. The warm sunrise, echoed by the lights from inside the building, contrasted well with the steely blue sky.
The use of a 10 stop filter allowed for a two minute exposure which flattened the sea. More importantly for this image though - it streaked the clouds as they moved towards me - to lead the eye into the image.
L L A N G O R S E B L U E S
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/14 | 5 sec | ISO 100 | Lee Soft Grad filter | Tripod
In the evening, we headed to the northern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park - to Llangorse Lake.
The original plan for this shot was to catch the evening sunlight falling on the hut - just as I did in the morning light from the other side a few years ago (see my Blog -"Photographing Wales, Winter 2017")
However low cloud and flat light for the duration of the visit scuppered my plans! I struggled to find any other compositions elsewhere on location in the conditions.
After the sun had set though, in an uneventful sunset (in terms of colour in the sky), the "blue hour" hues seemed quite photogenic.
I shot this image from the position I intended to shoot the evening light - now though, with the lake reflecting the blue tones of the sky.
Day 3 (Monday): Rhossili Bay
Before visiting Rhossili in the evening, I had two pretty unsuccessful shoots on day two...
I think tiredness and inaccurate weather forecasts had affected my decision making. I woke up too late to get anywhere before sunrise (my favourite time of day for landscape photography) and, for reasons now unknown to me, I headed into the Brecon Beacons and parked near the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre...
I then proceeded to wander the slopes opposite the Storey Arms - trying to shoot the fleeting light on the valley sides, back-lit sheep and low clouds pouring over the mountain ridges. All of which sound like the makings of a pretty epic image - but I just couldn't get anything to work.
After a couple of hours I cut my losses. With a forecast of cloud, I decided to head for the waterfalls of Blaen Glyn Uchaf - somewhere I had never been before.
I hoped to shoot the falls in soft light diffused by the forecast blanket of cloud. But of course, the sun came out as I arrived. Now nearing the middle of a sunny day, all of the photos I took suffered from harsh shadows and intense highlights. Still, it was nice to explore a new place - to possibly re-visit in conditions more favourable to the location
H E L V E T I A W R E C K
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/14 | 30 sec | ISO 100
Lee Big Stopper & Grad filters | Tripod
After an unsuccessful day, quite late on I motivated myself to make the one-and-a-half hour drive from where I was staying in the valleys to Rhossili. A place that had long been on my list!
I had been told that the area on the Gower peninsula was stunning. Specifically though, I wanted to shoot the remains of the Helvetia - a Norwegian sailing vessel which wrecked in 1887.
Upon arrival 90 mins before sunset, the sky looked threatening - despite a dry forecast. Having driven so far though, I was keen to have a go at photographing the iconic wreck.
Not knowing the area, I was unsure where the mid-tide would be in relation to the wreck. As I walked down the coast path, I could see the remains of the vessel completely out of the water. A small group of people were milling around it. I remember thinking that there was likely to be a lot of unsightly footprints in my shot - and that a better time to shoot would be just after a receding tide had washed the sand clean.
Before I reached the beach, the heavens opened! This might have been a blessing in disguise though. While I tried to find shelter in a crevice in the cliff, the dozen or so people still on the beach promptly left. I watched as the rain cloud blew inshore overhead - willing it to hurry up!
The rain eventually stopped. Soaked, I made my way to the Helvetia. To my delight, the spell of heavy rain had washed away all the footprints around the wreck.
I picked my spot, and waited hopefully for the epic light. With my new, taller tripod fully extended, I was able to position the camera high - looking down on the wreck to show it's shape. The distinctive "Worm's Head" can be seen in the background.
As the sun set, a local photographer joined me. He said that it was rare to have the location to ourselves - which I presume was thanks to the rain!
Day 4 (Tuesday): Parc Bryn Bach
C O N D E M N E D J E T T Y
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/11 | 300 sec | ISO 200 | Lee Super Stopper filter | Tripod
Waking up late (well after sunrise) with a headache, it wasn't until the afternoon until I left the house - more for some fresh air than photography.
I found Parc Bryn Bach, near Merthyr Tydfil, on Google maps - and decided to head there for a walk. I took my camera though of course.
The flat easy walk was just what I needed. I passed this derelict jetty soon after getting out of the car, but walked all the way around the park's lake before returning to it.
Given the time of day - a summer afternoon, I was able to use the Lee Super Stopper filter I was given for Christmas! I waited for the sunlight to diffuse behind a passing cloud - to take the edge off the highlights and soften the shadows.
A five minute exposure completely flattened the water - allowing the skeletal structure of the jetty to really stand out.
Day 5 (Wednesday): Melincourt Falls & Mumbles
C A S C A D E
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/11 | 1/2 sec | ISO 400 | Hoya Polarising Filter | Tripod
Rain was forecast all morning through to early evening. But keen to head out with the camera, I spotted an area of slightly lighter rain on my (unreliable) weather app over Melincourt Falls. So that's where I headed!
My theory was that the diffused sunlight through the clouds would lend itself to the wooded location - plus the tree canopy would offer some shelter from the rain.
As I walked the path approaching the 80 foot high falls, the roar of cascading water grew louder.
It dawned on me that after a period of heavy rain may not be the best time to shoot these particular falls.
The extra volume of water fell with with such force that it blew the foliage around violently. There was so much spray in the air that keeping the lens (well, polarising filter) dry was impossible. And the water level was so high that it would have been dangerous to cross or stand in the river to find interesting compositions. I gave it it my best shot - unsurprisingly without success.
As a consolation, I had taken this shot of a trickle streaming down the bank next to the footpath. Even here, some of the leaves are soft from wind shake - but I was happy to have come away with at least something with the bad weather.
F A I N T M U M B L E S
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 87mm | ƒ/11 | 30 sec | ISO 100
Lee Big Stopper & Soft Grad filters | Tripod
Later that day, the weather began to dry up. So I drove to another location that had long been on my list - Mumbles, near Swansea.
With another 90 minute drive ahead of me, I decided to leave early to spend longer on location.
Arriving a few hours before sunset with a high tide, I grew increasingly doubtful that there'd be any colour in the sky at sunset.
With an overcast sky, I decided to get he camera out early and use the conditions to my advantage for a "different" minimal high-key style shot.
I first photographed the Old Lifeboat Station from the mainland. It's red roof provided a colourful focal point which I chose to position in the centre of the frame. I pushed the exposure to the right, taking care not to clip the highlights, to give a stark contrast. I also de-saturated the scene a little in post editing. A long exposure of 30 seconds flattened the water for a minimal look.
M U T E D M U M B L E S
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/11 | 120 sec | ISO 100 | Lee Big Stopper & Soft Grad filters | Tripod
I next wandered onto the pier. I looked for new things to photograph - and experimented with shooting the nearby lighthouse. But on such a dull day, I needed the pop of the Old Lifeboat Station's red features.
This time, looking from the pier - I used the old foot bridge to lead-in towards the station. In fact, the light seemed a little better from this angle - making the image a little crisper.
A 10-stop filter served to flatten the sea completely, and I emphasised the mist in post editing to knock the distant land back for a minimal look.
T H E A N T E L O P E
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 105mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/200 sec | ISO 100 | No filters | Tripod
Having had my fill at the pier, and now walking a long along the sea front, it was colour amidst the gloom that again caught my eye...
This colourful red & blue boat (The Antelope) stood out to me amongst it's grey surroundings - which again, I emphasised in my post editing.
I also added a little blur to the foreground ripples and background to simplify the image further, while drawing more attention to the focal point.
Day 6 (Thursday): Burnham-on-Sea
B U R N H A M G L O W
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 81mm | ƒ/8 | 1/8 sec | ISO 100 | No Filters | Tripod
OK, so I know this isn't in Wales, but on the way home I planned a sunrise stop at Burnham-on-Sea to photograph the seaside resort's Low Lighthouse.
When I arrived, the wind was blowing a gale! I almost didn't even step foot on the beach.
I'm glad I did though. Although the sun's orb could not be seen through the cloud as it rose, it still coloured the sky with blue and pink tones. This shot was taken as a distant rain shower passed behind the scene - catching the light.
This was the first image I made - a straight shot with no filters. I was impressed that my new tripod stood so firm in the strong wind!...
B U R N H A M R U S H
Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 81mm | ƒ/16 | 90 sec | ISO 100
Lee Big Stopper & Soft Grad filters | Tripod
So impressed was I with my new "Manfrotto 290 Xtra" tripod's performance (Bought from Southwest Optics in Truro) in the strong winds, that I thought I'd try a long exposure... And to my surprise, it worked!
This image was exposed for one-and-a-half minutes while being constantly buffeted by the wind, and yet the lighthouse still came out sharp! The long exposure captured the movement of the clouds as they seemingly rushed towards me.
The stop at Burnham-on-Sea broke my homeward journey up quite nicely - and marked the end of my latest trip to Wales... until next time!
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