One of the most striking features of the East Anglian countryside is the large amount of windmills and windpumps that are scattered across the whole area, many of them in a good state of repair and some of them still functioning.
These mills played a big part in the history of the area, draining many parts of the fens and broads in order to make the area more habitable and workable.
One particularly attractive example can be found in the lovely village of Cley-next-the-sea, just along the road from Weybourne where I was staying.
Although this charming village has "next-the-sea" in it's name it has not actually been next to the sea since the 17th century, a land reclamation program has meant that the shore is now 3 kilometres away and some marsh land fills the space. The huge reed beds in this area make a perfect sanctuary for a number of bird species and a lovely area to walk through on some raised embankments.
The village itself is also interesting, there are a number of houses which are constructed from flint (a traditional material in Norfolk) and also many buildings which are influenced by the local wildlife in one way or another.
A 20 minute drive from Cley-next-the-sea takes you to Holkham Nature Reserve, a beautiful expanse of dunes and woodland stretching along the coast. I took a peaceful early morning walk along the Holkham beach to another "-next-the-sea".
The beach at Wells-next-the-sea (which is still actually next the sea) contains a huge row of over 200 beach houses all next to each other. The sunrise on this day was one of those "blue sky, no clouds and nothing happens" afairs, but it was anwyay a wonderful way to start the day. There is a special satisfaction to be gained from a few hours of activity before breakfast.
Many parts of the UK are littered with grand old houses in the middle of huge estates, a reminder that there have always been those that have and those that have not. In modern times a great number of those are opened to the public, often under the management of the National Trust. I made my way to Felbrigg Hall for a morning walk through the woods.
Encouraged by the Felbrigg experience I made my way to the Blickling Estate.
The National Trust does a great job of maintaining all of this cultural history and rural beauty for the public good, but all the good work comes at a cost. I have donated an inordinate amount of funds to the National Trust this year for parking and entry fees on my multiple UK trips, there is always a noticeable fee to park and an even more noticeable fee to enter at different destinations. All of these fees seem more-or-less reasonable in isolation but if you are taking in a number of venues in a day then it starts to be a burden.
Blickling is another enormous estate, covering 1861 hectares, and it is full of interest and beauty in it's buildings and gardens. At the time I visited there was very harsh daytime light so it was not optimal for photography... wrestling with the images I took on that afternoon took me to some strange places.
you are welcome / i am sorry (delete as appropriate)
Back in the real world my next destination was Thornham, another beautiful area with channels through the reeds, old abandoned boats and buildings, flanked by dunes covered in marram grass, leading out to a lovely beach.
East Anglia is generally very low lying, meaning that photographic interest needs to come from colours, patterns, shapes, textures and objects rather than rolling hills or strong elevation changes. This presents a different and interesting challenge.
The village of Blakeney is a perfect example of a Norfolk village, narrow roads lead past traditional flint cottages to a slipway full of boats and a marshy area reaching out to the sea. I spent my last North Norfolk evening watching the sun go down at Blakeney.
After taking the shot above I went walking through the marshes, looking for compositions, none of which made the final selection from this trip, before returning to almost exactly the same spot after dark (note the difference in the tide).
To conclude this blog episode (episode 65 in case anyone was wondering) I will return to where i started. My last North Norfolk sunrise was viewed across the reed beds at Cley-next-the-sea.
I walked through the village and back to the area near the mill. A bench was handily placed in a perfect spot for observing how the light developed as the day began.
Another North Norfolk day was under way.
Until next time,
Earlier this autumn I made my first visit to East Anglia, a fascinating area on the east coast of England. My first days were spent in North Norfolk where I had a very enjoyable time photographing the beautiful coastline and rural scenery.
My base for these first days was The Maltings Hotel in the village of Weybourne, a location which turned out to give me good access to many of the places I was interested in. When visiting a totally unfamiliar area the selection a perfect place to stay requires at least a small degree of luck.
I arrived in the late afternoon and decided to head down the coast to nearby Sheringham to watch the sun go down.
After a good night's sleep I headed towards the town of Cromer, hoping for some kind of sunrise. The weather however had different ideas. Overall on this trip I had much kinder treatment from the weather gods but this morning was quite dreary.
The impressive pier at Cromer is 140m long and was opened to the public perhaps in either 1901 or 1902 (depending on whether one of the conflicting references in wikipedia is correct). A pier is always a promising subject for a photograph, the long straight design of most piers provides strong leading lines if you wish to make sue of them. At Cromer there was too much clutter and too much construction ongoing, slightly detracting from the possibilities for a good shot.
Along the coast from Cromer you can find the small village of Overstrand where a steep paved path leads you down to the sea front and a series of erosion defences. I have spent quite a lot of time on the coast in my 2019 trips and I have started to get a better feeling for how I like to capture different scenes. The whole east coast of the UK is affected by strong tides and in many places coastal erosion is a concern. The daily comings and goings of the tide create an ever-changing landscape, sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent, almost always interesting in one way or another.
On this occasion, in beautiful soft evening light, I decided that a dreamy looking long exposure would be the best approach to the scene, complementing the soft colours of the scene. This 404 second exposure would be one favourite from the trip.
To the north of East Anglia, and to the south of Lincolnshire, you can find The Wash - a huge, shallow, square-ish estuary which covers an area of about 620 square kilometres. The four corners of the square are roughly defined by the towns of Hunstanton and Kings Lynn (on the south side in East Anglia), Boston and Skegness (on the north side in Lincolnshire.
On a blustery, bright (and slightly wild) day I headed for the nature reserve at Snettisham where I planned to see what kind of birds I might be able to find resting in the huge tidal expanse of The Wash. with some luck I was able to find three species that I had not previously seen, taking my total number of photographed species to 208.
The extent of the change from low tide to high tide in The Wash was remarkable. I could see (from the wet mud, jetties and boats resting on the ground) that I was next to the shore, but the shallow mud flats extended beyond the horizon. The water would return in a few hours, but for the moment it was completely out of sight. A number of Little Egrets patrolled the muddy expanse, searching for delicious(?) morsels.
Perhaps the biggest prize of the day was the chance to see some Eurasian Spoonbills flying overhead - huge and impressive with their unusually shaped bills. It would have been nice to have had a long telephoto lens with me to try and get a better picture of these amazing birds but I did the best I could with the 100-400mm zoom.
I walked a considerable distance on this day, in high winds, ending up with a feeling like I had been in a bit of a battle, somewhat tired but in a good way. One of the best things about landscape or nature photography is the excuse it gives to spend extended periods wondering around in the outdoors.
After my enjoyable day in Snettisham I made for the seaside town of Hunstanton where I hoped to find some good compositions for the sunset session. At the north of the town you can find Old Hunstanton beach, a more natural and wild area with beautiful dunes and geologically interesting cliffs. On this day the wind was being put to good use for leisure activities.
The tide was rising at this point and the water prevented access to the foot of the cliffs, so I headed instead for the sea front promenade in the town and looked for a way to photograph the sea defences as the sun started to set. Having got myself into position I had some time to kill before the best light so I bravely decided to take my 2019 selfie to pass the time (I really don't like to have people in my pictures, least of all myself).
The coastal defences along the sea-front have an interesting zig-zag configuration and I thought that this made for a compelling subject. I do not normally want to have the sun in the frame when making landscape photographs but once in a while i think it is healthy to consider doing something a little differently.
I stayed in position and watched as the light gradually changed, shooting a series of very long exposures (5-10 minutes). I like the calming effect that this produces in the resulting images and there is something satisfying about the picture being created over an extended period of time instead of being all done in a fraction of a second.
As the gloom descended I decided to make my way back to the Old Hunstanton cliffs and see if I could manage to navigate my way along the beach in the dark in order to get a shot of the cliffs.
In such situations I have found it better to allow my eyes to get used to the darkness (instead of using a torch) and due to my sensible (cowardly) nature I don't proceed if I feel that anything is risky.
On this occasion I was able to make my way along the beach easily enough and was confident that it would be safe to make my way back when it was even darker, the route was mostly sand or pebbles and the rocky areas were not slippery. Importantly the tide was on it's way out (and would not be back until morning) so there was no possibility of being surprised by an incoming tide.
The unusual red stripe on the cliffs is caused by iron deposits staining the limestone, this rock was formed in layers of sediment over a prolonged period, on top of a layer of Carrstone (sandstone bound together by iron oxide). The end result is quite striking.
My pictures and thoughts from East Anglia will continue next week. Thanks for reading!
Any visit to the Bavarian Alps is not complete without having a look at one of the many castles that look proudly down from prominent positions on the mountainside. On my short September trip to Germany and Austria I made a point of visiting three different castles, despite the weather (as usual) making it's best efforts to discourage me.
The first of my castles was on the Austrian side of the border, Hohenwerfen Castle is an 11th century fortress overlooking the market town of Werfen.
I had the impression that the castle was best seen from above so I made my way up to the overflow car park at Eisriesenwelt (an ice cave on the mountain opposite) to look for a vantage point. I had the idea that I might also visit the ice cave but once I understood that all photography was prohibited there I rather lost my enthusiasm.
The weather on this particular day was relentlessly miserable - windy, raining and cloudy - so i decided that the best approach would be to capture some timelapse footage of the castle and the nearby forest while the low clouds rushed through the scene.
The mountains and hills near to Werfen are not amazingly high but they rise very steeply which makes for some impressive views, but the thick cloud made it quite difficult to make much of the opportunity.
I returned to Berchtesgaden (after visiting the Erlebnis-Therme Amadé to warm up a little) and drove up to the summit of Rossfeld (the subject of my previous blog) to see whether there were any views through the clouds. The high vantage point allowed for some panoramic views as usual and there were just enough gaps in the cloud cover to allow some shooting.
The dreary weather produced scenes which were rather devoid of colour so I decided to embrace that when working with the images and aim for an "aerial footage from World War Two" kind of look.
The following day was slightly less wet but still quite overcast. I decided to visit the Wimbachklamm gorge for the first time in a few years.
The particular geology of the Bavarian Alps seems especially likely to generate spectacular gorges such as this, but perhaps it is just the case that they have just been made more accessable to visitors in this area than many others.
Shooting in a gorge such as this is a challenging activity. Typically such places are accessable only via a narrow ledge or an artificial walkway attached to one of the gorge walls. There will be a sturdy barrier to prevent dangerous falls but usually the path itself is pretty cramped and there is a flow of people along it. Setting up a tripod is likely not a luxury that will be available for you. Another constant difficulty is the spray from the rushing water, this requires attention between shots and also makes changing lenses a dangerous activity (you do not want the camera sensor to get a bath every time you change a lens). Being properly prepared and being able to adapt to what you find becomes much more important than usual.
As is often the case in places like this I found myself looking for more intimate scenes. Selecting a single interesting detail or a tiny fragment of a wider scene is an excellent way to produce images that are not like every other image that has been taken at a particular place. "Different" is quite easy... but when you also want the image to look good it gets harder. A good portion of the images that I come up with in this way seem to fall flat with an audience, but that is fine, in the end I think it is more important to try to satisfy myself rather than others when I produce my images.
Another of the beautiful highlights in the Berchtesgaden region is the lovely Hintersee lake. This is another place that I have returned to many times, as much because I love to be there as for any photography related reasons.
The lake itself is shallow and beautifully clear, filled with green-blue alpine meltwater, it is surrounded by mountains and is relatively sheltered. Perhaps those factors are helpful in some way for "trees growing on a rock in the middle of a lake", or perhaps it is a coincidence, but either way Hintersee has plenty such trees adding to it's charm.
Hintersee is a popular destination for photographers and hikers, a number of trails lead to and from this lovely lake and it is usually relatively easy to park.
My few days in Berchtesgaden were soon over and I made my way to my next home base in the Austrian village of Reutte. Upon arrival I found the owner in a state of considerable distress because my room was not ready - the indiviuals who had checked out earlier in the day had left the place in a truly terrible state. Sometimes I really wonder what is wrong with people that they can act without basic respect for others. The owner kept mentioning the nationality of the people who had left the mess, but I do not think that any country is entirely free of assholes so I do not see that it is relevant to the story. We agreed that I would delay my check-in by a number of hours.
My reason to be near to Reutte could be found just across the border into Germany. The village of Schwangau, near to Füssen, is the location of a number of spectacular buildings.
Lets start with the very beautiful Hohenschwangau Castle.
A castle has been on this site in the Allgäu Alps for many centuries, the earliest known records mention it's presence in 1397, but by the time the site came into the possession of King Maximillian II of Bavaria in 1832 it was in a dilapidated state. Maximillian began construction of the present day castle in 1833 and it was completed in 1837 with further additions being added periodically until 1855. This beautiful and perfectly situated castle was Maximillian's official summer and hunting residence.
My Finnish readers will be familiar with the attraction of a summer cottage, something which is traditionally passed down through the generations. Bavarian castles are similar, but Maximillian's son and successor King Ludwig II was not satisified enough with the castle he inherited in 1864. Construction of his own castle, Neuschwanstein, began in 1869, funded by his personal fortune and some personal loans.
The castle is a magnificent sight from the village below, overlooking the area from it's perfect vantage point, but even better views are to be found by making the steep hike up to the Marienbrucke bridge, crossing the wobbly bridge (nervously in my case), and continuing up a mountain trail for a while. The view of the castle with the village in the background is stunning and there are also clear views of the mountains to the south of the castle.
Neuschwanstein Castle has always been a magical place for me, having visited it as a 3 year old in 1978. It was nearly 40 years before I returned for a second look (a first look with my camera) and I have returned a couple of times since then. The castle itself is a major tourist attraction with more than a million visitors every year, so you will not get the place to yourself, but if you aim for sunrise or sunset times then you can get good access to the different viewing locations.
On this particular visit I enjoyed weather which was firstly too pleasant and then too unpleasant to be ideal for photography, but I still very much enjoyed the experience.
Another grand building, down on the valley floor, is the lovely Pilgrimage Church of St. Coloman, named after an Irish monk who stopped at the site on the first stages of his ill-fated 11th century journey to the Holy land (he was hanged in Austria shortly afterwards having been thought to be a spy due to his strange appearance).
I have seen beautiful photos of this church, it really suits a snowy winter scene, but every time I have attempted to photograph it the weather has been fairly miserable. When the light is not cooperating then some other tactics are needed to bring at least a little interest to the photographs.
On my final day of this trip, the weather was quite horrible - hammering down with rain, quite windy, and not very good visibility. When trying to photograph Neuschwanstein these conditions are actually very interesting, the castle itself is right around the cloud line on the most miserable days and this can give a deeply atmospheric feeling to any images you might capture before you get completely soaked through and miserable.
I spent a most enjoyable couple of hours in the meadows near to the Tegelberg cable car shooting timelapse footage of this castle in the clouds. Although it was very wet it was not very cold so I decided to use my waterproof jacket to protect the camera from the rain instead of protecting msyelf, accepting that I would be soaked to the skin as a consquence.
I have always loved spending time in Bavaria, and I hope I will have many chances to be there again.
I would like to thank all my readers for supporting my blog with their likes, shares and comments, I appreciate it very much.
Until next time,
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I have made many trips to the Berchtesgaden area (in Southern Germany) over the past few years and during those visits I have returned to the Rossfeld mountain on many occasions. It is just a stunning destination.
During my September 2019 trip to Bavaria I stayed for a few nights at Villa Bello in the small village of Oberau, a perfect location for accessing various attractions in the area and especially close to Rossfeld.
At around 1600m the summit of Rossfeld is not particularly high compared to some of the surrounding mountains but it is a fantastic place to visit and has a number of key advantages as a photography location.
The most important advantage is accessibility. The road which leads to the summit is wide, well maintained, safe and easy to drive, with ample parking at the top and multiple stopping places on the way up or down. The road is a ring, the ends of which can be accessed from Oberau (850m altitude) or from Obersalzburg (750m) and you can drive your car all the way up to an altitude of 1570m.
This accessibility makes the destination suitable for anyone who can drive a car or get on a bus, spectacular views can be had in many directions at different points on the route without even leaving the vehicle.
For anyone who has driven on a lot of other mountain roads in (e.g.) Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy or Switzerland the Rossfeldpanoramastrasse road is the height of luxury. Perfect surfaces, a wide two-way carriageway, relatively gentle corners and a lack of surprise entrances or blind spots make this a very safe road. For first time mountain drivers a degree of caution should be exercised and special attention should be paid to the speed of travel (especially on the descent). The road is kept in such perfect condition by the collection of a toll, at time of writing access to the road costs €8 for a passenger car.
Click here for more information about Rossfeldpanoramastrasse.
What can you see from Rossfeld?
The great peak of Hoher Göll (2522m) is Rossfeld's close neighbour (to the south west) and it is a very imposing sight from the top of Rossfeld, appearing immediately adjacent despite being a few kilometres away.
The Göll massif is the first in a sequence of mountain ridges which decorate the landscape in the sweeping views which are available to the south-east from the summit of Rossfeld, following the valley of the Salzach river. On a clear day it is possible to see past the peaks of the Tennen mountains and past the hills from the Salzach valley all the way to the the mighty Dachsteinn (2995m) some 70 kilometres away. On hazy mornings these beautiful layers of mountains are a superb subject for photography.
Turning your gaze to the east from the summit of Rossfeld you can get views of the lush valley below with some interestingly shaped hills.
This valley is flanked on the other extreme by more mountainous ridges (the Totes mountain range). These views are also stunning although the valley is often in shadow at both sunrise and sunset.
The scenery to the north-east is a little more gentle, a flatter (but not flat) plain with villages and fields, often likely to be covered in fog in the mornings of spring and autumn.
The historic Austrian city of Salzburg lies some 20 kilometres to the north of Rossfeld, and it is possible to catch some distant views of the city, including the airport which is quite easy to identify due to the landing lights. To the north-west you can see a side on view of another huge iconic lump of rock, the Untersberg, topping out at 1973m.
As we complete the circle there are views of distant mountain peaks and some glimpses of buildings in the valley below, a highlight is the rounded form of Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden which looks like it could be either the new Apple headquarters or the lair of a James Bond super villain.
Overlooking this area, perched on the mountain above Obersalzburg, you can catch a glimpse of the Kehlsteinhaus or "Eagles Nest", a nazi stronghold from the 1930s. The Kehstein mountain is a sub-peak of Hoher Göll.
Hoher Göll itself is a popular climbing destination, offering a variety of different routes to to summit, from the pretty easy to the pretty challenging. The Purtschellerhaus, perched beautifully a few hundred vertical metres below the summit, provides a welcome staging post for climbers and a point of interest for any photographers who might point a lens in that direction from Rossfeld.
The range of different heights in the surrounding mountains means that you often have some feature or another which is in the clouds at Rossfeld. This can be a great bonus for photography. I particularly liked how the clouds were gathering above the Purtschellerhaus on this September morning so I captured their motion in a time-lapse.
The jagged rocky slopes also give great opportunities for dramatic images when the clouds are performing for the camera.
Now that we have covered the 360 degree attractions of Rossfeld it is only proper to mention the highlights of the mountain itself. The Ahornkaser is the highest tavern in Germany that you can reach by car and it offers a chance to get refreshments while on the mountain. It is also a good vantage point for photography with a charming mountain cottage nearby that has Hoher Göll as a great background.
The views that you can enjoy from Rossfeld are available all year round thanks to a dedicated effort being made to keep the road clear. I have previously visited during times of heavy snowfall and still been able to drive without any difficulty to the summit. Indeed the slopes on the north of the mountain are an active skiing area with beautiful panoramic views.
I hope that this introduction has made you eager to visit Rossfeld, it is one of my favourite places to take photographs because there are so many compelling possibilities in one easy to reach destination. I look forward to returning to Rossfeld in the future!
Until next time,
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At 0345 my alarm sounded. I did not even have to open my eyes in order to judge the weather conditions, the wind was hurling raindrops with remarkable ferocity against my west facing window in the Fron Deg Guesthouse. A beautiful sunrise seemed monumentally unlikely. On days like this it can be overwhelmingly tempting to stay under the covers and start the day with a lazy breakfast instead of some foolish adventure. Six or seven minutes later i was on the road, heading towards a location near Barmouth.
After a 30 minute drive, the final section of which took me up a rather narrow track, I started hiking through a forest in the darkness, following a trail which should deliver me to a viewpoint. The rain was intermittent, but did not cause much hardship while I was under the cover of the tree canopy.
As the ambient light began to reveal more of my surroundings I got my first few glimpses of the Mawddach estuary through some gaps in the trees. As the trees gave way to heathery scrub at the top of the hill the full panorama revealed itself, but the weather conditions were ugly and boring. I took a few shots, without much enthusiasm and then got distracted by some interesting rocks and tried to find abstract patterns to photograph.
At least I had got myself out of bed, and had a nice morning walk. I decided to head back for breakfast. I walked back down the hill a bit... then changed my mind and decided to use the time to practice shooting timelapses, something I have been meaning to get into. I set a timelapse going and then resumed my seach for patterns in the rock. A few minutes later I looked up and saw that the sun was starting to fight it's way through the clouds... a magnificent sight.
My timelapse was still running, and indeed it had captured the progression of this elemental battle as raged above the estuary, driven on by the westerly wind.
Timelapse photography involves shooting a large number of images of a scene and then using those images as frames in a video. The resulting footage has some noticeable differences to normal video content, the most striking of which is that it can be used to show changes over a significant length of time in a relatively short clip. The timelapse above is made from 900 images, captured once every 2 seconds over a period of 30 minutes, the resulting footage has a duration of 30 seconds.
I have done some experiments with this kind of work over the past few trips and start to be more proficient with both the capturing and processing of timelapse footage. I think that there will be the occasional timelapse to be seen in my future posts.
There is nothing much better than the feeling you get when sitting down to a good breakfast with the thought that the day has already been worthwhile. The morning routine following a sunrise excursion has a familiar pattern - cereal, sausage, bacon and eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee... probably more coffee... copy the morning's pictures to my laptop, charge batteries, shower, get dressed and head out exploring.
My next destination was a bit of a drive away, I followed the road along the coast, around the Mawddach estuary and into the countryside to Dolgoch Falls.
This beautiful forest waterfall has an excellent cafe (the Dolgoch Tea Rooms) nearby and some possibilities for a bit longer walks nearby.
I sometimes get asked about how my images are processed, and that seems to be one of the major topics of debate in the photography community as well as in the looking at photography community. A few weeks ago I wrote down my own thoughts about such discussions in a short article that you can read here.
As a follow up to that article, for those who prefer to see some concrete examples, I made another post showing a before and after comparison for two finalised images (including the one above).
For the final couple of days of this most enjoyable trip I moved my base of operations to the town of Llandudno, where one of the attractions is a grand old pier.
Most of the places that I found interesting in this area were beside the sea. There are many beaches and coastal areas, each with different characters and features. The long, west-facing, rocky beach at Dinas Dinlle was a great place to watch the sunset and it also has a decent fish and chip shop right next to the car park... what more could anyone possibly want?
Another feature of this area is remarkable castles, two particularly fine examples are preserved at Conwy and Caernarfon, both of which date from the 13th century.
By this stage of my journey the constant late night-busy day-early morning routine was starting to have a cumulative effect. In autumn and spring it is quite possible to go on almost indefinitely shooting both sunrise and sunset every day, but in summer the period between those is just too short to get enough sleep. It was something of a relief to have the possibility to get to my sunrise destination the next morning with a 400m walk from my accomodation instead of a long journey.
On my final full day in Wales I decided to explore along the north coast, stopping first at Llandulas beach where there are some interesting coastal defences. Thousands of huge concrete blocks, shaped something like jacks (from the classic game, it's just a matter of time before modern youngsters leave their devices behind and return their efforts to games like this), are piled up along a 7 mile stretch of coast.
The most obvious, and already much photographed, landmark to add to any picture of these sea defences is Raynes Jetty, a structure extending out to deep waters in order to allow cargo ships to be loaded with the products of the nearby Raynes Quarry.
At the most northern extreme of the Welsh mainland you can find the golden sands of Talacre beach and their crowning glory, the Point of Ayr lighthouse which sits out in the surf, about 50m offshore, at high tide but can be approached on foot across the sand at low tide.
My first visit to North Wales was a most enjoyable one, and I am sure that i just scratched the surface of what it had to offer. I hope that I can return one day, maybe in some better conditions so that I can explore more widely in the mountains of Snowdonia.
Thanks for your attention and support!
Until next time,
I am not sure if I will still have any readers after offering extensive thoughts on the art of cricket commentary in my last post, but if anyone ever reads this then please know that I am most grateful for your patience.
Having left Snowdonia behind I made my way north and west to spend a few days on the island of Anglesey. Anglesey is a significant chunk of rock (about 715 square kilometres in area) just off the west coast of the Welsh mainland and it can be reached by road using either the 19th century Menai Bridge or the 20th century Brittania Bridge, both of which cross the Menai Strait just to the west of the city of Bangor.
The first location i visited was Penmon Point, at the eastern extreme of the island, here you can find fresh air, sea views and pleasant walks while the Pilot House Cafe can satisfy all your on-site refreshment needs.
Lighthouses can make for interesting photographic subjects, often providing the vertical element in an otherwise level environment and frequently positioned in slightly wild locations, surrounded by rocks, cliffs and crashing waves. This would not be the only lighthouse of my time in Anglesey.
When planning my trip I had decided that two nights would be spent in Anglesey, meaning that I had an arrival day, a full day and then a departure day. My full day in Anglesey just happened to coincide with the arrival of a major storm. There was fairly persistent precipitation to deal with but the bigger photographic difficulty was caused by monumentally strong winds (67mph = 107kmh =30m/s).
Tentatively I headed out into the storm, slightly comforted by the fact that the chances to get my destinations to myself were significantly higher on a day like this.
After a completely miserable "sunrise" at Penmon and a restorative breakfast the first location of the day was the old copper mine at Parys Mountain. At a location such as this, a massive open cast mine, there can be some challenges to understand how to capture the character of the place in a photograph... in essence the location is just a huge shallow hole in the ground. To me the most interesting aspect of the scenery was the amazing colours of the soil and sediment, caused (as far as I can find out) by the presence of metallic oxides.
The wind was far too strong for even a heavy tripod and the driving rain was an impediment for shooting in many otherwise possible directions so I was reduced to capturing quick hand-held shots inbetween attempts to clear the moisture from the front element of my lens. It is both a benefit and a matter for some regret that i have had so many opportunities in 2019 to develop such techniques.
Despite the weather Parys mountain was a most interesting place to visit. I do enjoy being out and about at interesting locations no matter what the weather conditions may be and I expect to encounter a variety of conditions over time, 2019 has however been remarkable for a lack of variety as heavy rain and strong winds have been a constant companion. I shall endeavour to ensure that my posts contain something of interest (ok, ok, no more cricket stuff) in addition to complaints about the weather.
My journey continued and I drove towards Holy Island (a 39.4 square kilometre island located just west of the island of Angelsey, which is located just west of the British mainland which is an island just to the west of the European mainland) from where I intended to photograph the lighthouse at South Stack... which is located on a tiny island just to the west of Holy Island.
The path leading down the cliff side to South Stack from the car park is completely exposed to the worst of the elements. The stone walls to the side of the path protect you well from any accidents, but the wind made shooting of any kind exceptionally difficult, 95% of my attempted pictures ended up as a blurry mess.
I resolved to return at sunrise and try again, despite the fact that I would need to set my alarm for 0345.
I made my way back in a southerly direction along the east coast of Anglesey, towards a place called Llanddwyn Island. The island can be accessed on foot along the nearby beach but it is cut off from the mainland at high tide so some sensible planning is required in order to reach it and leave it again without having to wait around for a few hours at either point. This island and surrounding area have many paths which lead through the beautiful dunes and you can also find yet another lighthouse, the Twr Mawr lighthouse, built in 1837.
The afternoon weather was at least slightly more pleasant, the strong winds persisted but the rain finally gave way to a mixture of sunshine and cloud which can be an attractive combination.
I did make it to South Stack the following morning, well before the sunrise, but I was not rewarded with anything particularly interesting in terms of light or colours. It was at least much easier to stand up and importantly to use a tripod seeing as the storm had finally moved on. I believe that sunset might be a better proposition at this spectacular location on a suitable day.
Leaving Anglesey behind I continued my journey, a few days in South Snowdonia, based in a small village near to the town of Harlech. The weather took a temporary turn for the better and as I had a look round the town of Barmouth in the afternoon it was possible to believe that it really was August in Wales and not November in the Arctic.
Harlech itself is a nice old town perched on a hillside with a very beautiful sandy beach which stretches for many miles and a mountainous landscape of dunes covered with marram grass.
The famous golf course played over by the members, guests and visitors of Royal St. Davids Golf Club occupies some beautiful links land adjacent to the dunes and offers some nice views towards the other main highlight of the town, the castle.
There are a few possible vantage points within the town from where you can get a good view of the castle with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background.
Well, that's it for this time, tune in again next week for the final chapter of my report from North Wales.
In early August this year I spent some time in North Wales, a magical area for landscape photography. The area contains some beautiful scenery that reminded me at times of the English lake district and at other times of the west coast of Scotland.
As it was the height of summer my luggage contained both shorts and sunscreen, sensible and appropriate precautions, which turned out to be outrageously over-optimistic. On this trip, and indeed on every trip of 2019, I have been under a dark cloud (literally, not metaphorically) almost constantly.
I have learned over time to embrace whatever atmospheric conditions I am given and tailor my photographic activities to the weather, there are things that work even better from a photography point of view in conditions which you could not describe as pleasant.
When the rain pours down, as it surely did when I was in Llanberis, then the light conditions are often absolutely ideal for shooting waterfalls.
The highly diffused light which results from a blanket of cloud is ideal for this kind of scene whereas strong direct light would create very harsh highlights and overly deep shadows. The incessant rain helps to swell the flow of running water and gives an extra vivid quality to the green foliage, especially when a polarising filter is also taken into use.
The patterns that water makes while descending a steep rock face can often make for an attractive and slightly more abstract "intimate landscape".
I sometimes notice people that seem to equate landscape photography exclusively with grand vistas and wide angle lenses. I do often shoot more expansive landscapes but I have found it helpful to employ many different focal lengths on my landscape photography trips, trying to be thoughtful about how best to capture the things that interest me in a scene. For instance, during this 10 day trip I employed 75 different focal lengths from 18mm to 400mm, a fairly typical statistic for me on such a trip.
I have spent a lot of time in the UK this year (nearly 3 months in total), more than for any year since I moved to Finland 17 years ago, spending time in multiple areas of England, Scotland and Wales. I feel increasingly strongly that the remarkable past of these small islands is a defining factor in much of what is impressive, and also much of what is depressing, about modern Britain.
The huge amount of surviving castles and strongholds which decorate the British countryside are reminders of very different times and a tribute to the people who have made the decisions needed to ensure that they are still (more or less) standing after many tens of generations.
Before this trip I expected that the few days I had in Snowdonia would be my favourite part of the trip, the mountains in this area are not especially high (Wales has only 10 of the 350 highest peaks in the UK) but they are often quite steep and prominent compared to the surroundings which allows for some dramatic scenes.
The relentless rain made me reconsider some of the (not very serious) climbs that I might otherwise have attempted, muddy and slippery conditions make quite a big impact on both the safety of a route and the effort needed to complete it... but luckily there was still much of interest a little closer to the ground.
The various lakes in Snowdonia would have made for ideal photographic subjects in different conditions, but the high winds were killing all chances of reflections, just as they were for the entirety of my visit to the Lake District earlier in the year.
One of my days in Snowdonia did at least offer interestingly mixed weather during the day, with clouds racing dramatically across the sky, something I later realised would have lent itself rather well to timelapse photography.
Despite the generally grumpy weather the area was very well populated with hikers, tourists and the occasional other photographer, many car parks were full at locations across Snowdonia, but the vast open spaces seemed to manage to swallow the visiting hordes quite effectively and it was possible to find relative solitude by following the second or third most popular trail at a given location.
The following day the downpour resumed and I found myself seeking out waterfalls once again. I travelled to my third "Fairy Glen" of the year ( after the famous one on the Isle of Skye and the not so famous one in Rosemarkie).
At this location, I was completely alone and plucked up the courage to record footage for an instructional video with my thoughts about how to shoot such a scene... after recording multiple videos over the course of 45-60 minutes I realised that I really didn't much like the composition I had selected and was therefore making a "how to make make a bad picture" tutorial. Although that tutorial will likely never see the light of day I will try such things again in future in an attempt to get more comfortable on the other side of the camera as I think such content could be of use and interest at least to some of my photographer friends and maybe eventually to a wider audience. It is a challenge for a photographer to build an audience and I think that video content might be a way to expand my reach a little if it is done well.
I continued to another waterfall nearby, the very touristy Swallow Falls, two miles west of Betws-y-Coed.
As is often the case with tourist attraction locations such as this you are funneled (through a turnstile where they relieved you of a couple of pounds in this case) to a certain set of viewpoints and don't have a lot of choice about your shooting positions. Crowds of people also makes it a little harder to set up a tripod. Such places are often not ideal for landscape photography but if, like me, you also really enjoy seeing new places it is inevitable that you find yourself in such an environment now and then.
In this situation I usually try to capture the classic shot you are directed towards (such as the one above) and then look for something which can be more my own. It is always possible to find something that has not been done millions of times before, but it is not always possible to find something which is any good.
Looking at the scene above I thought that there would be a possibility to use a longer lens and capture a more intimate scene featuring just the overhanging branches on the far bank of the river and the cascading water of the falls.
For anyone that finds themselves in this location, the Swallow Falls Hotel across the road from the waterfall entrance provides a cosy place to shelter from the elements and hearty pub meals to restore your energies.
One common feature between this area and England's Lake District is the prevalence of slate mining as an activity. I took the opportunity to spend my final morning in Snowdonia visiting the site of the huge Dinorwic slate mine which is no longer active but at it's peak was the second largest slate mine in Wales and also in the entire world.
This sprawling site has numerous paths running through it and affords views across the valley to the peaks on the other side as well as views long the valley itself.
On this day the cloud cover percentage was reduced to only about 90% which is actually pretty ideal for daytime landscapes as there is the attractive possibility of the sun bursting through now and again and selectively illuminating the otherwise gloomy scene.
This morning also happened to be the first day of the 2nd Ashes test between England and Australia so I was able to tune in, by phone or by car radio, to the familiar sounds of Test Match Special for eight hours a day for the following five days.
The game of cricket, in all it's forms, but especially as a five day test match, lends itself like no other to the science and art of commentary, it is a sport which can be seen in vivid colour without needing to see any visuals. There are a number of reasons for this which are described below... for any heathens that do not already love cricket and are not prepared to be persuaded, I recommend skipping that part.
Back to the slate mine, where some of my fellow humans have seen fit to leave their mark for others to see, the result is an image full of detail and texture.
Well, I think that i will leave it there for this time, please join me next time as i continue to explore beautiful North Wales!
APPENDIX - Why cricket commentary is the highest form of the announcing arts
The first key factor in elevating cricket commentary to the peak of the announcing arts is the perfectly detailed set of definitions. The vocabulary describing field positions is one aspect of this, it is truly wonderful how concisely the positions of the 15 persons on the field (bowler wicketkeeper, 9 other fielders, two umpires, two batsmen) can be described at any time, these definitions work equally well as a reference at all the different cricket grounds in the world and in all possible permutations. Similarly all the bowling styles, behaviours of the ball, batting strokes and outcomes of a ball bowled can be described with perfect clarity (to anyone who also knows the definitions) due to a beautifully complete, but versatile and flexible, set of definitions.
This is already remarkable, but may not be absolutely unique among sports. The second ingredient which plays a key role in elevating cricket commentary to greatness is the element of time. Cricket takes ages!
In a world where everything flashes past at ever increasing speed and attention spans are measured in fractions of seconds (how many of you looked at each one of my pictures in this post for more than a second each?)... a single game of test cricket has the audacity to last for five whole days. Seven or eight hours a day for five days! This is already quite something, but after all that effort there is still (historically) a 30+% chance that no result will be reached and the game will end in a draw. During these 40-odd hours of play (including breaks) the actual activity happens in short moments, a second or two of action about 90 times per hour, with frequent and extended periods where the drama, meaning and excitement (yes, excitement!) is to be found in the relentless overall trajectory of the play and the narratives that are woven around the teams and players rather then any particular ball bowled having an individual meaning.
Cricket commentators might expect, in the best case, to spend noticeably less than 1% of the time explaining what is happening on the field and more than 99% of the time discussing other matters. Even these figures are over-optimistic, they assume that play will always be possible... but cricket is played ouside, often in England, and rain or wet conditions underfoot are fatal to the chances of play! It is quite possible for an 8 hour cricket commentary day to include not a single minute of actual cricket!
The cricket commentary team must therefore collectively be a master of everything that might happen in the specific game itself, everything related to everything that might happen in the specific game itself, and also a host of other things, some of which may even be completely unrelated to cricket. They also have an unparalleled opportunity for exploration of a wide assortment of topics. The best of them, among which the BBC's test match special team can certainly be considered, manage to excel in this seemingly impossible task with ease and in style, keeping the listener interested from start to finish, again and again.
The pinnacle of achievement among cricket commentary must surely have come last winter when the BBC did not manage to secure the rights to describe the actual cricket part of the cricket. So "the cricket social" was born. In this format the cricket commentators simply skipped the menial task of describing the (1-2 seconds ninety times per hour) of actual cricket and the result was masterful, 100% pure, commentary. Wonderful stuff.
As this year has progressed I started to get the urge to spend more time by the sea with my camera. My happy childhood days were spent almost exclusively on seaside golf courses so maybe that partly explains why I often feel magnetically drawn back to coastal areas, I also find the seaside to be a most interesting environment for photography.
In order to scratch this growing itch I headed for the Northumberland coast in the north-east of England which has beautiful and varied beaches and various other points of interest.
When photographing scenes containing motion I think that the choice of shutter speed is the most important creative decision when it comes to selecting your camera settings for the shot. With a very short exposure you can freeze things in place, with an intermediate exposure you can blur the motion while retaining some detail of the path which things have followed through the frame, while with a very long exposure such as the picture above you can give a very soft and relaxing feeling to the whole image.
The area of Northumberland is full of historical interest, many castles and grand houses decorate the countryside - visual reminders of some very different times. Many of these fortifications are coastal and can be used as background interest in photographs on the nearby beaches.
While impressive structures can be of great interest, there is also a fascinating world in miniature on many of these beaches. Ancient geology, shaped by countless millions of tidal cycles, provides an infinite variety of shapes, textures and colours for the small scenes that play out at your feet..
At the start of the 1940's, as Britain stood alone (western europe being under the under control of the nazis) preparations were made on beaches and landing grounds along the whole of the eastern coast in case it was necessary to repel an invasion. In many places some remnant of these defences can still be seen today.
Compared to some of Northumberland's attractions, even the oldest castle seems like a newfangled creation. A drive to the middle of nowhere followed by a walk through the fields brought me to an ancient stone circle dating from the early bronze age some 4000 years ago.
The monuments we erect have certainly evolved over the last four millenia. Sean Henry's bronze sculture "the couple" at Newbiggin-by-the-sea features a pair of 5 metre tall figures staring somewhat impassively out to sea from their perch on top of a breakwater about 100 metres offshore.
The coast is an ever changing environment, often the day to day differences are imperceptable but as time marches on the cumulative change can be remarkable. In the town of Seaton Sluice there is a small sea stack, about 50m away from the beach, which is called Charlie's Garden. It is so named for the simple reason that it used to be a part of the mainland and at that time the plants on this piece of land were maintained by a chap called Charlie. If Charlie were around today he would find that the logistics of tending his plot had become somewhat more complicated.
The tides on the Northumberland coast are pronounced with a difference of over 4 metres between low tide and high tide. This makes a remarkable difference to many locations, especially where the sea is shallow close to the coast. St. Mary's Island, near to Whitley Bay, demonstrates this phenomenon quite clearly - at low tide you can walk along a narrow road to the island and it's lighthouse while at high tide it is a true island, about 100 metres offshore.
The remains of an old jetty can be seen near to the road which leads to St. Mary's Island, they seemed to make a perfect subject for a very long exposure (6 minutes in this case) image as the sun rose above the horizon, leading to a very minimalist composition. I have started to do an increasing number of very long exposures during this year, they require some small calculations as the camera does not take care of the settings automatically for exposures over 30 seconds, but when you want to get truly smooth seas then 30 seconds often isn't long enough. There is no other way to get this effect in camera, although it can be done absolutely convincingly in the computer by someone who knows what they are doing (and quite horribly by someone who doesn't).
Along the coast, near to Howick, it is possible to find another peice of history. In the 19th century Earl Grey (yes, that Earl Grey), who was the prime minister in the 1830's, built a bathing house on the rocks where he might spend time with his sixteen children. Earl Grey's bathing house still stands to this day and can even be rented as a holiday home.
There are many attractive little towns along this coast, but Alnmouth (at the mouth of the river Aln) was the highlight for me. I watched an unusually nice sunset from a vantage point on the other side of the River Aln, with a number of boats resting on the surface of the estuary waiting for the incoming tide to lift them up once again.
This was my first visit to Northumberland but I hope it will not be my last.
Until next time,
On my first visit to the Lake District my favourite lake, by far, was Buttermere. This relatively small, but very beautiful, lake is surrounded on all sides by steep fells which lead up to some interestingly shaped peaks. The lake itself has a long and thin shape which means that when you look across the water the peaks on the far side look comparatively imposing and immediate rather than sloping gently upwards into the distance.
On my last day in the Lake District I visited Buttermere for the fourth time, hoping that I could finally take some pictures.
The walk around Buttermere takes you past or through many working farms, mostly sheep farms, and it was very common to find sheep wondering around on the narrow roads leading through the village. Caution is needed when driving in this area and also if you are one of the many people who bring their dog to Buttermere for a walk, there are signs at multiple points on the Buttermere circuit telling of the danger dogs pose to newborn lambs and warning that farmers have the right to shoot any dog which is not on a lead and is bothering the sheep.
The weather was still a bit questionable considering it was early summer, but at least the wind had reduced to some extent allowing for some reflection shots and making it possible to do slightly longer exposures without the shots being ruined by movement in the trees.
The road which runs along the north-west side of the lake takes you past the lovely little church of St. James. The present church building is 180 years old but there has been a church of one form or another on that spot for over 500 years.
As you make your way around the lake the path is often close to the shore but in the nesting season there are some detour put in place to keep traffic away from areas containing young birds. These diversions take you up to the same level as the road and offer some different views across the lake. On the far side of the lake (away from the road) then the path sometimes takes you up into the forest and there is also a couple of waterfalls in the area - all in all there is plenty to see and a good variety of views at Buttermere.
I am happy that I was finally able to get at least some shots by which i can remember Buttermere, even though it took 4 visits and still the conditions were far from ideal, hopefully one day I will get the chance to be there again with a bit better luck.
I left Buttermere behind for the final time and headed for one final Lake District destination, the Rydal Waterfalls in the extensive grounds behind Rydal Hall. The hall is a grand old building, the former country home of the Le Fleming baronets. The gardens are very attractive and well taken care of and feature the lowest of the series of waterfalls as a highlight.
One unusual feature of this waterfall is that there is a small building known as "the Grot" which was erected for the sole purpose of comfortably viewing the waterfall.
As you follow the course of the stream up the hill from this lower waterfall you come to some minor rapids.
Above the rapids there is a nice looking weir with various choices of foreground interest...
... and finally at the top of the estate there is one last waterfall.
After my Lake District trip ended I had arranged to meet my parents in the seaside town of Grange-over-Sands, a place which I had heard mentioned many times but never visited before. When my father was a small boy it had been a tradition for his family to spend a few days in Grange as their summer holiday so it seemed like a suitable place to meet up and reflect on old times.
We spent a very nice couple of days there before they returned home to Scotland and I continued my photography trip by spending some time in Northumberland on the east coast of England. There was not much focus on photography in Grange over Sands, but I did manage to photograph my 204th different bird species, a Muskovy duck at the duck pond.
I very much enjoyed my first visit to the Lake District, despite the weather and the rather expensive "paying and displaying". I look forward to visiting the area again!
until next time,
For the last two years I have been travelling and shooting at a bit of a frantic pace, always impatient to move on to the next trip. During this summer I have been at home for a period of a few weeks and that has given me an opportunity to evaluate my recent efforts in a bit more depth and examine the progress that I have made while considering how I want to further develop as a photographer.
I took the opportunity to combine this period of reflection with an exercise to update my portfolio (a collection of images that I publish on this site in order to represent my work), adding some newer images that I felt merited inclusion, updating some existing images to reflect my current preferences and retiring some which no longer please me.
The updated portfolio can be viewed by clicking on the picture below, or by selecting "portfolio" from the site navigation.
In another new development I have partnered with Fine Art America in order to offer prints of each of my portfolio images in a variety of sizes and materials, with or without frames, as well as greetings cards featuring each image.
All printing, shipping and delivery is handled by Fine Art America who have a global network of locations each of which can fulfil orders. Having ordered some samples to test the quality and speed of their service I can report that I am happy with what they provided. My order from Finland was processed by their delivery centre in the UK and arrived in less than a week. Fine Art America offers a no questions asked refund policy within 30 days of ordering which provides some additional peace of mind.
For anyone who is interested in buying a print there is a "buy print" button in the larger view of each portfolio image, and there is also a possibility to see all the offered images by selecting "Store" from the site navigation or clicking the image below.
I hope that you enjoy looking at my new portfolio images, and I am looking forward to getting back into the field to capture future portfolio candidates. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about prints from my store or if you would be interested in prints of any of my images which are not currently listed in the store.
Thanks for your attention, the next blog post will be back to my normal field reports.
All the best,
P.S. special thanks to all those people who gave feedback to me as I was considering the updates to my portfolio, your input was most useful.
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