Snowdonia again…

Soon after returning from my previous trip  – see here – to Snowdonia I knew I’d be returning again.  Last time we were just coming to the end of winter but with Spring, perhaps even early summer now here, my thoughts returned to camping as it’s just so much easier than a hotel.  There is no creeping quietly out trying not to let a door slam or bang a camera bag against a wall whilst everyone is asleep and importantly, there is also no need to align my plans with breakfast/dinner times – a real plus.  Other photographers seem to address this problem by using a camper van.  Well, that would be nice but they are costly and I’ve nowhere to keep one when its not in use.

Please remember that you can click on the images to get a much larger version.  They really do look better!

On this trip I planned to stay in the Ogwen valley at the Gwern Gof Isaf campsite but on arrival it was full with large trailer vans, generators and a catering / bar tent.  All the fluorescent yellow clad security guards would say is that it was for a film…  But they probably didn’t know more either!  Clearly, it was no small film crew as there must have been facilities for several tens of people.  A short distance away was a temporary stables full of horses.  So, a large budget film requiring mountain scenery and horses.  In 2015 King Arthur was filmed in just this part of Wales…Could this be a sequel?  Who knows 🙂  Anyway, to avoid all the noise I went a little further down the road and stayed at Gwern Gof Uchaf – a small, basic, farm campsite.  This turned out to be a better choice as there was an excellent path from the site past Tryfan into the mountains.

In the Northern hemisphere June 21st is the longest day and with a little over a month before the longest day the sun rose early and set late.  At the campsite, in valley, the sun was obscured by the mountains for some time at sunrise and sunset so, some height really helped catch the morning and evening light.  Sunrise/sunset times were at about 05:20/21:10 according to the apps PhotoPills and The Photographers Ephemeris.  Whilst the timings seemed correct in the valley, at altitude these times seemed somewhat off.  At the top of Glyder Fach (994m ASL) sunset seemed almost 50 minutes later.  Hopefully it’s possible to configure an elevation in the apps.  Some investigatory work required!

Being high in the mountains for sunrise/sunset I knew would be impossible from a valley base due to, what would be, very late descents and early ascents.  So, a plan was hatched to carry everything needed for an overnight stay including camera gear into the mountains during the late afternoon, photograph in the golden and blue hours, sleep then awake already on location for sunrise.  After that the plan was to return to the valley, rest and repeat the next evening.  As it turned out the plan was pretty solid 🙂

Two things were a problem tho.  My fitness and the sunny, warm, cloudless sky.  I knew hauling gear was going to be hard and it was!  My legs, hips and back ached afterwards 🙂 The fully loaded rucksack wasn’t actually that bad tho.  It was never weighed but it could be lifted one-handed onto the shoulder without straining.  Note to self: More fitness required!  After a full day’s rest the body seemed to recover which was good 🙂  The bigger problem was the cloudless sky caused by a high pressure system sat over the country 🙁  That meant there were no interesting clouds in the sky to add colour, interest or detail.

The photographs in this post were from the top of Glyder Fach.  Both are the result of a 3-image focus stack with each component image exposed at F8 to achieve excellent overall depth of focus.

With only a little colour in the sky and some subtle yellows and greens of lichen clinging to the rocks any wow factor seemed to be lacking for a colour photograph.  But the strong shapes and excellent rock textures lent themselves towards a monochrome photograph.  Some dramatic sky and light would really have helped tho. 🙂

Despite the temperature being about 18/19 degrees Celsius in the valley during the afternoon, after sunset on top of the mountain the temperature quickly dropped and with the rise of a slight breeze it became cold quickly.  Having hauled a small stove, a hot drink was nicely warming before crawling into a cozy sleeping bag for the night.  By that time it was pretty late, about 2300hrs, and sunrise was only a few hours away!

Next morning I awoke whilst it was still dark, put my head outside the tent to check the sky for cloud and was greeted by a sky full of bright starts.  It looked fantastic. 🙂 Probably the sort of light astro-photographers would crave 🙂

Sunrise the following morning was through a cloudless sky.  It will be the topic of the next post.

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