Llyn Ogwen & Tryfan

I had a few things in mind when I set off to Anglesey for four days earlier this month. You know the kind of thing, landscape photography, a trio of Welsh castles, an abandoned mining landscape or two. And what kind of holiday is complete without a decommissioned power station to look at?

It was a beautiful day as I sat in the unfathomable stop-start traffic of the M6 on the way down, eventually arriving on the isle a good two hours later than planned but quite happy to be there. As I settled in to my cottage and unpacked more clothes than I would wear and a drone it would end up too windy to fly I realised something was missing. The camera battery charger.

After the initial shiver of dread had passed I decided it would be a very good exercise in taking fewer shots to make sure I had plenty of battery power to last the week. Yes, it would be fine. I explored the surrounding area by the Menai Strait, had a quick bite to eat and popped over to Beaumaris to climb a few walls and look round the derelict lido that adorns the seafront. The pictures weren’t anything special, more of a document for myself, but it’s worth a quick look if you’re passing and that’s your thing.

I drove to Caernarfon that evening in the hope of a shot of the castle lit up – something I’d attempted a few years ago and been unhappy with the movement of the boats below highlighted by its long exposure. The tide was low this time and the boats were still, but I came to the conclusion that the lighting is just too patchy in general to get the result I wanted. There’s a great shot to be had here I’m sure, but I haven’t managed it yet…

Blue Hour at Caernarfon Castle

The next day’s weather was windy and showery, and not entirely unwelcome as it happens. Not so welcome when you’re climbing a mountain to find a waterfall but the thick clouds and subdued light actually benefit you when photographing one. I moved around, stepped in rivers and sank in saturated peat trying out vantage points and finally settling to get the shot at the top of the page: Tryfan and Llyn Ogwen from the cascading falls opposite, a flash of sunshine just resting on the mountain. I’m very happy with it, but what with different locations and different light patterns I’d taken 55 shots. So much for shooting sparingly…

On the way back I stopped off at Dolbadarn Castle in Llanberis as storm clouds raced in. I love a nice front-lit subject when there’s an angry sky behind and this would have made for a great long exposure to blur the clouds above. Alas, I wasn’t happy with the composition of the one I tried (although the sky did look great), and with the sun about to disappear and an onslaught of tourists headed my way, I quickly unscrewed the 10-stop filter to get the regular shot below.

Storm Clouds Approaching Dolbadarn Castle

Driving out of town and back towards Anglesey I then spotted the most incredible tumbledown service station and quickly threw the car in to a gap at the roadside to rattle off a few shots. For the life of me I couldn’t get the composition how I would have liked and there was now no good light shining through the insipid sky above, but I’ll include one dull shot here for the hell of it…

Old Llanberis Filling Station

That evening I drove out to Newborough beach to try for a sunset, and one which looked increadibly photogenic as it burst out from the clouds at the end of a rather grey day. Alas, I’d forgotten just how far the car park was from the subject I had in mind so I gave it up as an impossibility and left without taking a single frame.

The next day I had a nosey around the historic Porth Wen Brickworks, now crumbling and partly reclaimed by the sea, but the light was too flat to take anything more than a few more shots as a document. By the time I reached Parys Mountain though the sun had appeared and the striking copper tinted rocks made for a post-industrial landscape quite unlike any other I’ve seen. It’s now a nature reserve and the ruined windmill on top rather dominates the surrounding area. Not a bad way to spend an hour in the sunshine.

Parys Mountain

That evening I head back along the North Wales coast to Conwy with the expectation of a nice shot of the castle reflected in the water below, but alas the tide was out. I knew it would be but wasn’t sure how low it went. Too low as it happened, and after making conversation with a couple of other photographers I settled on this shot of it with light trails from the passing traffic. This one is at least properly lit and I was reasonably happy with the result. One to revisit on a high tide.

Blue Hour at Conwy Castle

In the last blog post covering the Dinorwic Quarry I had marvelled at how much the ruined buildings looked like they belonged in the landscape, constructed for convenience from the local slate long before the practice of making buildings look like they belong was de rigueur. Heading back in to Snowdonia I arrived at the man-made lake and statement-architecture of the now decommissioned Trawsfynydd nuclear power station – something that will evoke a rather marmite reaction in you I’m sure but if we’re honest we can agree that there’s nothing about it that looks natural…

Trawsfynydd Power Station & Lake

The domineering twin reactor buildings were designed by Brutalism’s most unfairly treated whipping boy Sir Basil Spence in the era that making such statements was the done thing. Operating for 26 years from 1965, it’s now been there longer post-closure than it was when operational, and is likely to remain for another sixty years yet as the protracted task of dealing with it continues. It’s said that the concrete fins on top were designed to attract moss growth to integrate it in to the landscape but the heat of the buildings precluded that from ever developing.

Today Spence’s sheer concrete facades are pitted and scarred, and the buildings are set to be reduced in height by half over the course of the next seven years, to the dismay of some Brutalist affectionados who feel they should be left alone. I’m not sure if the three men in orange boiler suits abseiling down the sides chiselling bits off are the reason why the partial demolition is not set to complete until 2026, but in truth it’s an extremely complex site and one that might as well have been left alone if there wasn’t so much hostility towards their continued presence.

Spence had apparently designed it with half a mind on how it would look as a ruin in its surroundings, but in an era when the hazard and scale of decommissioning wasn’t fully understood. It’s a shame it will never end up as one like the nearby slate mines…

Trawsfynydd Power Station

Again, I’d like to have photographed them creatively with a mirror-like reflection and long exposure skies but the conditions just weren’t right so I merely wandered round and took a few snaps.

The final night saw me head to Penmon Point at the end of a day looked like it wouldn’t see any kind of sunset. Gingerly stepping about on the wet rocks though I managed to grab some shots of the lighthouse, with the waves lapping around me and appearing rather ethereal in the 30-second long exposure. Patience or despondency was rewarded with a pink line on the horizon that spread a little in to the clouds above, giving this rather pleasing image to end the trip with.

Penmon Lighthouse at Sunset

And that was that. I took 288 shots in total, far more than needed but when you’re watching the changing light and experimenting with long exposures you never know what you’re going to get until you try. The first battery was still more than a quarter full though and I didn’t even trouble the second…