Snowdonia Surprise


What do you do when you find yourself with a few days off  and some glorious weather? Head up to Snowdonia with a tent and camera to get some wild camping and landscape photography in.

I've had the itch to go wild on another wild camp for some time. All my camping equipment has been packed ready to go at a moments notice. But I've been so busy these past few months that finding the time has proven to be close to impossible. Not only that, I've been really suffering with Hayfever this year, which has severely restricted any out door activities. I was starting to get cabin fever being stuck indoors popping antihistamine like smarties, so I got my camping kit out, loaded it into the car and drove to North Wales.

My original plan was to camp somewhere on Snowdon, but the hot weather put an end to that as the paths up the tallest peak in Wales resembled a motorway! So I found a spot on the map in the Ogwen valley and headed there instead. The walk up to Llyn Idwel didn't take long at all and on the way up I bumped in to two other photographers who were already set up by the mountain lake. After a quick chat I headed off to find a suitable spot to pitch my tent.

I chose this area deliberately as the Ogwen valley runs pretty much East to West, which I hoped would allow me to get the best of the sunset and sunrise. Sadly, the sunrise didn't really come to anything and I only managed to get the one photograph of my tent during sunset.


After packing away the tent I made my way back down the mountain to the car. On the way I bumped into a photography workshop being run by North Wales photographers Kris Williams and Helen Isles. I got talking to them about the area and what I planned to photograph and Helen suggested that I should visit Penmon on Anglesey, as there was a chance that the bioluminescent plankton could make an appearance. I had to go check this out this rare phenomenon as it really is one of those Bucket List sights.

I arrived at Penmon during late afternoon, just as everyone was packing up and making their way home. I still had about four hours until sunset so decided to buy an overpriced can of fizzy drink from the small cafe and take a wander around the area in search of some potential compositions.

I'm a big fan of Lee Filters and in particular their "Big Stopper" 10 stop Neutral Density filter. This filter has the ability to turn day into night and allowing for some pretty cool effects. It allows for the shutter speed to be slowed down by 10 times meaning that a 1/125th of a second becomes 8 seconds. This is ideal for creating those dreamy long exposures so I took advantage of this and composed this shot of Penmon lighthouse.


But the best was yet to come. Following sunset I was the only person on the rocks at Penmon. The last group of people had packed up and the car park was now deserted. I set the camera on the tripod and framed a shot that would include the lighthouse and the rare Noctiulucent clouds that can appear at this time of year. As the last of the light faded away on the horizon I could see small hints of reflective colours high in the night sky. It was then that I was joined by Kris Williams who remembered me from our brief chat earlier that morning. He too was out to capture these high flying clouds. The show didn't disappoint.

A little while later we could hear two other photographers on the opposite side of the beach. Kris went over for a chat with them but then came running back towards me shouting to pack up my equipment quickly! Thinking something was wrong I slung my tripod over my shoulder and picked up my bag. "You've gotta see this!" he shouted at me before running towards the other side of a small spit of land. As I made my way over to the small pebble beach it came into view! The water was being lit up with the most amazing electric blue flashes of light. The Bioluminescent plankton had come out to play!

We found ourselves throwing rocks and splashing around in the water like small children. The plankton needs to be agitated for it to begin to illuminate and boy was it lighting up. Fumbling around in the dark I managed to frame up a shot. The noctiluscent clouds were still visible on the horizon and the plankton was lighting up the small beech. Two rare phenomenon in one image. What are the chances of that?


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