Anglesey Adventure - Part 2 / by Neil Alexander

This post is the second part of a 2 part series. Part One titled "Angelsey Adventure - Part 1 - Planning Landscape Photography" is here.

Two bodies set up waiting for sunset, South Stack Lighthouse (Instagram)

Once I'd scoped out the lighthouse, worked out where the shot was going to be and how to get to a suitable vantage point to get the shot without falling into the sea, the next step was to find somewhere suitable to pitch my tent. I hadn't factored in that the camp sites would be so busy, and after about an hour's driving around I gave up and ended up checking in to the lovely Trearddur Bay Hotel.  There was absolutely no "business case" for me to stay in a hotel, and it meant that this was unlikely to be a profitable trip, but it was that or sleep in the car....

Quite conscious of time by now, I grabbed a lovely portion of fish and chips in the bar and dashed off out to get some shots around the various rocky coves around Trearddur and then headed up to South Stack. I got down to Ellins Tower which was as near as I could get to line the setting sun up with lighthouse without falling down the cliff and into the sea. Not ideal. Probably a shot for a slightly different time of the year - ideally I would have placed sun right behind or just next to lighthouse, and above the little island that it sits on, but this game's about making the best of what you're presented with, right?

South Stack Lighthouse, Angelsey

Stupidly, or rather lazily, I'd left my second tripod (a Slik) in the car, mainly because it's so heavy compared to my carbon fibre Giotto. So I clambered down with main tripod and a gorillapod should I want to set up two shots. And sure enough, I saw two images - one was quite a close crop of the lighthouse and a small part of the skyline behind, and another was a wider shot taking in the adjacent cliffs, the noisy boisterous gulls, and the spectacular cliff faces. I set the 70-200 on the tripod, and the 17-55 on the gorilla pod (see top image). What I hadn't thought about was the wind. It was howling.The tripod was stable enough, but the 17-55 on the gorillapod was bouncing around like nobody's business. This gave me some problems. Doing HDRs, the lowest bracketed shutter speed had to be around 1/125 to avoid getting any camera shake and the light was fading fast. To be quite honest, I would probably have been better off simply hand holding, but I had the composition set so I left it, and waited, and waited.

Cliffs near South Stack Lighthouse, Angelsey

Typically what started out as having potential for a good looking sunset never happened. About 10-15 mins before it dropped below the horizon, the sun disappeared behind a blanket of cloud, never to re-appear. There was a little pink in the cloud which I just managed to get in the frame with the wider shot. I stuck around for about an hour hoping to see a nice dark blue sky, but that didn't happen either. By this time it was around 10:30 / 10:45 pm and I was very very cold. I flipped round 180 degrees where the moon was now out, nearly full, very bright and shining down on the adjacent cliffs. There was a lovely bright light cast on the sea. I made a  few frames and then climbed back up to the car and headed back to the hotel for a beer and warmth.

4 hours later, my alarm went off. I managed to winch my weary limbs out of bed as far as the window. So far the forecast had been 100% accurate. They'd predicted improving weather all through the previous evening up until midnight, rain heavily overnight, and the next day was set to be grim. Sure enough, peering out between the curtains just after 4am, I was met with a miserable damp grey scene. I ummed and ahhed, weighing up my options, looked at the big warm comfortable bed behind me, and fell back into it. Having made the decision not to go chasing a probably non-existent sunrise I surfaced about 8 feeling well rested, had a lip-smackingly good full english breakfast, grabbed a few frames around the coastline again and then headed home.

All in all, a worthwhile trip but definitely in need of a re-visit.