I spent the weekend up in Snowdonia with the Wildsome crew and guests shooting some images for their website and social media. The philosophy is to create tailored mountain adventures that deliver a full outdoor experience in one weekend. As a new venture this was only the second event they have offered but it was excellent; with a mix of challenging walking, some light scrambling and sharing of knowledge about the mountains, their history, flora and fauna and how to navigate them safely. The weekend was also about escape and exploring a new environment with mindfulness and sense of disconnection from the norm. Joey and Emily, the masterminds behind the Wildsome, have worked hard to make sure everything is in place to spend the weekend not only physically active but also well fed and nurtured in an ego free environment. There’s a sense of calm, of shared positive experience and personal growth coupled with belly laughs, fun and freedom to enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer. The blend was just right and everyone went home pleasantly weary and happy. Look out for their upcoming events at https://thewildsome.com/ and here on Instagram .
Sometimes (often) I get a bit lost for inspiration; I stand in the kitchen and munch on cashews or glug a cup of tea mulling over where to go and no place appeals. I slowly get my stuff together and sit in the car growing frustrated at my indecision, feeling like I've exhausted all local options, feeling like I can't face the process of finding a spot and creating an image. The light will be bad, the wind will be too fierce, the tide will be wrong.
The light is threatening to disappear.
When the situation starts to become ridiculous I start the car and drive. Left or right is the first decision and the next junction comes before I've reached a conclusion. I start to get a little despairing and often it turns out to be the best recipe for a decent shot. A 'f*ck it' attitude is often useful creatively. Head to the coast, park the car, grab the camera, leave the tripod in the car, watch the sun go and the last light turn to a thin band on the horizon. Golden Hour turns to Blue Hour; waves race out of the gloom. Start shooting.
Panning the camera from one side to the other gives this effect. Waves, clouds and horizon are rendered in silken tones and a sense of the atmosphere of standing beside the water in the gathering gloom is conveyed. Don't you think?
I often listen to music to help find inspiration. The above tune seemed to go well. Thanks to Kurt Vile.
I've spent a bit of time in the hills recently. A trip to Snowdonia a couple of weeks ago and the Western edge of the Brecon Beacons this weekend. Below is a shot from the Snowdonia trip, a view down the Ogwen Valley.
The artist John Piper painted many scenes in Snowdonia and I had in mind his paintings whilst wandering around up there as the palette at this time of year is typical of his work. He ended up spending time there after initially being sent on an uncompleted commission to draw the interior of Manod Mawr quarry where artworks from the National Gallery were stored during the Blitz. He fell in love with the area and rented a house in the Ogwen valley during the winter months.
The light was fairly flat for me this time but Piper understood the importance of immersing yourself in the landscape and here’s two fantastic quotes for anyone trying to understand how time to fully absorb the nature of a scene is essential to interpreting it...
“Each rock laying in the grass had a positive personality: for the first time I saw bones and the structure and the lie of the mountains, living with them and climbing them as I was, lying on them in the sun and getting soaked with rain in their cloud cover and enclosed in their improbable, private rock-world in fog”
“The rocks can look grey in a leaden light, and then do not, commonly. Against mountain grass or scree, against peaty patches near tarns, on convex slopes, in dark cwms, the same kind of rock can look utterly different, and changes equally violently in colour according to the light and time of year. The rocks are often mirrors for the sky, sometimes antagonistic to the sky’s colour.”
I’ll be returning to spend more time in Snowdonia to follow Piper’s lead and hopefully get better light and more drama.
I hadn't really realised that the Brecon Beacons National Park extends so far into Carmarthenshire and that the Black Mountain area isn't so far beyond Llandeilo. I'd always thought it was a fair drive to get into any kind of mountain environment but it turns out that a good ridge walk along the Carmarthen Fans is well within reach on a day trip from Pembrokeshire.
I went to have an explore back in December but was rained off on a horrible day but struck it lucky last week with a bright sunny day with the added bonus of a dusting of snow on the top. It was colder than it looked with a fierce wind whipping over the top of Picws Du as I made my way along the ridge but there are great views of Llyn y Fan Fach and out over the hills to enjoy. I didn't linger long to take any of these pictures as the cold meant my battery was failing and I had to warm it up in my pocket several times to get some more life out of it.
Being from Wiltshire orginally, I usually spend Christmas with family there but circumstances never remain the same and so this year I spent it in Pembrokeshire. Boxing day was a beautiful day so a walk on the beach with family made a lovely change from the norm. This is Newgale and a familiar picture to anyone who has seen my front cover of the OS North Pembrokeshire 1:25k map which I took in similar conditions. Sunshine and low tide will always give you a chance for some silhouettes and there were plenty of opportunities as there were scores of people burning off mince pies.
Scroll down for image...
I always enjoy heading outside at night when the skies are clear. In Pembrokeshire we are lucky to have plenty of places where there is little in the way of light pollution and in fact, there are several areas that are designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites http://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/explore-pembrokeshire/gazing-at-the-stars/ Whitesands Bay is not on the list but is still a great place to see the stars when there's a gap in the clouds.
I often only decide to head out when I happen to look out of the window and notice the stars are out, or when putting the bins out. Bin bag in hand, I look upwards and realise I need to get my camera out and wrap up warm for a couple of hours stood in the dark gazing upwards and attending to the technical challenges of photography in the dark. Sometimes I curse the lack of clouds if it's late and I'm ready for bed but I rarely regret making the effort to get out there.
I heard this Kafka story read on the radio recently and although I rarely slam doors or speak curtly on my departure, the story struck a chord somehow! I rarely stop by to see any friends either, it's usually a solitary practice unless I bump into the odd nocturnal animal; A fox spent a good deal of time barking at me in a cemetery once.
If you enjoy my night photography there are some more images on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ThomasBownPhotography/
The Sudden Walk
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
When it looks as if you had made up your mind finally to stay at home for the evening, when you have put on your house jacket and sat down after supper with a light on the table to the piece of work or the game that usually precedes your going to bed, when the weather outside is unpleasant so that staying indoors seems natural, and when you have already been sitting quietly at the table for so long that your departure must occasion surprise to everyone, when, besides, the stairs are in darkness and the front door locked, and in spite of all that you have started up in a sudden fit of restlessness, changed your jacket, abruptly dressed yourself for the street, explained that you must go out and with a few curt words of leave-taking actually gone out, banging the flat door more or less hastily according to the degree of displeasure you think you have left behind you, and when you find yourself once more in the street with limbs swinging extra freely in answer to the unexpected liberty you have procured for them, when as a result of this decisive action you feel concentrated within yourself all the potentialities of decisive action, when you recognize with more than usual significance that your strength is greater than your need to accomplish effortlessly the swiftest of changes and to cope with it, when in this frame of mind you go striding down the long streets - then for that evening you have completely got away from your family, which fades into insubstantiality, while you yourself, a firm, boldly drawn black figure, slapping yourself on the thigh, grow to your true stature.
All this is still heightened if at such a late hour in the evening you look up a friend to see how he is getting on.
And so to the picture...
This fine winter weather has got to end sometime but in the meantime it's been perfect for exploring new places with the sun low in the sky and crisp cold air.
A few weeks ago, when out at the end of the headland you can see in the waterfall pictures, I spotted a lone dog walker on the beach at Pwllcrochan which I hadn't realised was a beach you could get down to.
I walked around to it from Abermawr the other day, via the beach at Aberbach and along a beautiful section of the coast. On my first trip the tide was high so I came back the following day to have a look when the tide was low enough to have a walk on the deserted beach. It's a bit of a scramble to get down onto the beach but it's a special place for sure.
Pwllcrochan translates to Cauldron Pool which I think is a nice dramatic name for a somewhat hidden away and atmospheric place.
It's been a beautiful Autumn here in Pembrokeshire. With the sun low in the sky and more dramatic weather patterns starting to bear down on us, we are often treated to interesting skies and beautiful light.
Druidston Bay is a great spot to head to in autumn and when the beach is deserted due to the threat of incoming rain clouds it's the perfect place to go and enjoy having all that sand, sea and sky to yourself. Always good to head up the cliffs to the Druidstone Hotel for tea and cake afterwards.
Pembrokeshire doesn't have a huge amount of woodland due to our coastal location but those areas we do have are quite special. I headed to Minwear woods, not far from Haverfordwest, to see what the autumn leaves looked like and on a lovely sunny day, it was all you'd want from a walk in the woods.