Since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by photography. When we were kids, my dad used to have a shiny Zenit on film which seemed from another world to me and I always wanted to learn how to properly use it myself. That never happened though…We grew up, digital photography became the new thing and I don’t why, but I ended up putting this little fascination of mine on hold for some years.
The old Zenit did see the light of day again through my brother, but I’m not sure where it is right now and if it’s still usable (I should ask when I get home).
A few years ago, that spark came back to me and I decided to invest in a DSLR and so I ended up buying my Canon 650D camera. It took a year for me to also buy a proper lens for it and from one lens I ended up with three (a wide lens, a telephoto and an all-around one). So I had enough gear to experiment and learn but I didn’t actually go out as much as I would have liked to and my progress was extremely slow. Lately though, my best friend (and partner) had been encouraging me a lot in this passion of mine (he was actually the one who encouraged me to start this blog as well) and in the last half a year or so we’ve been going out together to various locations to play around with our cameras. I’ve started to invest in filters and a tripod and I feel like I’ve improved quite a bit compared to a year ago.
So far, we’ve been choosing these locations quite randomly I’d say, but after a few weeks of being lazy and not going anywhere, we planned our first proper photography trip (that’s how I see it anyway). So we chose big this time, we chose to drive 5 hours from London all the way to Anglesey in Northern Wales, to take photographs of lighthouses. We had less than 2 days to do this and we were hoping to catch 2 sunrises and one sunset.
I took a day off from work on Friday hoping we would get to Anglesey at around 20:30 – 21:00 that evening thinking that would give us enough time to rest and get up early for sunrise the next day. Of course that did not happen. Getting out of London on a Friday afternoon was a complete nightmare. It took 2 hours and a half just to get out of London. I’m not sure if there was something ‘special’ that day or it’s the same thing every Friday afternoon, but there was that ‘little’ thing that delayed us. We also stopped on the way to say hello to a friend that was going to be in London only for the weekend and so our estimate time of arrival changed from 21 to around midnight. That was still doable we thought…we would get to our AirBnB at midnight, crash and still get enough time to sleep and get up for sunrise. So I messaged our AirBnb host to let her know that it would take us longer than expected to get there. Long story short, while we were half way there, the host decided she couldn’t wait up for us so late because she had some charity event the next day and we were left without a place to sleep for the night. We had to stop on the way to start looking for another place. I called all the places I could find in Anglesey that still had rooms available to ask if they could check us in at a later time and ended up nowhere. Luckily, we did find a place in the end that had a reception open 24 hours and it was just what we needed..a bed and a roof over our heads for the night. So the arrival time that we initially had estimated as 21:00, turned to be 2:30 in the morning. Of course we were too hammered to get up early the next day for sunrise so we missed our first sunrise. That didn’t bring down our enthusiasm though. It was our first time in Wales and the weather was simply beautiful that day.
After having breakfast we started towards our first destination of the day: South Stack Lighthouse. This first lighthouse was pretty close to where we had spent the night, so we got there in no time.
South Stack Lighthouse is simply stunning! When I got out of the car and caught a glimpse of it, I was in awe. I was so happy I had forgotten all about our little hiccup from the previous night.
So we went to the first spot we found, and I started setting up my newly purchased monster of a tripod (the heaviest version of Manfrotto 055). I have to say, I love this tripod, but it’s taller than I am. It will be such a pain to carry when we’ll go for longer hikes. I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve made the wrong decision buying this one instead of a tinier travel tripod, but we shall see in time.
I took a couple of shots, some of them using a 10 stop filter for a long exposure, and we decided to pack up and move to our next location. Some of the shots I took with the filter ended up being ruined. It was so sunny I couldn’t see properly on my live viewer, but most likely I hadn’t placed the filter correctly in its slot. You can noticed this in the 3rd photo below (it’s also a bit noticeable in the first shot).
The next location was Holyhead Breakwater Lighthouse.
Completed in 1873, this lighthouse is located outside the port of Holyhead in Anglesey, and it’s a square lighthouse. I’m not very happy with the shots I took at this location, but it was a nice walk to it (very long walk I might add). I was hoping for some bigger waves to hit that wall, but the sea wasn’t very angry that day.
After filling our tummies with junk food because we didn’t have much time to get to our 3rd location of the day, we headed out for Twr Mawr lighthouse, which seems to be the most photographed lighthouse in that area and I could see why when we got there.
We had to walk a bit from the car park to get to the actual lighthouse, but the walk is very beautiful. You can either walk on the beach or through a pine forest known as Newborough Forest. This place is home of red squirrels for anyone interested in wildlife photography. Anglesey is one of the places where they are trying to conserve this species. Since 1870 when the greys were introduced in the UK, the population of the red squirrels has dropped dramatically (they have estimated the population of red squirrels in England to be of only 15 000 individuals). I’ve found out a few months after moving to London that greys actually carry a disease to which they are immune but kills the reds, this being one of the main reasons of the decimation of the red squirrel population.
We went through the forest (I was secretly hoping to see a squirrel but I did not spot one that evening) and walked towards the lighthouse. We had our tripods in our hands and on our way, a lady stopped us asking: “what is everyone photographing?” And I thought to myself, “everyone?”. I told her we were going to take some photos of the lighthouse and when we got to our location I understood what she meant by everyone. There must have been at least 7-8 photographers there, shooting kind of the same composition. And when I saw the lighthouse, I remembered seeing it on the cover of a guide book of Northern Wales (yes, that popular). So we tried to find a spot where we wouldn’t bother anyone or ruin anyone’s shot and I started setting up my tripod. When I took out my camera, set it up on the tripod and was ready to turn it on, guess what happened. It was already turned on and pretty much dead. I had somehow left my camera running in my backpack for quite some time and because a few days before I had removed the standby setting, my battery had died on me and no, I had no spare battery.
I can’t tell you how sad I was. And to make matters worse, the sunset that evening was one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen in a while. We had driven all that way, already missed one sunrise and I was also missing a stunning sunset in a stunning location because I had not been careful with my camera. It took me a while to shake that off. Now thinking about it, I feel lucky to have enjoyed that beautiful sunset, even if I couldn’t get a ‘proper’ shot, if such a thing actually exists, but that evening wasn’t the happiest. I did take some photographs with my phone (at least my phone didn’t die on me).
After wrapping up that ‘successful’ photo session, we went back to the car pack, walking on the beach this time. We still had to find our home for the night. We stayed at a bed and breakfast this time, which we had booked earlier that day. And the first thing I did when we got there was to charge my camera!
We were determined to get up for sunrise this time around for what would be our final lighthouse to photograph – Trwyn Du lighthouse.
A 40 minute drive doesn’t sound too long, does it? It does if you have to wake up at 5 in the morning and I have to say that as a bonus, that specific night, the clocks went forward one hour and we moved to British Summer Time (The joy of sleeping one hour less when you’re already exhausted from previous days) .
We managed to get up though and we got there in time to set up our cameras and wait for the sun to rise and it was…amazing. Did I get the most epic shot in the world of that lighthouse? No, I did not, but at least my camera was not dead this time. But just the feeling of being there, witnessing the world waking up to life, it was simply priceless.
After our very early photo shoot we headed out to get some breakfast, which was a bit of a challenge on a Sunday morning, right after switching to British Summer time. It seemed like no one would bother that day…a truly lazy Sunday. We did eventually get to eat breakfast and before we left for London, we also visited a castle! You can’t go to Wales without visiting at least a castle.
Beaumaris Castle is said to be ‘the greatest castle that was never built’. How so? They never finished building it. Works on the castle begun in 1295 on the orders of Edward I but it was never completed due to lack of funds. Edward I had already built 3 other castles in the area including Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle (which we got to see from afar) and Caernarfon Castle.
After getting our daily dose of history, we finally headed out for London via Snowdonia. We just had to…no matter how tired we were, we had to at least drive through it.
Driving home was a challenge. I don’t have that much experience driving, and when it comes to driving on the left side of the road instead of the right, it’s a big no-no for me, so Tavi had to do the driving for us and he struggled a bit due to exhaustion, but he got us home safely in the end.
Our first ‘proper’ photography trip was a real adventure. A lot of things went wrong, but we also got to enjoy a lot of special moments in just 2 days. I learnt a lot this time around (always bring a spare battery with you!) and I would do this again without hesitation any day.
Till next time!
Happy travelling and happy shooting!