After finishing the shoot down by Llyn Padarn I drove up the twisty Llanberis pass making constant stops due to oncoming vehicles, cyclists and numerous walkers. Even at 9 in the morning the area is very busy and there is nowhere to pull in and take photographs. I had anticipated this hence the plan to move down to Dolwyddelan castle, a 45 minute drive through dramatic scenery. Once over the top of the pass I descended to the main road which winds past Llyn Mymbr to Capel Curig but was surprised to see that there was a blanket of mist covering the lake. Given that there was none at Llanberis I was not expecting it here and immediately decided I had to take advantage of this fresh opportunity. As I drove alongside the lake the mist was so dense I could see little point in stopping to shoot and mount Snowdon had also disappeared from my rear view mirrors. Through experience I know a number of vantage points along Llyn Mymbr and also how tricky it can be to get into a good position thanks to the uneven ground and waterlogged lakeside. Figuring that the sun would soon break over Moel Siabod and hit the mist full on I decided to go to the very end of the lake where there is often a clear view of the Snowdon range and also some interesting foreground. It helps when there is easy access and a handy parking spot on the side of the road, both important considerations when the weather conditions are rapidly changing.
Once out of the car and down to the small bridge that crosses the outflow of the lake I could see that the mist was starting to clear so frantically set about looking for a workable composition. I managed to get setup and took a series of shots over the next 45 minutes using wideangle, normal and short telephoto lenses on the Kodak Ektar film that was to be my standard for most of the day.
Getting a stable footing for the tripod was hard and a for a few shots I ended up hanging the Lowepro 450aw backpack from the centre column to stabilise it. The conditions did indeed change rapidly during this time and as the final mists cleared I decided I had seen the best of this spot and trudged back to the car. It is always a hard decision on whether to stick with location in the hope it improves or move on and find something new.
It is often down to luck and I am sure that like me you have sometimes had cause to regret it and on other occasions been pleased that you upped sticks and went elsewhere.
With the time now passing 10:15am I was determined to get back to my plan for the day so drove the 30 minutes to the picturesque village of Dolwyddelan which is on the road from Betws y coed to Blaenau Ffestiniog. I had taken a few lacklustre images of the castle 3 years earlier and knew I would have to return at some point to do it justice when the conditions were better. In anticipation of this opportunity I had decided the day before that I would shoot some of the images in infrared and not only that but I would do this using film. Over the years I have shot a lot of infrared images, using film in the early days and more recently with converted digital cameras. Whilst I love the convenience of digital IR and more importantly its predictability I find that most of my favorite images have come when using film. Those who remember the classic Kodak HIE material can take a moment here to shed a tear and remember fondly the magic of that grain and the halation. That film (and others like Efke aura) may be long gone but there is still at least one excellent material readily available to us in the form of Rollei 400 IR. This is a sharp, fine grained material that works equally well as a traditional monochrome film but really needs to be shot at EI 6 when using an R72 filter over the lens. I also tend to bracket a bit and favour over exposure so typically take another image at EI 3.
I pulled into the deserted car park (yes!) at the foot of the castle and swung the heavy backpack into place with tripod stowed into one of the side loops. A small footpath took me up through a set of farm buildings and within 10 minutes I was faced with the castle to my left. I had no desire to get close up to the building and shoot upwards but instead favoured a longer shot to place the monument squarely, literally when shooting 6×6, into the bigger vista. An attempt to gain some height on a nearby hill top failed when I was faced with numerous telephone poles and associated wires ruining the view. I reviewed the options before skirting across a marshy patch of land to an opposing hill top that proved to be ideal once I’d found a safe path up. Immediately I felt that the position was right, a skill that can only be honed by frequent trips out, often unsuccessful ones sadly. Attaching the 50mm wideangle the composition fell right into place and I made a couple of frames using Ektar before switching to the infrared Rollei for exposures measured that now measured in seconds.
Another narrower composition using the 80mm standard lens was made to remove what was by now a bland cloudless sky. Feeling pleased with the shots I worked back down the hillside and approached the castle from a different angle but couldn’t arrange a suitable composition no matter how hard I tried. Sometimes you have to recognise when you have achieved what you set out to do and call it quits.
I took a break and thought through my options before deciding I would track down a nearby location that had eluded me twice in the past, Penmachno bridge.
To be continued.