Caroline Shipsey

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A Weekend in Wales 13th-16th May 2010

Its a week since I set off to Snowdonia for a photography packed weekend - the first workshop of 4 with Steve Lewis, and a sunrise walk with Duncan and Esen, and as much exploring as I could manage on my own.

I didn't make it to Rynys Farm campsite on Thursday evening, the beautiful, afternoon light drew me back to Tintern Abbey - The sense of peace and calm is very special. I'm fascinated by the symmetry of the building, its a challenge to photograph as I've never been into architecture.

Anyway after a pleasant hour or so we (Bessie and me) moved on to Queenswood nr Hereford where we stopped for supper. With the warmth of the sun and a full tummy I was feeling very mellow and the next 50 miles or so were hard going. The Travelodge at Mile End Oswestry were amenable to me spending the night in their car park so that was were we stopped.

As things turned out this was a good move as it gave me the opportunity to visit the canal at Llangollen and the Valle Crucis Abbey. Unfortunately the abbey wasn't open so I could only enjoy it from outside, there'll be other opportunities later this year. What I really can't get my head round is that this beautiful building is slap in the middle of a huge caravan and camping site, right up to the very edge of it!!

I've always wanted to see the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen Canal which are designated a World Heritage site, more specifically I wanted to walk across it.

From Waterscape:- It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument; a Grade I Listed structure – and in June 2009 became a World Heritage site, putting it on an equal footing with the Great Barrier Reef and Statue of Liberty.

The aqueduct, taking the Llangollen Canal over the beautiful River Dee valley, is 1000 feet long and 125 feet high. Such distances had never before been conquered, until Telford's audacious decision to build it by laying an iron water-carrying trough on stone piers. To this day, the joints are effectively sealed using a mixture of flannel and lead dipped in liquid sugar.

For those crossing in a narrowboat, the effect is that of being suspended in mid-air. The iron trough sits about a foot above the water level and is unprotected on one side - so on one side of the boat there is nothing but 128 feet of air to the valley floor below.

Eventually I managed to pluck up courage to walk across, though I couldn't let go of the railings that I gripped with one hand, Bessie's lead was in the other and my camera swung precariously making me feel totally unbalanced. I DID IT - take a look at my pics, OK not stunning images but the best I could manage in the circumstances, and I'm pretty proud of myself:-))

The afternoon was a mix of weak sun and showers but around 4pm the light imporoved and I was able to take some pics of the stunningly beautiful Machno valley from the camp site.

The highlight of the weekend was the sunrise walk from Pen Y Pas, up the Miner's Path to Llyn Llydaw. We left the camp site at 3.45am and drove to Pen Y Pas giving us about an hour to walk to Llyn Llydaw in readiness for the sunrise at 5.18am. We were treated to a wonderful display by nature for about an hour before we decided the light was past it's most dramatic.

I breakfasted in the Royal Oak where we were all meeting up for the introductions with Steve Lewis - a huge and excellent breakfast! The group was slightly larger than last year, diverse backgrounds but a desire to improve photography being common in all of us.

Our first photographic excursion was to Fairy Glen - you have to pay to walk down the path, watched closely by an elderly man checking that everyone had put the right money in his collecting tin! It wasn't quite as spectacular as I had expected, pleasant enough but rather overcrowded with 10 of us, plus other visitors. I wasn't particularly inspired as 'water, rocks, trees' have figured rather a lot lately. Photographic opportunities were restricted by tripods balanced precariously on the rocks and lack of space.

Location number 2 was the waterfalls at Llyn Ogwen, visited last in October 2009 in pouring rain. There was considerably less water flowing due to the dry spell, this also meant the moss on the rocks was rather dried up which was a shame. Once again the number of people and their chosen viewpoint was a bit of a problem, restricting the choice of which part of these magnificent falls to photograph. Nevertheless it was pleasantly warm and sunny so it was good just to take in the atmosphere.

By the time we met up to move to the final location of Cwm Idwal the sky was almost clear of cloud and the light quite harsh. I was feeling pretty weary from the early start and opted not to go with the rest of the group but head for home and food!

Its funny how I respond to these workshops, I'm not motivated to take pics at all, but I do think a lot about what I am looking for in an image, the kind of light I respond to and things that are a complete turnoff.

Sunday was a leisurely morning exploring the back roads between Betws y Coed and Llanwrst. We were treated to some tantalizing light that only very briefly obliged by falling in exactly the right place for just a couple of seconds at a time.

All in all a great trip with some new places explored, good company with Duncan and Esen, and also fellow workshop participants.

Sunrise at Llyn Lydaw