Mixed Fortunes in South Wales

May 13, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Last weekend I was in Cardiff shooting a wedding. I have family in Cardiff so decided to make a few days of it as there are several locations relatively local that I’ve had my eye on for a while. Logistically everything had to run fairly clockwork; I’d drive down on Friday morning arriving at Ystradfellte for lunch and an afternoon in Waterfall Country, before heading on to the wedding venue to meet the Bride and Groom before their big day. I’d then get something to eat and head up to the Wenallt, a Bluebell wood in Cardiff, to shoot the sunset through the trees and hopefully over carpet of lush Bluebells before heading off for an early night. Saturday was the wedding day and Sunday morning would see me arrive at the Neuadd Reservoirs in the heart of the Brecon Beacons for shortly after sunrise where I’d get an awesome view of the early sun hitting Pen Y Fan and its neighbouring peaks. This view would be perfectly complimented by the still and reflecting water in the reservoir. Lunch would follow, time with the family, then I’d visit the Glamorgan Heritage Coast for sunset before the long drive north. It seemed fairly simple.

In the end though, the only element that really worked out was the wedding, thankfully, and some great time with the family. The Bride and Groom were extremely easy going and that made for a really great day. This was the first wedding where I’d decided to keep 2 camera bodies on me at all times, one with a long lens, one with a wide lens, and a bag of primes over my shoulder. This made shooting the day a lot easier, but a literal pain in the neck come Sunday morning.

Let’s go back to the start though; Waterfall Country. This really is an awesome location, a pristine protected forest area with a high concentration of waterfalls, caves and gorges. What I really wanted was a view from the northern side of Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, one of the smaller but more picturesque falls, but with the main trail being on the southern side of the river I struggled to find a crossing point that mean that a) I remained dry from the waist down and b) I wasn’t swept away completely. Eventually, once I’d found where I wanted to be from the other side of the river, I went upstream, crossed and tried to find my way back. A few scrambles and short climbs later and I was where I wanted to be – with not another person in sight.

Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

The only slightly disappointing thing about this photograph for me is how bare the trees still are, I’d prefer the forest to be as lush as possible, so at least I’ve now done the hard work, found my spot and I can easily return at the end of June when I’m back in Cardiff for another Wedding. On to sunset at the Wenallt then, which quite simply didn’t happen. Despite promising weather earlier, flat grey skies rolled in a set up camp for the evening – dull. The wedding the following day benefited from perfect weather and everything went smoothly. It got me thinking though, which part of a wedding do I enjoy photographing the most? I’ve decided that it’s probably a toss-up between the speeches and the evening do – specifically the dance floor. As a photographer during the speeches there are moments of genuine emotion and laughter to capture that give you a similar sense of enjoyment looking back on when you review the photos in camera or in post.

As for the dance floor, the lighting conditions (or complete lack thereof) can make it a great challenge, but I’ve settled on a technique which essentially mixes a slow shutter speed, which introduces blur, and then a single pop of concentrated flash at the end of the exposure to freeze any people in the frame. This method can get some great results, stuff to really look back on with a smile and a laugh.

After a long 12 hour day on Saturday, miraculously I managed to get up into the Brecon Beacons as planned on Sunday morning. The weather didn’t really play along again, but even more disappointing was the water level at my chosen location, the Upper Neuadd Reservoir. I arrived at the reservoir and was greeted by lots of works equipment belong to Welsh Water, as it turns out, they’d almost completely drained it in order to carry out works on the site. Oh dear. I had to settle on a short bike ride around the area, a few quick snaps just because I was there, and a deflated return to the car. By this point exhaustion was catching up, and with a hefty drive north still to come, an early departure home was decided on. 

PEN-Y-FAN, BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK, WALESDisappointing view to Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons, Wales

Still, there’s always next time - and thankfully that’s not too far away.


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