Sunday 24 October 2021

Snowdonia Landscapes, and the inevitable train photographs, in the summer...

Just as we're on the cusp of returning to Wales for a break, here's a look back to the summer and a slightly 'miscelaneous' post, with some shots of the mountains and also train-in-the-landscape pics, taken whilst we were out on other shoots and days-out.

Betws-Y-Coed; not a planned shoot, but then seeing a train here is pretty rare, so we got a few quick snaps.

A slightly more dramatic sky, and a new angle on the Barmouth Viaduct for us, whilst we were doing a visit to Fairbourne.

Rather better was later that week when the weather had improved dramatically, and the sun was shining whilst we were walking over the Cob in Porthmadog.

The cattle grazing stood-out somewhat in the afternoon sunlight.

Angry cattle.  Don't think he liked having his picture taken.

Typically none of the mags bit with the lovely Snowdonia landscapes, but Rail Express wanted one of the shots from Betws-Y-Coed; one day, I'll achieve the holy grail of getting nice weather and a train here at the same time...


Wednesday 13 October 2021

Welsh Highland Railway August 2021

The nice weather in late August, whilst we were in Wales, led me (Ben) to try and get some new pics on the Welsh Highland Railway near to where we were staying, near Pont Croeser.  The WHR trains are a bit difficult to photograph on the grounds of not being the most photogenic design (basically a boiler squeezed between two big metal breadbins) but a day of nice weather for 'train in the landscape' shots makes a difference.

First attempts were not great; every damned layby and parking spot had people in campervans occupying them, so I couldn't get the spot I wanted, and had to settle for the level crossing some distance for the bridge itself.  I was getting a bit fed up of the Staycation fad at this point in the holiday, as Wales seemed full of people who'd paid over the odds for some knackered old campervan, then decided to just park anywhere with it rather than try for a proper site.

The 'going away' shot at least had the mountains in the background.  I planned to return an hour or so later, when the train would be facing the right way here... 

...and then Younger Child broke her arm in fairly spectacular fashion.  Cue 48 hours of hospital visits and an operation, up on the north coast at Bangor instead.

Later in the holiday she was well enough for us all to take a gentle trip down to the Osprey site (the birdwatching hides next to the bridge), so whilst we were there I got a few more shots.

Greyscale to try and make the best of a dull sky that morning.

Another greyscale test, from the return train in the sunshine, just to see how it would look.

Having pretty much exhausted angles around the bridge, later in the holiday I headed up into the woods near Nantmawr, where another car park was heavy on the campervan crowd.

I didn't get as many pics as I'd hoped, thanks to the unfortunate situation with Younger Child's arm, so I may have another crack next year if travel into Wales is allowed, depending on the Covid situation.


Friday 8 October 2021

Nicey-Nicey Zoo-Zoo

Yep, the title is a 'Mighty Boosh' nod.  We've been looking to go a bit further afield whilst we are on our semi-regular visits to Wales, and in the spirit of this plan, we headed out during the summer to the Welsh Mountain Zoo near Llandudno.  Largely because we saw it on a re-run of "Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience" on the BBC Iplayer.

It's an interesting place, far bigger than it looks from the (hair-raisingly tiny) road.  A nice variety of animals too, with some inventive tanks and enclosures.  The sea-lion tank in particular, with several large windows to watch them swimming around, was a hit with The Childs.  

The sea lion show was popular with guests, we managed to secure a decent spot on the front row.

In the absence of us being able to have time/money to become legit wildlife photographers, this will have to do.

The following few are from a forthcoming series called "sultry poses by seaborne wildlife".

There might be a niche calendar in this one.

Blue Steel?

Having had enough of photographing the Sea Lion equivalent of Kate Moss, we headed indoors.  The reptiles were a bit tricky to photograph; the room was dark, and the crowds meant that (with Covid measures) it was a case of race through the reptile house...

Where animals like the bears were sitting in places you couldn't easily photograph them, and the snow leopards were hiding indoors, we found we could rely on the penguins to be entertaining.

I'm sure if I was anti-animal-conservation I could spin this into a pic for a campaign leaflet, but honestly the penguins had plenty of room, and seemed very happy (if smelly).  The honest reason I didn't get the camera any closer was because I didn't want a penguin to try and bite my fingers off.

The penguin tank was another that featured large glass windows, certainly easier than messing around with underwater cameras, assuming we'd be stupid enough to climb up and stick our arms in the water.  Which, admittedly, we saw some other parents doing with their small child.  Maybe they were using their son as bait to catch a penguin, who knows.

Slightly less-sultry expression than the sea lion.

Well it was a nice place to visit, and gives us a chance to get some animal shots... what with it being highly unlikely we'll have the free time to be the sort of photographers who can sit on a rock off the coast for days and days with a bazooka-like zoom lens to get the perfect sunrise shot of an albatross or something.  Might be somewhere we do a return visit to in the future, where hopefully the crowds of Staycationing visitors will be a little smaller, and you can actually get a good view of some of the enclosures or not have to queue an hour for the gift shop.


Sunday 3 October 2021

Cambrian Coast Express- August 2021

The Cambrian Coast Railway, the mainline from Machynlleth to Pwllheli, has been something of a constant through my (Ben's) childhood; most holidays to West Wales featured either camping near, or going to the beach within sight of this railway, great for a train-mad kid like me.  Anyway, the route has been somewhat neglected over recent years by the train operating companies that run it, so I've not put much effort into photographing it on our regular holidays to Snowdonia.  The scenic splendour of the route is somewhat undone by the slightly minimalist timetable and basic service of identical trains.  But, making a pleasant change, for the first time in years an excursion was running along the line whilst we were up there on holiday, so Amy and Ithought we'd have a crack at photographing it.

With a morning to kill, we headed down to Barmouth where we could go to the shops, get The Childs some fudge from the nice shop on the main road, with a plan to photograph the train here.  But when we nipped up to the station, we were somewhat disappointed by the state of the place, which seems to sum-up officialdoms attitude to the line.  Would it have killed them to send a chap with a strimmer and some weed-killer up here?  No wonder people don't like using the trains.

Going slightly further towards the estuary, we walked out towards the bridge.  Shame the sky wasn't a bit brighter.

The 'classic' view of the bridge.  The problem was, we still had a couple of hours to kill, and with The Childs accompanying us (and now sugar-buzzing on all that fudge, whoops) we couldn't keep them entertained here.

Amy's test shot is the sort of angle we fancied, but we figured that this being the 'classic' shot, and so many photographers knocking around for this excursion, the herds would be crowding us here for pics and we couldn't be bothered with that hassle.

So we relocated to Talybont; this is a shot I've been wanting for a while, because this bridge is slap in the middle of the campsite where we used to holiday every summer when I was a child.  Me and my sisters would play for hours in the river here, but of course, not having a camera, I never got any pictures of trains on the bridge.

As I'd hoped Talybont was off the beaten track enough to mean that (despite how many other photographers were out to see this train), we had the place to ourselves.  A picnic lunch in nice surroundings sat by the river, and -thanks to a quick purchase from a seaside tat shop- The Childs were left to entertain themselves chucking a ball around whilst me and Amy snapped away.

Whilst Amy stayed at lower level, I scrambled up a wall to get a slightly higher angle.

I needed some reference pics of the bridge, as I've been working on a model of the bridge for the garden railway, so it was nice to be able to get some shots of it with something interesting crossing.

The train was due to return a couple of hours later, but the weather was turning and only myself and Elder Child were mad enough to go out in the drizzle... at least from our family.  Nipping up to Criccieth for the return, there were dozens of photographers out near the beach.

Where most photographers clustered together on a gentle hillside, me and Elder Child scrambled up the base of a nearby cliff for a slightly more elevated shot.

I was glad of how the pic turned out, but it was a close-run thing as the train was clocking-on a bit here, picking up speed, and the lighting was dull.  Oh for the blue sky and sunshine that turned up the following week.  

To my pleasant surprise, given the number of other photographers around, I managed to get a shot in print ("Todays Railways").  

...and "Railways Illustrated"

What was more, a lorry managed to clonk a railway bridge pretty severely too the week after which meant that the next two excursions due on the line were cancelled; I was glad we'd made the effort in the end to photograph what might be the only special train on the branch for the foreseeable future.