The 3 lighthouses challenge

Not my usual type of challenge as there was no running involved… Last weekend’s challenge was to photograph the 3 main lighthouses on Anglesey – Penmon, Llanddwyn Island and South Stack.  The day was a Welshot rewards day and the aim of the event was to be out all day, experimenting with photography and, hopefully capturing a stunning sunset at South Stack. It was a beautiful sunny day, which isn’t ideal for lighting landscapes for photography, but we all had a good time and came home with some pleasing images.

Some people have told me that they think Welshot is expensive. That might be true for some people, particularly those on a budget with other priorities. However, I was just starting out in photography when I joined and I’ve learned a lot from attending different events, covering various genres of photography, and my images have definitely improved. I’ve also met lots of lovely people and, in some situations (for example, at night or out on the streets photographing people), I’ve felt more comfortable being out with my camera as part of a group, rather than on my own.  And I’ve definitely had value for money when the 1 to 1 session with Eifion and the reward days, such as the lighthouses challenge, are taken into consideration. Welshot rewards their members by offering events free of charge for ‘doing stuff’ rather than spending money. Points are given for things like writing a review of an event, entering a forum challenge, sharing images from Welshot events or even just because they feel like it. These are saved up and cashed in for reward days. I’ve attended several of these days and still have enough points in the bank for another. Maybe this blog will get me a few more points!

Last Saturday, on the rewards day, we met at Penmon and spent a couple of hours photographing the lighthouse there. I’d decided I wanted to use my square Format Hitech filters for long exposures to flatten and blur the waves and clouds… not that there were many clouds! It’s quite complicated because you need to find a baseline shutter speed without the filters and then use use an app or conversion chart to calculate how long the exposure should be when the filter is on the lens. This is particularly necessary with darker filters because the camera can’t ‘see’ through them when you try and focus on anything.

I have to admit to making a lot of mistakes on Saturday, but I find that’s the best way to learn, and hopefully I won’t make those mistakes again! It didn’t help that I thought my darkest filter was a 10 stop, when it actually turned out to be a 13 stop, and darker than I thought. No wonder I was having problems and the images were underexposed! I also kept forgetting to focus before I added the filter. Because the camera can’t see through the filter, you need to set the focus first but then change to manual focus so the camera doesn’t try and refocus when the shutter is released. I even forgot how to use my shutter release cable and didn’t lock it open properly, standing there for a few minutes for a particularly long exposure before I realised the shot hadn’t taken! Luckily Eifion was on hand to help me, and I finally got an image with the desired effect on the waves.

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Penmon long exposure… finally!

I don’t think a long exposure was really the best type of shot for this particular day and I actually preferred my images with some movement in the water, showing the detail and colour in the rocks below the clear sea. But at least I got the practice I wanted and hopefully, I won’t make the same mistakes on another day!

Penmon

The morning flew by and it was soon time for lunch. While the others went into Beaumaris, I popped to see my mum and dad. It was my mum’s birthday so it was lovely to have lunch with them before heading off to Newborough to photograph Twr Mawr, the lighthouse on Llanddwyn island.

I arrived before the others and took the shadier path through the trees to the island, rather than walking along the beach. The sea and sky were so blue, I felt as though I was abroad somewhere! The views towards the mountains were stunning, and it was lovely to see so many people on the beach, paddling in the waves.

View of Snowdonia and mainland Wales

John was sea kayaking nearby on Anglesey and we’d planned to meet up later in the day and spend our first night away in our new camper van… Bertie BoxLife. John called to say he’d finished just as I got to Llanddwyn, but I spent an hour or so taking photos before I left the group to meet him at Anglesey Outdoors near Holyhead. I don’t think he was too disappointed to have time to go to the pub with the other paddlers before we met up!

I took some photos with filters at Llanddwyn but used some circular filters and a polariser that weren’t particularly dark and didn’t have the problems I had at Penmon. I think the image below is my favourite one of the day… it sums it up nicely. Using the filters means the people who were moving when I took it have disappeared from the shot, and the waves in the sea have been softened. The colours are true to life… the sea really was that colour!

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Twr Mawr, Llanddwyn island

After this, I met John and we drove up to South Stack where we knew there were car parks where we might be able to stay the night. We were in luck and found a beautiful spot with views over the lighthouse and coast, where I’d also be able to meet the Welshot group when they arrived to take pictures here.

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We had our first showers in the van and made fajitas for dinner, then I went out to take some photos of South Stack. Unfortunately, the sunset was a bit disappointing. The light was quite poor and we struggled to get great images but Jason gave me and my friend Sandra some useful tips as we sat on the grassy cliff top watching the sun drop. I am quite pleased with the image below… another long exposure, which I do admit to improving in Lightroom by lifting the shadows on the land, reducing the highlights in the sky, and making the colours a little more vibrant.

South Stack

All in all, it was a fantastic day. I went to some beautiful places with friendly people, learned more about photography and captured some lovely pictures, and spent some quality time with my parents and John. Plus we had a good stay in Bertie BoxLife. What more could I want?

2 thoughts on “The 3 lighthouses challenge

Add yours

  1. Thank you. The good thing about long exposures is ending up with fewer images! I’ve just selected my favourites so far 🙂 I don’t do a lot of editing… I need to learn more about it but never seem to have time!

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