Harvest Moon Sunsets

Do you ever have one of those days or projects where you start off aiming to do one thing but end up with something quite different? Well this is a tale of one such occurrence. An example, if you will, of why flexibility is good and how beneficial, accepting that as one door closes another one may well open, can be.

Harvest Moons are defined as the closest full moon to the autumn equinox. For the northern hemisphere this usually falls as the September full moon but in 2017 the Harvest Moon falls later, becoming full at 7-40pm BST on the evening of 5th October. Over the years I’ve taken plenty of full moon pictures, like the one below:

Full Moon

For this Harvest moon I wanted to photograph something a little different, with more character than detail. This is the sort of shot that requires both planning & luck. A look at the weather forecasts suggested that evening cloud was a likely risk on the hills but it should be fairly broken along the coastline to our north-west. Time to use some of the great tools like Photographer’s Ephemeris & Google Earth to plan the shot. Calculations showed that the moon should just be rising above a silhouetted Cadair Idris as it went full, as viewed from the harbour wall at Barmouth. At that distance the effect of the 500mm lens should both emphasise the moon size & compress the landscape to help give a decent impactful composition. If luck was with us, a few burst shots should provide all that was necessary for a dramatic HDR image. Without luck, we’d just see a mass of dark cloud! At any rate it is always enjoyable to watch as the lights of Barmouth sparkle across the harbour at twilight.

Barmouth’s colourful twinkling

We packed up a few different bits of kit so that we could take advantage of various eventualities and set off for Barmouth, timing our arrival to give us just enough time to enjoy fish & chips overlooking the sea before sunset. We were treated to a fabulous sunset with almost clear skies out to sea & rich colours developing after the sun dipped below a watery horizon. I had setup the little Nikon in timelapse mode when we first arrived on the harbour wall, here’s a quick animated gif made from some of the shots …

Sunset animation from Barmouth harbour

The header image for this article is my favourite capture of the evening, taken at 500mm on a DSLR, the last moments of the sun floating above the sea can be made quite impactful.

Anyone who has visited Barmouth will know that the tide runs in to the harbour at quite a speed. With the incoming tide at full pace there was also plenty of opportunity to take a slightly wider view of the sunset with choppy waters to the fore.

Tidal Rush

As the evening wore on life & entertainment carried on around us but the clouds seemed resolute about obscuring our view of Cadair Idris. Still there was plenty to amuse us, with Tamsin sketching the waves and me rather more distracted by the various forms of transport ..

Mixed transport

As 7-40pm approached, I could tantalisingly see the glow of the rising moon but the clouds just would not break. Then at 7-42pm the clouds partially broke for just a few moments. The view was fabulous by eye but very fleeting & not ideal for the photographs I wished for. Still, always take the shot, that’s my motto. Here are two processings of it, one in partial monochrome, one with colour ..

Beyond Pared y Cefn Hir, above the looming shadows of Cadair Idris, the Harvest Moon breaks through scudding clouds.
Beyond Pared y Cefn Hir, above the looming shadows of Cadair Idris, the Harvest Moon breaks through scudding clouds. (colour version)

As the evening night progressed the cloud never cleared but we waited for the moon to rise high, above the cloud – enough to give moody silver reflections on the estuary.

Dark moon over sea

So a great evening out, some lovely photography even if not what I had planned for. That’s great, because there will always be another full moon, another harvest, so the challenge lives on. Anyway it was time for more mundane things – like doing our weekly shop before the supermarket closed at 11pm. Let me leave you with that sunset again; until next time dear readers …

Time to timelapse – capturing an animated sunset
Sublime fire above the deep blue

In search of Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats have roamed Snowdonia for many years and I always enjoy seeing them from time to time, especially when it involves a walk up the Rhinogs (or more correctly Rhinogydd). The Rhinogs have always had that little extra feeling of wilderness for me, where better to view wild goats. I should really refer to them as feral, since they are descended from the domestic goats of pastoralists some 10,000 or so years ago. So having parked in Coed y Brenin, Tamsin & I headed for the rocky northern slopes of Rhinog Fawr.

Our route up in to the hills took us past the picturesque Pistyll Gwyn, which had a decent flow after a few nights of autumn rains.
This is a lovely walk with great views, so nothing would be lost if we didn’t sight the goats.

Cardigan bay & Lleyn peninsula from the Rhinogydd

It was here that I spotted the first small group of goats. Tamsin was busy sketching a view that she felt would inspire her fantasy writings, and so I was meandering amongst the rocks when I spotted 3 goats a little below Llyn Du. At a distance that was towards the limit of the optics that I was carrying, the normally very skittish creatures remained relaxed whilst I took a few pictures & then retreated.

We continued to enjoy our time on the mountain but it wasn’t until we were practicing our parkour balance descending the wet rocky track at a fair rate of knots, that our second goat sighting occurred. We heard an eerie bleating from several hundred feet above us. Tamsin the trusty spotter wheeled around to see…

Spotter Tamsin

.. two billy goats with generous horns calmly grazing amongst the crags & another goat high above them, bleating (see featured header image).

Billy Goat

I did take some rather shaky video of the goats but given that for part of it I was prone in a midge infested bog at the time the quality is limited, apologies.

Hope you enjoyed, take care of yourself & our precious planet 🙂

One of my favourite walks – Y garn, Glyderau loop

This is one of my favourite walks. A circular loop from the Youth Hostel by Llyn Ogwen, taking in some of Snowdonia’s fine mountain peaks.

Do be aware that some of the going is quite rough, there are sections of scrambling on scree and that in winter you are likely to need crampons & ice axe. That said, it’s an exhilarating mountain walk with fine views.

As one leaves the car parking area and follows the well made path to Llyn Idwal, it’s great to view the imposing cliffs above you with the knowledge that you’ll soon be walking above them. Upon reaching the lake we turn right to head up the slopes of Y Garn. This path is steep & particular care is needed in icy conditions. As you climb, do take time to look around and take in the views; looking east across Llyn Ogwen with Tryfan on its righthand shore or looking north along the Nant Ffrancon valley and out to sea.

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Nant Ffrancon with snow tipped Carneddau

Upon reaching the summit of Y Garn, fine panoramic views are available, looking over most of Snowdonia. Again take in Tryfan to the east or look south-west to Snowdon & her relatives.

Now we must descend about 250m southwards to Llyn y Cwn before ascending the shaded scree slope to the summit of Glyder Fawr, the highest point on this walk. The rough & jagged rocks of Glyder Fawr provide quite the dramatic viewpoint. Now we can enjoy the high level walk eastwards from Glyder Fawr, via Castell y Gwynt to the similarly rocky summit of Glyder Fach.

Whilst it is possible to descend almost directly via the eastern scree slope of Glyder Fach to Bwlch Tryfan, it may be more enjoyable to take the slightly longer route to Bwlch Tryfan by diverting towards Llyn Caseg-fraith, as shown on the map.

Once we have reached Bwlch Tryfan, follow the rock strewn path downhill past Llyn Bochlwyd & its associated waterfall and then all the way back to where we began.

In total a very enjoyable walk of about 7 miles with a climb of around 3,300 ft. Whilst timing will vary upon your pace & how much you stop to enjoy / photograph the views, it is best to allow most of a winter’s day to complete this – say 7 hours.

Below is my map for this walk, embedded via Viewranger:

Natural History Photography – Why? Reason 1

4:30 am Beep, beep, beep. The alarm goes off. I’m comfy & warm, it’s freezing out there but there’s stuff to do before getting on the road. Why do I get up? To take some landscape shots…

A few hours later it’s still dark and we’re at our first destination. I’m reckying by torchlight for the perfect spot to set up the tripod. The car was reporting -6 degrees when we stopped, feels at least that cold to me. Damn, there’s a light breeze. I’ll really need that breeze to drop, if the reflections are to be perfect.

The first glow of dawn light tinges the sky, it’s so peaceful, serene even and I feel that oneness with mother nature that you just won’t get in a town or with a bunch of folk. Time to take a few longish exposures.

It’s light now & the sun is about to rise above the horizon, birds start singing, it’s time for the main event. The breeze has dropped, almost as if nature is holding her breath & right on cue too. Boom, those first mandarin coloured rays of sun illuminate the Snowdon Horseshoe. The warm light quietly yet inexorably rolls down the mountains, illuminating them in it’s fiery glow. The lake in front of me forms a perfect still mirror, reflecting the morning mountain beauty; mingling it with reflections of the lake’s own glacial boulders. Click, the picture I wanted, saved to flash card. Time to just enjoy these fine moments of sun-kissed mountains & lake.

Then it’s back to the car. Get out the stove to cook up beans on toast for breakfast. And then time to drive to our daytime destination, there are 7 hours of daylight left to make best of, with camera & Shank’s pony.

Snowdon Horseshoe at dawn, from Llynnau Mymbyr
Snowdon Horseshoe at dawn, from Llynnau Mymbyr

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Dawn to the Soul

Dawn to the Soul

A beauteous scene, dawn upon lake.
A strong comparison, perhaps to make.
Moral ideals, versus acts that you take.

Walk to the edge, tread with care.
Cast eyes down, take a stare.
Open your soul, if you dare.

In that reflection, what do you see.
Angel or Devil, what might you be.
Good deed or bad, how much the fee.

To yourself, you might lie.
On Reaper approach, tis time to die.
Meet it with honour, or inexorable sigh.

Dawn to the Soul

Listen to a reading of the poem: