Porth Meudwy 

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A couple of trips to North Wales – and in particular the Aberdaron area at the very tip of the Lleyn peninsula- in the last few months reminded me of its photographic potential – though I hadn’t visited in over 20 years it was all very familiar after childhood holidays every year.  It’s a four hour drive each way from home, and while I’ve done this a couple of times, it requires a 4am start and you’re also limited by tide times for coastal shots.    On this latest visit I decided to bring camping gear , and wild camp in the National Trust car park at Porth Meudwy.  On this occasion I stayed for two nights; I wouldn’t do this here in summer, when things are very busy with holidays, but it’s quiet out of season.  I put a significant investment into decent gear in preparation for a week in Glencoe last autumn, and while the kit I have is bulky overkill for one, I rest assured that it will withstand extremely bad conditions and will have enough room should my son come with me in future.  Here’s what I have:

Hilleberg Tarra tent:

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roomy 2 person fully geodesic tent with bulletproof construction, great features, and easy pitching.  It’s self-supporting once the poles are in, which means that you can shift pitch, or camp on a range of surfaces including sand if necessary (I also have a set of sand pegs).  This tent seems designed for expedition use, perhaps with kayaking, but it’s also perfect for car-camping in UK winters, including northern Scotland, and thus a good alternative to a camper van, even in very high winds.  It has two large porches, integrated roof ventilation, integrated clothes line and lamp hook, and four side pockets.  It’s very roomy because the side walls are almost vertical thanks to the arrangement of the poles and guy-lines.   It’s very expensive but for peace of mind for winter camps it’s basically perfect; plus, after a few trips not staying in hotels it will have paid for itself.  Purchased from Nordic Outdoor, with a free footprint, after detailed research online.

Sleeping bag: Rab Ascent 700.  Sleeping mat: Exped Downmat 7 – very comfortable and not too noisy compared to others.  Stove: Primus Spider set.  Small, light, easy to light even in the cold, fast to boil, brilliantly designed and packaged.  I much preferred this design over those top-heavy Jetboil things.  Also have a cheapo solid fuel backup.  Lamp: Black Diamond Moji Light. Headtorch: Petzal Tikkina.

Here’s an up-to-date shot of my large format backpack: Lowepro Whistler 450 AW.
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I’ve got used to the weight, and it continues to be awesome.  Tripod slots in neatly down the side, as you can see, over the side pocket where I keep my Paramo dark cloth (though when on location I now tend to stuff that into one of the open bottom inside pockets in my Paramo Halcon coat, which is basically a Tardis).  On the other side you can see a Lowepro pouch designed for video cameras (Adventura SH 110 ii) but which nicely holds two medium-sized 5×4 lenses on Technika boards (e.g. Nikkor SW 75mm, Schneider 150, Nikkor W210) or my Fujinon 400 T f/8, which takes up all the room by itself (again, on its own Technika board).  With the extra side pouch, I can now carry 6 lenses (75, 90, 150, 210, 300, 400) along with the Technikardan camera and all the other necessary gear.  I can also swap this pouch for a Thinktank pouch which can carry my D800E and two tilt-shift lenses.  To carry this really necessitates the use of walking poles to help support the weight.  I have a pair of excellent Lekki Microsticks which I have used for five years.

Porth Meudwy itself is a small fisherman’s cove just round the headland from Aberdaron.  While it appears not to be terribly well known by UK Landscape photographers – presumably because of its seeming remoteness, it’s particularly good for intimate shots of its sculpted rocks, which range in colour from blacks and browns to blues, blue-greens, and lichen-stained yellows.  It’s also a good spot for wildlife, with colonies of Choughs and Fulmars.

To date I’ve focused pretty much solely on this location for large format shooting trips to Wales.  I’ve ventured a little more widely in the time I’ve had, but there’s plenty more to explore.  Snowdonia is an hour up the road, and with its rolling farmland and pebble and sand beaches this part of Wales is reminiscent of certain parts of the west of Scotland, but a lot more accessible from the Midlands or South of England for a couple of days away.

The photographs: a mixture of large format film and digital, but I’m trying to compartmentalise the shoots, and working with large format first and then shifting to digital to ensure I’ve got a range of shots esp in changing conditions.  On this last visit I deliberately shot on both Velvia 50 and Provia, to compare how each handles the blues and greens.  Mostly detail shots of the rocks, but also the lobster-fishing gear.   Lenses used were Fujinon SWD 90 f/5.6 and Nikkor W210 f/5.6.  A couple of other shots taken at Porth Yscaden, another fishing cove up the coast, were taken with Schneider 150 Apo Symmar MC.
Happily the latest batch of 19 sheets of 5×4 back from processing revealed only one dud (a nice exposure of the inside of a Lee filters cap…!).  I got the exposures nicely dialled in with my Sekonic meter, and didn’t forget to add time where necessary – hats off to the Reciprocity Timer app, and to Peak Imaging for their beautiful work.  I’m still working my way through processing/digitizing the shots, but it seems there’s not very much to choose between the Velvia and Provia versions.
Other discoveries:
The Fuji 90mm f/5.6 seems best at f/22; shots any more stopped down than this seem to suffer from visible diffraction.
On this occasion, it seems that my Fuji 90mm f/5.6 performed really well without the need for a centre filter, even on slide; in other conditions I’ve been a bit anxious about this.  Some judicious tilting, or dodging and burning in photoshop, seems to have cured any of the more obvious vignetting.  My 75mm Nikkor does vignette pretty badly, so I haven’t even dared to use this for slide yet.  I’m wondering whether I might even swap it for a Schneider 58mm, since the 75mm focal length isn’t drastically different from the 90mm I’ve got used to for wides.  Of course, then I’d really need a centre filter…
And finally, the images (all 5×4 Velvia 50 shots presented here).  All technical details are available on my flickr pages, available from here at bottom right.
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