The very first party of guests to stay at Glebe House (March 2016) included Ian Carroll, a keen amateur photographer. He took some spectacular shots of the area at a time which few people associate with a coastal holiday. He has kindly sent a summary of his photographic and location tips for anyone wanting to follow his example with camera (or paints and easel). The following text and images remain his intellectual property:
Received wisdom says the best time to take pictures is around sunrise and sunset. Actually, as in all things photographic, it depends on the subject and the intended goal. Not to mention the weather conditions. On a family holiday the needs of the non-photographers are also important: not everyone wants to get up early to watch you spend hours looking for “the shot” of that tree / rock / bird!
Photography is about light (literally) and this tends to be best at either end of the day. The “gold standard” is just that….the beautiful golden light of dawn and dusk, especially for landscape work. But the harsh sun of high-noon can also work. I often set out to capture the highly coloured, graphic-looking images with hard-edged black shadows at these times.
It also centres on the subject: in this case the breath-taking Welsh scenery. Therefore conditions are not always (to put it mildly) ideal. This does not mean there is nothing to capture. It means you have to pick your subjects, and your goals for the finished image, and the appropriate techniques to achieve those goals.
The obvious solution is to move to indoor subjects! But if you absolutely insist on being outside, then consider long exposures to achieve deliberate motion blur. Another approach is to use high-key exposures, in other words over-exposing. Is your sky flat and grey and unappealing? Deliberately blow it out…turn it white. This also raises the exposure of other elements in your picture which might have been too dark otherwise. You can choose to keep some of those elements deliberately dark in your finished image so they really stand out against the white background you have opted to create. In grey and gloomy conditions black and white photography can help to elevate the effectiveness of the finished image by allowing much more dramatic contrast increases without looking unnatural. Bland, washed out colours are removed which could otherwise hold the picture back.
Always be on the lookout, when the conditions might be considered unfit, for elements that wouldn’t exist without those meteorological realities. Mist and fog are the obviously appealing side effects of inclement conditions. Snow also has its own charms. But just plain old, wet, boring, unpleasant rain can also provide opportunities that might otherwise simply not be available. Wet ground, with its reflections, can turn a dirt track or pavement into an abstract or impressionistic world.
The other BIG opportunity to look for is what happens when weather changes. The light and conditions that exist when “good” weather changes to “bad”, and vice versa, can be amongst the most glorious, and photographically advantageous. Sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth!
The most important equipment, apart from the obvious camera, is clothing. A wise person (meaning someone other than me) once said “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. As far as the camera goes, the best camera to use for any picture, is the one you have on you. And nowadays that almost universally will mean a smart phone’s camera. Sure, if you have a weather-sealed £3000 DSLR, use that.
But don’t dismiss making something more than a snap with your phone. In fact there are some things a phone can do that the DSLR would struggle with, such as getting everything in focus, from the ground at your feet, all the way to the tree in the background. Especially if the light is already a bit dull. To achieve that with your DSLR might require a tripod and long exposure at f11. If it is peeing-it-down, be sure you don’t let your camera get any wetter than it can handle. You can always use a plastic carrier bag with a hole for the lens to shoot through if needs be though.
As for where to go? Well, I can certainly hand on the recommendation given to me by the owner of a certain holiday cottage, in Talbenny….Pentre Ifan, a mini-Stonehenge near Nevern. This is exactly the kind of subject that lends itself well to shooting in “bad” conditions, using ideas like those given above. Dramatic clouds, wet rock, wind-bent, bare trees all feed into the ancient narrative of the stones. Any of the area’s diverse, and characterful beaches can be great subjects for these conditions also. The motion of waves, dune grasses and clouds, the shapes of the cliffs cast against forbidding (or over exposed, “blown out”) skies, all fair-game. My personal favourites are Marloes Sands and Barafundle. For human elements, there are many charming, intriguing, textured villages and towns to explore (and even a city). I fully intend to explore Porthgain, Solva and St David’s more thoroughly on my next visit, even if the weather gives ducks a pause.