A stunning sunset at Harlech Beach, Snowdonia, Wales.

Wales, Summer 2016 From Harlech Beach to Devil's Kitchen

A last minute group decision to visit the beach on a dull, grey day results in one of the most spectacular sunsets during a camping trip in North Wales. I decided to share my thoughts on the shots that i took during the evening

It was certainly a miserable windy day when we got to experience the sunset of the year. We had banked on having time to visit the beautiful beach at Harlech on the night before we left. The entire day was just as dull as you can imagine, a proper British experience. No sign that the rain was stopping and no chance of clear skies (or dry tents).

It wasn't until on the way home from visiting the other towns around the Snowdonia area that we decided to take a last minute trip to the beach. It wasn't looking promising even when we parked half a mile out at the car park, but we decided to check it out either way because we had time to kill after a nice meal. When we got to the sandy beach, I went about my usual shooting habits; watching the sky, feeling the harsh sea-front wind on my face and kicking sand while taking in the fresh air. I didn't even bring my tripod. Just my camera bag, i wasn't expecting much.

After chatting to my friends who were also with me, we were still happy that we had visited, and it was about to get dark, until we noticed the clouds changing colour. It was such a dramatic change. You can see from some of the pictures that by the time there was any light hitting the beach, it was just glancing from behind the mountain. In fact, in all of my pictures, most of the light was probably reflected from the clouds, and not the sun itself, which made the exposures so beautifully balanced. Minutes had passed and we were all running about frantic looking for an angle and a shot with the wind muffling our excitement. After taking a few pictures of the scene, i calmed down and started to think about my shots. My friend helped me capture a much needed self-portrait on the beach. After thanking him for spending a few rare moments (which he so gracefully sacrificed to myself instead of shooting the sun, thanks Matt!) I decided to head further along the beach to see if there was anything else to add just a little more to my scene. I saw a large body of trapped water in some sand and it was just about the most perfect location, timing and formation at that time. The sand mimicked the motion of the waves, large curves and leading lines going to and from either side of the frame, leading the eye perfectly to the sun which was being cut in half by the imposing mountain. It's definitely one of my most proud pictures.

Just as soon as it started, it was over. It must have lasted less than a few minutes, it felt like seconds. The sun was dipping beyond the horizon, the light no longer hitting the clouds, and the blue hour starting to impose. The quiet town of Harlech sat atop the hill overlooking the spectacle. It must be a fairly good view up there too, i thought. I captured a few more pictures of the fading light, and one of the town watching over before we headed back to the car and to our tents for the night.

If there was one thing that this trip might have taught me, it would be that good light is invaluable when it comes to creating memorable pictures. Taking chances and exploring something you might have considered to be a waste of time can often yield some of the most unforgettable and un-plannable moments worth capturing. Much like a good trip can go bad, a bad trip can often surprise you.

I often don't have any plans when I go on a photography trip to a national park. In the UK, weather is such a dominating factor that planning and preparation can sometimes result in an a, b and c plan, should things not work out. My friends were deciding between Snowdon and Devil's Kitchen when we picked the latter. It was quite a way out from our campsite, but it was totally worth it.

The journey to the base of the mountain took us through some sleepy village, past some slate mines and straight over some dominating vistas of the mountain passes and train tracks. It was like a completely different planet to Cambridgeshire, which is so flat at standing height you often can't see much interest beyond a few houses ahead. The base of the mountain was filled with tourists, joggers and climbers all looking to enjoy the beautiful weather that the day was offering. I can only imagine what how different this place looks in the Winter with no one around. That seemed to be my running thought throughout the trip.

The mountain is very accessible for almost anyone. It's barely a climb until you get to the boulders near the peaks. You have views of waterfalls and rock faces all the way up, which surround the large body of water in the middle. There were people enjoying the water, as well as others climbing the sheer faces. Scorings of different minerals and rocks coloured the mountain. The sheer amount of bare rock was so alien to me, living in Cambridgeshire.

The last day, the day back. Every campers worst time. A long journey ahead with views getting progressively worse and familiar as you made your way home, from mountain roads to motorways. We stopped fairly early on in a beautiful tourist hot-spot, Betws-y-Coed. The town was full of people, i've didn't see so many people in one spot throughout the whole weekend. You'd never know the place existed either, it sits between who large mountains, buried by tall trees and hills.

Apart from the large amount of people there, it would be a beautiful place to live. It seemed like an ideal location to visit almost anywhere else in Snowdonia due to it's location. Lots of services and things to do.

If you would like to commission me to shoot pictures like this, or buy a print of any of my work, please contact me at info@hiadammarshall.com