Inspiration

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about my photography, what it means to me and where I’d like to go with it. I haven’t been out with the camera as much as I would have liked recently and have fallen foul to the ‘just not feeling it’ or ‘lack of inspiration’ feelings that so many of us encounter every now and then. I have had days where I have hated all of my previous images, every single one. Other days, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to create an image I am happy with. Even living in one of the most spectacular regions of the UK doesn’t seem to help!

I have witnessed others experience this feeling too, so I know I am not alone. Many people are often supported by fellow photographers with kind words and suggestions as to how to overcome these moods. (I think the photography community on Twitter is superb for this!!) Is this feeling a bad thing? No I don’t think so. Is it just part of the photography journey? Maybe. Could taking some time out be worthwhile? Sometimes. Taking a break can be good. Why try to force something that just doesn’t feel right? This can be extremely frustrating but a solution could be as simple as taking a week, a month, 6 months, maybe a year off of photography, who knows!? Only the individual will know. I think it is something to accept rather than fight.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
— Thomas Edison

This leads me onto inspiration. The quote above rings so true. Hard work, perseverance and a desire to constantly learn are all key attributes in order to improve. However, all of this starts with a spark of inspiration.

For me, my first ‘spark’ was viewing incredible images of mountainous regions from around the UK in books and glossy magazines. This kickstarted my desire to pick up a camera and to learn how to create these types of images. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to improve and be better than I was the last time I had ventured out.
I then began using social media. I discovered many great photographers through Twitter and the more images I viewed on there, the more I began researching and browsing the websites of individuals. I would spend long periods of time viewing their galleries and studying their images. Seeing these images gave me a huge amount of inspiration and the motivation to keep going out. I am hugely grateful to all of these photographers for unknowingly inspiring me and undoubtedly many others. They probably have no idea quite how big an influence they have been over the last couple of years!

Tying this in to the feelings I spoke about at the start; many people will have different ways of overcoming the ‘creative block’ - taking a break, working on a project - we all react differently. Whenever I find myself in that position, I revert back to looking through the work of photographers who I have great admiration for in the hope that it re-ignites that 1% of inspiration. With any luck, I can then get back to focussing on the other 99% of ‘perspiration’ and continue my photography journey.

Some of the photographers who consistently inspire me are below:

Over the last 18 months, many other great photographers have been added to this list - way too many to name on here.

Glyder Fach with Louis Murphy

“I’m parked up near the visitor centre in my piece of shit, blue Subaru” - The last message I received from Louis before I lost my phone signal entering the Ogwen Valley from Bethesda!

It was the afternoon of the 1st of June and Louis had been in Snowdonia since the previous day. He was now nursing a hangover after a few beers in the hostel the night before which had escalated to several beers, a bottle of wine and a bottle of whisky…
I hadn’t seen Louis since the end of January when we were both on a Snowdonia Winter workshop run by Greg Whitton and Nick Livesey. We had been trying to organise a wild camp for some time but due to both of us having commitments on conflicting weekends, we couldn’t nail down a time. This was one of the few weekends that worked; and so it began…

I pulled up outside Ogwen Cottage at the Western end of Llyn Ogwen and spotted Louis sitting next to his car. I jumped out and we thought about the best place to go considering the weather. We had planned to camp up on Glyder Fach however the cloud was pretty low and you couldn’t see the summits from the valley. The forecast said that it was due to clear but at this point in time, it did not look promising. After much deliberation, we decided to stick to our guns and drove the short drive down the A5 to one of the lay-by car parks. Once the cars were locked and rucksacks on, we headed off up towards Llyn Bochlwyd then Bwlch Tryfan before the final stretch up to Glyder Fach. Walking up towards Glyder Fach, the summit was still in cloud. Occasionally a break could be seen as the light wind blew the cloud but as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared.

Those that have been to Glyder Fach will know that flat, rock-free space for a tent is limited. It is like a scene from another world up there. However, there is a small spot just down from Castell-y-Gwynt where you can fit a couple of tents. Once we had found it, we pitched our tents and grabbed some food. The wind was light which meant the midges were out in force, not the time to have forgotten your repellant! Whilst sat talking about how despite the weather, it’s still great to just be out in the hills, the clouds parted and the sun broke through. There was a superb inversion and we could see Snowdon and Crib Goch poking through in the distance. We grabbed our gear and started running around the area like madmen trying to find something decent to shoot. We ran about 300m over to a collection of rocks to the South East of where we were. I couldn’t find anything worthwhile so decided to take some shots of Louis instead.

The Light began to fade on that part of the mountain so I grabbed my things and left Louis to it. I ran as fast as I could across the uneven ground back up to where our tents were and up to the iconic Castle-y-Gwynt. I had to quickly find a composition because the light was disappearing fast! I had everything set up and about to take a shot when Louis appeared from behind a rock into the frame looking equally as knackered as I was! We stayed up here until dark capturing as many images as possible. Below are the images from that evening.

The next morning we unzipped the tents at 04:00 and were greeted with thick cloud and no visibility. We didn’t even bother getting up and instead got another hour of shut-eye. At 05:00 we tried again. This time the thick cloud had gone and all that remained was another inversion and grey flat conditions. Snowdon and Crib Goch once again looked menacing sticking out the top of the clouds. Below are the images from that morning.

Back at the tents, we ate, packed up and headed down towards the Cwm Tryfan path and back to the cars, already planning the next one!

Thanks for reading and check out Louis’ website here.

Castell y Gwynt - Canon 5D Mk IV with 16-35mm lens at 24mm, f/11, 1/13 sec, ISO 100

Cribau Wild Camp

This Summer has probably been one of the best that I can remember. Blue skies, warm weather, late sunsets and early sunrises, perfect for landscape photography….not! Despite the less than favourable photographic conditions, it was perfect to spend some nights in the Snowdonia mountains!

Back in June, I had been planning to head up to a little spot called Cribau, just off the summit of Snowdon. The route I had planned started at Pen-y-Pass car park and headed along the Miner’s Path to Llyn Llydaw before veering left and up onto the ridge followed by a traverse of Y Lliwedd. This spot provides a spectacular view down Llyn Llydaw and of the surrounding hills. A good friend of mine, ‘Corny’, had said he wanted to come along as well so after work on a Friday afternoon, we met in Llanberis and headed to Pen-y-Pass. The route we took is below for anyone interested.

The route - the green dot is where we camped.

The route - the green dot is where we camped.

Once we had sorted out all of our kit, we started off up the path. The weather was glorious, mid twenties but pretty humid. With a pack weighing in at close to 18kg, the humidity made the walk tough going, especially as we began the climb up onto the ridge. The path is fairly obvious throughout and poses no major issues for summer conditions. Once up there, the visibility was superb and you could see all the way West across to Anglesey and South West to Porthmadog. The walk across Y Lliwedd is throughly enjoyable and I will definitely be heading back up there in Winter as it has several photographic opportunities. Along the ridge we passed a guy and his dad heading in the opposite direction, doing our route in reverse. After a brief chat, we continued up to our camp spot and found a suitable piece of ground to pitch the tent.

Once the tent was up and Corny had stashed his bivvy bag inside, I thought about the best place to go for sunset. Despite it being a bit cliche, I decided to head up to the summit of Snowdon and see what would work. The rucksack was much more comfortable now everything but my camera gear and jetboil had been emptied out! We began the slog up the final portion of the Watkin path (which is chuffing steep!) and eventually arrived at the top. It was pretty busy as you can imagine being a Friday evening in the height of Summer. There were lots of groups around who had just completed their 3 peaks challenge so I decided to head back down a little bit and see what compositions I could find. After a few handheld shots, I found a composition I liked, set up the tripod and camera and then waited for the sun to drop a bit lower. The images were never going to be anything amazing due to the clear blue skies, but it was just great to sit enjoy the views. I got my shots and as the final light disappeared off of the land, I put my camera gear away and switched on the Jetboil to make dinner - chicken curry.

We finished eating, packed up and headed back down the Watkin to the camp spot. It was about 23:00 now and sunrise was at 04:51 with first light being around half an hour before that. This meant minimal sleeping time, but worth it. The alarm was set for 03:50 to give me enough time to sort everything out and find a composition. I had already spotted one or two whilst setting up the tent that were less than 10m from the tent, perfect. The forecast was promising good conditions for the morning so once back at the tent, I handed Corny his bivvy bag and crawled inside for some shut eye.

My alarm went off at 03:50 after what felt like finally nodding off about 20 minutes prior. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, put my boots and down jacket on and unzipped the tent. The view was absolutely amazing. The first rays of sunlight had begun to light up the high level cloud that was lingering overhead the summits and there was the faint sound of voices. I walked a couple of metres to the edge and could see several head torches marching their way up the Miners path like a trail of luminous ants in the early morning darkness. I turned around to look at the summit of Snowdon above me and was surprised to see that there were already people up there too. It was great to see so many people out so early to witness a stunning Summer sunrise from the summit of Wales’ highest peak.

I set about sorting my kit out, set up the camera and as the light improved, I was spoilt for choice with what to shoot. The sky began to light up with many different shades of pinks, purples and blues before the sun started to peek above the horizon. The distant hills disappeared into varying layers of contrast and colour as the purple hues increased in intensity. Whilst enjoying this spectacle, I had totally forgot about Corny who had remained sound asleep in his Bivvy! I gave him a kick and woke him as he had said the night before that he wanted to watch the sunrise. After getting the images I wanted, we had breakfast, packed up and headed down the ridge towards Glaslyn. This is a bit tricky with a large pack and would definitely be easier going up. After a few attempts of lowering bags down big rocks, we made it to the Miners path for the gentle walk back to the car park, passing lots of people who were just starting their trek up Snowdon.

Below are some of the images I captured that morning interspersed with iPhone snaps of our trip. Thanks for reading!

5 Shot pano - Canon 5D Mk IV with Canon 16-35mm f/4 L lens at 16mm, f/14, 1/30 sec, 5 shot panorama.