I left South Stack Lighthouse and, later in the afternoon, I headed South leaving Holy Island and returning to Anglesey’s main Island. My destination was on the South-Western point of Anglesey, and the beach bordering Newborough (Niwbwrch) Forest.
Ynys Llanddwyn is a tiny island linked by a tidal causeway with the beach. My purpose was to prepare for my first ever attempt at astrophotography – or at least my first try at capturing the Milky Way.
The island is home to the ruins of the church of St Dwynwen, the legendary patron saint of lovers whose feast day (her counterpart is St Valentine) is 25th January.
I approached Ynys Llanddwyn by a walk of a mile or so along the beach from the car park. I’d done my homework and checked tide times (I didn’t want to find myself marooned when I wanted to return). I’d checked the weather forecast, and I knew that it was the time of a New Moon. Before I left the car park, I had used an app to enable me to gauge the walking distance back from the causeway to the car park in total darkness. Everything looked good for the evening. Sunset would be about 21:30 but astronomical night would be a couple of hours later. I had plenty of time to explore and prepare.
Once over the short causeway, there was a good path all the way to Twr Mawr, the disused lighthouse that I wished to use as my foreground and, along the way, there was plenty to photograph. (Below, see images of the cross of St Dwynwen and of Twr Mawr with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background)
What I hadn’t factored in was the number of other photographers who would also be there that night and who had the same intention as I did. As darkness fell, even though I’d managed to find some high ground overlooking Twr Mawr, the LCD screens of other photographers – lower down and nearer the lighthouse – risked ruining my planned 20 second exposure. (At that time, my camera was an enthusiast-level Pentax K-50, paired with a Sigma 10-20 mm f/3.5 lens. Any shutter-speed longer than 20 seconds would be sure to lead to streaky rather than point stars).
In the event, when I got home, I saw that even my best images had high amounts of noise and any attempt to boost the shadows exposed other photographers and their tripods. Over and above that, there was orange air glow reflecting off unplanned high cloud. I include my best attempt in today’s post.
When it became clear that the cloud wouldn’t be shifting, around midnight I headed back to the beach. My headtorch managed to guide my path as far as the beach, but once there I was in total darkness and the torch was next to useless shining on the sand. At least I had the silhouette of the forest and my app to help me and soon I was on my way to my hotel on Holy Island for an overnight stay.