Two months after my ‘Milky Way’ visit, I returned to Anglesey to take some photos on the main island. I’d often thought that it would be nice to take some photographs of the Menai Bridge and of the newer Britannia Bridge, but there were a couple of other things that I’d decided to have a look at.
After a 7am start, it was a 90 minutes or so drive from home to Bangor, a University city in North Wales, and it’s there that the historic Menai Bridge crosses the treacherous currents of the Menai Straits to Ynys Mon, the island of Anglesey. The bridge was designed by the famous Thomas Telford and, when it was opened to traffic in 1826, it was the World’s first iron suspension bridge. The bridge’s 177 metres central span stands 30 metres above the water so as to allow tall ships to pass beneath.
I drove across the narrow roadway to the town of Menai Bridge and parked close to its North-Eastern side to take today’s photograph above.
From where I took that photo, it was a short walk along the road beneath the bridge to Manaddwyn, a cottage that I’d seen on a recent television series about Anglesey. The show in question had featured a short article about a photographer from Menai Bridge, Glyn Davies and it was his black and white image of the cottage, ‘Early morning smoke – Menai Bridge’, that had been part of the inspiration for my visit.
I reached the path that led to the beach from where I would take my photo just as the Sun was beginning to rise above the cottage, but even as I arrived, I saw the smoke rising from the cottage’s chimney and beautiful sunrays leading down to the waterside. I dropped my backpack and tripod on the shingle, hastily retrieved my camera and ran down to the mud left by the outgoing tide. I knew that the light wouldn’t be like that for long, so I raised my camera and took the shot below. I hadn’t checked any settings – I just pointed, twisted the lens barrel to get the best view, pushed the back button for focus, and pressed the shutter. Seconds later the light had changed, the Sun had risen further and completely washed out the sky making further shots impossible.
My boots were filthy but, when I looked at the preview, the image was just what I’d wanted, just as I’d remembered on the television. Knowing there were no more photos to be had in that direction, I turned around and Anglesey’s other bridge link to the mainland presented a worthwhile early-morning photo possibility.
This other bridge (photographed above) – the Britannia Bridge – opened in 1850 and was designed by William Fairbairn and Robert Stephenson. Although it was intended to carry rail traffic it was later converted and is now a double decked bridge and carries both road and rail traffic.
After a few more shots I returned to the car, walked into the town and had a cup of tea. Before leaving, I called into the studio/shop of Glyn Davies. He was standing behind the counter, so I introduced myself and explained why I’d come to the island. A framed copy of his photo was on the wall. We chatted briefly but, before I left, he gave me a postcard with a copy of his photo.
It was only when I returned home that I noticed the differences between our images. The trigonometry of his viewpoint was quite different, so much so that I can only imagine that he took his photograph from a sizeable boat or that his was a composite shot. The photo had been taken from a similar spot but from a higher viewpoint, yet the tide was lapping the base of the cottage and the Menai Bridge in the background could not have been seen from my position unless I’d been stood on a ladder. I was a bit disappointed, but it taught me a lesson in how to view a photograph forensically – and not to be so naïve.