SUMMER 2007(?!) - part 3: a trip to the Bwlch


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August came along and eventually the incessant rains gave way to pleasanter conditions, which I was sadly not able to enjoy as much as I would normally due to plodding on getting the slide library into shape. Here's a selection of images taken during August followed by the "trip to the Bwlch" AKA my dismal attempt at aircraft photography! More about that below!

This was to be pretty much the last active convection I was going to see for over a month. Captured one evening at Llyn Clywedog....

Trips to the Lleyn Peninsula were had when I could tear myself away from my desk! Here, a yacht negotiates one of the tidal rips in Bardsey Sound - luckily the weather is settled!

At the other end of Wales, geological fieldwork took me to South Pembrokeshire and more tidal rips. This one's at the west entrance to Jack Sound which separates Skomer from the mainland. Another dodgy place for a small boat, unless you really understand what you are doing....

A more substantial boat in the sheltered anchorage of St Brides' Bay, seen from the same vantage point. They wait here before going up to the docks or oil refineries in Milford Haven....

One morning I had to catch low tide in the Haven, so was up at dawn and heading for West Angle Bay. It was one of those still early Autumn-feeling mornings, with a little radiation-fog in the shallow South Pembrokeshire valleys. Just after sunrise I passed this scene and just had to stop and shoot a few pics. I loved the paradoxical juxtaposition of the newly-cut cornfield and the backdrop of the towers of one of the Milford refineries! Both a kind of harvest I guess!

This telephoto shot worked quite well!

Now to the Bwlch.

Mid-Wales is a busy area for military low-flying. Some people loathe the jets, whilst some actually come here on their holidays to photograph them. A focussed area for the aircraft is known as the "Mach Loop" - a one-way circuit. Aircraft can join and leave it at several points but the typical route is to pick up the A470 at Cemmaes Road, fly north up the valley to Dinas Mawddwy, then turn west and over the Bwlch pass, before whizzing down the Tal-y-llyn pass on the S side of Cadair Idris. From there they can then turn south and follow the valley down past Corris to Machynlleth.

The Bwlch pass is a key venue for the aircraft-photographers as featured in websites such as which shows the stunning images that they capture here. Having stumbled upon the site some time ago, I thought I'd go and take a look to see what it's all about. Leaving Mach just after 9 one morning, I drove up to the Bwlch and parked in the already crowded car-park. Looking up at the hillside through binoculars, there were people toting mountains of photographic gear dotted about everywhere! Popular spot, eh?

Rather embarrassed by the small bag with the Canon A1 in it, I sneaked up the hillside to a ledge just below the main crowd and made myself comfortable.

This was the view downwards to the A470! It didn't take long for a plane to approach....

Well I got it in the frame which was I suppose something of an achievement. Tricky business, this, I thought to myself! I needed something a bit slower to come along like a C-130 Hercules....



Getting closer....


Here it comes!




...and gone! At least the images are recognisable!

I waited around a bit longer but was noticing the chill wind on my little perch and gave in to it a bit later. These guys who take the top-notch shots of Typhoons, Harriers, F-15s etc are prepared to sit up there all day, even in winter, to get that dream shot. A bit like storm-chasers in their dedication, and the best shots are truly breathtaking - even if one isn't interested in aircraft, they are technically as excellent as it gets!

Me? I might have another go one day. Perhaps if we get a heatwave next summer and I can lounge around up there in a T-shirt! It's certainly challenging and difficult subject material - a bit like wildlife I suppose: those who get the really good results are specialists with years of experience and gear suited to do the job. Modern digital SLRs, with high ISO settings, good autofocus and multi-frame shooting are the tools for this job, plus a great deal of ability and determination. Hats off to these guys!


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