Pembrokeshire Coast, Autumn 2018

Welcome to the Green Bridge of Wales! This is a natural arch rock formation that you can find at the southernmost part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This arch formed as a result of two caves weathering away and meeting together. In fact, the shape of the Green Bridge has changed as recently as October 2017, when Storm Ophelia knocked a good chunk off the “knee” of the arch.

Above and to the left of the arch you can make out a tiny human figure. That’s my Lisabet, handily showing the scale of the Green Bridge.

Camera: Sigma dp0 Quattro
Filters: Hoya slim polariser
ISO: 100
Aperture: ƒ/9.0
Shutter Speed: 1250, 160, and 115 seconds
Software: Sigma Photo Pro, Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 and Luminar 2018, and Adobe Photoshop CC.

Nestled in a little valley—away from historical invaders—lies St. David’s Cathedral, one of Christian Britain’s most sacred sites. This is largely because of St. David himself—patron saint of Wales—who founded the monastic community here and where his shrine remains to this day. The cathedral survived raids from the Norsmen and Vikings, largely because of it being “hidden” in its small valley behind the city of St. Davids.

The autumn foliage around St. David’s Cathedral was really starting to shine, which contrasted wonderfully against the moody overcast sky.

Camera: Sigma dp0 Quattro
Filters: Hoya slim polarizer
ISO: 100
Aperture: ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed: seven exposures ranging from 1250 to ¼ second using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode
Software: Edited in Sigma Photo Pro, Skylum’ Aurora HDR 2019 and Luminar 2018, and Adobe Photoshop CC.

One of the more popular tourist areas in the National Park is Tenby (Dinbych-y-pysgod in Welsh, meaning “fortlet of the fish”), a walled medieval town in the far southeastern corner. Tenby also features a 15th century church (St. Mary's), the Five Arches barbican gatehouse, and Caldey Island located 2.5 miles from Tenby beach, which houses a Cistercian monastery dating back to the 6th century. Tenby is filled with history.

When Lisabet and I were wandering around the harbour of Tenby, the tide was heading out and the water was draining away at pace, rendering reflections of the houses above, so I quickly set up this composition.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/8.0, seven exposures ranging from 1200 to 0.3 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro, Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 and Luminar 2018, and Adobe Photoshop CC.

The Pembrokeshire Coast features some of the most epic coastline and geology I’ve ever seen to date. Here the rocks and cliffs are made from a harder layering of red sandstone and grey shale. Millennia of constant erosion has resulted in a 1.5km long stretch of sandy beaches punctuated by 9ft sharkfin pinnacles and elephant-sized sea stacks.

Two islands are easily visible from Marloes Sands: Gateholm, the nearest (Old Norse Goteholme meaning “Goat Island”), and Skokholm, in the distance (Old Norse root means “Wooded Island”).

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/11, seven exposures ranging from 1250 to 14 second using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

The Elegug stacks, not too far from the Green Bridge of Wales. They rise 50ft+ high from the sea and usually covered in birds, especially in the spring. The word Elegug is Welsh Gaelic for the guillemots that often nest around here.

Surrounding the sea stacks is a hollowed out bay with sheer vertical cliffs, evidence of thousands of years of sea and wind action constantly scraping the cliffs and pushing the boundary further inland.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/11, seven exposures ranging from 1160 to 0.4 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

The grand nave of St. David’s Cathedral. Each of the arches has a different carved pattern in them, and the wooden ceiling feautres intricate engravings and patterned joins. The walls at the west end of the nave lean outwards, largely due to poor foundations and a 13th century earthquake, hence the wooden ceiling rather than a stone vault. The nave is the oldest surviving part of St. David’s Cathedral, with construction beginning in the 12th century, some 800–900 years ago. Originally, there would’ve been no seating here neither.

Soft light filtered through the windows and stained glass gave the majestic nave a mystical ambiance that I fell in love with.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/7.1, seven exposures ranging from 2–30 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

Tenby has two beaches separated by the cliffs and headland of Tenby Castle. They are—appropriately—called North Beach and South Beach, with South Beach here being the much larger of the two. For many hikers walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path North to South, the section around Tenby can be the busiest owing to Tenby’s reputation as a tourist attraction. Thankfully, this section of the Path is also a lot easier going.

The cliffs below the colourful houses of Tenby harbour a surprising amount of caves that I didn’t expect, and no doubt would’ve been handy hiding places for smugglers of old. Above, thick clouds roll in, threatening rain and high winds.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/8, seven exposures ranging from 1400 to 16 second using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

Another example of some of the otherworldly geology you can find wandering around Marloes Sands. I shot many angles and compositions of this sea stack, trying to find a way that best describes its crazy shapes, angles, and patterns, whilst setting it in context of its immediate environment.

What further fascinates me about geology like this is what we, as humans, see in it. When I saw it, it put me in mind of an elephant’s head, or perhaps a medieval soldier’s helm. Maybe even a hint of a human skull about it.

What do you see?

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/13, seven exposures ranging from 1100 to 0.6 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

In the 6th century AD an Irish monk and hermit named Govan (in Welsh Gofan) travelled to Wales to find the friends and family of an Abbot who had trained him. Along the way he was assailed by pirates, until he found this fissure in the Castlemartin cliffs and hid in a cave until the pirates left. Govan stayed in this cave for the rest of his life.

After his death in 586 AD this site became venerated and 500–600 years later in the 13th century a small chapel was constructed over the cave in his honour. 800 years later, St. Govan’s Chapel is still there.

To achieve this composition I shot four vertical compositions side-by-side, each one consisting of seven exposures. This resulted in a panorama built from 28 exposures, to achieve the full scale and dynamic range of the scene.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/11, four vertical compositions, each made from seven exposures using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode, merged into a panorama. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

The steps down to St. David’s Cathedral, surrounded by autumn foliage. Just to the left of the Cathedral are the 700-year old ruins of Bishop’s Palace (in Welsh: Llys yr Esgob Tyddewi). Bishop’s Palace was originally a monastery established around the 6th century AD, with the current building being erected in the 13th and 14th centuries.

The Palace started to fall into disrepair in the 16th century. It was reported that Bishop William Barlow stripped the lead from the roof to pay for the dowries of his five daughters. By 1678 the palace was considered beyond repair.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/11, seven exposures ranging from 1100 to 0.6 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

I think of all the geology I saw around Marloes Sands, this sharkfin ridge of rocks fascinated me the most. Aren’t they just the most epic shape? They’re known as Raggle Rocks and are essentially the remains of a crumbled headland, leaving behind these solid leaning foundations. A similar feature remains embedded in a nearby cliff, known as the Three Chimneys: three vertical leaning lines of hard silurian sandstone and mudstone. There used to be four chimneys, but the fourth crumbled in a severe storm of 1954.

Lisabet and I arrived at Marloes Sands as the tide was heading out, which was perfect timing. It meant that as we were exploring and shooting, more formations were being revealed alongside some perfectly smoothed out sand. It was the perfect contrast.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/13, seven exposures ranging from 1125 to 0.5 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

Waltzing along the clifftops of Tenby, I came across this patch of flowers looking across Tenby’s North Beach and set up for a composition. The giant sea stack in the middle of the beach is called Goscar Rock, a favourite with children who like to climb it.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/18, seven exposures ranging from 115 to 4 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

I think I could spend months hiking along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and still not see everything this National Park has to offer.

Along this section alone—known as “Range East” of the Castlemartin peninsula—there's the Green Bridge of Wales, the Elegug sea stacks, Bullslaughter bay, Huntsman’s Leap, St. Govan’s Chapel and so much more.

The bay in this composition is known as Flimston Bay, which houses a golden beach and turquoise waters dotted with boulders and pinnacles, and surrounded by cliffs. We climbed up to the eastern cliffs of the bay looking back west, and found these limestone crags covered in lichen of burnt umber, a common feature across UK shores. The lichen is called Orange Sea Lichen or Caloplaca marina.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/16, seven exposures ranging from 1160 to 0.4 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

A more intimate view of the jagged ridge known as Raggle Rocks, found at the northwestern end of Marloes Sands. I enjoyed the repeating pattern that the top of the ridge displays as it silhoettes against the light; it puts me in mind of a receding mountain range.

The upgrade to Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 after my two-week hike around South Wales has aided my photos immensely. Recreating the glowing light experienced at Marloes Sands would’ve been arduous without the incredible AI-powered tools Aurora HDR 2019 and Luminar 2018 provide.

Kudos, Skylum.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/14, seven exposures ranging from 1125 to 0.5 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

I shot this composition primarily for the criss-crossing pattern in these rocks as they pointed towards St. Catherine’s Island in the distance. The light was unusual too as the sun was blazing from behind me, but in front of me the sky was thick with brooding clouds.

For a long time the tidal St. Catherine’s Island (known in Welsh as Ynys Catrin) housed only a tiny church and—later—some half-feral sheep. By 1867 the remains of the church were demolished to pave way for the construction of what can now be found on the island: St. Catherine’s Fort. It was built in response to the perceived invasive threat of Emperor Napoleon III of France. Did you know the fort also served as a zoo for some years? I didn’t.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/13, seven exposures ranging from 1125 to 0.5 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

Another one of the numerous bays and inlets that can be found along the Range East area of the Castlemartin Cliffs, this one is called Bullslaughter Bay. That’s Bull Slaughter Bay, not Bulls Laughter Bay. Crucial difference. What “bulls” are being referenced in the name? Could well be of the bovine kind, but there is an argument that it refers to Grey Seal bulls, which can often be sighted around the Pembrokeshire Coast.

Bullslaughter Bay is hard to see from the actual Pembrokeshire Coastal Path; rather, you need to head east from Flimston Bay whilst following the edge of the cliffs. They eventually curve and drop down to reveal Bullslaughter Bay. Best to go at low tide where you can explore more of the fascinating geology and gorgeous beach and water.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/16, seven exposures ranging from 1100 to 0.6 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

This is a slightly more abstract composition of the geology around Marloes Sands, featuring the slanted formations of hard silurian sandstone and mudstone, covered in orange lichen. I used these two leaning sea stacks to create a “channel” of sand through the composition that leads the eye to the distant sea stack.

The light, like with my other compositions around Marloes Sands that day, was gorgeous.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/18, seven exposures ranging from 125 to 2.5 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

A moody day around Tenby, which I liked as a contrast against the somewhat summery and colourful houses on the cliffs above the harbour. I used the rushing waves of the sea as a leading line to lead the eye towards the impressive pinnacle of Goskar Rock, which itself is used to divide the composition. I also love the contrast of the craggy Goska Rock against the smooth and recently washed sand of the beach.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/8, seven exposures ranging from 1320 to ⅕ second using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

I was absolutely flabbergasted by this view. Truly, this composition represents the moment I fell fully in love with the Pembrokeshire Coast.

It’s actually quite easy to get here. Head east from the Green Bridge of Wales, following the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. After passing the Elegug stacks, but before you reach Flimston Bay, there’s a headland riddled with caves that juts out south. If you circumnavigate its eastern flank you can find a path that edges the cliff face down to the sea. At the bottom of the path this view opens up as you look back west towards the Elegug sea stacks and all the Castlemartin cliff range. It is genuinely breathtaking. I kept shouting “Holy shit!” I know that.

Sigma dp0 Quattro, Hoya slim polariser, ISO100, ƒ/16, seven exposures ranging from 130 to 2 seconds using my camera’s Super Fine Detail mode. Edited in Sigma Photo Pro (for exporting), Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 (for merging) and Luminar 2018 (for contrast, colour, light direction, and grading), and Adobe Photoshop CC (for finishing and rendering).

 

More to come…