I finally did it! After about 7 months of slowly building my kit I camped solo in Pembrokeshire, Wales. I’ll talk about where I stayed, the shoot and how I found the camping experience….spoiler alert, if you’re thinking about it then get out and do it!
The location: Manobrier YHA
So…….OK it wasn’t a true wild camp as I was on a campsite, but I figured for a first solo night away I wanted a backstop in case things went pear shaped. I originally wanted to get to the Peak District but unfortunately the weather forcast looked horrendous. By coincidence Gareth Danks had posted a vlog from Manobrier in Pembrokeshire and the location looked good, plus it was only £9 for the night so I booked it up and got in the car!
I got there a couple of hours before sunset so I pitched my tent, packed my bag full of kit and headed to the coast.
“Testing the water”
Although I was camped on a site, I wanted to test all my kit out so I tried to avoid using any facilities unless I really had to. That’s also the reason for packing my bag up before heading out for the shoot – getting a feel for the bag with weight in it will be important when I do more hiking in the future!
I was very lucky with the sunset – it was amazing! There were just enough clouds in the sky to really add some mood, but the bright red sun casted a warm light over everything. I managed to get this shot right out of the gates:
This is a simple panorama of 6 images which captures the essence of the evening. It’s a shame that there were some buildings in the shot, but the only way to fix that would be to find a different bay, and I didn’t have time for that!
After getting one shot in the bag I carried on walking round the coast, which also meant walking into some pretty heavy winds! I set up this shot which again I like, but compositionally I think could be stronger:
I feel like the elements in the frame could be balanced better but it was really difficult to get the tripod set up as it was very windy, and on a steep bank. Overall I think this one is sharable, but probably won’t make it to print.
As the sun continued to drop I knew I didn’t have a really great composition but wanted to capture the conditions as it was so beautiful, so I grabbed this shot:
I’m not particularly happy with this one as I don’t think there is enough interest in the frame, but it’s a good snapshot of the conditions!
The light was quickly fading and I hadn’t really made the best of the light, so I headed down to the beach. There was still plenty of cloud in the sky which added a lot of interest, and as the tide was going out it washed over all the rocks on the beach. Again after struggling with my tripod, this time due to sinking in the sand, I got the best shot of the trip:
I took a few variations of this shot, but this one is my favourite. I love how there is just enough motion in the water as it rushes past the rock, framing it nicely.
The one thing I will add is that I’m glad my walking boots are waterproof! Here’s another variation which I also like:
After finishing up the shoot I headed back to my tent and had some dinner and settled down for the night. Living in Bristol you’re lucky to see a handful of stars, but tucked away on the coast it was beautiful! The sky was clear and was completely full of stars – I did try taking a few pictures but without ever looking into the subject I failed miserably. I will have to come back out at some point when I’ve done some learning!
The one thing that struck me which I didn’t expect was how anxious I felt about camping alone in a small tent. In that mental state you become hyper aware to all the little noises going on around you, and to be honest I felt quite uncomfortable. It didn’t help that I forgot to pack my earplugs and the wind picked up during the night which made the tent a bit noisy. I’m sure this is something that I just need to get used to, and it’s certinaly not going to stop me coming out again.
The kit all held up very well and I was especially impressed with my OEX Leviathan 900 sleeping bag from Go Outdoors – this is not a premium priced bag but it kept me more than warm enough despite the cold night!
When I woke up the next morning the conditions were pretty grim and although I tried I didn’t get any shots worth showing…so I hopped back in the car and headed back to Bristol!
Photography for me is a way to calm down and relax when things get hectic and busy at work, so it really doesn’t matter to me whether I get award winning shots when I head out to shoot as long as I manage to relax. That being said, I definitely think I could have got some better shots and made more of the amazing conditions if I’d arrived a few hours earlier and done some proper scouting.
I realised that I was less mentally prepared to camp than I thought I was, but that in itself is a good thing to know for future trips, and I definitely haven’t been put off from camping. In fact I highly recommend anyone who’s thinking of doing it to get out and do it, if only to see what you really think of it!
I’m hoping to do a proper wild camp for my next trip, and of course I will write about it here when that happens.
So in summary, I had a nice relaxing trip away, my kit all held up very well and I ended up with a couple of pictures I’m happy with – that counts as a good weekend in my book!
Catch you on the next one 🙂