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© 2017 John Kiely        john@purlieu.photography             Phone +447736849388

Shell Island to Barmouth

August 1, 2019


During the winter I spent nearly three months in Spain and Portugal trying to get my work out of the rut that it was entrenched in.  As a result I decided to return to and old topic, the coast.  I have worked on this subject in the past, two separate projects, one being the North West of England and the other North Wales.  The attraction of the coast to me is the area of transition.  This may be the boundary of land and sea, or the edge of man’s physical influence on the habitat.  In my eyes, transition also includes the additional elemental qualities, namely the sky.  The coast often gives the best opportunity to include a dramatic sky.  This is often as a result of the change in temperature between land and sea, or coastal mountains creating a barrier, or simply the ability to include a greater expanse of sky.



I am based in a caravan near Porthmadog so this is the hub that my shooting trips are based from.  Initially I started with the beach at Harlech, which I will cover in a later post.  Unfortunately I had a couple of shooting disasters.  The first was when the back on my Hasselblad 503CWD decided to loose its calibration file.  This was cured when I got back and connected it to Phocus on my laptop.  The second was when, while in transit in my motorcycle pannier, the rear elements of the 150 lens mounted on the camera came unscrewed.  These then proceeded to break the mirror.  Until I can get this repaired I will have to use my back up body, an old 500 C/M.



I decided to start with a slightly different approach.  As this session was the first of my exploits using my little Honley 125 motorcycle, rather than the more cumbersome Goldwing, I also decided to go back to using my Hasselblad H3D 31.  Both decisions were concerned with size and practicality.  The choice of motorcycle was because during the main holiday season and the associated traffic, the Goldwing is big and heavy, while the 125 is much easier.  It will also go places that a bigger bike won’t, and can be parked almost anywhere.  The choice of the H3D was influenced by the lens, a 50-105mm, which means that I just carry the one lens and save space and weight.



Previously I have covered from the Glaslyn/Dwryd estuary to the village of Llandanwg so I decided to start at Llanbedr, the next village along the coast.  After parking the Honley in a small carpark near the station I walked the two miles to Shell Island.  This is a misnomer as it isn’t actually an island. The road crosses a salt marsh that can become flooded at high tide.  I followed the coastal Path which took me past Llanbedr Airport.  This is now a civilian airfield and an enterprise zone, but until 2004 was a base for unmanned target drones used for military training, and prior to that was an RAF base.





Shell Island, also known as Mochras, is part of the Morfa Dyffryn nature reserve run by Natural Resources Wales and also includes a large campsite.  It lies at the north end of Morfa Dyffryn beach, which stretches for several kilometres.  I decided to walk this beach and return via the southern boundary of the airport.  However, which is quite normal for me, this plan changed and I walked to Barmouth.  The first surprise of the day came after I had walked along the beach towards the end of the airport and I realised that the man ‘jogging’ towards me was naked!  I had missed the sign warning me that I was entering a ‘naturist’ beach.  





The beach itself does not change much, fine sand bounded by high dunes.  As I approached Tal-y-Bont the beach transitioned from sand to steeply banked pebbles, especially as the tide was coming in and covering the sand.  Eventually I had to leave the beach, via a static caravan park, and walk along the road.  I rejoined the beach, following the coastal path signs at Barmouth.  At this point the sea front had become a wide concrete promenade.




An interesting walk with a decent variety of locations.




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