Pincyn Llys - Clocaenog Forest, Denbighshire

Winter is here. It’s been cold, dull… boring to be honest, certainly from a photographic standpoint.

Here in North Wales we’re perfectly used to torrential rain, thunder storms and blistering cold winds. This year we’ve experienced not much more than flat grey skies and a bit of rain - totally uninspiring and somewhat depressing.

These boring conditions and short daylight hours have a habit of taking their toll on me. My enthusiasm dwindles away and motivation to get out on a shoot is sooner overcome by the idea of Netflix in a warm house with coffee and wifi. I struggle to even find the energy to sit and edit previous photos. YouTube video edits sit on the back burner and the Christmas chocolate piles on.

I also found myself full of cold around New Year for the first time in years, and after three full days of true crime documentaries I needed to get out of the house.

Despite living just outside of Ruthin, I’ve never really explored much around the Clocaenog forest. I drive through it every day on my way to work in Betws-y-Coed, and constantly tell myself I need to stop off.

I flipped through a walking guide of the Vale of Clwyd and the very first image I saw was a shot of the Pincyn Llys monument - a landmark I recognised but was certain I’d never been to before. So I packed my gear and set off.

To get to the Pincyn Llys car park you head from Ruthin, up through to Bontychell and take a left just over the bridge. This’ll take you up some narrow single-track lanes straight to the car park, opposite the footpath start point. From here it’s a 1 mile walk straight up through the forest, where you enter a heather clearing revealing the Pincyn Llys monument.

On arrival there was a splatter of colour to the south-west announcing the day’s end - I didn’t have much time to play with. I gave the drone a quick flight and set up a basic composition - the monument on the right third, horizon on the bottom third. From this position there was quite a difference in dynamic range across the scene. There was also a little colour in the sky, though I couldn’t see it in my test images. For these reasons I decided to bracket the shot from -2 exposure to +2 exposure in full 1-stop increments.

If you’ve never bracketed exposures before, it’s a great way of being able to retain detail in both the highlights and shadows across an image. In my video I quickly demonstrate how easy it is to merge your bracketed exposures into a single shot, which can then be edited taking advantage of the full dynamic range available. It’s dead easy!

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It’s far from the best shot I’ve ever taken, but I’m fairly happy with the result considering how boring the circumstances were at the time. I was still playing around with my old 85mm lens on the walk up through the forest though, and I did grab a few handheld shots I’m happy with.

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For anyone in the area looking for a quick little wander, I’d very much recommend checking out Pincyn Llys. The forest is riddle with trails through the area, this probably being the shortest of them all, though there are many routes to pick and choose from. Needless to say, I’ll be spending a lot more time wandering the Clocaenog forest trails this year.