Working as a full-time Timelapse Photographer can have it's downsides - not many, but like any other profession, it's not all plain sailing. When I'm booked for a job, I'll try and catch up on my sleep before I head off but sometimes, I really don't help myself. So I was asked to head to Anglesey to shoot some timelapse for the good old BBC (The programme name withheld as it's not been broadcast yet) and I took the 6hr drive from London to the very tip of Anglesey, technically Holy Island, to Southstack Lighthouse to do a bit of a recce before the next few day's shooting commenced.
The problem is, and any dedicated timelapser will tell you, that if you arrive somewhere, even after a 6hr drive and the conditions are perfect for a shot, you'll go ahead and shoot any way, regardless of whether you should be in bed or not as you can't miss that chance.
This 'chance' was a shot of the lighthouse with a full moon illuminating the scene and a few stars visible behind it and there was absolutely no way I could resist the urge to get my camera out. Regardless of my need for sleep, I set the camera clicking away and sat down on the cliff face taking in the view, the stars and the gentle pounding of the waves a couple of hundred feet below me.
Now, I can't vouch for everybody else out there but when I've not had my standard 5hrs of sleep a night, I get paranoid. Paranoia does strange things to you when you're on your own in unfamiliar territory. I'm never scared, just a bit more aware shall I say.
'What the hell was that?' I wondered when I heard a child sneezing. Unfortunately for me I'd read up on the history of this particular coastline. You can be rest assured, wherever there's a lighthouse, there's probably been a shipwreck of some sort. Shipwrecks = dead bodies in my knowledge and for some people, probably ghosts.
I'm not sure I entirely believe in ghosts - I have experiences of some things that could be a ghost but whether I believe in them? Dunno. Anyway, I digress. At this particular time, it didn't occur to me that a ghost had just sneezed as it sounded like a child. I turned around and silhouetted further up the cliff face was the outline, as far as I could make out, of two dogs.
I know for a fact we don't have any natural wild dogs in the UK (although I strongly believe we should release Wolves back into the country) so I assumed that somebody was out walking their dogs.
But hang on Mr Higgins, who would be walking their dogs at 2am on a cliff top, and does a dog sneeze like a child?
Exactly my thoughts. I stood up and thought I'd see if I could make out what type of dogs they were as I couldn't see an owner or indeed hear one. I looked and squinted in the moonlight as they came towards me with HORNS. The trouble is, there was more than one - I counted about twenty and at this point - probably startled by me making a noise, they headed down the cliff towards me. At speed.
I've seen goats before and don't get me wrong, but these guys were huge with great curly horns and one gentle 'nudge' from them would have sent me hurtling down the cliff into the cold Irish sea. I can see my obituary now - "He died doing what he loved, tragically ended by feral goats".
Luckily for me, they charged right past me and into my shot as I cowered in the foetal position next to my tripod and behind a rock. As I rose from the trail of dust, it did occur to me that goats are amazing at running down a cliff considering how dark it was. Can goats see well in the dark? Answers in the comments below. As the camera made it's final click, I drove back to my hotel and grabbed a decent four hours sleep ready for action for the next day of filming.
For those of you wondering why I didn't turn my torch on, my dedication to the cause meant that it would have ruined the shot I'd been creating for the past two hours, and nobody wants that. How do I survive on four hours' sleep and still work to my full potential the next day? I've pretty much, as far back as I can remember been a bit of an insomniac - never clinically tested but I've never slept much my whole life. I occasionally powernap, but for some reason, I seem to function well on not a lot!
If you're in the area or looking to get away for a couple of days, I'd highly recommend Anglesey and Holy Island. Most of the coastline has been awarded 'area of outstanding beauty' and it certainly lives up to the name. For a bit of exercise, you can walk down the 400 steps it is down to the lighthouse (guided tours can be booked) and as expected, you'll need to walk back up them but worth the views down the cliff!
Things I did during timelapse - (4hr shot) - planned the next day's shots on a map by moonlight, walked down, then up the 400 steps to the lighthouse, curled into the foetal position, ate a rather stale egg and cress sandwich, drank two cups of coffee and took a wizz into the Irish Sea from 150ft up.