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How to Escape from Tretower Castle

TretowerCastleIt’s been several weeks now that I bought my new Nikkor 14-24mm lens, and I have been dying to find an opportunity to use it. I knew of course that you don’t buy a lens like that and expect it to be your ‘go to’ lens, it has a very specific requirement – i.e. going wider, when you can’t go further back. Yes I know there’s much more creative uses for it then that, but its essence is to go wider when you absolutely need it.

I didn’t even use it for my first day in Wales over the weekend. Most of the shots I was going for then were trying to get closer to waterfalls, so this lens would not have been very useful. However, I said to myself on the second day (Sunday) that this was going to be the only lens I would use that day. I knew this might mean I miss some shots, but I wanted to force myself to use it, and find a picture that would absolutely require it. Today’s picture is that picture.

We visited a place called Tretower Castle, midway down the Brecon Beacons, and we were lucky that the weather was so good that day. I had never visited this castle or seen it online before, so I was going totally out on a limb to find if it was a photographic opportunity or not. Like the local castle here in Newbury, Donnington Castle, Tretower is now ruins that date back to the 12th century. I took some pictures from the outside of the castle, but this was my absolutely favourite view – looking up from the bottom of the tower. To get this shot, I needed all the width I could possibly get, and to get as absolutely much as possible, I had the camera set on the tripod so close to the ground, I wasn’t even looking through the viewfinder when I took this shot. I took several bracketed sets of images and all the while kept repositioning the camera and tripod, until I had a composition that I liked.

This is a gold old fashioned HDR image, taken from 5 exposures. There is no way you could have got a good shot of this without HDR. The contrast from the bright sky to the inside of the tower is insane. I even made 4 HDR versions of this picture, using a more realistic version for the sky, and heavier tone mapped versions for the tower itself.

Now of course I know this is not what the view would have been like in the medieval age. It would certainly have had a roof and a floor or 2 as well. But as you are standing at the bottom of it, you can’t help but get this sense of being trapped in a dungeon. Was anyone ever trapped in there? Who knows, maybe we’ll never know. Or we will.

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