Category Archives: snow

Looking back on 2016….

I’ve always lived my life day by day, week by week, month by month. A pretty simple way of living but one that has served me well. Going in to 2016 I decided that I needed to inject a little something extra in to my life and this was going to be more adventure. You could almost say that this decision had made itself, thanks to a competition win with the outdoor brand Salewa, who 9 weeks in to 2016 would be taking me, my lovely wife and a group of like-minded Europeans on a two and half day guided snow-shoe trek through the Dolomites. The excitement that winning a place on this mini-adventure had instilled in me had prompted some reflection upon my own attempts at adventure during 2015 and I’d decided that whilst photography had been a great medium for getting me out in my beautiful Beacons regularly, it had also made me  lazy. I know that may sound quite strange, but before I picked up a camera, I was going much further and staying out longer. My outings had now become more about the making of a photograph and I had started to lose sight of why I went in to the hills in the first place.

Starting 2016 with this was exciting! Now ending it feeling like I’ve achieved this, is incredibly satisfying! From the first snow in January to the coldest night of the year in December, I have walked and wild-camped more this year than in any other and I have enjoyed every outing. The wild-camps haven’t always been comfortable. I think it’s fair to say that after my first few attempts this year I was left questioning why I was even bothering, with sleep being hard to come by and staying warm an achievement just out of my reach. But I am nothing if not enthusiastic and I stuck with it, acquiring the right skills, knowledge and equipment as I went. I was given a huge boost in April, when a new outdoor brand called OEX  saw something in my photographs and gave me their top of the range Cougar Evolution tent, a very kind gesture and one that has gone a long way to keeping me comfortable on my nights out in the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonian mountains. I guess quite fitting that in December I was camped by my favourite mountain lake on the coldest night of the year (-10°C reported a few hundred meters below in a nearby village)  and I am pleased to report that I slept like a log.

Llyn Y Fan Fawr

Llyn Y Fan Fawr wild camp

I have also pushed myself to branch out a little this last year. Our competition win with Salewa played a large role in this. 2 1/2 days of snow-shoeing through the gorgeous Dolomite’s was a first big mountain experience….

dolomites

….which though exhausting, it did motivate me to seek out Wales’ own big mountain experiences, the rugged peaks of the Snowdonia. Previous visits here had resulted in the typical Snowdon summit and little else, as if there’s nothing more of note in Wales’ most epic national park.  I’ve not found as much time as I would’ve liked to head up north, though I have made sure each one counted and they’ve given me some of my most exciting mountain experiences,  with a heart pounding scramble up Tryfan’s north ridge and an awe-inspiring wild camp on Glyder Fach topping the list! odds (1 of 1)-5gyder fach

Glyder Fach Wild camp

Whether a result of the above or not, I can’t talk about 2016 without speaking about the effect the change in attitude and behaviour toward the outdoors has had on my photography. Not necessarily on the quality of photographs, as I feel this has been relatively consistent over the last 2 years, but certainly in the frequency and variety that I have been able to share and of the direct benefit this has brought, which has given some noteworthy reward – beginning the year with a commissioned piece in Outdoor Photography Magazine and ending it with my favourite yet, a huge piece on the Brecon Beacons in December’s issue of The Great Outdoors Magazine. The Great Outdoors have been very good to me this year,  with my photographs being commissioned for the “Escape” feature on several occasions.  I’ve also been interviewed for online promotions by both Outdoor Photography and Birchall Tea, plus had a commended image in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016 and made it in to the years book, aswell as having a spot in the 10 year anniversary edition, all achievements that I am immensely proud of!

I suppose that leaves 2017 which I’ve already dubbed “My Year of Adventure”. A year I had hoped to start as one of The Ordnance Surveys #GetOutside champions, which sadly isn’t to be. But I will still be going in with a mentality and attitude that I hope will help to motivate, enthuse and encourage others to take advantage of the great outdoors. How that is going to look I am not quite sure, though writing more about my experiences will feature heavily. With exploits like hiking the Beacons Way, Icelands Laugavegur Trail,  wintry wild camps in Snowdonia and maybe an entry in to bike-packing, I hope to have lots to waffle on about!

Thank you for your support in 2016!

cribyn

 Llyn Y Fan Fach

The Big Four (1 of 2)

salewa (13 of 27)

Glyder Fach wild camp-4

odds (1 of 1)-8

odds (1 of 1)-9

odds (1 of 1)-10

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Getting Vertical With Salewa…..

Our guided Snow-shoe trek in the awe-inspring Italian mountains – The Dolomites.

In October / November last year a sponsored post popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, offering entry into a competition in which the winners would receive an unforgettable mountain experience.. but of course people never actually win those do they! At least never me anyway, but I was feeling lucky and there were Manfrotto Off-Road Tripod’s up for grabs also, which was something I was could definitely use!

So I entered the competition, which entailed a short game where you had to guess the correct items of clothing & equipment needed for your chosen “mountain experience” , in my case this was Snow-Shoe hiking through the Italian Dolomites. Followed by being asked for a few words about why you would wanted to be apart of this incredible opportunity.. Well that bits obvious, who wouldn’t 🙂

That was it.. Done… I entered the competition.. Then completely forgot about it!

Then on December 17th I received an email saying that I had won a place on the Get Vertical Winter Base Camp Experience in Alta Badia.. I couldn’t believe it! I thought it was a joke. People never win these holidays!! At least not me! At the time I was on a Stag Do in North Wales and signal was very poor, so trying to find out the specifics of what I had won was very difficult and involved a bit of a confused, yet cautiously excited phone call to my wife back home to get her to find out just how lucky we had been. I really dread to think how many emails the team at Salewa must’ve had off me in those first days after getting the prize winning notification..

Even as we drove from Venice Airport to the Alta Badia resort, 2 months later, and after a number of communications with the Salewa team, part of us still thought it was all a joke.. This really did all sound too good to be true. I mean it wasn’t just a guided trek in an incredible location, there was also free accommodation in what looked to be out of this world scenes and even free outdoor equipment.. We would never be that lucky, would we?

Then we were shown to our room and found this! We were each given a 35 ltr rucksack, Salewa Polartec Fleece, Salewa Jacket, Manfrotto Trekking Poles and even a neat little BMW bobble hat! Wow!

pic 1

Finally, it all became real!! We really were about to go on a real adventure! We met with the rest of the winners and Salewa representatives where we were told about the exciting plans they had for us all over the next few days. Could this get any better!!

Well, yes! The beer was also free 🙂

First stop was a Mountain Refuge in the Fanes-Sennes-Prags Nature Park. It was hidden deep in a beautiful alpine bowl, surrounded by stunning snow covered mountains and pine forests. We were speechless and awe-struck!

The plan for the day – An “easy” hike through these mountains.So, off we went for an “Easy” walk in these fabulous mountains..

 Conditions were perfect for the day’s Snow-shoeing, with a light breeze, plenty of blue in the sky and a little sun to warm our faces! Bliss 🙂

salewa (4 of 27)

The plan ? To head out in the sublime Val di Fanes and hopefully reach the Col Toron (2459m) before heading back back to the Fanes Refuge.

I think it’s fair to say that about 3 hours in to our activity there were quite a few of us wondering where they got their route grading from! Now I am not as fit as I could be, nor I am a slouch – but 3 hours in these mountains, hiking up to around 2500m and I was a wreck! The going was quite tough and at times also quite steep! The guides were helpful, friendly & patient and it was great to see that I was not alone in finding this a challenging trek!

Inspite of this, it was impossible to wipe the smile off our faces. What a place & what a start to this 2 1/2 day adventure!

salewa (12 of 27)

salewa (13 of 27)

We spent the evening recovering and relaxing in a comfort & quality that would rival any 3* hotel in the UK. As soon as dusk arrived it really became clear just how isolated we were up in these mountains and I just had to spend some time outside appreciating the places peace and tranquility…

salewa (16 of 27)

The next day we set off for what was the more challenging of the two walks. Todays plan was to hike up Limojoch (2172m) and then onto Stores (2185m) before our night camping near the Pralongia Refuge. I don’t mind saying that I was little apprehensive about this, as I was still fatigued from the previous days outing. But I am not one to turn down a challenge, especially one in a place like this! The first of the day took us through a stunning valley and close to a famous cave where a bears skeleton was once found. The weather wasn’t as great as the previous day, but offered up some interesting conditions for making photographs!

Nevertheless, it was hard not to be excited and inspired!! Even our seasoned mountain Videographer and former professional snow-boarder Harry Putz found it difficult to contain himself at times 🙂


salewa (19 of 27)

About half way we were able to stop for a much needed re-fuelling before taking on the final leg of this day which would see us climb to Pralongia Refuge, ready for our night in a tent at 2155m.To get there, we just had to follow a gradually inclined trail for about 2 hours… That 2 hours felt like 4 to me. Some found it easy and made their way up without any difficulty, but for us stragglers at the back it was so tough! I remeber at one point leaning over and using my the handles of walking poles to rest my head, closing my eyes for a few seconds…I am sure at times I was just taking photographs as excuses to stop…

The top couldn’t come quick enough!!! But we carried on, still smiling and when we finally caught up with everyone else – oh the relief! I am sure a few years ago I would’ve managed this just fine, but between marriage and photography I was no longer used to walking long distances , let alone on consecutive days! It had been such a hard climb for me!

We had plenty of time to rest up, before our night under what I had hoped would be stars, but instead up being thick cloud with an over night forecast of -4°C and around 15-20cm of snow!

salewa (23 of 27)

Easy 😉

salewa (24 of 27)

 Especially when you have been loaned the sort of equipment that Salewa make. I can honestly say I have never slept so comfortably and been so warm when camping.

The next day it was all hands on deck to get everything packed away, which was quite a task and the snow was coming down thick and fast! But still I smiled 🙂

salewa (25 of 27)

Just half a day’s walking back to Corvara and then it was all over! We had been truly spoiled by Salewa, Manfrotto & the Alta Badia Tourist Board. What a place, what an adventure!!! We had an absolutely amazing time!!!

We cannot thank Salewa enough and would urge everyone to keep a close eye out for the start of their next Get Vertical Competition, which apparently begins in just a few weeks!!

35’000 people entered this one and I am so glad I was one of them!!

 

#salewagetvertical #getvertical #salewa

 

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Snow day…

beacons (4 of 4)

Whenever there is a little snow forecast for the UK there is always a flurry (couldn’t resist) of excitement and a contagious buzz on Social Media, most notably on Twitter where my feed is full, almost exclusively of photographers, from all over the United Kingdom, with interests as widely spread as our respective post-codes.  Most of us have occupations that dominate our commitments during the working week, which come Friday 5pm – means we must all feel like a dog being let off the lead in the park – all running off into the hills, mountains, valleys and forests. fully laden with hot flasks of coffee, down jackets, tripods & cameras.

Excitement had been building for a few days in the Brecon Beacons, in the run up to the weekend of 16th January, as snow had arrived mid week and forecast conditions for the Saturday morning were looking about as good as  anyone could’ve hoped for.  I hadn’t been able to add any new snowy images  to my “Moments before Dawn” series for quite some time and I was extremely hopeful that this weekend I would be able to make one of the Big Four (Pen Y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn & Fan Y Big).  I had a very clear idea in my head of what I wanted from this trip and if the Beacons were really good to me I also hoped to grab an image of the four central beacons with the first light of dawn gracing the peaks of some of the most walked mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

beacons (3 of 4)

From what I could gather, most seemed to be heading for Pen Y Fan, which left me hopeful of an empty summit on Fan Y Big and plenty of un-trodden fresh snow, as being able to make the first footsteps in the snow on any path always feels quite special to me,  maybe not quite as special as Neil Armstrongs’ first steps on the moon but with a hill walking event of 500+ participants starting out from Pont ar Daf early Saturday morning, this experience would certainly be limited to a very select few!

pyf no see

Winter sunrises allow for a much later than start than is typical of the rest of the year, with my alarm for this outing set at a very civilised 5am, allowing 30 minutes for breakfast, an hour for the drive, an hour for the hike up and then plenty of time to chose the specifics of my photographs on location, get comfortable and enjoy the show.  And aside from a very brief  and tricky encounter with waist deep snow, everything went exactly to plan.  Definitely a rarity in my outings as an enthusiastic Landscape Photographer!

The pre-dawn sky was just sublime, more vibrant pink/purple pastels than I had seen in the sky before, perhaps down to it’s contrast with the bright white snow covered landscape. With a little whispy cloud in the sky I thought this would be a great opportunity to use a long exposure to try and capture the movement of the clouds and paint the sky with these most beautifully peaceful of colours. It really couldn’t have worked out much better for me.

The Big Four (1 of 2)

ISO100 / 24mm / f16 / 5 secs

 

I shot maybe two or three frames of varying exposures, trying to find the balance that suited my on-going “Moments before Dawn” series best, and settled on the above, which was shot at ISO 100, 24mm, f16 for 5 seconds – Using a  5 stop nd filter. I am very much looking forward to returning to this spot once the snow has melted to shoot a similar image for comparison.

After I was satisfied with the above image, I sat and waited for the sunrise, hoping that a little of this pre-dawn colour would linger just long enough for me to include it in the only other photograph I had hoped to make on this morning. When I was planning this brief little outing I had envisaged an image of the four central beacons with the first rays of dawn’s light just kissing their summits. But to come away with this and the added bonus of some incredible colour in the sky (not a single adjustment was made to any of the colours in either image) absolutely made my day!

 

The Big Four (2 of 2)

ISO100 / 24mm / f14 / 15 sec

Given how well the first long exposure had gone I opted for the same technique for the above picture, though this time using an additional 3 stop graduated filter, bringing the total exposure time to 15 seconds. Both taken with a Nikon D610 and Tamron SP  24-70 f2.8 VC.

 

beacons (1 of 4)

ISO100 / 24mm / f14 / 1.6 secs

 

beacons (2 of 4)

ISO100 / 24mm / f14 / 1.6 secs

Hopefully this won’t be the last of the white stuff for the Brecon Beacons this season.

Thanks for reading.

Grant

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