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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
ISO100 / 24mm / f14 / 1.6 secs
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.