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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

Posted in Blog Post, Brecon Beacons, Landscape, snow, Sunrise, Sunset, Wales Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A near perfect morning for Landscape Photography in the Brecon Beacons…

Over the last few years there have been many memorable moments spent amongst the hills, valleys, mountains and rivers of the Brecon Beacons National Park, but few more so than the morning of the 3rd November 2015.

As a hill-walker & amateur photographer there are few experiences more coveted than being able to stand above the clouds looking down on everything below and the chase for this experience will more often than not mean sitting in cold/damp conditions atop your chosen location, cursing the Met-office for not being right all the time.

pyf no see

These mornings have been quite frequent, where there is little to do but  hunch over in the sometimes sub zero temperatures and disappear in to an almost meditative state trying to keep warm  while waiting, wishing and hoping for something interesting to happen. Often this can be quite a de-motivating experience given the effort that is involved in getting to these places – the 4am alarm, the sickeningly strong coffee, those awkwardly dry mouthfuls of an unwanted but needed breakfast, not to mention getting growled at by your dogs for waking them at such ungodly hours, and all this before you have even left the house! There is still the 45 minute drive with the now twitchy caffeine enthused eyes and the horrible first few hundred meters of walking, when your body is still doing everything it can to get you to turn around and go back to bed.

But I persevere.

In the hope that one day I can reach the top and have the clouds so close I could step right on to them!

On the morning of the 3rd November I came as close as I have done to this feeling.

The few days prior had seen Temperature Inversions in the Brecon Beacons and the Sunday had tempted me up out for dawn a hike up Pen Y Fan. It was a pleasant morning out on the hills, with a nice blanket of “the Dragons Breath” on the land below. But it didn’t rise much passed a few hundred meters and so failed to give me the experience I had been chasing.

brecon

But undeterred from this experience and with another Temperature Inversion forecast I had nothing to lose other than sleep so off I went.

Week-days are a great time to get up on to the hills for sunrise if, like me, you enjoy the solitude and isolation of hill-walking. As I reached the summit of Pen Y Fan, there was a wild-camper packing up and heading back down, a decision I am sure they would later come to regret, as this had the makings of a very special morning indeed! The build up was near perfect. With the Moments before Dawn, my favorite of almost any outing, gracing me with the most beautiful pre-dawn sky and soft pastel colours.

Cribyn (1 of 2)-2

near perfect (1 of 1)-3

Sitting on the summit of Pen Y Fan, South Wales highest mountain watching the clouds flow over Cribyn like a river was like nothing I have experienced before and one that will be with me for some time. If the weather took a turn for the worse from here, I would’ve been quite satisfied and would’ve gone home and then on to work, with a smile on my face and a definite spring in my step.

With the sun still a way off rising, I took some time to enjoy the events unfolding infront of me, without the pressure of trying to photograph it. I just sat above Cefn Cwm Llwch with a flask of coffee, some home made brownies and took the time to enjoy the moment.

The sunrise itself was pretty uneventful, due to a band of cloud on the horizon. But still the Dragon breathed, the valley-fog kept rising and eventually started to engulf the whole of Cribyn. A scene that I had just had to capture, but with little light around I was at first unsure of how best to make a photograph from it. But watching it flow over the highest point of the mountain and cascade in to the valley below gave me the idea of using a long exposure to encapsulate it’s slow graceful enveloping of this iconic Welsh Mountain.

I composed my shot to include a little foreground and used the topography of the mountain to lead the eye in to the main interest of the photograph, I focused (using the back-button method approximately) 1/3 rd in to the scene as I don’t know about you but calculating the hyperfocal distance still confuses me. I set the sensitivity to my cameras lowest native setting, calculated 5 shutter speed stops back from my camera’s light-meter reading &  used the Timer function to ensure as sharp an image as I could.

As soon as I pressed the shutter the sun just began to peak through the clouds, but not so much as to over-expose the final image, just enough to grace the clouds above and below it with a subtle tint of it’s early morning colour. I knew at this point I was going to have a final image to be proud of!

And I was not wrong! I am still smiling 2 weeks later as a result of having this image short-listed for Outdoor Photography’s “Outdoor Photographer of the Year”

Cribyn

 Kit used

Nikon D610, Tamron 24-70, Velbon Tripod, Format Hi-tech 5 stop ND Filter.

Settings

Manual Exposure, 24mm, ISO 100, F20 , 20 Seconds.

If you’ve reached this far  – thank you!

Grant Hyatt

Posted in Blog Post, Brecon Beacons, Landscape, Myths, Sunrise, Wales Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |