Tag Archives: brecon beacons

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

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

Snow day…

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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.

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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

Posted in Blog Post, Brecon Beacons, Landscape, snow, Sunrise, 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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The moments before dawn…

In my opinion, the last 12 months has seen my biggest gains in Photography. Not in terms of monetary, exposure or credit, just in how I feel about the photographs I have been posting. I’ve been really enjoying myself in the hills and I feel that is has shown in the images I’ve returned with.
But one thing that I felt was still missing, was a project. And this is something that has bothered me and I am not entirely sure why. Though I think it is in part down my Twitter feed being full of wonderful series’ of photographs from some exceptionally talented people and I’ve spent some time recently, wondering how rewarding it must be to have a purpose to your photography other than to enjoy being out with your camera.
Yesterday evening I was feeling a little reflective and through a chance interaction with another photographer on Twitter I was helped to the realisation that I have possibly been unknowingly compiling a project. I’ve been looking at a photography project as this intricate, detailed study of a particular subject. Something above my level of understanding and beyond my current reach as an “Enthusiast / Hobbyist Photographer” But what do I do on my outings? I return to the same locations, under different conditions, to see the effect the changing light has on the landscape and how this affects me, whether it excites me or causes me to reflect.
I think this is beginning to sound like the makings of a project – “The moments before dawn”

Cefn Cwm Llwch
Cribyn (1 of 2)-2

I find these moments before the sunrise to be my favorite of the day, watching the final Stars fade from the night and the beautiful pastel colours gradually build in the pre-dawn sky.  Before the first rays of light have come over the horizon with it’s Midas touch.   The softness of the colour palette of these moments make it virtually impossible to feel anything other than at peace.

Llangors Lake, Brecon Beacons
Pre-dawn on Llangors Lake

Cribyn, Brecon Beacons. 
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Cefn Cwm Llwch & Cribyn, Brecon Beacons 
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Craig Fan Ddu, Brecon Beacons
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Llyn Y Fan Fawr, Brecon Beacons
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Corn Du, Brecon Beacons
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Corn Du, Brecon Beaconsblog post (2 of 2)

I hope that now these pre-dawn wanderings have been given a purpose other than my enjoyment of being there, I can turn this into something more of a story, a set of images that when combined paint a much larger picture.
But if I can’t, then atleast I will still have the enjoyment of these moments. Which in the grand scheme of things is far more important!

blog post (1 of 1)-4

Grant

 

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

A trip down memory lane…

Before photography, before my dogs, before even my wife, I lived a very different life! A sort of semi nomadic one, where all of my worldly posessions had to fit within a 65ltr rucksack and I would often find the only roof over my head would be something dubbed a “green meanie”, with bread crates for a bed base accompanied by the holiest of foam mattress just to add insult to injury.

But inspite of this, it was a life I lived for almost 6 years and one that provided me with the most amazing backdrops to call home and one that I shared with many great people! It was a life of 6 day weeks with 7 day hangovers made worse by being surrounded 24 hours a day, by sometimes as many 1000 children and young people all waiting on you to teach them something cool!

Before photography, before my dogs, before even my wife, I worked as an Activity Instructor on well known Outdoor Education Centres. I have many very fond memories of my times at the 8 or so centres I worked at in England, Scotland and Wales. One such centre and the focus of this mornings outing, was quite literally on the banks of South Wales largest natural lake, Llangorse Lake.
Llangors Lake, Crannog Centre

This is a lake with plenty of history, with their once possibly being a palace on the man made island or Crannog, that is now covered in trees. It plays host to a large variety of wild life, some of which are just stopping off for a rest and a re-fuel before continuing on their migratory routes. From dawn til dusk (and often well into the night) the unmistakable sound of Canadian Geese can be heard from a good distance.

Moored boat on Llangors Lake

My home for two summer seasons (Apr-Sept) was about about 10 meters from it’s shores in a tent aptly dubbed a “Green Meanie” because of the colour of a powder like substance it left on anything it came in to contact with. The sight of mother ducks wandering passed with their brood in tow was a pretty familiar one! I remember one such mother parking herself outside my tent and refusing to move for almost 3 hours! Lucky for me, there was always something to do on a centre like this, be it the obvious swim, a lesson in kayaking or canoeing or a lengthy session in the local climbing centre and then for quick drink in the Red Lion.
Llangors Lake Long exposure
Hard to believe almost ten years has passed since I was lucky enough to call this home! I’ve been trying to work out if I was able to appreciate this places beauty in amongst the foggy haze of what must’ve been a season long hangover. The answer? Would’ve been impossible not to wouldn’t it!

The stillness of movement on Llangors Lake

Grant

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

Purple Smog? The Perfect Sunrise? And that other thing, you know, the Eclipse !

So, today was the day I have been looking forward to for several months! As soon as I found out about todays Partial Eclipse, some 2 months ago, I booked the day off work! To say I was excited was a bit of an understatement! I’ve spent a fair amount of time this week, just staring at weather forecasts trying to work out where in the UK I was going to stand the best chance of catching a good glimpse and hopefully a few good pics too!

DSC_1600

Luckily enough, the best weather for the whole of the UK happened to be right on my door step. So I could get out to enjoy something for the very first time (I honestly have no idea what sort of hole I was in in 1999, but it must’ve been a deep one). There has been quite a lot of hype around this mornings event and had already heard of a large number of people planning on watching it from the top of Pen Y Fan. However I fancied a slightly quieter viewing point for this, as I was intending to get to my venue for a little after 5am. At this time of the day I can barely talk to myself let alone anyone else!

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So Fan Frynach via Craig Cerrig Gleisiad seemed like the perfect place. A quick check of the Photographers Ephemeris confirmed it was going to be a nice spot for sunrise too! And I certainly wasn’t disappointed! The predawn colours were incredible, with the most vivid purples and violets hovering above the main peaks of the Central Beacons, I do wonder if that was anything to do with this band of toxic smog around South Wales at the moment!The walk up was tough! Alot tougher than I remember. Though it isn’t as high, or as long a walk as Pen Y Fan I do think it is considerably steeper!

The sunrise was pretty spectacular! With the sun rising right in the saddle between Corn Du and Pen Y Fan and the customary “selfie” took place. The time was only 6:30 and I had quite a bit of time to plan my photo for the eclipse.

My intention was to capture the full sequence of the Eclipse and then over lay them on to an earlier photo of the location, in their correct positions in the sky! Now, had I achieved this I think I would’ve been quite proud of myself! And, I think I would’ve managed it too, it is certainly within my technical know-how. But alas, I fell asleep and then when I woke I had missed quite a large porton of the inital stages! So I had to settle with a few snaps of the final stages of the Moon passing between directly between me and the Sun.

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All in all a fairly succesful morning i’d say 🙂

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Grant

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