As a professional photographer I always strive to get ‘that image’. The image with a WOW factor. I very rarely look at my own work and say yep thats the one. Eight months ago I decided to enrol in NAPP as I realised that my work lacked that little something, that pizzaz. Now Im not talking about, manipulating images to death, or over processing them, but just giving them that little something to stand above the rest. I also took onboard what other photographers were telling me. So I began to look at how I could have something that bit different. I realised that more effort was required on my behalf and instead of going to Wales in perfect light and sunshine, what I really needed was to show something that required a lot of effort. Therefore I waited for it to snow. Of course this being the UK we do a pretty bad job when then weather isnt far from perfect, so not only did I have to wait for the snow but I also had to wait for the roads to clear, after it is only 90 miles away and to hear some people they couldnt get off their driveways.
One of the other things I love about going to Wales and climbing mountains, is picking the right gear to do it in. Its not just a case of popping to the local Outdoor shop and buying boots. Over a period of time Ive researched and invested in the right gear to be spending a day up in the mountains. The mountain range I go to is near the coast so changeable weather is usual even in Summer. You can be up there with clear skies and the next moment sheltering from a hailstorm. I just love the place. Getting the right gear is by no means an easy feat. There are so many brands to choose from all trying to outdo each other. I believe in buying the best of what I can afford. Im a huge fan of Rab and will always pack my down jacket which sits at the bottom of the rucksack, standing around on mountains is always a cold experience, but I will come to that in a little while. One thing I always wear are Berghaus Goretex overtrousers, the weather can be that changeable you dont want to be getting soaked just putting them on. They are mega comfortable and can be worn all day without any dramas, either ascending, descending or again standing around. One thing I always wear is a windproof top, when stood on the top a mountain with winds up to 50mph, believe you me that can cut through you like a knife and your body will soon start to suffer. I have a couple of these again made by Berghaus, but I discovered the Arc’teryx brand, hellishly expensive but does what it says on the tin. I use Berghaus base layers all the time as I find those to be the best fit. One thing I always use is my Buff. These can be used as hat, a scarf in fact almost anything, the key thing is to keep that wind out. I use a 60litre rucksack on my trips up there, again this carries extra kit, mid layers, changes of socks etc and of course my camera gear. Careful packing is required as inevitably I will end up on my backside at some point.
Anyhow I digress. Whats the idea of going to Wales so often? Over the last two years Ive met some truly great friends, who again have opened up a whole new raft of photography for me. I remember the first conversation I had with them. They asked why seeing as I lived next door to them, why I couldnt even speak the basics of the language. As they pointed out when we go abroad we always try the basics. So it was there and then I decided to learn Welsh and show them I wasnt ignorant. Dont get me wrong the conversation goes off track quickly, but I can do the basics which puts me in good stead.
So armed with my basics of the language, Winter kit I arranged to meet my friends at a place called Bwlch Oerddws, pronounced bulk. This is a truly spectacular part of the range, with only a 800ft ascent from the car park, the views are amazing. With Snowdonia to the North, Dinas to the East, Cadair Idris to the South and the Mawddach Estuary to the West. The ascent on this day was slow going due to the snow drifts. Knowing the way up there helped as I know where the streams and man made bridges are.
When I got to the corner of the mountain I was met with Cadair Idris like I had never seen it before. Covered in a sheen of ice, with pockets of snow on it and the strangest blue colour cast I had ever seen. What I couldnt do was replicate with a camera what my eyes saw. But I did try to convey this, so I took a series of images and stitched them together when back home and came up with this image here. It had taken two hours to drive there, one hour to ascend and around 5 minutes to set up and shoot the scene. I dont think I will ever see it like this again, the combination of the sky and the snow really worked in my favour. As I highlighted in my opening paragraph this was one of those shots I knew would just work. Of course I couldnt see the end result as they were separate images and needing putting together when back home. Also another thing, I didnt use a filter the sky at the top of the frame was really that way. So a bit of guesswork and a steady hand and some foresight I managed to pull off an image with some impact. It must have been ok as I use it for my screen saver on my Macs, I can honestly say its a scene / picture that I never tire of and reminds me of a fantastic day I had there.
The next blog post will be about why I stand on mountains in the middle of Winter in hellish weather.