Confidence?

I have been super busy so feel I have neglected the blog. I have missed it. I have however still managed to find time for piano lessons. And have even started on a new piece:

I am playing it from my book The Piano Treasure of Classical Music. In this book the piece is called Confidence. However I have no idea where that name comes from. It isn’t a name that Mendelssohn used. It is actually from one of his Songs Without Words volumes.

I have to admit that I am not really familiar with Songs Without Words, although had vaguely heard of them. There is a a couple of bars in it that remind me of the old Hymn ‘My God Loves me’ which I remember singing at school.

I have been told to learn the second page first. Which is probably a good idea as normally I get pretty good at the start of a piece and then abandon it before I fully master it. Since I really like it I hope to not only learn to play it but also to memorize it.

How about you? Are you a Mendelssohn fan? Are you familiar with Songs Without Words?

On a different point I also got Humphry tuned. Unfortunately I will need to get the tuner back because there is one note: an G-sharp, which is actually sounding flat. I noticed it almost immediately, but wasn’t sure if it was just me. But now I have downloaded the free app Pano Tuner, and have been able to prove that the note is indeed flat. I just need to get in touch and tactfully ask him to return and try not to sound like I am insulting his work.

A new obsession

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I have a new obsession. The BBC are showing a TV programme at the moment called Springwatch. We watch it every year, as they highlight the wonderful wildlife around the UK. At the start of the series they showed some British moths. We have been thinking for a while how cool it would be to get up close to moths, so last Monday we ordered a moth trap from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies. With my birthday coming up soon it seemed like a great gift. It came within 2 days, so we rigged it up straight away to use on the first night. With expectations set low, in case we caught nothing, we went down the next day to be pleasantly surprised.

We had actually caught quite a few. This gave me the opportunity to use my macro lens. My parents got me this for Christmas, and I am really grateful, as it has already had a lot of use. It is pretty much my go-to lens for any kind of plant portraits, and as the name suggests, comes into it’s own when you want to get ultra close-ups. The highlights from the first night were a:

Buff Ermine Moth

Buff Ermine Moth

Buff Ermine. These must be fairly common around here at this time of year as we caught quite a few on both nights. The one in the photograph is actually from the second night. By this time I had had the idea to place them on a log for prettier backgrounds than an egg-box.

Sallow Kitten

Sallow Kitten

I had no idea what this one was but uploaded it to twitter and someone helpfully identified it as a Sallow Kitten. What a cool name for a great looking creature.

Grey Dagger

Grey Dagger

The above it’s not a great photo, but a cool looking moth. A Grey Dagger. It didn’t stick around to long after we opened the trap.

Small Magpie

Small Magpie

This is a Small Magpie, again it didn’t stick around long.

Buff-tip

Buff-tip

This was from the second night and is my favourite by far. It is a Buff-tip. It has evolved to look like a twig, and is incredibly effective.

Lesser Swallow Prominent

Lesser Swallow Prominent

Below is a Lessor Swallow Prominent. Another favourite. I love the colour contrast between the whites, blacks and browns.

We also had a Poplar Grey, which as you would expect is very grey. By far the most common moth that we caught each night was the Heart and Dagger. We had these in double figures on both nights.

Heart and Dagger

Heart and Dagger

On Saturday we went to our local bookshop and bought the Field Guide to Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. It has illustrations and information on every single ‘macro’ moth seen in the UK. We have already used it to identify others that we caught. It is actually harder than you think to search the internet for a moth, as describing in words many of them can be very tricky. So hopefully it will be an invaluable resource.

Overnight showers have stopped us putting it out since Thursday night. But hopefully it will clear up soon so that we can keep collecting. The great thing is that you get different moths all year round so we should get a variety as the seasons progress. By the way we did manage to catch quite a few other moths some of which were so frisky that they flew off as soon as we opened the trap, so we will never know what they were. Those above that I photographed were the more docile ones. In fact most of them were still there in the afternoon, only flying off when it got dark.

Return to an old haunt

You know when you go back to an old childhood haunt and you realize that it wasn’t all that great. It was so appealing because you were young and on holiday.

Last weekend we took a trip to Anglesey, which had the potential to be one of the above cases. This is somewhere I know very well. As a child our family spent nearly every summer holiday in first tents, and then later caravans on the Isle of Anglesey. I remember bucolic days spent collecting shrimps and flatfish in tidal rivers; searching for adders amongst the sand dunes; and cooling down by swimming in the not so tropical Irish Sea.

Last year I suggested to my wife that we go on holiday there together. I had found a restaurant called Sosban and the Old Butchers who were making a name for themselves with their inventive tasting menu. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get up there in 2015, hence our visit this year instead. Initially she wasn’t too sure about the island. Our previous visits had been a day trip before we were married. We had spent a very wet weekend camping at the foot of Mount Snowdon. As a break from walking in the rain we took a drive in the rain to Anglesey. Unfortunately the weather meant that we couldn’t actually see anything, so the island in such a grey state didn’t make a good impression. Our only other visit had been a passing drive to the ferry port in Holyhead on the way to Ireland. Holyhead is not a pretty town. Somebody somewhere sold the place a job lot of pebbledash. Which is a bit of a shame, because it has a lot going for it in terms of location. But she is open-minded enough to give the place another try.

The weather forecast again wasn’t looking too good, but we headed up anyway. And boy are we glad that we did. Fortunately the worry that this would be another of the above cases of disappointment didn’t materialize. The predicted rain was replaced by lovely sunshine. We spent 3 glorious days watching wildlife and walking on long sandy beaches.

Can you see my nuts?

Can you see my nuts?

The first day we went to Newborough. This has to be one of the best beaches in the country. It has pretty much everything you would want: A long sandy beach, backing onto a huge pine forest which is filled with the loveably cute Red Squirrel, stunning views across to the rugged Snowdonia mountain range, a sheltered bay safe for swimming in and an island full of wildflowers and loads of one of the country’s most charismatic sea birds – the Oystercatcher.

South stack

South Stack

The next day we went to South Stack. Located right on the western tip of the island, this lighthouse is only reachable via a set of steep steps and a small footbridge across and is a great place to see seabirds. I couldn’t believe how busy the place was. So many people had come up to see the 8000 Guillemots and the 1000 Razorbills, and Fulmars that cling to the vertical cliffs. Apparently there are a small number of puffins too, but we missed seeing any. We took a trip up to the top of the lighthouse, where we did manage to spot a dolphin (or porpoise – my skills are not up to scratch yet to say definitively which it was). I saw it about 6 times before my wife managed to catch a view. I suspected that she was beginning to think I was making it up till she got her view of it breaking the surface. After here we went to Rhosneigr. This is another great long sandy beach. It also has some of the best rockpools in the country. Some of them are huge and stuffed with wildlife. I unsuccessfully chased an incredibly fast moving shoal of sand eels, but then caught some huge fish including our first ever pipefish.

Pipefish

Pipefish

Later we returned back to South Stack for the sunset, which unfortunately didn’t reach it’s full potential due to distant clouds. But I managed to get a few photos anyway.

Sunset over South Stack

Sunset over South Stack

Day three saw us return back to Newborough to watch the red squirrels and take a walk through the woods. We had picked up some OS 1:25,000 maps, this meant that we could wander round the woods without technology but also without getting lost. Although the geek in me likes the fact that you can now download the electronic version of any new OS map to an app on your phone. It’s certainly useful as a backup in case your map reading skills let you down (assuming you have enough charge).

As for food, we had a great lunch of lobster and chips at the Maram Grass Café, but more importantly the main reason that we went to the Island; Sosban and the Old Butchers. The food was absolutely fantastic. They don’t produce a menu; you get what arrives at the table. We had 7 courses of some of the tastiest most inventive food that I’ve had anywhere, and I am someone who likes their food. If you do get the chance to eat there then I cannot recommend it highly enough. Careful though, they are only open on Thursday and Friday evenings, along with Saturday lunch and dinner, currently booked up till September.

This is definitely somewhere we will be returning to.

Victoria Wood

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2016 has been a particularly bad year already for ‘celebrity’ deaths. As well as being a huge personal loss for their friends and family, they have also touched so many people around the world.

If you have been brought up to a soundtrack of Bowie then it’s easy see how his death would have bought you to tears. Or if every morning you woke up to the soft tones of Terry Wogan. I’m sure that you would easily have had a lump in your throat listening to all the tributes after his recent death. You might have even have looked up the Janet and John stories. If not then do click on the link.

One that really touched me recently was the loss of Victoria Wood. Comedian, musician, writer, actor and director, her death at 62 was very unexpected. She found fame in the 70s on the talent show New Faces, and has produced some of the finest UK comedy. She was brought up in the same part of the country that I was, and her comedy was very ‘northern’. She has described her upbringing as quite eccentric. Her parents bought a cottage up by the moors. Her father was a workaholic and her mother would collect wood from old World War Two bomb sites to ‘do up’ their house. Being interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Disks she explained that she wasn’t bought up in a particularly cuddly household. But out of the four children it was her bedroom that had the piano. And it was such a good thing for us that she took to the instrument so well. She was fantastic at comedy songs. By far her most famous tune is The Ballad of Barry Freda. The song charts a middle-aged woman trying to convince her husband to make love to her. He is not at all willing, coming up with every excuse as to why it wasn’t going to happen. Every line is a classic.

In the late 1990’s I lived in Germany, but was able to get the comedy series that she wrote, and stared in; Dinnerladies. Set in the canteen of a northern factory it had that slow pace that British comedy writers do so well. It helped make me feel connected back to my homeland. It was also the comedy that launched the career of Maxine Peake. Most people think of ‘Wood and Walters’ or ‘As Seen on TV’ as her finest work, but I would say her shows at the Albert Hall were her best. Although a couple of Christmases ago her TV film ‘That Day We Sang’ was shown on the BBC and I greatly enjoyed that too.

Last month just after she died, I downloaded the 2 Desert Island Disks programmes that she appeared on, to listen to them again. It was fascinating to hear her being interviewed, and nice to hear the different music choices that she made for both programmes. Given her prolific career it is such a shame that she died at a relatively young age. I am sure that she would have gone on to create some other classics.
For now I will leave you with the Ballad of Barry and Freda. Enjoy!

Satie

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Consider carefully, open your head. No that’s not advice for an auto-lobotomy, although to be fair that would be the way to go about it. No Consider Carefully and Open Your Head are both remarks at different parts on the sheet music to Gnossienne number 3 by Erik Satie. I have taken the piece up for the first time. A while back I got the sheet music to the 3 gymnopedies and 6 gnossiennes, but have only really played the gymnopedies. I have embarked on the gnossiennes. Starting with number 3.

Whenever I mention Satie to my piano teacher she mentions that he was ‘mad’. I’m not sure how true this is, or really if his mental state is particular noteworthy. There’s a fairly comprehensive Wikipedia page about Satie, which I don’t intend on reprinting here. It states that he was a heavy drinker of absinthe, which wasn’t that unusual in Paris in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Given that he apparently died of cirrhosis of the liver then I guess the reports of drinking were true. The ‘Green Fairy’ was also banned in many countries because it was deemed to be dangerous, But I see the bans were lifted a while ago and now it is being widely sold again. Have you ever tried it?

When tackling Satie one of the first things to decide is the speed. He was notable for the sparsity of his practical advice. Tempo is left to the player’s interpretation. He wasn’t a big fan of bar lines either – my teacher assures me that Gnossienne 3 is in 4/4 time. But he did like to offer ‘advice’ on how to play. So as well as the phrases already mentioned, other parts of Gnossienne 3 are accompanied by notes such as; alone for an instant, so as to form a hollow, very lost, carry it further, and my favourite: arm yourself with clairvoyance. I have no idea how to do that. Perhaps some of my deceased readers could let me know…..

The only actually practical note he adds is at the end of the piece which is to: bury the sound.

I think the strength in his compositions lie in their simplicity. You would assume that the gymnopedies are grade 2 or 3 pieces. However when they have appeared on the ABRSM syllabus they are typically a grade 5 or 6. This reflects the fact that getting the musicality right is often harder the simpler the notes are. There is nowhere to hide. I was hoping to record a video of me playing Satie, even ‘just’ Gymnopedie 1. But even though I can play the piece well enough, I really don’t think that I am getting the true beauty of the piece consistently all the way through, and I would feel bad about posting a mediocre video. (If you want mediocre tunes, check out so of my other videos here).

I will keep practicing though. I promise to post one eventually. In the meantime I am just really happy to be playing such melancholic pieces. The gnossiennes especially, sound better to me played quite slowly; To really accentuate the sadness. I don’t know what it is about sad music that makes me so happy. But Satie is able to hit the spot perfectly.

How about you? Are you happier with sad or cheery music?

Einaudi

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For someone who doesn’t live in Bristol I seem to be spending quite a lot of time there. As well as being there 3 times a week for work I was there twice for pleasure last week. Most recently we went there last Saturday night to eat at The Wallfish Bistro. Situated on the old Keith Floyd site in Clifton. It’s the first time we have eaten there, but we were impressed with their seafood. I had razor-clams for the first time and all our courses were tasty. Wallfish is another name for snails. The ones that they were selling (as a starter) came from Herefordshire. I have never eaten snails, and I wasn’t about to start now. If you want fresh seafood cooked well then I can definitely recommend the place.

The other trip to Bristol was for something that we have been looking forward to for some time – a Ludovico Einaudi concert. This is the fourth time that we have seen him and we weren’t disappointed. We cut it fine in getting there. Forgetting how bad Bristol traffic is in the rush hour. We arrived in our seats with about 5 minutes to spare. I am never going to leave it that close again. If you arrive at late, they hold you at the sidelines until there is a break for applause. All through the first half there were people coming in between each tune. In the past we have chided these people for their tardiness, although given our close call with the traffic I was a bit more forgiving this time.

This concert was based around Einaudi’s latest album – Elements. Whereas some of his other albums, Divenere, Nightbook or even his recent one In a Time Lapse all have their own very distinctive style, I would say that this latest one is slightly different in that as well as having a coherent feel it actually seems to link in to each of the previous albums. For a number of the tracks on Elements I could see them working in one of the earlier records, albeit a different one for each. So a track like Twice wouldn’t sound out of place on Nightbook. Or Logos could easily fit in with In a Time Lapse, and Whirling Winds has a sound of Diveneire to it.

He had 6 people on stage with him, all multi-instrumentalists. The first half started with a number of pieces from Elements. The ensemble pieces are all rhythmical yet melodic, and build up to climaxes. I particularly liked the effect from the electric cello. Midway through the first half the band left the stage and we were treated to a medley of some of my favourite pieces. Starting with Berlin Song, and including others such as Nuvole Bianche.

The second half saw the introduction of a couple of instruments I have never heard of, let alone seen before: a waterphone which looked like a bare lampshade being played by a bow, and a water gong, both of which gave weird effects.

He finished the encore with I Giorni. I suspect this is his favourite. This is not the first time we have heard him end with it, which pleases me particularly because it also happens to be my favourite of his. It was also the first piece I learnt. It is so nice to hear his variations on something that I have heard so many times and played myself nearly every week.

If you want to see him check out his website. Hopefully he is coming to a town near you.

It’s never too late

One of the comments I get quite frequently on this blog is that the reader would like to have learned to play an instrument. I always reply with the same comment: It’s never too late to learn.
That was the name of the first piano book I bought, back when I was starting my musical adventures. This phrase came to mind yesterday when the below video appeared in my Youtube ‘Recommended’ list:

Sure it’s a bit cheesy. And I am hoping that the bride wore waterproof make-up. But I am a sucker for a sentimental story. And it is certainly true that music has the power to connect us to our past.

How about you? Is there some skill that you would still like to learn?

The Messiah?

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When will it stop raining? Since my last post about all the flooding seen in the north it doesn’t feel like we have had a fully dry day. We were hoping to get a nice visit in to a garden at the weekend to get some snowdrop photos. The constant rain put paid to that on Saturday. So instead, looking for somewhere indoors we took ourselves to Oxford to visit the Ashmolean Museum.

Years ago we used to live near Oxford so would head into the city frequently. This was the first time we have been back in probably 6 years. Getting the Park and Ride we were taken into the city centre passed a massive hole in the ground. They are redeveloping (i.e dropping and rebuilding) the hideous looking Westgate shopping centre. As we passed we could see a group of achaeologists cleaning up the remains of a few old stone walls. It was great to see that there are still some achaeologists in work, as there have been significant cuts to the amount of money available for archaeology in the last few years.

We picked the Ashmolean because it is a fascinating place. Somewhere where you could easily spend all day. One gallery that we had to go to was the one containing European art.  I have always been a fan of impressionists, and I love the pointillist art of Pissarro; they have quite a few of his work from this period. But one of galleries that I had completely forgotten about was that of Music and Tapestry. Here they have a collection of some of the greatest stringed instruments on public display in the world. The oldest known violin is here; a 1564 Andrea Amati.

The oldest violin in the world. A 1564 Andrea Amati violin.

The oldest violin in the world. A 1564 Andrea Amati violin.

Probably the most famous violin in the worlds is also on display here: The Messiah, built by the master instrument creator Antonio Stradivari.

The Messiah

The Messiah

It was donated to the museum in 1939 and is said to be worth well over $20m. However once a museum gets its hands on a great piece they almost never sell them, so I guess it could be said to be priceless. The sad thing about it is that it is never played. Not because of its value, but because of a stipulation of the donation. Whilst this preserves its ‘almost new’ state this seems such a shame. Surely the whole pointed of expertly created instruments is to have them played, and enjoy the sounds? Fortunately the museum does allow some of them to be played occasionally. Youtube shows some videos of them being played back in 2013 when the museum hosted a Stradivarious exhibition.

We did manage to get a few snowdrop photos on sunday at Rodmarton Manor, but unsurprisingly we got rained on here to.

Feeling snug?

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Anyone living in the UK this winter will know how wet it has been (and continues to be). Britain is well-known for its rain, but this has been unprecedented. Large swathes of northern Britain have suffered from flooding. First Cumbria, then Yorkshire, then Scotland.

One part of Yorkshire which saw the first of the county’s flooding was the Calder Valley. This is an area I know well, having spent a good portion of my childhood here. And, whilst I don’t live there currently, we visit frequently as some of my family still do. Most of my childhood friends lived in the pretty market town of Hebden Bridge. Nestled in a steep valley and overlooked by the village of Heptonstall, made famous by Ted Hughes’ poem Heptonstall Old Church, which is incidentally the final resting place of his wife, the American poet and novelist, Sylvia Plath. In the 19th century Hebden was a mill town, specializing in trouser manufacture. Most of the town’s architecture dates from this age and consists of beautiful stone buildings, mills and terraces. The steep sides of the valley mean that some of the houses can be two storeys on one side and five storeys on the other. The bridge that gives the town its name is a 500-year-old cobbled packhorse bridge which runs over Hebden Beck. This small river comes into town from a beautiful valley to the north. There is a lovely walk from the town through the woods passing Gibson Mill (National Trust) at Hardcastle Crags, leading out on to the desolate moors of Widdop to the Packhorse Inn. Every time we visit the town we try to get a walk at Hardcastle Crags.

Gibson Mill

Gibson Mill

After the textile industry declined, a large number of artists and other like-minded people moved to the town. Quite a bit of the information you can read about Hebden will suggest it was/is a hotbed of lesbians and ‘New Age’ folk. I like to think of just as a great place to live, full of nice people who are pretty open-minded, and where a lunch containing hummus is never too far away. The arts are well catered for in Hebden. When I lived in the area I used to perform at the Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, which 20 years later is still going strong. I had friends who performed in a local Gamalan group (traditional Indonesian music), and there used to be a fantastic jazz night in the town’s wine bar. On top of this most of the local pubs offered live music nights and seemed to thrive. There is a true sense of community here. The town has a refreshing lack of big chain stores, in fact apart from the Co-op I can’t think of another chain. This means that there is a real mix of interesting shops to keep even the most shop-a-phobic person engaged.

The Rochdale Canal at Hebden

The Rochdale Canal at Hebden

On Boxing Day the local topography got the better of the town. The River Calder fuelled by so much rain falling in such a concentrated area on the surrounding fells, burst its banks upstream at Todmorden, through Hebden, Mytholmroyd and onwards to Sowerby Bridge. When I lived in the area I saw the river flood, but I have never seen it flooding over into the Rochdale Canal, and never seen it so high through the centre of the town. Quite a lot has been spent on flood defences, and this did seem to help many parts of Todmorden, but they couldn’t cope with the sheer volume of water further downstream and the whole of Hebden centre flooded. The are pictures of it almost up to first floor level on Market Street, the main street through the town. Most of the businesses in this area haven’t been able to get flood insurance after the floods of 2012, so this time they have been left to fend for themselves. As I say, these are not the big multinationals who can afford to absorb the cost of starting again. They are local, often family run independents – people whose whole livelihoods depend on the income they bring in.

Rochdale Canal

Rochdale Canal

One of the shops on Market Street which was deluged is the Snug Gallery. Here Ed and Jill sell beautiful contemporary crafts, including Ed’s photography and Jill’s ceramics. Not only was their business flooded, but also their home and allotment. Their whole world turned upside down. Fortunately, they were able to save their stock, and a month later are back open again. But, it’s not enough to be open if potential visitors are put off by so many other businesses which are still closed. So now is a very precarious time for places like the Snug and the whole town. Fortunately we can do something to help. A Crowdfunding page has been set up for anyone who would like to pledge a donation, however small: Save the Snug. What would you do if you lost everything you had worked for?

savesnug

© Ed Chadwick

Ed and Jill have also come up with a series of tiered rewards for pledges, which include one of Ed’s fabulous photographic prints or one of Jill’s stunning vases. For more details take a look at their Instagram page. There are so many demands on our money, and I know there are so many worthy causes out there, but I have no idea how I would cope in Ed and Jill’s situation. I therefore had to do something, so we have pledged to help. If you think that community, the arts, and small businesses are important to our lives then I hope you can too. Any figure, however small, will help them rebuild their lives and give them a fighting chance of holding on to their business.

The Snug Gallery. © Ed Chadwick

The Snug Gallery. © Ed Chadwick

We are also planning on helping out some of the other businesses affected by the flooding over the coming months. It would be such a shame if a vibrant town like this should go the way of so many others in this country.

 

Snow and moss balls

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Last year we nearly moved house. At the moment we live in South wales. We had looked at moving to Wiltshire, but due to various reasons we decided to stay put for a bit. One advantage of living where we do is that the surrounding area is really beautiful. We are pretty close to the Brecon Beacons. Which for someone who enjoys hillwalking is very handy to say the least. Especially when the weather is either glorious sunshine, or in the case of this weekend; when the hills are covered in snow. After such a wet an grey winter so far we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to get to stomp around in the white stuff. We live on the low ground so all that we had on Saturday morning at our house was a hard frost. But we could see that the hills had a nice layer of snow. So we headed up a back road we know from the Talybont reservoir to the bottom of Pen-Y-Fan. At one point this road climbs up about 1000ft to reach the top of Torpantau. The road had clearly been passed by many cars, but at the bottom of the climb many more drivers had parked up on the verge rather than tackle to hill. Now I am not crazily gung-ho, but likewise the road looked fairly clear to me, so I gave it a go. There were 2 cars in front also going up, so I held back a bit. The last thing you want when going up a steep hill is to need to slow down and lose you momentum because there’s a car in front of you that has missed a gear change. Right near the top the 2 cars in front of me encountered another car slowly reversing down the road. I held back. The reversing car had clearly decided to turn back and was blocking the road for the other two. After a few minutes of chat all three cars reversed a bit and then turned round to head back to the bottom. I let them pass me and headed on up. Right near the very top there was a short section that still had compacted snow on it. I guess the reversing car had encountered this, slid around a bit, and decided to call it a day. On my first two attempts I didn’t gain enough momentum so wheel-spun to a standstill. But no matter, I rolled back a bit down the hill to a clear bit of road, got a bit of speed up and made it up to the top.

We parked here and got out to walk. Craig Y fan Ddu, did look tempting. It’s eastern side was flanked with cornices of snow and many people had clearly decided to go that route, but instead we headed to Pen-Y-Fan, which at 886m is South Wales’ highest peak. A snowboarder was making s-curved shapes in the hillside above us. Which did look fun, but of course the lack of infrastructure like a chair lift did mean that he had a long walk back up hill after each brief descent.

At one point we came across a series of old concrete fence posts. They had clearly been there for some time and had been colonized by mosses. This gave me the perfect opportunity to try out my new macro lens.

Moss flowers close-up

Moss flowers close-up

I have been wanting a macro lens for some time. In the meantime I have made do with ‘Extension tubes’. Which do work really well, but do have the draw-back of losing a bit of light, so on overcast days are really better suited to a tripod. It was great to get a professional piece of glass on the camera and snap away handheld. The above shot was taken stood about 30cm from the moss. As I say it was quite a dull overcast day, so this was taken handheld at f4.0 1/100 of a second at ISO100. The moss balls themselves were not much more than a centimetre across. Moss can be such an overlooked plant, but up close can be fascinating. And don’t get me started on lichen, I expect to take hundreds of lichen photos now with this lens.

I am so pleased with the lens, which as I say I have been dreaming of for sometime, and was bought for us by my parents as a very special Christmas present. I am incredibly lucky. I have also found that it makes a great portrait lens as well. So long as you are not too close to the subject.

Below is a shot that my wife took of the same post. As you can see I converted it to black and white. I love the wooden post which has started to split and the twists of the barbed wire. It’s interesting to see that whilst I zoomed in for the detail, she took in the slightly bigger picture.

Nature has a way of reclaiming.

Nature has a way of reclaiming.

It would be nice to get out and take some snowy landscape photographs. I am sure that February will give us another snowfall (it usually does). If so I am sure you guys will see the results.

By the way we didn’t make it up to the top of Pen-Y-Fan. We were already quite late in the afternoon so turned back. Given the clouds covering the whole mountain, (the best of the weather had been in the morning), we wouldn’t have seen much from the top of there anyway. As we headed back we passed a guy with a pair of skies strapped to his back. I wonder how many times he trudged up for the thrill of a short descent…..

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