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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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