The time has come and I can put it off no longer. It’s time to look back at 2015 and choose my 10 favourite images of the last year.
The coming of a new year often heralds thoughts of what we have done, things we could have done differently and the things we hope to do in the year ahead. As a photographer I suppose the obvious question is where is my photography going and where do I hope to take it in 2016? The answer to that is nowhere! My intention is to carry on exactly as I did before and have done since I started this journey 5 years ago when I bought my little Canon G12.
My raison de etre is, and has always been, to go out into the mountains, taking a camera with me in case I come across beautiful light. Things might change for me in the future but now, more than ever I know who I am as a photographer. I’m not trying to create something out of nothing in flat light nor am I trying to be clever; I’m not trying to be original or artistic. I am, however, trying to make a statement, and it’s a simple one…Eryri is special, it is magical and I adore it more than words can say. Perhaps that’s why I started taking photographs in the first place.
One thing I have learned is not to look over my shoulder and worry about what other very talented amateur and semi-pro photographers are doing, however many of them I have come to think of as friends. It’s none of my business what they get up to.
I have no desire to shoot the aurora borealis or star trails, I couldn’t be less interested in capturing airbourne war machines flying through our valleys and I am very sure that there won’t be many photographs from me of climbers, tour of Britain cyclists or anything else that fails to stir my soul. The mountains are my all consuming passion and when bathed in beautiful transient light they offer up once in a lifetime moments that can never be repeated and they are what I hope to experience and record on my wanderings on our hills.
This approach of being true to myself and not trying to second guess what people may like has served me well. Last year I led photowalks, gave talks, I was interviewed by various websites and enjoyed double page spreads and multi-page articles in the two biggest UK hillwalking magazines, something I could only have dreamed of when I first picked up a camera.
Closer to home, with the support of my partners John Rowell, Marion Waine and the Moel Siabod Café our ‘Soul of Snowdonia’ Gallery is going from strength to strength, another thing I could never have predicted!
I’m not a clever man, I work purely on instinct and please myself much of the time. I think being single and living in the mountains promotes this mode of being and has led to me being able to concentrate fully on what I am doing which is, purely and simply, enjoying my time doing what I love and immersing myself in the landscape. Long may it continue…it’s a good life.
Before I go, I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who has supported me in the past year, be it on Facebook, Flickr or in ‘real life’ where friends and family have been an invaluable source of comfort and have provided a kick up the arse when needed.
So, without further ado and in chronological order, here are my 10 favourite images of 2015.
For a larger version click on any of the images.
The Stand –Scots pines in Cwm Dulyn – March 3rd 2015 1.50pm
Canon 7D – f/10 – 1/250 – 40mm – ISO 100 – LEE 0.9 soft grad – Handheld
A planned walk over Craig Eigiau in the Carneddau was derailed when I caught sight of this isolated stand of pine trees in the distance. I spent the afternoon shooting them from all angles and lighting conditions after having my lunch in a deserted Dulyn Bothy, a spooky place in a menacing setting with just the wild ponies for company.
Play of light – Cnicht and the Moelwynion – March 24th 2015 4pm
Canon 7d – f/11 – 1/40 – ISO 100 – 17mm – LEE 0.6 – 0.9 soft grads – Tripod
On a dull day of drizzle and low cloud I was experiencing cabin fever and sorely needed to get out into the hills. Not wanting to walk around in mist I stayed relatively low and headed for the lakes of Cerrig Myllt, cradled in rock bound hollows on Yr Arddu, a fine rock peak which lies between the Nantmor Valley and Cnicht. It wasn’t long before breaks appeared in the cloud base and wonderful, ever changing storm light illuminated the surrounding mountains. I spent an hour in soaking showers and freezing gale force winds shooting frame after frame, oblivious to any discomfort and ecstatic to be witnessing such a show in complete solitude.
Castell y Gwynt – April 20th 2015 – 8.05pm
Canon 7D – f/11 – 1/10 – 19mm – ISO 100 – LEE 0.6 – 0.9 soft grads – Tripod
With April comes daylight hours that are long enough to do a day at work and get out into the mountains in the evening, a joy known only to those who live in mountainous areas. On this particular evening I hadn’t any solid plans but drove into the Ogwen Valley, ten minutes from home. I parked the car and realised it had been many years since I had done Seniors Ridge so that is what I did, arriving at the summit of Glyder Fawr totally alone but strangely dissatisfied, not being inspired by any of the compositional possibilities. I made my way over to Glyder Fach and the gothic architecture of Castell y Gwynt (Castle of the Wind) which I had shot a year ago in similar conditions. There I waited for the most vibrant light to arrive, rejoicing in having such an incredible place all to myself. I took the shot and quietly went on my way, descending the Gribin ridge in the gloaming.
Morning Mists – Llyn y Caseg Fraith – Sept 7th 2015 – 7.40am
Canon 6D – f/8 – 1/25 – 24mm – ISO 100 – LEE 0.9 soft grad – Tripod
After a wildcamp beside Llyn y Caseg Fraith I awoke to mist and seemingly no chance of the shot I had planned, the classic view of Tryfan reflected in the waters of the llyn. With no place to go and time on my hands I decided to stay put and just enjoy being there. Half an hour after sunrise things began to happen but still no sign of Tryfan. That morning was an example of the need to sometimes be flexible and work with the conditions to hand. As it happens, I find this shot of a half concealed Glyder Fach across the llyn more satisfying than the well know view I had come to capture such is its one off nature.
An evening on Moel Ysgafarnogod – Sept 12th 2015 – 7.27pm
Canon 6D – f/11 – 1/25 – 24mm – ISO 400 – LEE 0.6 – 0.9 soft grads – Tripod
With little time to spare but a very real need to be in the Rhinogydd I headed over to Eisingrug with a view of getting up Moel Ysgafarnogod for last light. With two hours until sunset I raced off, wondering if I would make it in time. I needn’t have worried as I was stood breathless on the summit an hour after leaving the car! During my vigil the wind was ferocious and I noticed a band of rain heading towards me from Llanbedr. I was caught in two minds. Do I cut my losses and run or endure a soaking in the hope of better things to come? I kept the faith and after the deluge I was gifted with some of the most intense evening light I had seen in a long time. It was a bedraggled but happy Livesey that trudged down the mountain that night.
Lakes, mountains and sea – Moel Eilio from Bwlch Main – Oct 1st 2015 – 6.50pm
Canon 6D – f/11 – 0.5 – 33mm – ISO 100 – LEE 0.6 – 0.9 soft grads – Tripod
It was one of those afternoons where I felt little hope of capturing anything decent. It was hazy and the sky was cloudless and devoid of any interest, my least favoured conditions. Nevertheless, I was bent on an ascent of Snowdon and went up via the Rhyd Ddu path, reaching the top in just over an hour and a half. On my way down I decided to sit on Bwlch Main and just take it all in as it’s such a wonderful vantage point. As is so often the case on my days out I was all alone, a real privilege on one of the world’s busiest mountains. 20 minutes before sunset I sensed a change and set up my camera as the light built in intensity and rich saturated colours painted the mountain. I decided on this composition, looking down into Cwm Clogwyn and its lakes, book-ended by Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Padarn with the Irish Sea beyond. A timely reminder of my friend’s maxim, “If you can’t be with the light you love, then love the light you’re with”!
As far as the eye can see – Southern Snowdonia – Nov 2nd 2015 – 8.13am
Canon 6D – f/8 – 0.5 – 70mm – ISO 100 – Handheld
After capturing Castell y Gwynt in its autumn dawn glory I started my descent of Glyder Fach, resting a while on the Cantilever, a place apart, unlike anywhere else and often crowded in the hours between dawn and dusk. My gaze ranged south through the haze at the ranks of mountain ridges all the way to Cadair Idris, 30 miles away and the southern limit of Snowdonia. It was incredibly satisfying to know that there was barely a mountain in that panorama that I hadn’t climbed at some point in the last two years. Whoever said familiarity breeds contempt had obviously never visited Snowdonia.
In the Moelwynion – Llyn Conglog and Cnicht – Nov 16th 2015 – 11.55am
Canon 6D – f/11 – 1/50 – 24mm – ISO 100 – LEE 0.6 – 0.9 soft grads – Tripod
Two weeks of rain (little did I know what was to come in December) had left me feeling like a caged animal so it was with relief that a brief weather window allowed me to get into the hills. I sorely needed solitude so chose Allt Fawr in the Moelwynion for dose of sanity restoration. At the top the light was very fine but the wind strong and mind-numbingly cold. For an hour I shot for five minutes at a time before retreating behind the summit escarpment to re-warm, moaning with discomfort before going out for round 1, 2, 3 and 4, by which time I was satisfied I had a good image, allowing me to return to the valley and seek out some warm food and drink.
Snowdon – 21st Dec 2015 – 2.24pm
Canon 6D – f/7.1 – 1/125 – 70mm – ISO 100 – Handheld
In December my home village of Capel Curig enjoyed over 1000mm of rain, smashing records as storm after storm rolled in off the Atlantic Ocean. We had 50 consecutive days of rain and for those of us whose joy comes from being in the mountains it’s been a difficult time. The opportunities for getting out to make images have been few and far between but when they have come I have jumped at them. This image was taken from a very quiet hill called Moel y Dyniewyd, the high point of a small mountain group that sits above Beddgelert. Once again it was in a searing wind that I stood for two hours watching the light and shadow over the Snowdon Massif and this picture really encapsulates the atmosphere of the afternoon spent up there. It was a joy to be out again.
Snowdonian Ridge Wandering – 24th Dec 2015 – 2.43pm
Canon 6D – f/8 – 1/100 – 24mm – ISO 100 – Handheld
As with the last image, this is a recent one where the weather gods allowed me to play. For the last 2 years at about this time of year and quite unplanned, me and my friend Dave Dear have headed over to Moel Eilio to walk the ridge in various directions. The weather always seems to be changeable and the wind is always strong to gale force. Perhaps that’s why we choose to do this walk along broad ridges where it would be very difficult to fall off! This image was taken on such a day when the light played tricks and the wind howled across the heights. I have included this one in my top ten as on all the other occasions we have walked here I have never had the light I wanted. I could have chosen a dozen images from this day alone and many more spectacular than this one, but to me it captures the atmosphere of one of our wonderful windswept battles on Eilio.