2018 Retrospective

Its nearing the end of the year and as many will do its that time to look back and reflect on the year gone by. It’s easy for us to just list all the good things that happened so I will reflect on some of the bad which I haven’t shared with others on social.

At the start of 2018 I was unsure how the year would pan out, prior to Christmas having just been made redundant and was on a low from this. Regardless of age, being made redundant is difficult and not something everyone expects but at 25, I was devastated and really shook my confidence.

It’s important to remember in these situations that you may not have control of everything so all you can do is your best, pick yourself up, brush off the dirt and plod on and that’s what I did and thanks for to my family, girlfriend, the ladies in my new job at Brand Pilot and the guys in the TwitterTogFest who supported me and made SnowdoniaTogFest2017 such a laugh.

January like most years is pretty uneventful in terms of photography and I remember it raining an awful lot but with the new job in full swing a lot of my time moved from outdoor photography and doing my own thing to video, animation and spending a lot more time focused on the day job. Drastic change compared to before Christmas.

It didn’t stay like this for long however and the following month I joined Chris Dale, Dave Fieldhouse and other togs to celebrate our success in the IGPOTY.

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In the following few months the achievements kept rolling in with my outdoor, expedition book being published with Kozu Books, my Duke of Edinburgh Gold award presentation at Buckingham Palace, becoming a Vanguard Photo ambassador and moving in with my girlfriend.

With all these amazing highlights it’s great but you feel a little underwhelmed when nothing happens the following month and you feel you need to keep on a high and it wasn’t to long until the next big blow to motivation and work happened.

Another redundancy… Yep you read correct. Two in less than 5 months, what shit luck with work is that! Fortunately not my main role which brings in the money but one of my bigger passions and enjoyments in life being an outdoors leader for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, feeling sad and gutted was putting it mildly. Several months on it’s still raw as to why the decisions were made to close the units. I won’t go in to the reasons why and politics behind it all but to put it simply it was stupid and blind sighted decision on many peoples part which has spoilt the award for kids involved.

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This was one of the final straws for myself. I was getting sick and tired of my fate being decided by others and it was the small people being left hung out with no explanation and struggling to continue after. This was the catalyst and tipping point for me this year where I’ve said enough is enough, stop making excuses and start doing stuff for yourself again.

Which is selfish, I agree but for my own self-esteem and keeping a roof over my head and money to continue coming in I had to make the decision to leave all my other voluntary roles and stop working for free and put my focus in to myself with my website, reviews, photography and trips away.

Since this decision I have ramped up the photography and in hindsight now was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time and the past 5 months has been pretty amazing and social with other likeminded people. Thanks to Grant, Jim and Gareth who I’ve joined on several outings now across Wales and they’ve helped lift my spirits and feeling bitter about the DofE situation and continued the fun of expeditions, wild camps and outings.

So thank you gents! Very much looking forward to our future camps and trips we’ve discussed for 2019.

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The year has been pretty turbulent with work but as a whole it’s been an enjoyable year and in the last few months I end 2018 on a high. I have now been working with MyOutdoors for two years, in October I was involved in a number of special features with Home of Millican and ThryveWorld, after a year of working with Snugpak I have been made a brand ambassador and joined 11 amazing photographers in the DiscoverCymru 2019 calendar, and although a wet week, SnowdoniaTogFest2018 was another great laugh and plenty of photographs of the back of this trip. Many of which I have put forward to OPOTY which will be my final competition as 2019 I will be moving away from competitions and focusing on educating, workshops, more photography and outings with other togs. All the fun things verse the stresses of social media and competitions.

So without further a due, thank you to all you for the support and making this past year, one to remember!

Thank you to:
The teams at Vanguard Photo UK, Spain and US, Snugpak, Home of Millican, Wigwam Socks, ThryveWorld, DiscoverCymru, VisitWales, Visit Brecon Beacons, Time to Log Off, 84.5mm filters, Click and Learn Photography, MyOutdoors, LType, The TwitterTogFest group, Jim Cossey, Gareth Danks, Grant Hyatt, all the brands who I’ve worked with on reviews and features and finally the brilliant ladies at Brand Pilot Ltd.


My most popular photo of 2018 is my “Hot Hikes on the Carmarthen Fans” which was taken at the end of a long and hot 12 mile hike over the Brecon Beacons and finishing at a lake called Llyn y Fan Fawr.

Features in the DiscoverCymru 2019 calendar and Landscape Photography Magazine Galleria winner

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My 2018 top nine

It’s fast coming up to the end of the year and it’s that usual time when everyone wants to see whats performed well across the year, in particular the top nine photos on their Instagram.

Before anyone comments, this whole process is a little redundant now as you can get analytics within Instagram to show you top engagements, likes, photos etc so these top nine are no surprise to me.

Those who don’t follow my channel might see several which look the same or very similar. You aren’t wrong they are or just the portrait/landscape orientations. Why is there multiples of these? Simply because these have been use to promote such activites such as Kozu Books, Home of Millican, ThryveWorld, Discover Cymru calendar, VisitWales, Landscape Photography Magazine and other brands where I have worked with them this year.

Now 11.8k likes isn’t much but I’m happy considering my channel is only some eight months old when I came back to Instagram in March.

I have some what of a love-hate relationship with Social Media like most. I use it to promote my photography, work, reviews, collaborations and ultimately is a driver for some income. I hate it because it can make you feel like shit at times as you endlessly scroll through the same photo or fake story and just these “perfect personas” which come with the social media lifestyle.

Why the Top nine doesn’t matter.

At the end of the day I was shooting for myself, I wanted to visit the Brecon Beacons and spend most of my weekends in Wales this year. The brands didn’t have a driving force and tell me to go here.

The likes aren’t a sign that my photos are any good either. Truth be told some are poor in some peoples eyes but this doesn’t matter because it’s their opinion at the end of the day.


More obvious all the top performing photos will be/most likely your most recent photos shared. It should be obvious as to why but as your account grows and you have more following and engagement your more recent photos will clearly out perform your last and so on.

This is why Social media is a bad, it encourages us to always be the best of the best. Always trying to out do the last and perform others which in all puts your mental wellbeing in to a downward spiral as you either can’t perform as high, can’t post as much or the post didn’t perform as well as hoped.

So take it all with a pinch of salt and remember it was for you not for the hundreds out there hoping for you to follow and comment on there posts too.
Don’t be disheartened by a post under performing it’s not a sign its a bad photo and to counter that just because a photo has 10,000+ likes on Instagram for example doesn’t mean its a good or even truthful.

More recently the increase of so called “adventurers” have been posting there hardy stories on photos to Instagram explaining how difficult or easy it was to get here.
Many will remember the recent Icelandic waterfall post where the person says he travelled miles and climbed all these mountains to get here. The waterfall is in-fact by a road side and countless tourists flood to this very easy to find waterfall for the very same photo.

On the counter making actually very dangerous routes seem easier than they are - I’ve seen several claiming the Crib Goch scramble to be “a walk in the park” when it is quiet the opposite and you do need to know what you’re doing. It’s not for the lighthearted or first scramble. It’s a knife edge and has claimed the lives of professionals and amateurs over the years.

As a whole this social media is what you take it be and is a minefield of issues which no one really in all honesty can say they know how to work them to the full potential when it’s forever changing and evolving.


Looking to the future

Less of the negatives and looking to the future. What’s in store for me in 2019?

  • The obvious continued working with MyOutdoors, Snugpak and Vanguard Photo UK.

  • Less reviews and more stories and teachings as well as talks and shows as I work with Vanguard and Snugpak.

  • Workshops and as above teaching - Whether this be through talks or shows to 1-2-1 workshops in mountainous regions.

  • More trips, more collaborations, more meet-ups. Just more of what you’ve seen this year - It’s been a lot of fun this year and I want to do more of it.

  • Unlikely to be another book but some other exciting work is lined up which I will be annoucing in the New Year but for now I can’t say anything further under my contract with the brand.

  • More features in magazines and working with press - Less competitions or no more entries to comps.
    This year for sure many will have seen myself backing out of the Wex and FSPrintMondays weekly comps and I’m glad I have, my self esteem has been far better and less stress to enter or worry about these Monday games, but what about the bigger comps?
    I will say goodbye to these too. In my opinion the market is flooded with to many POTY or Monthly bests now, it’s nice to win one here and there and get the money but do they mean as much as they did many years ago?

Who needs sunshine and expensive gear?

Most recently I held a talk at my old school, Easthampstead Park School in Bracknell to a number of year groups in the art department on my outdoor photography, how I got to where I am now, who influences me amongst other items. This was an interesting talk in that the sixth formers are the next generation to be going to university and joining the scary world of work and finding their own two feet in this already competitive and crowded landscape.
Bracknell is no where special and gets a lot of grief like most places, a lot feel down and struggle to find inspiration or know where they’re going so I opened the talk with how I am just like them.

"I was in your shoes 8 years ago”

I was just like you only eight years ago, although lucky I knew that I wanted to get in to the Creative industry it was only in Sixth form and university did I know which area. This being graphic design, up until then I just focused everything in to being creative and ignored my other areas such as Science, Maths and English… Especially English as I really didn’t enjoy this subject.

Since leaving leaving school I have been to university and now have a degree in Creative Arts and Visual Design, I’ve set up two businesses one of which I’ve sold, worked for several agencies - ‘let go’ from one and made redundant from two more companies, moved three times and now as part of my living I write and travel and design, photograph and produce numerous items for global brands. Let’s not forget the talking and educating with Duke of Edinburgh, Scouts and talks like this.

Now that all sounds fantastic eh? Here’s the catch, did you know that I have dyslexia? So I find writing and reading fairly difficult and often trip up over my own words, especially when writing so why on gods name would I want to write and do this as part of my living? It’s a challenge and in doing this I have learnt a great deal more about myself and learnt to overcome my dyslexia. To this day one of my proudest writing achievements was getting an A* on my Graphic design essay, next was getting a First for my 50,000 word dissertation on setting up a Creative business as a student at university. My reviews I write on equipment and the outdoors typically range from 800 - 3000 words and take me a month to pull together and the brands love what I write and how thorough, consist and how much time I put in to the testing and experience with the products.

So if you have something making life more difficult like Dyslexia don’t let yourself be beaten or let anyone else put you down about it. It’s a minor set back and if you keep pushing and fighting you can overcome these mole hills. I hated English as a subject and very nearly failed it but now the mad thing is I write all these equipment reviews, run a blog and write some marketing copy for clients so anything is achievable.

Now if you had told me eight years ago I would be stood back in my old school holding a talk on my creative work, what I get up to now and some of the brands I work for I would had laughed in your face and would had been in utter disbelief.

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So Why the outdoors?

I was asked why the outdoors and what draws you back to venturing out in to the mountains no matter the weather?

The obvious part to this is my connection and continued work with the Duke of Edinburgh award and Scouts and having been involved all my life it’s easy to see why I love the mountains and hiking but why landscape photography? While studying fine art here I hated. HATED! drawing and painting portraits and as a subject to photograph I find it very boring.

But I’ve only really grown to love landscape photography again in the past few years, post university. Having taken a break at university from Scouts and DofE I found I missed it a great deal and as soon as I left university and returned back to the South East I jumped straight back in to it all.

Years later I now enjoy the outdoors as a means to get away and enjoy my other past time of photography, joining other photographers around the UK as we wild camp and explore new locations. I no longer work with Scouts or Duke of Edinburgh award and have since put more focus in to my own trips and photography. Now I’m incredibly proud to represent Vanguard Photo and Snugpak as a brand ambassador.

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I rarely have good weather

You can’t see it but this photo below was horrible to shoot in. Heavy rain inside an abandoned quarry labrinth, the floor was caped in mud, wet leaves and lethal slabs of slate which were more like sheets of ice. It wasn’t a case of wiping the lens between each shot, you just had to accept everything was going to get soaked and just sit there waiting with the camera cover on.

Out of all my trips this year only one weekend has been a full weekend of sunshine and I found it very difficult to shoot in.

I opened the question to the room “What do you think is more difficult - Shooting in the rain and poor conditions like this or in bright blue skies and sunshine?”

It was a mixed response of answers but most agreed shooting in the sunshine could be more boring but more enjoyable to be out in just not from a photographic perspective. However no one liked the thoughts of standing on a mountain in heavy rain, to be honest I don’t blame them.

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It’s okay to use old or cheap kit - Stop the snobbery and just have fun

You don’t need to use the most expensive kit to get results, you can achieve amazing results both to your bank account and creativity by using old lens for film cameras or even using cheaper lens. Here are three examples of mine using cheap, or old and broken lens all of which have been placed and won in competitions.

From left to right:
“Little Wonders” using an Olympus Pen-F with a 35 year old BROKEN macro lens - I passed this lens around as I still own it and people were shocked by how light it was and how it was even possible to still get anything using it as I explained unscrewing the UV filter on the front would result in the the lens fall apart.

Olympus Pen-F with M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 a cheap £100 lens - This is just a stacked composition of 6 photos to overcome to the extremes in the shadows and highlights.

Nikon D500 with 50-300mm f/4-5.6 telephoto again a cheap £200 telephoto which isn’t designed for macro with a 1.5m min focal distance. I explained for this kind of work actually using a telephoto is better for Butterflies as they are often scared away.

In the end if you get the results you are happy with then who cares what the next elitist or keyboard warrior says. If you enjoyed that day you have achieved something.

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Blue skies are boring

In one of my only completely dry weekends of the year I found this the hardest to shoot in and out of the hundred odd photos I took this is the only one I am really happy with! I took nothing during the day however as it was so hot and bright as we hiked across the Carmarthen Fans on the hottest day of the year.

BUT if it wasn’t raining I doubt we would had hiked all that way and just skipped to the end location to wild camp up here which would had been a shame even if we would had got better photos. It was a great weekend out enjoying the Summer sun and it’s a reminder that you don’t always need to take a photo - Just enjoy the moment.

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It’s okay to make mistakes

Everyone will recognise this building but how did I get the magenta glow to this photo without doing anything in post production?

It happened from a mistake I made in-camera. When using a 10-15 stop neutral density filter you often have to set a custom white balance to ensure you have the correct white balance and no colour hue comes through from the filter. On this occasion I forgot to change the white balance and left it on cloudy and as a result the purple cast was amplified from the ND filter.

Between the two photos I much preferred the purple cast over the “real” sunset. Essentially what I am saying and expanding on my previous note of ignoring comments and having fun - Making mistakes is okay, it’s how we learn and on the odd occasion you can get better results in doing so.

Shortly after taking this photo a group of American tourists walked passed and spotted the photo on the back of my camera and were shocked at how different it was with the purple and asked for my business card and ordered several prints. I should make more mistakes like this.

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Money doesn’t mean everything

Another long exposure but an older photo. This was taken at a place on Anglesey called Penmon point at the height of Storm Brian.
(Many of the kids looked confused so I had to remind them about the memes of Brian you’ve been a very naughty boy” and all of them then remembered).

At this point I started to hand around my tripod I used to take this photo. This being the Vanguard Photo Veo travel tripod, it weights a little over 1.1kg and designed for travel so is very small and slim to make it easy to carry about. What it’s not built for is withstanding 65mph winds and heavy rain in a storm on the coast.

When I said this photo is one exposure at 30 seconds in the midst of these conditions they were shocked how it was possible using such a small and light tripod, surely the tripod and camera should had been swept away. Further to this point I mentioned the tripod was only £100 and compared to the other togs I was shooting with on this week trip in Snowdonia who were using big expensive Gitzo tripods which costed upwards of £600 each and had issues all week with legs falling off and locking up in the rain.

Clearly money doesn’t mean everything when it comes to quality.

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Don’t be a sheep

Anyone recognise this place? Durdledoor that classic over shot location.
Those who had visited said the arch was actually really boring and off putting with so many people there to see this arch.

It’s okay to reshoot these photos of course, do what you like but what you should think about is trying to get something different and don’t just follow the crowds or Instagram for that matter. You can get better results if you venture away from these as I showed here. On the walk down on my first visit the Durdledoor I spotted several others braving the storm to see the arch and as a result with the blue sea and red sands the brightly coloured jackets stood out as they made there way up the beach towards Bats Head.

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An expensive lesson

Both of these are taking in the waterfall country in the Brecon Beacons, both of course it’s raining and in both my equipment - Filters and camera broke or failed.

In the first on the left. A five minute exposure to make the people behind the waterfall disappear. Even weathersealed cameras don’t like the rain and I wasn’t happy with the results I got. Shortly after the photo was taken I noticed water had got inside the OVF and the camera locked up so I rushed back to my car to dry off the camera. Thankfully it was okay just a bit damp and cold.

The second waterfall on the right. I dropped £350 worth of filters in the water and smashed the 10 stop ND and scratched the polariser filter and soft grad.
Was it worth the filter replacements and cost? Yes, it was a good weekend out showing a fellow photographer around the area who gain the confidence to do more of this stuff on his own and venture further.

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Snobbery needs to stop

This doesn’t make much sense when you see the photo and why should it? I recently ventured back up to one of my local spots at Ivinghoe Beacon having seen the chances of an inversion and fog being high. Here at Ivinghoe you are high enough to sit above the clouds that loom in the lower valleys which we call a cloud inversion.

Here you get a few hills popping up with various buildings or trees which are isolated and make a great photo.

However I wasn’t the only photographer who was expecting these brilliant conditions and as I arrived on top of the hill several others shooting with full frame cameras and using big tripods towering over them. Several spotted my little Vanguard Veo tripod and Olympus set up and made the comment of how can you take anything using those?

I chose to ignore the comments and moved further down the hill knowing the location and the better vantage points.

What is the point with this belittling? More importantly when did gear become such a big status to making you a better creative?
The best weapon a photographer or a creative to that matter is there brain, you can have the most expensive camera in the world packed full of all the features but if you don’t know how to use it then what is the point in you using it?

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It’s not all about gear!

My number 1 tip to anyone new to photography or starting out is: Gear doesn’t matter and it’s all about education.
Decided between these two:

A £6000 set up and struggle to take anything and not understand what is going wrong?

OR

Have a £1000 set up and spend another £500 on teaching yourself photography?
Resulting in photos you are proud off and print

Everyone in the room agreed if you know how to use the £6000 set up then go for if its the best for what you need. However if you are new then going for the cheaper set up and learning how to use this first is better and build up and upgrading when you can. I finished this point making most photos will typically end up online for social media and as a result you couldn’t tell what camera or kit they used unless they said.

Now guess what camera I used for these two shots?

These are taken a year apart from each other but can you guess what camera I used looking at them both? One is a £2000 camera, the other £800.

No one in the room could guess what the photos were taken with and why should they?
I explained the one on the right is using a better lens as you can clearly see it is sharper while the one on the right is using a cheap £100 telephoto lens but why should this matter what lens I used? This photo made it as a finalist photo, coming second in it’s category in the International Garden Photographer of the Year.

Shortly after I passed around my Olympus OM-D EM-5 mkII and all were shocked how small it was which is what took the photo on the right.

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Don’t be put of by bad weather

It’s not easy… I’ve debated several times why I do this.

Don't be put off by the weather, if something doesn't happen don't be disheartened that the sun didn't shine or that event didn't happen. There are always other opportunities, nothing only happens once.

Two weeks ago several of us ventured to North Wales, we had nothing but rain for the week but this didn’t stop us and as a result we had some brilliant conditions to match the landscape.

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Composition is king

90% of you will likely have an iPhone in this room which is better than what I used to take these photos. These four all shortlisted in competitions and are taken using a Sony Xperia XA 12mp camera which is a terrible camera so it clearly doesn’t matter what tools you use for photography? Have fun and just get out there.
If you spend some time to educate yourself about the rules of exposure and making a composition/framing then you can achieve a lot with even the most simplest of tools and often in this situations you are forced in to being more creative and can get more enjoyment from these occasions.

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Having shared several of these phone shots the students were more excited about photography and having an easier means to enjoy themselves and not be put down because they didn’t use a DSLR or a “proper” photographic tool.
It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you get the results you pictured and had fun that is the most important thing just make sure you learn from mistakes and don’t be afraid to experiment or go wrong as you often can get some amazing results from them.

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This year a few of us wanted to revisit North Wales again after last year’s wash out of a gathering. The hope was going slightly later in the year might bring snow or some calmer weather, neither of which happened during our return visit which was very disappointing instead we had nothing but rain and gales. It all sounds doom and gloom so far and one might question why we would bother staying up here with such poor weather forecasted. Simply put, slate and orange trees.

On our visit to Snowdonia in 2017 in mid-October a lot of the trees had lost their colour already as the storms came in a lot sooner. This year with the heatwave and calmer weather the storms had yet to blow through until we arrived of course.

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With Autumn in full swing and plenty of slate quarries to visit this forecast was actually the perfect combination to create some atmospheric and moody landscapes for a change with plenty of Autumnal tones to contrast against the wet slate.

Six of the seven days we just had heavy rain, and this made shooting or doing anything outside difficult. I don’t think a camera ever came out of the rain cover unless we were inside and as for lens clothes we couldn’t have enough as we continuously had to wipe the front of lens or filters every second. Everything had to be meticulously timed in order to avoid rain spots and ruining our photos.

For many of us this was the first proper outing with our new cameras and the real test of how well they are made with the weather sealing unlike the previous year which saw broken lens, cameras locking up and tripods failing. Thankfully this year no one saw any causalities and having come from using a big Nikon DSLR which is built like a tank and weighs as much as one. I was thrilled with the results coming from my new OM-D EM-5 mkII and quickly saw the benefits of this lighter system.

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Many of the photos from across the week were using the OM-D High Res shot mode and stacking multiple files together so the ending results left me with DNG files near half a gigabyte! I was shocked with the file sizes and was hoping to reduce my space used. Turns out I will be buying more storage.

Now only one of the days during our week was dry, which was a great respite needed to break up the wet week but the clear blue skies and lack of rain and wind for many of us was more difficult to photograph in. The earthy tones of Snowdonia didn’t match with this weather. It was as if someone had badly Photoshopped a sky in to the scene.

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So, when the days are like this it’s a case of hiding in the woodland and shoot smaller scenes or head to lakes where they became flat mirrors reflecting the mountains above.
However, there is only so many lakes and woodlands you can shoot in before you begin wishing for some cloud to come in so you can venture back out on to the mountains and slate quarries.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long and the following morning we had rain, mist and plenty of atmosphere back in the mountains so out we all ventured once again with the waterproofs. It might be difficult to shoot in these conditions but when you get that shot nailed it’s a whole lot more satisfying.

With the rain it really slowed us all down to a few photos per location as we would need to really work and get as many shots in during the breaks in the rain. This year’s visit to the National Park was a success and a lot better from the previous year. More locations, photos and plenty more beer and laughs over the week. We are all looking forward to our next big TwitterTogFest next year in a new location.

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Another year on and the merry band of mad photographers in the next big Togfest is here but this year has been tough, several of the guys couldn’t make it and have been missed so we will be putting together another TogFest for the New Year in the Brecon Beacons. This year, myself, Matt Dartford, Neil Burnell, Dani Colston, Toby, Chris Pope and Dave Fieldhouse ventured up to North Wales for a week of photography, cold, rain and mountains. Shaun Mills, Matt Garbutt, Darren Rose and Stuart McGlennon will be missed.

Like last year a bunch of photographers rallied together and headed of to a rarely visited location and visit numerous points around the area in a hope to capture something different. Now the week running up to the TogFest2018 it had forecasted snow so a few of us were certainly excited to seeing the white fluffy stuff for a change. (When I mean a few of us were excited, me mainly). But this wasn’t meant to be and the temperatures rapidly increased from the -10ºc to plus 14ºc so quite the change and along with this warmer weather was a lot of rain and wind. Not ideal for long exposures or any photography to that matter.

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With the weather change in mind a few of us decided to cut our drive up and stop off at Titterstone Clee Hill in Shropshire hoping for some better conditions.
I was the first to arrive at 7:30 as the sun began to rise and in the car park it was great. No wind and sheltered but as soon as you got on top near the radar stations on top you were quickly blown off your feet so any long exposures we had hoped for with these structures was going to be difficult not to mention the flat boring light we had. Anything slower than 1/10th second was picking up movement on the smaller tower which when you approached and got closed you could hear rattling in the wind.

Myself, Dani, Neil and Toby stayed around here until 10/11am where we tried to find a new location around Clee Hill. Toby thought he had seen some tractor like machine object coming out of a shed and looking all ominous with trees and plants growing over the top of it. I still laugh now seeing Neil’s reaction as we pulled up on this roadside to look at this shed and watching Neil shaking his hands out of the car window as our convoy started a traffic jam. As quick as we pulled up next to this shed of nothing we quickly turned around and began our final part of the journey up to North Wales.

Fast forward two hours we all arrived at our very warm cottage. We arrived at 1pm and hoped we might be able to get some more time out or that the weather hadn’t really been that bad but it was so we waited until Chris arrived. Packed our kit ready for the Sunday and then headed up the road to the pub for some dinner and beers.

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As you see from above our visit to Dinorwic was wet to say the least and it was a case of planning shots between rain showers and the cameras living in rain sleeves for the better part of the visit. We arrived just after sunrise at 8am and tackling in what can only be described as a small stream rather than a road up to the upper levels to have an explore. For most of us this was our first trip to the upper levels and although we all knew how vast Dinorwic quarry is. It’s only when you spend some time on the upper levels do you see how big and how much of a maze this slate playground is.

Despite the heavy rain and difficult working conditions we stayed out on Dinorwic for most of the day and only returned around 3pm to head back to find Dave. On Dave’s arrival he was hopefully for some better conditions in the last hour of light but as we all peered out of the window we could just see more bands of rain coming through so plan A stayed. To the pub!

Dave didn’t have to wait long for those better conditions however. The following day was clear, still and not a cloud in the sky. It was quite the surprise. If you’ve been to Snowdonia or similar areas you will know that the mountains cause micro climates and today was the reminder how different it can be as we all split up and went off to different areas of Snowdonia.
Dave and Toby headed to Ogwen Valley, Neil, Dani and Chris were at Newborough woods on Anglesey but first paid a first to the Lone Tree on Llyn Padarn and I headed over to Beddgelert and Nant Gwynant. This was a welcome split and meant we all would get something different, unlike the previous year where many of us had the same shots and only our styles of editing would make each distinguishable.

On Anglesey, the guys had long exposures and detailed macro shots, Ogwen valley with traditional landscapes and vantage points and myself in the woodland, rivers and lakes.

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We all stayed out from sunrise to sunset. The guys from Anglesey came back over and joined me in Llanberis at Llanberis quarry. Now we owe Greg Whitton as usual a big thank you for the tip of this quarry and all four of us repeated his shot looking over the hole of the quarry out to Llanberis with Dinorwic in the distance.

One issue, this composition only works in stormy, cloudy conditions. The blue sky just looked to happy and odd, it was as if someone Photoshopped this awful sky in to what is a great view. I think I speak for most of us on that visit to the quarry in that nothing was a real keeper.

As the light started to fade and some clouds began to come through we opted to leave the quarry for better compositions. We were going to revisit our roadside spot opposite Dinorwic to shoot the orange trees and slate which we was the plan up until we parked here and Neil quickly muttered going to Llyn y Dywarchen instead.

We all agreed and off we went but all of us completely forgot actually how far it was and by the time we arrived the light had been blocked by the mountain range by the fishing lake. Leaving nothing but a flat shaded ground against a bright blue sky with little clouds for anything special.

It’s easy to blame Neil here for making this decision of location so I will. Neil you messed up! What this visit was good for was scouting the location and seeing the vantage points for compositions for later in the week when the weather was due to worsen.

As the last of the light went we all agreed this would be a brilliant spot for some astro but as we mutted the words astro our stomachs began rumberling and on that note we all left to go get dinner and find a Matt Dartford.

On arrival back at the house we found Dave and a very sleepy Toby.
Poor Toby had been taken on a loop around Ogwen Valley, venturing up Pen yr Ole Wen to the classic waterfall view to Tryfan and the stone wall up top, back down and over to Y Garn and back down and up to Llyn Caseg-Fraith so both guys put in some serious leg work with the mountain climbs here.

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This didn’t stop Toby who was keen to get back out very quickly to try his hand at some astro photography in which Dani joined him and the pair ventured back to Ogwen Valley and shooting from Cwm Idwal. This is also where we parted with Chris who had been in the Lake District days before and with a solid week of walking and lugging a heavy rucksack. His shoulder was now playing agro so opted to return home to recover and beat the traffic.

Shortly after the trio left, Mr Dartford stepped through the doors, unpacked and those of us left at the cottage once again returned the pub.

Now to plan for the next day, both Neil and Matt were keen to go where Dave had been in Ogwen Valley so I offered to take the pair up Pen yr Ole Wen to get the classic shot and vantage points. Dave opted to take Toby over to Watkin path and find something here having just been in Ogwen Valley before. In the whole week, these were the hardest conditions to shoot in with heavy, driving rain coming in to your face. We only had three photo opportunities and all three we needed to keep shooting in hope to get something between cleaning the lens and lifting the rain covers.

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With all three of us soaked we decided to head back to dry off and recover before venturing back out once more. Before we headed out both Dave and Toby returned and here the two parted from North Wales too. With work calling and the weather forecast not improving they made the decision to leave before things got worse.

The three of us left, our next location was in the centre of the National Park in Blaenau Ffestiniog at a slate quarry called Cwmorthin and much like the morning it was wet but with some improvement with some breaks and at least we weren’t on a mountain side and had the shelter of the quarry from the wind. The three of us remained here till sunset and would had likely stayed longer if the wind hadn’t changed direction and the rain started once more. We also made the silly mistake of climbing to the upper levels here which had nothing but ruins and more lethal wet slate on the ground. Both me and Neil nearly slipped up here with tripods and cameras still locked in on the end. Don’t panic nothing broke but both of us quickly opted to put the cameras back safely in our rucksacks.

Having climbed unnecessarily up this slate mountain for no reason we began the slow trudge back down to the better compositions in the lower valley but as soon as we arrived back down to view the church and path back did the rain return. Tired, wet and now very hungry we opted to leave and find dinner where we descended on Blaenau to find dinner and bought half the contents of a local Co op store.

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Wednesday morning was a little more promising weatherwise and the day started cloudy with breaks from some decent sunshine breaking through.
However it wasn’t to last very long. As quick as we arrived in to the local woods at Capel Curig did the rain once again come in…

For me personally, the woodland shots was something different and somewhat challenging. Having moved away from woodland and now spend more time focusing on mountains being in such a confined area and working on a micro level was eye opening again, this is likely the reason I’ve never gone full macro and purchased a lens in this medium. However it was enjoyable and although not on the same successes as the previous days out I got a few images I’m fairly happy with.
Both Matt and Neil they were in there element, especially Neil with his new behemoth of a lens! Sigma 105mm f/1.4

The lens weighed 2.5kg and was larger than your face, it really was a daft lens but the results from what Neil showed me on the back of the camera were stunning. This lens is a bokeh king but a heavy one.

After returning from the woods and spending nearly a good hour for our pig to be killed and served up to us we decided to part our ways and go to different locations.
Neil returned to Llanberis quarry to reshoot here with some better moody conditions, myself opted to go up Snowdon along Crib Goch and Pyg Track for some gear testing and shooting above the lakes. Whereas Matt decided the wet weather was enough and opted to return home. So here three became two.

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With now just myself and Neil we opted to spend our Thursday at several quarries and lakes, first revisiting Llyn y Dywarchen and then on to Dorothea quarry.

As you will have seen from above where I first mentioned this fishing lake with the blue sky it did nothing for us and we knew it needed some mood and clouds to make this area and that is exactly what we got on our return! Soft light, hazy clouds hanging around over the tops of Allt Maenderyn (Snowdon’s South ridge) in the distance. Everything we shot last time, we both knew was being binned off in comparison to what we had now. Everything we took was a keeper and had opportunities for us to use later, whether this was a classic moody and atmospheric shot or some further post production to make a darker surreal photo.

As we finished at the fishing lake we ventured further in to the valley to find Dorothea, a quarry we had wanted to visit for some time now but had heard most, if not all the buildings were boardered up and you had no access to the walk any more. This wasn’t strictly all true but the labrinth on the opposite side of the quarry was fenced off but not completely blocked off. It does however make it very difficult to get any wider photos of the ruins but in the heavy rain that now joined us at Dorothea this worked to our advantage.

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With the walk out of Dorothea being a very wet and miserable one we both had to make a decision when we returned. Remain in Snowdonia until Saturday as planned and hope the weather was changing for the better or leave early Friday to spend the weekends back at home.

To put it simply, our last night was spent watching Wicked Tuna and a few beers whilst packing up our kit. The following morning we loaded up the cars and headed to one last location where it would be sheltered and some morning light before the storms blew through. It’s been another great week of photography and plenty of keepers and editing now to do. Even finishing writing this I still have so many untouched photos from the week which I will sit on until I revisit over the Christmas period when work is quieter and I can spend some time on each.

This will be our final year visiting Snowdonia having visited the last two years so we will be changing where we go next year. Currently we are looking at Cornwall/Devon for a similar time next year and South Wales in the Brecon Beacons and Gower coastline in March time. Below is a list of locations and my map to show you how wide and varied each location was.

During my time in North Wales I ran a number of reviews which can be found below:

Snugpak Torrent Jacket

Vanguard Photo Vesta Strive Range

GoToob+ travel bottles

GoalZero30 power bank

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Locations visited:
Clee Hill, Pistyll Rhaeadr, Dinorwic slate quarry, Ogwen Valley, Llynnau Mymbyr, Capel Curig, Pont Aberglasyln, Beddgelert, Dorothea quarry, Snowdon, Cwmorthin quarry, Anglesey, Tŵr Bach Lighthouse, Cwyfan Church, Newborough, Llyn y Dywarchen, Llanberis, Llanberis quarry, Llyn Caseg-Fraith, Pen yr Ole Wen, Cwm Idwal, Watkin Path, Nant Gwynant, Moel Siabod and Llyn Crafnant

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Capel Tiberias, Cwmorthin Quarry

A few of us photographers who know each other from social media rallied together and headed up to North Wales. However the week brought us nothing but heavy rain and strong winds.

With this new forecast now in play we headed to several quarries knowing the rain would help with the compositions around the slate quarries.

Mid-week we had a glimmer of hope and a few breaks in the clouds and so headed to Blaenau ffestiniog and a slate quarry called Cwmorthin. This is the view looking back the main path through the quarry.

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Vanguard Vesta Strive range review

What Vanguard Say:

The VESTA Strive range is the ideal compact and stylish bag for a small DSLR or CSC (Compact System Camera) with medium lens attached, 2-3 additional lenses, flash, accessories, a tablet, a table tripod and personal essentials such as wallet, phone, water bottle.

Available in a range of sizes to suit your needs: 12Z, 15Z, 15, 22, 30 and 40. Prices start from £19.99 and the VS40 at £59.99.

The 12Z and 15Z will snuggly fit a DSLR with up to medium lens attached, plus key essentials in two flexible side pockets and internal card holder. Its stylish “pinch” design will perfectly match the camera’s format, while offering two carrying options; slung over your shoulder or flung into your everyday bag alongside all your other essentials.

The VESTA Strive 40 is the ideal compact and stylish daypack for a small DSLR or CSC (Compact System Camera) with medium lens attached, 2-3 additional lenses, flash, accessories, a tablet, a table tripod and personal essentials such as wallet, phone, water bottle.

On Review

In this latest review I review the Vesta Strive range which features a weatherproof minimalist design. The range covers a wide spectrum of sizes from the small inserts of the 12Z, 15Z and 15 which are suitable for use on their own or inside another rucksack. The range is aimed at the lower end of the market, ideal for amateurs and enthusiasts over professionals as they are designed to fit one body and a few lenses inside and in the 12 and 15Z bags only a body and a zoom lens.

The larger 22 and 30 are better suited as a carry/over the shoulder bag but can also be used inside larger packs. The Vesta Strive 40 is the only daypack/rucksack of the range. In addition, the 30 and 40 are the only two to be digitally orientated and can carry a small tablet so for a simple bag the range covers most needs minus those carrying a laptop or anything larger, but this isn’t what the bag is about and certainly at the cost to market it shouldn’t be expected. Both the Vesta 30 and 40 bags I could fit two bodies inside and a couple of lenses. The 30 was a little tight for this but the 40 really stood out in the range with the open back design and space in the top of the pack to fit extras.

The whole range is styled to be ‘Incognito’, so you wouldn’t know they are camera bags which from first glance you wouldn’t know. Personally, I really like the design of the exterior with the simple design, when you compare it to the Alta bags it’s in similar design to the Alta Rise which doesn’t scream camera bag on first appearance. Unlike the Alta bags this Vesta Strive range has a weatherproof exterior which having taken away to North Wales and put them to the extremes all of my kit was dry and safe and no leaks or issues with the zips or base of the pack despite sitting on the wet ground. This exterior design also is very helpful to keep the bags clean and keep that nice black minimalist look.

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Each bag has side pouches which are elasticated to allow some give for contents inside. The smaller 15Z struggled to fit a bottle larger than 350ml so was more useful for holding a waterproof cover for the camera, lens caps or filters when not in use. The larger 30 and 40 comfortably fitted a 1litre bottle and the fabric on the pockets didn’t feel weak or as if it were going to snap due to the size. None of the pockets can hold a tripod, even the Veo2 is to large, however in the New Year the new Vesta table tripod will be coming out which will suit this range perfectly.

For ease of use I found the Vesta 30 the best and even fully loaded with two bodies (OM-D EM-5mkII and OM1) and several lens the bag didn’t feel heavy on one side which for a shoulder bag is needed certainly on long distances and periods of use. I took the 30 out several times for long Autumn walks in the Chiltern hills and found it very comfortable on one shoulder and the strap had plenty of give to go over thicker jackets when it was colder. As with the 15Z, the 30 was great for quick access on the go and you could swing the bag around and access your kit on the go without the need to put the bag down.

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The larger 40 rucksack does need putting on the floor to access but the top lid can be easily accessed when on the go. You could customise the 40 rucksack by removing the insert and just having a small rucksack which is a very nice feature to customise the bag in to just a small carry bag without the camera equipment inside.

The Vesta 40 has a rear opening, so you have to lay the bag flat on the floor in order to access the door. It can be a little irritating to get in to the rear as the shoulder straps do cover the zipper and door somewhat. The door doesn’t open all the way either, as you look at the bottom of the bag and zippers. The door gives you plenty of access to get in and grab your contents and when you let go does cover the access again which if you are forgetful on the go and like leaving your bag open this bag won’t let you.

During the heavy rain in North Wales this was ever important and often I left the bag unzipped so I could grab lens clothes or put kit away quickly and the door staying down like this prevented the inside of the bag and contents getting soaked! Just be mindful not to walk off without zipping up the rear door.

The insert inside the Vesta Strive 40 is customisable as well so you can shape it to fit your kits needs. During my time with the bag I used an Olympus OM-D EM5mkII, 12-40mm, 40-150mm f/2.8 pro lens, Vivitar 28-80mm f/3.5 tele-macro with OM adapter, Olympus OM1 with 50mm f/1.4 attached plus spare batteries, filters and camera cover which all comfortable fit nice and snug inside giving me quick access to everything. Often, I left the OM1 in the top lid with a power bank, food, notebook and a fleece rolled up. However, with the fleece inside it was at its maximum capacity but was possible.

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At full load the pack felt comfortable on the shoulders and sat nicely in the centre of my back. I could happily run up Snowdon or Pen yr Ole Wen when up in North Wales and didn’t have to worry about kit shaking or getting broken as the inserts have plenty of padding and movement. The straps on the shoulders are simple and have enough padding on but any kit heavier might not work so well. This pack wouldn’t fit the likes of a flagship DSLR but you could most certainly fit smaller systems like a Fujifilm XT-3 or Sony A7III but what lens might be up for debate. Don’t expect to fit a 70-200mm f/2.8 inside the provided insert but perhaps a camera wrap and emptying the contents of the bag you could fit more.

Both the 30 and 40 bags could be used on a tripod to help weigh down the structure which only helped a little but enough to make a difference with the M4/3 system. The biggest benefit I found was the quick access and found this refreshing coming from a rucksack style for a fits all situation in the outdoors. As I mentioned previously the bags cannot take any tripods nor have the external means to loop one on which is why I’m pleased Vanguard tripods come with a carry sling for both the Veo and Alta Pro tripods. Of course, the easiest of the bags to use this set up is the 15Z and 30 with one arm taking the bag and the other the tripod. The 40 rucksack was possible but the tripod sling had to sit on one shoulder not over the head, coming across the body so often I opted to just carry the larger Alta Pro tripod.

In our recent week up to North Wales the weather was miserable, nothing but rain and heavy winds all but one day. Now the Vesta Strive range features a new weatherproof exterior which works incredibly well and I pushed the Vesta Strive 40 passed its suited usage and the bag and contents inside remained dry. I took the 40 bag up on Snowdon via the Pyg and Crib Goch route in the midst of a heavy rain shower and strong winds, for a bag that costs £60 I was shocked by how well made and sealed it was including the zips which are typically the weak point on any bag. I’ve used bags triple the price of this and they’ve failed in better conditions.

This was the same across the three bags including the smallest 15Z which got a good soaking exposed on the slate quarries around Llanberis.

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Often the lower market bags can be over-looked by the pros and serious enthusiasts, but Vanguard are here to show that low cost doesn’t mean compromise to quality. The Vesta Strive range is a strong range which I highly recommend to anyone looking for a small, comfortable, cheap and reliable bag for photographic needs. Yes, they lack the space to carry tripods or laptops but these bags are for staying light and simple with entry/crop/mirrorless set ups.

The Vesta Strive 15Z is a handy pack for the one lens fits all job which I have often continued to use for macro or carrying my film camera. The 30 was my favourite with plenty of room for body, lens and extras and comfortably fit a water bottle in the side. Using the tripods carry case over one shoulder and the 30 over the other shoulder I was evenly weighted and had access to my camera on the go and could leave the lid open for quicker access without worry of kit falling out.

The Vesta Strive 40 I feel sorry for as I really did push this beyond its recommend point of use, but it stayed strong and dry! I can’t recommend this for climbing a mountain as you can’t carry as much safety kit and spares as one should be for this time of year but for where I went and the conditions, I was working in this £60 rucksack surpassed everything and surprised me with keeping up with this difficult terrain and conditions. The Vesta Strive 40 would certainly make a great lightweight option for day walks, daily photography and adapt the bag for everyday use by removing the inserts and the option for two door access in the rear or through the top makes it incredibly adaptable between a photographer’s daily needs.

I for one hope Vanguard in the New Year will continue this look and design with more new features.

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Transparency Notice: Please note that I am a Vanguard Photo Ambassador and receive the products for free to review from Vanguard Photo UK and are return after completing the review. The review is no guarantee of endorsement. I receive no monetary gain from Vanguard Photo from the reviews or discount codes. Any Vanguard kit I own has been bought by myself.

Source: https://www.vanguardworld.co.uk/photo_video_gb/search/?q=vesta+strive&vgq=1

DiscoverCymru Meet the Photographer

Visit the DiscoverCymru website to purchase your calendar today and use code “mihollandphoto” to get 10% off your order.

Meet the Photographer - DiscoverCymru calendar 2019

  • Tell us more about your photo?

I wanted to explore the area further having only visited for Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions leading groups around Sugarloaf so Grant Hyatt kindly offered to take me on a tour around his local area and on our Saturday we planned to hike across the Black Mountain range.

Our hike took us from an old mine in the West as we ventured across the range in 34°c heat on one of the hottests days of the year.

We finished at the lake called Llyn Y Fan Fawr, where Jim Cossey joined us that evening and the three of us spent the evening wild swimming and photographing the sunset across the range at Llyn Y Fan Fach and finally wild camped under Fan Brycheiniog. What a way to spend the end of a weekend and a long days hike in Summer.

  • Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello, I’m Matt Holland. I live near a place called the Chilterns which is a beautiful area, but it lacks mountains. So, I love nothing more than driving a few hours across England in to Wales to get out and enjoy whatever the country has to give.

 Ivinghoe Beacon on a foggy morning

Ivinghoe Beacon on a foggy morning

  • How did you first get into photography?

I’ve always been in to photography and it first started thanks to my dad who taught me everything to do with film. My first camera I got was an Olympus OM2 and my dad taught me how to shoot, understand the exposure triangle, tracking and developing so I’ve been well taught in the medium.

It’s only in the past 6-7 years have I moved in to digital and picked up my first DSLR at university, but I have always had a film camera with me and can never give it up.

  • How about landscape photography?

Landscape photography has tied in to my outdoor lifestyle. As with photography I have always been involved with Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh award, so I spend a great deal of my time in the outdoors on expeditions, camping and hiking.

I don’t enjoy shooting portraiture all that much and I do a great deal of product and event photography/video for work so landscapes and the outdoors has always been my fall back and my enjoyment to get out away from the usual hustle of work.

 A night spent photographing the Perseid Meteor shower and camping under the shadow of Pen y Fan with Grant Hyatt, Jim Cossey and Gareth Danks

A night spent photographing the Perseid Meteor shower and camping under the shadow of Pen y Fan with Grant Hyatt, Jim Cossey and Gareth Danks

  • Where is your favourite location to go and shoot? And you favourite location in Wales if your answer to the above was not Wales? 

Tough! I have too many on the list, but it is most certainly Wales.
I have a few spots but my favourite two has to be Snowdon and Dinorwic. Both have so much to offer and plenty to photograph and both involve a fair bit of walking/climbing too so it ticks both my outdoors activities and photography in one.

 The upper levels of Dinorwic Quarry looking at an old winch house with Snowdon just off too the left

The upper levels of Dinorwic Quarry looking at an old winch house with Snowdon just off too the left

  • Digital or film? And DSLR or mirrorless?

Digital for convenience but film has a style that just can’t be achieved so I often take both when I can. As for the DSLR vs Mirrorless, both have benefits and I had up until Autumn 2018 used a Nikon D500 but now shoot with an Olympus OM-D EM5 mkII which offers the same spec but in the a much smaller body and weight which is a huge benefit with climbing and hiking long distances.

  • What’s on your essential kit list when you go out and shoot?

A good waterproof is a must and a tough pair of boots but above all of that a stove, flask and good cup of coffee on the mountain side is always a must.

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  • How has Instagram influenced the way you work? For better or worse…

For the worse! If I could and didn’t need any of them, I would sack them all in tomorrow, but they have a huge benefit for me with work both my outdoor gear reviews, photography and my day job as a multimedia designer. My day job is now some 90% of my work ends up on Social media so I can’t complain, I would be out of the job overwise.

  • Who are your favourite photographers?

Far too many people to name but most recently I have really enjoyed doing photography meet ups and we venture to locations and enjoy the outdoors. Some of my favourite photographers are Greg Whitton, Mark Littlejohn, Neil Burnell, Grant Hyatt and Jim Cossey.

  • What are your tips for anyone just starting out with photography?

Don’t be put off by the weather! Some of my best photographs I have taken have believe it or not been when it’s raining and really dire conditions. Equally if you don’t go out don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t work out. There is always plenty more opportunities to go out again.

Also, don’t assume the biggest, most expensive kit will make you better. Educate yourself first and push a cheaper camera to its limit then upgrade. 

 A morning waking up on Cribyn looking over the Brecon valley before the storm blew through and spoiled the weekends plans

A morning waking up on Cribyn looking over the Brecon valley before the storm blew through and spoiled the weekends plans

  • Any good stories of photography trips gone wrong?

I often forget my camera filters. I’ve driven to the opposite side of the country and then checked my bag and found I don’t have an adapter or a filter. This has taught me to get away without needing them and as I often end up having rain at some point on my trip. Filters are a pain when it’s raining and its more kit you have to clean. 

Beyond that I have fallen in plenty of rivers, ponds and bogs ruining boots and socks.  

  • What’s on your bucket list for travel and photography next year?

The usual locations like Iceland, Norway and Faroe Islands as well as Isle of Skye but for next year I will be focusing on my business and photography and helping others with my new workshops I plan to launch soon which will allow people to build the confidence and explore these mountain ranges across the UK with an outdoors leader.

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Source: https://discovercymru.co.uk/meet-the-photographer-matt-holland/

DiscoverCymru 2019 Calendar

I am delighted to share I am in the 2019 DiscoverCymru calendar with my shot from Picws Du, Brecon Beacons during June/July heatwave.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the calendar please visit here and for a 10% discount use my code “mihollandphoto” at the checkout.

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Source: https://discovercymru.co.uk/meet-the-photographer-matt-holland/

Above the Clouds, Ivinghoe Beacon

Autumn is one of my favourite months to shoot in and I have been waiting weeks for these conditions and the patience finally paid off.

The previous night I was hoping to capture the Orionid meteors over the same area but having assessed the area and light pollution the idea quickly went out the window, being disappointed but not beaten I set my alarm for the following morning to catch the sunrise over the valleys.

The following morning at 5am I ventured up to Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns and sat waiting for the sun to come up and it didn’t disappoint with the entire valley sat under thick cloud cover up till 10am, myself and several others spent the morning picking off the individual items that were clear of the fog.

It all made for some great minimalist and simple photography.

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Snowdonia with Cossey

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A few weeks ago myself and Jim Cossey headed up to Snowdonia for an explore and prep some content ready for Jim’s talk at London Camera Exchange Bath Optics Show.

When we planned the trip last minute the weather was looking perfect and my day started out clear and around where I work in Marlow we had several inversions in the valleys so I was very excited to say the least. If we had inversions in the Chilterns. Snowdonia was sure to have something. Before I could get to Snowdonia however we both had to contend with the usual traffic nightmares. For me travelling along the M40, M6, M54 and A5 most of which had heavy traffic or just closed from several burning HGVs from the morning. So both our journeys were 6+ hours and neither of us arrived until after dark around 11pm at llyn Ogwen but you wouldn’t had thought it was dark with how bright the moon was.

By the time we had both finished faffing with bags and sorted ourselves out it was coming up midnight so clearly we weren’t in a rush. As we began our climb up to Y Garn we decided to stop by Cwm Idwal for some moonlit reflections.

Below our the two routes we took to get up to Y Garn and llyn Caseg-Fraith, both of which link to my ViewRanger so you can follow the route yourselves.

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We’ve both visited the area numerous times and yet neither of us have ever had Cwm Idwal so still like this so for the next hour we spent a fair amount of time just playing and running around the lake side trying to find the right composition.

It was great specially with the moon so bright, neither of us had to bother with headlamps but trying to get any chance of capturing the stars as well was slim. Both of us were shooting at f/2.8, ISO 500 and shooting 7-14 second exposures and some of these were still blowing highlights. I for one am looking forward to returning back here in a few weeks as I’ve worked out a few more shots I would like to achieve but require day light. Anyway moving back to the weekend, after running around at Idwal for an hour we decided it was about time we headed up Y Garn to find our pitch and get some sleep.

For those who have never climbed up Y Garn this route, it’s not to difficult but its very steep! The steps really help and remain this way most of the way up until the summit. For our spot we planned to pitch lower and just below the summit at Llyn Clyd Bach just off the main route up Y Garn, approx 280metres below the summit but still offers superb views! Our reasoning for this was being a little lazy as well but also looking at the weather we saw the morning was due to be very windy so we hoped this outcrop would offer some protection. The lazy reason was we had less to walk and climb back down in the morning as we planned to climb Snowdon via Crib Goch.

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Now this lack of wind was the case for most of the night until the early hours where the wind changed direction which we knew was going to happen but our sheltered spot or what we thought was going to be sheltered turned in to a wind tunnel. As you can see from the tent below which was essentially on it’s side. A few outcrops of rocks along the front did offer some protection for us to sit between whilst the sun came up over Tryfan.

With all this wind we knew we had no hope of cooking up here so we packed up our kit and headed down to a lower level in order to have breakfast.
As Jim was busy grinding away his coffee several others continued to climb past us and what struck me the most and always surprises me even now is how friendly everyone is and always say “Good morning” or asks how you are. Compare that to where I live near Reading, everyone here to be blunt are grumpy arse holes and if you even look at someone they assume you are up to no good. Forget even saying good morning or holding a conversation.

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With the strong winds on the higher levels we were a little anxious as to the conditions and ability to cross Crib Goch but we made our way round to Snowdon at 11am. Yes we had a very slow and lazy morning considering sunrise was at 7:30am. I have climbed Snowdon five times now and to date this is the busiest I have ever seen Snowdon. There was no parking at all and we ended up driving half way down A498 and finally I spotted a place to park.

Crunch…

Wheel spin…

“Jim… HELP!”

Yes that’s right I got my car stuck in a ditch, the spot I thought was clear was actually clear for a reason and the grass was so wet it gave way under the weight of the car (of course). Fortunately it wasn’t difficult to get the car out. One push and the car free but if anyone who has been in this situation before the noise you hear inside the car is horrible but on inspection the car was completely fine.

So no parking remotely close to Snowdon we opted to abandon the plans and head over to one of my new favourite spots to explore - Dinorwic.

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I forgot to mention to Jim who was driving his little van, that the roads up were interesting and steep at points. Anyway we managed to arrive but even Dinorwic’s little car park was packed but we found some where. Having prepped our kit earlier at llyn Ogwen we needed to faff some more and change our kit over for a more leisurely walk around rather than scrambling.

What we weren’t expecting was the heat! It was forecasted to be low teens but we were down to tshirts and could have happily changed to shorts as well.

It was a brilliant afternoon wondering around the old slate quarry and it was great to see the area with some more life. My last visit here was in Winter during Storm Brian the year before and most of the trees and area was sodden or lacked colour on the trees. Its alarming just how big Dinorwic is and we didn’t even scratch the surface of the quarry before it hit 4pm and our previous night of 3 hours sleep was catching up so we called it a day to head back to make some coffee and decide where we would spend the night as well as getting an update on the weather.

The weather was saying low lying fog so we began to get very excited at a possible inversion and atmospheric conditions so we wanted to go some where new and decided on llyn Caseg-Fraith which follows the Miners track from the main road (A5) up past Tryfan and over the 800m mountain top of Y Foel Goch and Glyder Fach. Up here it offers brilliant views… If the conditions were clear which they weren’t for us. Once again the weather reports weren’t accurate.

As we climbed up the wind was increasing and our thoughts quickly turned from planning a clear evening by the lake to getting inside a warm tent out of the wind. The climb up along the Miners Track was fairly easy but both myself and Jim were struggling. By this point we had clocked in some 24000 steps which is roughly 12 miles and the three hours sleep the night before this gentle walk up the track was tougher than first looked.

The last 500metres of the track is incredibly steep. You are actually climbing up scree and good boots were needed, between this, wind and lack of sleep really started to take its toll on us but we pushed on.

That evening Mat Price joined us for the night having spent the afternoon exploring Glyder Fach and us over the range on Dinorwic.

The climb for all of us was about an hour from the road but as soon as we approached the top we started to struggle to find suitable locations to pitch up. The top here was just bog! What did we all forget… Gaiters.

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As we ventured off the top plateau we began to see several other tents spread along the outcrops to the edge. Clearly they had the best idea, the outcrops offer plenty of cover and the ground was dry around here.

By the time the tents were pitched and dinner cooked the light had gone. Not that we had any good light to capture Tryfan in the lakes and with the wind it really put us off.
Many say Autumn/Winter wild camps you will get the best and longest night sleep and up until now we were skeptical as to how considering our average wild camp sleeps ranged from 2-4 hours.

Saturday night stayed true however and by half 8 we had all retired and gone to sleep.

I woke up around 11pm to see if the sky had cleared up and it had but only briefly, the wind was still whipping up around me and with two down jackets on and considering grabbing my sleeping bag just for one shot I quickly gave up and headed back in to the protection and shelter of the tent.

8 hours later and a good nights sleep we woke up to no view out of the tents. The low lying fog wasn’t low it was very high. At 7am when we peaked our heads out of the tents it was just completely white. You couldn’t see the edge where we had pitched up near and as for Tryfan that was a right off too.

Around 10am the fog finally lifted and we had some what of a view but this was only brief so we finally ventured up on to the plateau top where Caseg-Fraith sits and began shooting long exposures in an attempt to hide the wind in the reflections but to no avail. As you will see from the photos below. Having spent some 20 minutes up on the exposed tops we gave up and returned back to our pitch in order to pack up and just as well we did. Moments after packing up the kit the cloud that had settled began to empty it’s contents.

The final climb down was a slow trudge in the rain back to the cars and the walkers who had braved the mountain tops with us that night were just ahead although most of them on their backs as they ran down the scree sloop. Not that we can comment as we all at one point on the climb down did the same. The pathways became bogs or small streams as the water rolled off the tops.

So to cheer ourselves up and recover from the cold we finished our weekend at Moel Siabod cafe with a fry up and several coffees.


Update following my cars MOT 6th December - Car failed MOT as the rear left tyre has been dented and damaged following being stuck in something - Couldn’t think what that might had been.


Fitbit stats from the weekend:

Calories
Friday 3200
Saturday 5350
Sunday 3650
Total = 12,200

Steps
9650
34,514
14,615
Total = 58779

Floors
42
356
90
Total = 488

Miles
4.2
16.86
6.84
Total = 27.9

Sleep time
Friday 3 hours
Saturday 8 and half hours

Climbs & Walks:
Cwm Idwal walk / Y Garn / Dinorwic / llyn Caseg-fraith / Miners Track

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Thryve Photographer Spotlight interview

Hey Matt, thanks for chatting to us today. In your own words can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?

Hello, thanks for having me. I'm Matt, 25 years old and currently working as a multimedia designer but I have a big obsession with the outdoors which has stemmed from my love for photography and years of involvement within Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh award.
My day job is great as I get to be creative on a daily basis but equally this is a big strain so I enjoy nothing more than getting away when I can and just switching off from the world.

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How did you get into photography?

I've always been in to photography and it's all thanks to my dad who first introduced me to film on an old Olympus OM2 and later taught me how to use medium format and so on. From there on I have always been in to something creative and couldn't see myself doing anything else, mainly because I was pretty useless at everything and found it boring so from very early on I always knew I’d end up doing something creative for a living.

The outdoors and photography have only really overlapped in the past few years. I've always been in to landscape photography, but it's only ever been a little side thing when on holiday or road trips and never really took it all that serious but now I use it as the perfect excuse to get away and fuel my trips. The past few years I feel I’ve been fairly successful with my personal photography and landscapes with two positions as a finalist in RHS photographer of the year and International garden photographer of the year as well as launching my first solo book.

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What style/feeling do you try and create with your images?

I try to capture the atmosphere at that moment, what conditions I am experiencing and of course with most landscape photography and the outdoors the weather plays a big role.
I seem to only attract bad weather and almost every trip away in the past few years has had nothing but rain, low cloud and fog. So a lot of my photography is rather dark and tends to focus on smaller detailed pieces rather than the big vista's, simply because they look rubbish when it's just cloudy and wet.
This style has crept over in how I shoot in general now and although you can't help and grab the vista shot in a big epic sunset/rise or view, I swap to a telephoto lens and start picking off trees in the distances or looking for paths and patterns in the landscape to create smaller more intimate photos.

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What equipment do you use?

To this day I still use those same Olympus OM's my dad taught me when I was younger but I often stick to digital now for ease and for my client work which is typically a lot of video and animation.
I use a Nikon D500 which is a bit of a beast but it's worth carrying the extra weight knowing it can survive pretty much anything the outdoors throws at me and it's super because you can do pretty much everything you need with it, whether it is time lapse, video or photography.

I always have a tripod with me, it's such a vital piece of kit for me it just lives in the car or on my rucksack now. I use a Vanguard Alta Pro 263CT or Veo2 which both are lightweight and again gives me unlimited options whenever I need it. Whether it’s coastal, landscape, mountains, strong winds, macro or studio.

As I am big fan of the outdoors and previously an expedition leader for DofE and writer for MyOutdoors I have a wardrobe full of kit. I'm not even going to start going in to what I own but there is a lot! It’s quickly coming to that time of the year where I review my kit and then donate old kit to local Scout groups and charities, so they get more use elsewhere. It’s something I highly recommend to anyone if they have surplus kit.

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Can you show us your favourite photograph that you have taken in the UK and tell us a little bit about why you love it?

That is a tough one, but I'll have to go with my favourite from this year as I have a lot to choose from.
It was my first visit to Durdle door and it was very wet! It was as we came over the top of the cliff to see the stairs down to the beach you could see a few brave (or mad) people out and were dotted along the beach and all you could see was the coats and the big white cliffs standing out in the sea mist.

The second choice would be my Dinorwic Pattern as you’ve seen above, I’m still very proud of this photo. Not because of the competition placement but because of the lens and conditions I was in to capture it. It was raining, and I was using a very old somewhat broken 12 year old telephoto lens and this trip was the last time the lens would get used as the rain finally got in and ruined the lens. The quarry is some distance from the road side so to get this frame you need to zoom right in with a 300-400mm lens and add the wind and rain it’s an interesting task to get without trying to crank up the ISO.

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Are there any other photographers who you admire or who have influenced your work?

More recently I've stopped looking at other photographers and even Youtuber's and started looking closer at my social media or disregarding all of this and doing my own thing. I used to watch a lot of Youtube photographers and their trips. This was not only motivating but also the opposite and putting me down, I found I was getting more and more depressed because I couldn't get out and the flip side, I was spending my time watching the videos rather than being out.

So, I stopped comparing and watching others and just do my own thing now, if I want to go somewhere I go, if I get a good photo then perfect but it's more about the experience and getting out. One benefit I have found with social media has been the meet up's and over the past few years I've been about the country meeting loads of other photographers who we see on the weekly competitions and this has been great fun to do. Some of the trips we arrange such as SnowdoniaTogFest, London or Brecon Beacons have been better and stood out compared to past trips. As you are now surrounded by likeminded people out to enjoy the outdoors and photography. 

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Can you tell us about any projects you are working on right now?

My current project I am working on is my weekend trips to the Brecon Beacons. It's not an area I've explored much of, so I wanted to get to know the National Park a little better and now after 12 weeks of back and forth visits I know it a lot better.

I've climbed a lot of mountains, spent a lot of nights in a tent and been in every weather condition bar snow yet and it's been great fun regardless of weather. I'm personally looking forward to some colder weather and getting back out for some Winter camps.

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What’s your favourite place in the UK to shoot?

Now that is an easy question to answer. Wales, I love the country and visit every year to numerous areas, this probably has developed from all the family holidays to South Wales around Pembrokeshire which is a beautiful stretch of coast and well worth a visit if you haven't been.
More recently I've visited the Brecon Beacons and the Gower to have an explore anode course the much-loved Snowdonia is hard to beat. However out of all the locations across Wales, Elan Valley and the Cambrian Mountains has to be my favourite area.
It's away from all the tourists and crowds of Snowdonia, it's more remote than the Brecon Beacons and has some good mountains to climb and woodland to get lost in and plenty of bothy's and trails to enjoy whether you are hiking, horseback or cycling.

This is where I finished my Duke of Edinburgh Gold award and had two fantastic expeditions and several visits after and every visit brought different conditions, so I was really spoilt on all the trips with weather and views.

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Have you always had an interest in the outdoors? Where did it start?

Since the age of six I've been involved in Scouting UK. Starting at Beavers and worked right through and eventually becoming a leader and when I could join the Duke of Edinburgh Award these went side-by-side for many years.
I finally completed my DofE awards at the age of 24 just before my birthday so I just got them in time and only recently I went to Buckingham Palace (Summer 2018) for my Gold Award presentation.

Since then I have left as a leader and continuing on my own path with my photography and outdoor work, I have some exciting pieces I am working on for 2019 which will combine photography, teaching and the outdoors.

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Do you take part in any outdoor activities regularly?

Cycling, hiking, mountaineering, kayaking, camping, climbing, archery and a lot more. Not much eh, I try to spend as much of my time at weekends outside to get away from a computer screen as I am often glued to my computer for work during the week so it's a nice change and give my eyes and brain a break from the creative world I work in.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start photographing the outdoors?

Don't be put off by the weather, if something doesn't happen don't be disheartened that the sun didn't shine or that event didn't happen. There are always other opportunities, nothing only happens once.

I've been out many times and spent countless hours waiting for events or the perfect opportunity and it hasn't happened, but it just spurs me on to keep going. For example, I joined a few other photographers recently up on Cribyn in the Brecon Beacons for the Perseid meteor shower. With four cameras pointing at the sky, only one of us managed to get the full trail but we all managed to get a small one off in the distance.

The rest of the weekend was a complete wash out so wasn't what I had imagined and planned but it was still an amazing weekend spent with great company. I will just try again next year.

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What is the most amazing moment you have experienced when out shooting?

It's a simple one but it was a sunset after the first day in the Cambrian Mountains on my first DofE Gold expedition in 2016.
The day was long and hot. Temperatures were 30+ plus with little shade. After 16 odd miles we were all exhausted and all collapsed when we reached our camp for the night. The leaders tipped us off about an old quarry which offers amazing views over the mountains and towards the coast.

It didn't disappoint! The view was golden and we all sat at the top of this quarry watching until it went dark, all enjoyed a laugh and dinner up top.
Perfect end to the first day.

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Is there anywhere in the UK you want to shoot but haven’t yet?

Scotland I've only been twice and both times I didn't have a camera so to go back and spend some time up there exploring. I've got a long list of locations I want to visit, some pretty obvious like Iceland, Norway and Faroe Islands.

What do you love most about where you live?

I live in Berkshire and not far off the Chilterns and have lived here most of my life. I'm very lucky in the respect that it's very easy to get around here with two major motorways and plenty of public transport in and around London area so it's only a three-hour drive to get to some good mountains or a little over an hour and I'm on the coast.

If it's not going further afield the Chilterns offers some beautiful walks around the countryside as well as plenty of cycling routes both on and off road to enjoy. It's also full of wildlife from deer, birds and bugs so I get to have a lot of fun with some macro and wildlife photography every now and then for a change.

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Source: https://thryve.world/journal/2018/10/photographer-matt-holland/

Upper Ddwli falls, Brecon Beacons

After a wet night on Pen y Fan wild camping, we ventured off the mountains for some respite and cover from the thick clouds and weather. We ventured down in the valley's waterfall country in the Brecon Beacons. With ourselves and most of our kit soaked, we were passed caring about getting wet so what better way to continue the theme by standing in a river to take photos of the waterfalls surrounded by the Autumn backdrop.

We spent most of the day in the valley and darting between one waterfall to the next and spending some time at each. Much of the time was spent cleaning the front of the lens and filters from rain drops.

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Source: https://f11news.com/21/09/2018/upper-ddwli-falls-brecon-beacons-wales-by-matt-holland