Chasing Winter

Looking back through the images I’ve made this month it seems I’ve been mostly chasing frost and snow, although it’s been unseasonably mild. So have I really only taken photos in the cold? Well… yes.

At the beginning of the month I was on Great Mis tor in the coldest conditions I thought I’d ever know. No snow to speak of and very little frost but the howling wind made it feel like my eyeballs would freeze. The light around was pretty special but I had to wait for a while until there was any where I was stood. As usual my Nikon D7000 worked perfectly though, never missing a beat and the batteries didn’t drop charge despite the biting cold. I did have the usual filter misting issues though so my lens cloth was kept busy.

A couple of days later I had a wander along the river Dart after a failed sunrise on Yar tor. I was greeted with picture perfect scenery with hoar frost covering rocks and trees giving everything a ‘coated in sugar’ look. I spent a very enjoyable time not walking very far but finding images wherever I looked, and when the light came it gave a completely different feel to this beautiful valley.

Just 2 days after I had a 1-2-1 with a client, starting with a colourful sunrise on Pew tor. I love opening up the photographic world to others who want to learn how we do what we do in the landscaping genre and seeing the satisfaction on their faces when they see an image on the screen that they took.

Dartmoor National Park; Devon; photography

Sunrise ordered especially for a client

It was a few more days until I had the camera out of the bag and it was in dramatically different conditions…

Snow was forecast on a weekend when Phil would be coming up so I suggested a trip to the Brecon Beacons (this could become a tradition). Last year’s trip involved sleeping in the car overnight and driving home the same day. This time I decided we’d drive up in the early hours, shoot all day and stay in a Travelodge so we’d at least get a decent sleep.

The alarm sounded at 2am and we were on the road by 2.45. It took less than 3 hours to get to our chosen spot. We sat in the car for a while as the one thing we hadn’t banked on was rain. We had no phone signal so couldn’t check our apps to see how soon it would break so decided to start walking. Unfortunately we took the wrong path and headed up towards Fan Y Big instead of the upper Neuadd reservoir where we had planned to shoot.

Phil fighting the conditions. We were both pretty soaked and frustrated by the time we got back to the car

The scene I was hoping to capture at the Upper Neuadd Reservoir. The only ‘usable’ shot from the whole time we were there.

The rain was pretty relentless and had snow mixed in with it. By the time we decided to turn around we were both soaked. The scene at the dried up reservoir though took all the thoughts of how cold and wet we were away. It was simply stunning. All we had to do was wait for the wet snow to stop and hope for some light. Neither of those happened. Phil stepped into one of the small streams that were under the ice 3 times while I fought with wet cloths to wipe the raindrops from my Lee Filters. It was a battle just to take an image of any kind. After about an hour we decided to call it a wrap and head back to the car to warm up. For the rest of the day we mainly ate and drank coffee and tea although the day was not wasted as we finished off on Fan Nedd taking in the view and the atmosphere, diving out of the car when the showers passed. The hotel bed was most welcome after a tiring day.

Brecon Beacons National Park; Wales; photography

In between the drizzle showers on Fan Nedd

The following week I ventured northward again, this time with my son, Micky, but only to the north part of Dartmoor, an area I don’t know well. It was more of a recce to see what it was like up there. All I can say is… bleak but beautiful in it’s own way, and surprisingly accessible.

The same week I was chasing frost again, this time in the west Dart valley. I missed the sunrise by being in the wrong location but the light in the west Dart valley was beautifully crisp. I spent a good hour just picking my way to a copse of scotts pines on the opposite bank. Everything was white with a heavy frost creating magical scenery that begged to be photographed. I nearly slipped into the river while crossing the stepping stones but managed to keep my balance and my gear intact. It got packed away for the return crossing with a plan made if I stumbled again. I’d rather have wet feet than all my gear ruined. I had the company of a fox while over on the other side and it even gave me enough time to change lenses and take a snap of it. I couldn’t tell you if it was male or female so it will have to remain as ‘it’.


I feel I’m being watched. Good of the fox to keep still while I took this pic

On the final weekend of the month Phil was up again. Saturday was the only day that looked reasonable weather-wise so off we set after the 5.30am alarm. Sunrise wasn’t to be though. Neither of us could decide where to go or what we wanted. Breakfast in the Fox Tor Cafe in Princetown helped us to get ourselves in gear and I decided to show Phil Foggintor and Swelltor quarries. I never took any images there but Phil set up her Vanguard AltaPro 263AB tripod and Canon 60D with her Lee Filters Big Stopper to make the most of the swift moving clouds over the disused quarry. (Phil uses an insert pack for her camera gear in an Osprey rucksack which means she can carry other essentials on her visits to see me. It also means she can carry the snacks when we go for an explore. I have a similar setup too for visits away.)

‘Sunrise’ just outside Princetown

Once we’d finished at the quarries a fuel and food top up was needed before heading back up to the north moor to show Phil what I’d discovered the previous week. I chose West Mill tor to take in the spectacular views. It’s 541 metres above sea level so you can imagine how windy it was, but the views really are something special. We could watch the heavy showers rolling in and thankfully passing by us. Time flew by; it was almost time for sunset before we knew it. A large shower passed by within a mile of us and the sun caught it’s edges creating a rainbow. It was a frantic few minutes trying to capture it and give a sense of the feel of the area, which is very different to my usual patch.

Spectacular views from West Mill tor

Thankfully ‘this small’ shower missed us

Eventually we made it home and collapsed into bed after another long but thoroughly enjoyable day. It seems the norm for our weekends together now. Tiring it may be but I love being out and about enjoying, photographing and sharing our countryside. Life is for living after all.

Well, that was January, I wonder what February will bring?