Hard Lessons Learnt from a Windy Sunset up a Mountain

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This was one trip that unfortunately, a lens succumbed to the stupidity of my travels up Waun Fach, an 800 meter peak in the Brecon Beacons. Thankfully, I’ve learnt a few things as a result.

The Back Story

I decided to make the most of my free time one Saturday and take a hike up Pen Y Manllwyn/Waun Fach and with the plan for a sunset composing Y Grib also known as “The Dragons Back” (essentially a ridge descending into the valley). Based on the sunset position that day, the ridge would make for a cool leading line across the image with the sun in distance. Perfect. So, off me and Kesha go making a late start of 3 pm at an unnamed field (pinned below). The hike was quite simple really at only 3 miles to the planned destination although constantly upward.

 

When I finally reached the top, the gales hit me. Walking became as though I was pulling a small car behind me (okay, maybe an exaggeration) and whilst the views looked amazing, although slightly hazy at the time, I could only enjoy them for brief seconds before my head locked back into a view of the ground as I pushed forward. Soon I reached the height of Pen Y Manllwyn (I think – it was hard to tell) and I quickly made a dash lower down for protection from the wind. Here I tried to compose a shot, although the craggy crests of Y Grib weren’t as magnificent as I felt they could be so I decided to get closer. First, taking a break to enjoy the view, it was only 4 pm anyway. Fast forward 30 minutes after walking around trying to find the best angle, I finally set myself on a composition.

The “Heart-wrenching Moment”

Well, for me it certainly was! My lightweight tripod was all set up with the camera perched on top and my Sigma 10-20 at the ready. I started taking shots. A little bit hazy still so I decided to wait longer in the hope that the setting sun would fix that. As I waited, I tried improving the composition and looking at the back of the camera, I wasn’t happy. Maybe my lightweight 28-75 would do the trick I thought. As I turned away, got the lens out and turned back, the camera was gone, gone into the black abyss of jagged rocks – yep, the tripod had face planted and smashed my Sigma 10-20 with it.

Many words were said during this time that I shall not repeat! However, I’m glad I didn’t let it get to me as I still managed to capture the shot I had in mind. (Although not perfect and I have plans to go back)

So, What Have I Learnt?

1. The importance of the height of my tripod

I was stupid for having the tripod at basically full-height. Looking back now, this seems so simple as higher the tripod, the more susceptible it is to the wind. I’m pretty sure if it had been lower, then it might not have fallen over or the fall would be nowhere near as bad.

2. Do I really need to go all out lightweight?

The tripod I was using (Slik Sprint Pro 2 GM tripod) weighs less than 900 grams which is absolutely nothing for a tripod – I can barely feel the weight of it on my back, especially when compared to my 2kg Manfrotto beast. However, do I really need all out lightweight gear? My back says it does, but now my pocket says I really don’t. I think this will need to be based on the weather forecast, if I’m going into an exposed place, then take the weighty tripod.

3. Sometimes shit hits the fan, how can I mitigate the risk?

Thankfully my Sigma 10-20 wasn’t a great expense. It had me thinking though, what if my Nikon 24-70 f2.8 took the fall? That’s £800 down the pan. Do I really need all this incredibly expensive kit? I thought about it and no is the answer. Whilst the 24-70 is an amazing lens, the f2.8 aperture isn’t necessary for me, combine this with some research and the Sigma 24-105 f/4 is a comparable lens in terms of optical quality yet is only £400 used. In other words, for the price of my 24-70, I can get two Sigmas. Considering the recent fall, I will be selling the 24-70 to replace the 10-20 and purchase the used Sigma. I was at one stage debating purchasing a proper filter system (like the Nisi system) yet all that glass on the front would get me nervous, even more so now! And let’s be honest, do I really need it? A polariser or big/little stopper is a must but the ND grad filters, maybe not? The power of luminosity masking or simple HDR solves the need for these filters in my opinion. Maybe I’m missing something here and I’m just trying to justify not spending the money, feel free to let me know in the comments!

With all that said, on the way back I had the joy of a beautiful pink sunset and a period of no wind. Pure outdoor bliss!

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Maggie
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Maggie

? the photograph is amazing, I love it!
Perhaps everything happens for a reason… it’s good that you’re learning from the experience and taking the positive from it.
Here’s to warm dry calm weather, many more mountain hikes and wonderful photographs…

Sarah
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Sarah

Great read Peter! I can just imagine the horror turning back and seeing the tripod and camera gone!
But fair play you got an incredible shot out of it, well done!