Wales-Wide open spaces and waterfalls

June 11, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

After a day of walking the mountain tops, the next day is spent a little more leisurely with a gentle stroll around the Usk reservoir. The weather is warm but clouds are sitting lower on the hills. Rounding the end of the reservoir, the path climbs slightly and there is a fine view back towards the previous days walking route over Y Mynydd Du, Black Mountain.  

Brecon Beacons Landscape PhotographyRoadway to Black MountainGravel path around the Usk Reservoir appears to lead off towards the cloud topped Black Mountain, Y Mynydd Du, in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The surroundings are more open here and the gravel pathway winds back into the trees with Black Mountain topped by clouds behind. I like the composition so position myself for a photograph. 

Looking back at this image during processing, there is an abundance of vibrant green. It's too much, over powering. I don't think I've ever seen this level of vibrance elsewhere in the the Great British countryside. For me the image looks better in black and white, the greens becoming different shades of grey, the result is somehow softer, less jarring on the eye. A slight selective lightening of the gravel path better separates it from the pale grasses bordering each side, and a slight vignette to finish. 

I like the result, the sense of wide open space, the gravel path leading towards the distance mountains, it has for me, a timeless quality, being devoid of almost all signs of modern life.

Landscape photographs from the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales.Lone Farm HouseA view across open moorland towards distant hills. The lone farm house tucked into the shallow valley adds to the feeling of isolation. Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales


Later in the day, while staying on the theme of wide open spaces, I came across this scene while scouting for a location for potential sunset photographs. 

It was apparent that the clouds building in the west would prevent any chance of blazing colours in the sky, the mountain tops were covered in clouds anyway. As I turned to walk back towards the car I was greeted with another view across open countryside. The layer of cloud was catching sunlight, bouncing a soft glow downwards into the shadowy landscape like a giant reflector.

Diagonal slopes running in alternating directions of different shades and textures help channel the eye towards the single white farm house set down in the shallow valley.

For me it has a real sense of wide open space, of remoteness and isolation; loneliness even.

The monochrome representation perhaps emphasises this feeling. Perhaps a colour rendition would change the emotional feeling of the picture, I might give it a try.......

The following morning the weather is unsettled, damp and showery, thick clouds and dull light. We decide to stay at lower level again and head towards Cwm Porth for a walk along the banks of the Afon Mellte. It's a tougher than expected path, twisting and undulating over and around river exposed rocks and tree roots. In other places the path is easier, through woodland, the river hidden from sight but dense woodland cannot hide the sound, as we progress we can hear the unmistakeable noise of falling water.

Descending into the gorge via a steep side path, we are rewarded by our first waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira. According to the internet, Eira translates as Snow, so I guess the literal translation is Snow Falls, however the proper Welsh name lends a greater air of magic and mystery, it reminds me of place names from Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" or "The Hobbit"; with a path hidden behind the falls it would make an apt location.

Waterfalls of the Brecon Beacons National Park, WalesSgwd yr EiraThe Afon Hepste a tributary of the Afon Mellte, drops 15m over a rock step forming Sgwd yr Eira, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

The Afon Hepste drops just over 15m (50ft) here in a broad fan. Deciduous woodland lines both banks, the damp conditions further intensify the vivid green of the new leaves and ferns. 

I have always really liked pictures of flowing water. The milky white strands formed by a combination of water droplets, bubbles of air and a slow shutter speed.

The camera is tripod mounted to prevent camera shake. I have to tread carefully, despite the rain the river is running quite low and the exposed rocks are extremely slippery near the river's edge. A polarising filter is used, in part to reduce some reflections from the water and wet rocks, in part to reduce the light reaching the sensor by a further 2 stops, allowing for an even slower shutter speed.


We continue on, following the guide book instructions back up the steep slope to the main path. Sometimes I wonder why I always pack all my camera equipment, it seems to be extra heavy today going up hill in the warm damp and humid air, still you never know, I might need it. 

Waterfalls of the Brecon Beacons, WalesSgwd y PannwrSgwd y Pannwr, a waterfall on the Afon Mellte, Brecon Beacons Nation Park, Wales

It's not long before we reach the next falls, Sgwd y Pannwr, an unusual waterfall which runs along the valley, not across it. The river here turns 90˚ left to plunge over the falls before turning back 90˚right to continue along the valley bottom.  

I perch on a narrow ledge about 10 feet above the water as far back from the falls as I can get while trying not to fall in, the lengths we photographers must go to get that shot.

I still need to fit the 15mm lens to get the falls all in, orientated in portrait fashion to include the foreground greenery. I end up with too much tree at the top of the image so decide to crop it square, the top of the river bank and falls creating converging diagonals that lead to the point where the river disappears from view.

Exposure is tricky, the white of the falling water versus the dark of the rocks and shaded river bank. I use the histogram, placing the highlights as close to the right hand edge of the scale as possible without clipping any data. The rest of the image looks dark on the camera screen but Lightroom 5 is able to lift the shadow detail out without creating too much noise during post processing.

I'm pleased with the result.




Welsh waterfalls Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn, Brecon Beacons National Park, WalesSgwd Isaf Clun-gwynSgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn on the Afon Mellte. One of the many waterfalls along this narrow tree lined gorge


Further along this dead end side path we reach Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn. The gorge is steep and narrow here and the river drops over a number of steps. Access is tricky, getting a view of the upper part of the falls is difficult so I concentrate on the lower.

It is another magical location, a horse shoe amphitheatre with the river flowing through a narrow cleft worn in the rock over eons.

Above, steep banks covered in trees and ferns and a partial tantalising glimpse of the upper part of the falls. Below, the river splits into multiple channels, water flowing over rocky steps covered in moss.  

I want to keep the ferns in to the right of the picture, I like ferns, they always give me a sense of some prehistoric underworld.


It has been another great day exploring the Brecon Beacons. Result, tired legs, memorable locations, and plenty of photos to process.

I hope you enjoy them and reading a something about how, and perhaps more importantly, why I enjoyed taking them



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