Posts from the ‘Wales’ category

Cwmorthin slate quarry in Snowdonia – the upper section



My last post gave a description of Cwmorthin slate quarry and included a number of photographs all taken in the lower section of the valley. You can read this entry here. The upper section is reached from the valley by walking up a fairly steep and long path, but it is well worth the effort. Here there are the remains of more buildings, old machinery and large pieces of slate, set into the ground like tombstones; memorials for the miners who once worked here and gave their lives to this dangerous industry.










A note about processing – This post and the one before it, have a total of ten images all were taken on the same day in similar light and depict the harsh and rather bleak environment of Cwmorthin slate quarry. When grouping images such as these together, I recognise the importance of consistent processing to produce a harmonious set of images. However these photographs were not all processed at the same time. Some were done many weeks ago, others more recently to complete the set. Initially there was a lack of consistency in my approach. I had not used a particular preset, so I found it more difficult to achieve the look I wanted. Having compared and then tweaked all the images, I finally applied a split tone, as I felt this was warranted. In my view it would add something to the look and feel of the photographs, with the aim of reflecting the atmosphere of the location.


Cwmorthin slate quarry in Snowdonia – the lower section

Cwmorthin Quarry – a bleak and now lonely place – previously a place of great activity, endeavour and danger, as miners went about their difficult and very physical work in many miles of dark, wet tunnels below the surface. As I sit at my desk in a warm, well lit room, with a hot cup of tea for sustenance, typing these words on a Mac keyboard, I find it very hard to imagine what life would have really been like for the people who lived and toiled here many decades ago.




Cwmorthin is a substantial Victorian-era slate mine above the village of Tanygrisau, close to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales. Having left my car in a small car park, I together with a few other photographers walked up a fairly steep incline until we reached Llyn Cwmorthin, a lake overlooked by some derelict buildings which at one time were the barracks for the mine workers. Work on the mine first began in the early 1800’s, with heavy underground development starting around 1860. Some access to the mines is still possible but I for one was very happy to stay above ground, take in the atmosphere, and try and reflect my feelings for this harsh environment through my photography.

Although mine workings largely came to an end in 1970, some small scale mining still took place in the 80’s and 90’s eventually ceasing altogether in 1997. Flooding in mines was always a problem, so large pumps were used to remove water from the many miles of tunnels on a number of floors. Wall and roof failures were a constant hazard for the mineworkers and it’s of no surprise that numerous chambers have collapsed preventing access to large parts of the mine.

The photographs in this entry were taken either by the lake or along a wet and stoney footpath, lined by a slate fence, which took us past a chapel with only a pair of conifers for company. Sadly the roof had been removed from the chapel in fear I guess that it might collapse and be a danger to visitors. Later we climbed a long and fairly steep path to the upper section of Cwmorthin Quarry and this will feature in a future entry.


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Dinorwic slate quarry – a harsh and inhospitable place.

This is a foreboding place. A harsh environment, full of drama and atmosphere. Now redundant but not forgotten. Dinorwic Slate Quarry in Llanberis covers a vast area with the mountains of Snowdon as its backdrop. Closed in 1969 after 170 years of slate extraction, it was once the second largest slate quarry in the world. It was a dangerous, dirty, unhealthy place to work and whilst the workers were skilled, they were also poorly paid.

On my recent visit the rain kept away, but the wind blew and I could only stop and try to imagine what conditions must have been like for those that toiled in such an inhospitable climate, day after day, week after week, year after year.








Whilst Dinorwic Slate Quarry is hardly a place of ‘picture postcard’ beauty, it does have a beauty all of its own, which I like. It’s a place with history, it has a story to tell and what’s important to me is that my photographs have something to say about the location and are not just ‘record’ shots.

Taking the shot is just one step along the path to the finished result. The making of the image is in the processing. It’s only at this stage that I can start to make some creative decisions as to how I would like the picture to be seen by the viewer. Does the image convey any emotion? Does this series of images help tell a story, so that words are hardly necessary? I would like to think the answer is ‘yes’ to both these questions, but I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this as well.

To see more detail in any of the photographs, do click on an image to see a larger version in a new window.

Thanks as always for stopping by and looking at my blog.


Just a tree or a natural living sculpture?

We all know that trees come in all shapes and sizes. Some are grouped together to form a coppice, forest or wood, but it’s when they stand alone that their true beauty and magnificence can be really appreciated.

In winter when the tree is stripped of its leaves, the many years of growth can be witnessed, as each branch appears to intertwine with its neighbour, yet achieving an overall symmetry of shape and form. Is it any wonder that as photographers we are drawn to these rather special natural living sculptures in the landscape around us?

This shot was taken in the Brecon Beacons of Wales earlier this year.

The old A5 – Nant Ffrancon valley in Snowdonia

The road from the western end of Llyn Ogwen to Bethesda in Snowdonia passes though the deeply glaciated valley of Nant Ffrancon. Now a typical ‘A’ road the original road featured in this post is a single track road with just a few passing places. It is rarely used so parking is not really a problem. You just stop in the middle of the road and hope that no vehicles come along while you jump out of the car and take a few photographs.

The road twists and turns with a variety of fences defining field boundaries. Wire and post fencing, stone walls, but perhaps most interesting of all are the slate fences, nestling in the grasses which lean from left to right and undulate in harmony with the lie of the land.

It’s a fascinating area to explore and really does feel like you are stepping back in time. There are very few buildings along this stretch of road. The ones that are here are isolated and when I visited this part of Snowdonia at the end of October the weather was favourable. I tried to imagine what it might be like in the depths of winter, with rain or snow being swept through the valley by a cold and strong wind. Pretty bleak I thought to myself.

The first two images below are taken from the existing A5, looking down into the valley. The line of the old road can be seen in the top right of the frame of the first shot.


Nant Ffrancon valley

Nant Ffrancon valley


Wire and stone

Wire and stone


Valley road

Valley road


Valley farmhouse

Valley farmhouse


Tree of light, Nant Ffrancon

Tree of light


Slate fence

Slate fence


Old road

Old road


Do click on any of the images to view a larger version which will open in a new window.