I am pleased to show you "The Sgydau Series", a collection of images of southern Welsh waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons. Waterfalls are something that I've been drawn to ever since I was a lad. They fascinate me with their varying personalities, some gentle and serene, others raging torrents. I visited the southern Brecon Beacons for a long weekend with the intention of shooting the many waterfalls in the area particularly along the Nedd Fechan, Pyrddin, Hepste and Mellte rivers between Pontneddfechan and Ystradfellte. It is with quite some justification that this is called Waterfall Country - there are a truly breathtaking array of waterfalls.
What I really like about the area is that though it's a well known location, it hasnt been "tourist-fied". It still feels like you're going out in the wilderness to some degree. You can get close to the falls without metal railings getting in the way and some of the better views require getting off the beaten path and finding a way down the steep sided gorges. "Mission" below is so named for the journey in and out rather than the image itself! It's a fabulous part of the world and one I hope to visit on numerous occasions.
I chose this area as I had seen a couple of the more well known falls, in particular Sgwy Ddwli, appearing on Flickr photostreams during early autumn. Given my penchant for waterfalls I had to investigate further. When I discovered just how many falls there were in the area I was gobsmacked and was immediately arranging a cottage for a long weekend (or rather, my wife was - she's awesome at stuff like that).
Conditions for my trip weren't quite as expected. My visions of the place were based on late summer and autumn, with the vibrant foliage of the many trees that cling to the side of the gorges playing off against the beautiful falls. Given I was going at the end of November I knew that the autumn colours would be past their best if not all but gone.
Worse, in the days leading up to our trip the UK (in particular the south west) was hit by an incredible amount of rainfall with widespread flooding that caused a lot of damage. Indeed with over 300 flood warnings in place the night before our trip I wasn't sure if we'd even go. Fortunately the weather abated and we made it down with relatively little flooding in evidence.
I had done some research on the area and knew where the key locations were, but I still had that nervous, unprepared feeling as we arrived on the Friday. I wasn't certain where I would go on the Saturday morning or what to expect, and I didn't want to waste any of my precious time. In the fading light I walked up from the Angel Inn in Pontneddfechan to Sgwd Gwladus and I'm really glad I did.
As expected most of the foliage had gone and there was little colour left in the scene. The heavy rain meant the rivers were swollen and the falls in full flow, though perhaps not as bad as I feared. I shot about 15 images which really helped me decide my approach for the rest of the weekend.
I had already decided that I wanted to create a coherent body of work - not just individually nice images, but images that I felt told some of the story of my time with the falls. With the lack of colour and the lovely gushing falls, as I looked at my images of "The Lady's Falls" on that Friday night I realised that, should the rest of the weekend pan out in a similar way, focusing in on the water to the exclusion of almost all else was the approach I wanted to take. This led me to the stark, high contrast black and white shots that you will see in the series below.
Why "Sgydau"? As you might guess from some of the images below "sgwd" means waterfall in the local dialect of southern Wales, and "sgydau" is it's plural-form. I find Welsh (and Gaelic) incredibly evocative languages, they create fantastical connections in my brain in a way that English simply fails to do. I'm not sure if the languages purposely evolved that way, or if it's just my imagination and sense of adventure playing tricks on me, but to me they seem at one with the landscape, almost like the words describe the landscape in some ancient and deeply connected way. Regardless, I like to maintain this link between the local language, landscape and my images.
If you click on the image below it will take you through to the gallery for "The Sgydau Series". It's one of my first conscious collections of work and one I am very happy with. In some ways it's very aligned with my existing work, and in others represents a bit of a departure. I hope to add to it and see it evolve over the coming years.
I hope you enjoy it.