I first visited Herbert’s Quarry, just north of Upper Brynamman in 2009. It was my first, albeit brief, experience of the Brecon Beacons. The light that day was a bit bland — a fine August afternoon with brief spells of sunshine interrupted by gathering clouds. Having spent most of my life in Sussex, the drama and dramatic contours of the Brecon Beacons was like nothing I’d ever experienced — a land of big skies and incredible vistas. I took a load of shots, trying to capture the feeling of the place, but none of them were particularly remarkable. I think the best bit of the visit was when I stopped photographing, and just sat there on a rock, staring out across the criss-cross patchwork of farmland in the valley below. I felt an incredible sense of peace and belonging. Ever since, I’ve wanted to return and spend a good bit of time there on my own.
Sitting at Herbert’s Quarry 2009
I returned there this afternoon — seven years after I first visited. Compared late winter 2015, the weather has been kind, and the rain has been sporadic. As I approached the Beacons from Upper Brynamman, the low winter sun lit up the grass-covered slopes of the mountains with a golden glow. Already it was looking like it was going to be a productive trip.
I spent the bulk of my time wandering east. I circled along the terraces at the base of Herbert’s Quarry. I was more interested in the wilderness beyond. I find it very energising being out wandering in wild landscapes, and I often listen to my iPod. Today’s playlist was music from the Elder Scrolls series of fantasy role-playing video games — very apt for my surroundings.
As usual, I’m attracted to rocky outcrops, and spotted one in the distance. I wanted to head for it, but with calendar rapidly approaching the shortest day, I knew it would start to get dark by the time I got there, and without a decent torch on my, I decided not to risk it this time. My halfway point was a stream that fell into a gorge and became a series of waterfalls. I climbed down into the gorge and spent some time there, just taking it all in.
When heading back, the skies started to become more dramatic as the sun lowered on the horizon. As a photographer, I tend to look for high-contrast light, but found most of the surrounding area was in shade. I continued taking shots, as good photos can still arise from less than ideal conditions — especially on the Beacons with the subtle colours and textures of the rocks and grasses.
Finally on the way home, I had to stop a couple of times to capture the sunset over the valleys and the low clouds buffeting the mountaintops. In the short time I was out, I managed to capture a decent selection of shots. Next time I’ll head out earlier to give myself time to wander further into the wilderness.