Tim Knifton

Fresh air, cold feet and long exposures

Sunday 18th November

Its been a fortnight since I’ve been out with the camera (since the Belgium Eurotour) and was looking forward to getting back out for landscapes and some early morning sunrises as they have been neglected of late.

I was hoping for a beach but Dai checked tide times and cloud cover – the tide was high and the cloud cover was 20% – a fail in our book usually.

We decided on a 5:20am meet and a drive to Pontsticill Reservoir to scope out our options for the morning. A few waterfall visits were on the itinerary but where to stay for sunrise?

After some driving around, we decided to stay at Pontsticill as there was water in the reservoir. After some coffee, it was time to set up. The light was coming through the mist and set the mood for blue hour. The Reservoir itself is a one or two shot wonder but it’s definitely worth doing when there is water in the reservoir – the light and conditions is a matter of luck as it always is.



Pontsticill Reservoir or Taf Fechan Reservoir is a large reservoir on the Taf Fechan lying partly in the county of Powys and partly within the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. It lies within the Brecon Beacons National Park and Fforest Fawr Geopark.

The 110 ft high embankment has, since its completion in 1927, been holding back 3400 million gallons of water for supply to industry and population to the south. The modern reservoir incorporates the earlier Pentwyn Reservoir (sometimes referred to as Dol-y-gaer Reservoir or Lake) which suffered major water losses after completion due to the presence of major fractures in the bedrock beneath its dam relating to the Neath Disturbance, a major geological fault which runs northeast to southwest through the area.

The reservoir is popular with sailors, anglers and picnickers. The Taff Trail has been developed for walkers and cyclists and runs through the woods on the western side of the Reservoir. Merthyr Tydfil sailing club is based on the eastern bank and the Brecon Mountain Railway which runs up its eastern side from Pant Station to Dolygaer with plans to extend its run to Torpantau. This steam railway runs on the route of the former Brecon and Merthyr Railway.

Most of the banks of the reservoir have been heavily afforested by Welsh Water though management of these woods is undertaken by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the company.

After Pontsticill, we drove up to the car park of Pen-y-Fan and spent some time photographing the waterfalls at the foot of the mountain. Lucky for us today we had full waterfalls wherever we went today.

With all waterfalls, there is an element of negotiation through the water as a lot of my photos involve standing in the water up to a foot high (or sometimes more), trying an exposure time, calculating initial settings, checking the first results and taking another exposure depending on the light and experimenting from there. 200 to 300 seconds takes forever when you are watching – next time I will be taking a book with me!!

All my waterfall shots are taken with the B&W 110 ND “10 stopper”.

The water at Pen-y-Fan was below freezing and regardless of decent footwear and  welly socks, feet were still freezing to a point of numbness.

After Pen-y-Fan, we made a short trip to the falls at Resolven (I forget the name and as well as that, I am rubbish with Welsh names and locations). After a nasty fall (which is unlike me), I took several exposures from several angles and then spotting some Macro opportunities on the riverbank behind.


One single leaf covered in droplets. The sad things we get excited about but through a macro lens, they are interesting things to photograph. After a change of lens, I set up my tripod and took several shots using a combination of live-view and repositioning of the camera to get closer and better details. Below was one result.

“Magnified droplets”

After all the fun of falls (both water and myself), we paid a visit to Sgwd Gladys, which is at the Waterfalls Centre at Pontneddfechan. A good 30 minute walk to the falls and several failed attempts later and I managed to get this photo.

“Sgwd Gladys”

A few failed attempts due to the changes in light plus the total number of tourists who decide to walk and climb behind the waterfall. I find it a difficult waterfall to photograph but it was a challenge.

Waterfall Country is a stunning region of the Brecon Beacons National Park and Fforest Fawr Geopark, and the Waterfalls Centre in the village of Pontneddfechan provides a great starting point to explore this beautiful area.

This was the eight-hour trek for a Sunday which was a very productive morning with great conditions and plenty of water.

Thanks for reading.

This entry was published on November 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm. It’s filed under HDR, Landscapes, Nature, Photography, Sunrise, Waterscapes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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