Cwmorthin Slate Quarry - Wales

Geoff Moore Adventures in Landscape Photography on Thu 01 December 2016

  • Image Title: Cwmorthin Slate Quarry Sunrise Path
  • Canon 7d Mark2 Camera used:
  • Tokina 11-20mm UWA Lens used:
  • 15mm Focal length:
  • f/11 Aperture:
  • 1/1/4 Exposure time:
  • 100 ISO:

Mark and I have been blessed with some great sunrises over the past 12 months, however our chance of a decent sunrise felt very slim as we pulled up at the Cwmorthin Slate Quarry car park.

We had been driving for around 2 hours and 40 minutes, setting off from home in Worcestershire, UK at 4am. Our initial intentions were to find a fog covered Welsh landscape in the heart of the Cwmorthin Slate Quarry. During the drive, thoughts of a cloud inversion played on my mind as we left Worcestershire and made our way through Shropshire, and over the boarders in to Wales. Working our way through the valleys of Snowdonia the silhouettes of the mountains started to become more visible, their blackness overpowering the fading darkness of the early morning sky as it started to give way to the twilight of a new day

By the time we arrived at our destination however, it was obvious there was no chance of fog. In every direction cloudless skies, the dawn light was building and was enough to reveal the lack of drama in the sky, even the stars where beginning to fade out of sight. It was cold, the wind was blowing, at this rate there wouldn't even be a decent sunrise, or so I thought!

Exploring Cwmorthin Slate Quarry

Not to be perturbed by the uneventful weather, we readied ourselves with hats, scarfs and camera bags and set off on foot onto the quarry footpath. A steep path climbed from the carpark up and into the slate quarry highlands, the sound of falling water and numerous signposts warning us of danger guided our way. Then disaster, a thump followed quickly by a second and my camera bag went light, with realisation at what might have just occurred, I span around in horror, there lay on the wet stony quarry path my Camera and its landscape lens attached, whilst my second lens a Canon 70-200mm F4 L rolled away from me, gathering pace as it headed back towards the car park! Quickly I jumped and put my foot between the rolling lens and its continued decent whilst reaching for my fallen camera. Mark looked on in complete surprise, not in the fact of the mis-hap but in all these months he had never seen me move so fast! and surprising to myself, I remained highly restrained with my vocabulary.

With the rolling lens re-captured it was time to test Canons marketing claims about the robustness of their Magnesium alloy body cameras which my 7d Mark 2 uses and also putting toughness of their L lenses to the test, I took a breath and prepared for the worst. Upon closer examination, the filter adaptor on the Tokina 11-20mm F2.8 lens had taken the brunt of the fall, importantly not misshapen. I reached for my head torch for a better view of the camera and lens bodies, thankfully on both on a splash of mud on the body and some moisture on the lens , then the real test, would the camera switch on? would the lenses auto-focus? could I still take photos! My heart thumped and the nervous expectation of a dead camera, I flicked the power switch.

Lights, Camera, Action! Photography

The cameras LCD lit up! I breathed a sigh of relief, everything was still working, all buttons and functions functioned as expected there was nothing hanging off or any obvious missing screws, the optics on the lenses were in good order and no scratches. Both lenses still worked and auto-focused without issue. A few test shots with both lenses and double checking the display on the back of camera revealed a sharp and in-focus scene in both auto and manual focus. So what went wrong? Further inspecting my camera bag revealed the root cause of the mishap, the 2nd zipper had failed on the main camera compartment and whilst walking the bag had started to part open allowing the camera and lenses to fall out from the side. Phew a 5'ft free fall on to a stony pavement is quite a test! - Now it must be said on the several months of adventuring with Mark it is usually he who has 'camera trouble' so it was really a matter of time before something unfortunate came my way, thankfully, on this occasion I got away with it.

With my belongings repacked, the zips double and then triple checked, and with a second approval from Mark, we continued on our walk up following the path and into the Cwmorthin Slate Quarry landscape.

Fire Ridge Chapel
  • Image Title: Fire Ridge Chapel
  • Canon 7d Mark2 Camera used:
  • Tokina 11-20mm UWA Lens used:
  • 11mm Focal length:
  • f/11 Aperture:
  • 1/8 Exposure time:
  • 100 ISO:

The Slate Quarry Path 

Our path led us past numerous abandoned buildings, wrecks of an bygone industrial age, the land was sodden in a good couple of inches or more of water, peculating from the higher slopes of the surrounding mountains, it was wet! boggy and slippy. Morning was just starting to break, the skies where still relatively clear, however there was some cloud on the near eastern horizon forming, perhaps, our fortune had changed and at least a sunrise worth photographing would present it self. 

The clouds started to gather pace and the wind blew them above us giving the morning sun light much needed material in order to reflect from, the far mountain side of the quarry started to warm up in a beautiful and vibrant orange glow as the sun lifted itself from the horizon and the light it cast bathed the landscape beneath it. Morning had arrived. Mark had quickly scampered off at this point, staking a claim to a small patch of land so that he could compose his shot, I quickly followed looking for the 'other' composition as the warmth of the sunlight crept down the side of the mountains in front of us. 

The abandoned remains of what appears to be an old chapel stood as the mountains looming above us caught fire with the orange and reds from an intense morning sunrise.

Dragon Mountain
  • Image Title: Dragon Mountain
  • Canon 7d Mark2 Camera used:
  • Tokina 11-20mm UWA Lens used:
  • 14mm Focal length:
  • f/11 Aperture:
  • 1/40 Exposure time:
  • 100 ISO:

Exploring the location with the camera

As the best light of sunrise was ebbing away it was time to further explore our surroundings, the quarry path we had been traveling meandered further off in to the distance, and took in scenes of abandoned building and small thickets of tress which made suitable shelter for a group of walkers who had spent the night at the quarry, were beginning to emerge from their tents for breakfast. 

An old slate fence snaked its way, across the landscape marking carving the grasslands in to distinct working sections, time was becoming short, and we still had a long drive home, at this point with the morning light in full force and the landscape loosing much of the contrast we decided to return back to the car, and find a suitable place to order breakfast

How to get here

Enter your starting location on the box provided under the map to see the route from your starting location to Cwmorthin Slate Quarry, Wales

Order a Print from this page?

If you would like to order a print or want more information on purchasing an image above on this page you can do so by dropping me an email below.

Leave a comment

Recent Photography Adventures

Why not read about some of my other photography adventures around the UK