ADP Photography | The Elidir Trail, part 3: Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf to Sgwd Ddwli Isaf and Sgwd y Bedol

The Elidir Trail, part 3: Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf to Sgwd Ddwli Isaf and Sgwd y Bedol

January 03, 2018  •  1 Comment

People! Hmmm, I am not misanthropic by nature, but the traffic on the trail, of hikers and those wearing camera gear started to worry me.  I don’t work well with an audience. I am also nervous of my own technique and my ability to get good shots that I can clean up after.

We walked on, not far to the next named fall.  Sgwd Ddwli Isaf, The Lower Gushing Falls, probably the logical successor to the Upper Gushing Falls.  Again, the bank sloped down steeply to the riverside.  I fired off a couple of shots using the tripod from up on the trail, near where a small trickle of a tributary ran down the side of the forested gorge.  The low river below again exposed the flat rocks of its bed.  They were completely dry on my side of the river, but how to reach them and get closer to this fall?

What I couldn’t see from up on the trail, and what I hadn’t seen in images of this lovely fall, was that the Lower Gushing Falls is actually in two parts.  An upper higher drop, a plunge pool and then a smaller step.  This only became clear after we had found another trail that doubled back towards the Lower Gushing Falls from Sgwd y Bedol.  These two main falls on the Elidir Trail are only about 100 metres apart.  We backtracked finding our way along the dry river rocks and the soggy riverbank.  We could see it, the two sections of the Lower Gushing Falls, and gushing it was, especially the top section.

Here I was spoilt for choice.  But now, in hindsight, I know I made one of my tragic Muppet Moments.  I will explain.  I framed upstream, catching the lower section and the top drop through the narrow gorge that lead to the wider plunge pool before the step.  The two together was a wonderful scene, fast shutter and slow used once again so I could blend images to counteract movement in the trees, and also extra exposures were made to ensure both falls were suitable sharp. 

Sgwd Ddwli Isaf 1Sgwd Ddwli Isaf 1Sgwd Ddwli Isaf, The Lower Gushing Falls, on the Elidir Trail and the River Neath, Wales

f/16 – 0.8sec – 15mm – ISO100 (polarizer)

I moved up close to the step, my 15-85mm on its widest setting, could I get that drift wood in the shot too?  How many classic waterfall shots include driftwood in the scene?  Many!  It’s a shot that adds foreground character.  But not this time! That drift wood looked gorgeous and full of character, but it was in the wrong place.  To get that in shot would mean missing out the fall…or dragging the timber across the river.  Placing the odd dead leaf here and there may be one ‘naughty’ that could be acceptable, but dragging 10 foot of dead tree? NO! Leave nature alone!

Was this the cause of my Muppet Moment?  I will describe it in full in its own blog entry as there is a very solid lesson to be learnt from it, and every other, moment of muppetry!

Look closely at the full scene in the image above; see how the step is only 3 or 4 feet high, if that?  Why, Why didn’t I climb up to get shots of just the uppersection?  A question I asked myself only after I got back home and check the images on Lightroom.  WHY?  I always check my shots on the back of the camera, I always look around.  How did I miss it or not think of it?  Time pressure? Maybe...

Oppppf ya (as they say here in Turkey, which roughly translates, when used with a tone of disappointment as: ‘bugger!’)

Although I had taken many reasonable compositions of both sections of this fall, together with close ups of the bottom where the water was playing over the small ledges and outcrops and then twisting in pools in the riverbed, there was a good opportunity lost.  That’s frustrating but entirely my fault, LEARN from it, DO NOT do it again!


I hadn’t noticed it since way up on the trail and my wife pointed it out to me.  The scent of the wild garlic was now incredibly strong.  “Can you smell that?”  My god, yes, so strong, and intense, almost overpowering.  They say the sense of smell is the sense most strongly linked to memory.  Now, when I smell wild garlic, I am transported back to the peaceful idyllic scene on the Elidir Trail.  Garlic, sorry but I hate it in food, and I am not particularly a fan of the smell of wild garlic either, but the images associated with it are wonderful memories.

Another 20 minutes or so had been spent in front of the Lower Gushing Falls, we had to get back to where we left the main trail, near the top of Sgwd y Bedol, Horseshoe Falls.  People were around now…and bright yellow plastic!

Rocks gathered around the plunge pool of Horseshoe Falls, with a small tributary running in.  The rocks form, you guessed it, a horseshoe shape. 

Could I set up the tripod across these rocks of the tributary to get the view of the falls side on?  I looking at the scene of the flat riverbed running up to the ledge, 50% was devoid of water.  Again I imagined how the scene looks in full flow.  For me it looked incredibly, but at high water the sound would be deafening as the natural horseshoe shape is pounded by the relentless flow.  If only I had my 10-20mm with me I could have caught more of the foam patterns running beneath my precariously set up tripod. 

Sgwd y Bedol 1Sgwd y Bedol 1Sgwd y Bedol, Horseshoe Falls, on the Elidir Trail and River Neath, Wales

f/16 – 25secs – 15mm – ISO100 (polarizer and Little Stopper)

Onward, could I get a front view of the horseshoe shape and the on rushing water flow?  Yes.  Hmmm guy with a big camera and a tripod down below.  He looks like he must know his stuff – he doesn’t look cheerful either!  That camera is expensive.   I concentrated on my stuff.  The path crossed a small bridge over that tributary and then up a small hill, there was my shot. 

“Is that the Big Stopper?”

“Little.”  I replied.


“It’s pretty good.  No colour casts really, nice and fine.”  I offered.  He checked the back of my screen.  Typically the shot I had just fired was just experiment of shutter speed and composition, blurred branches crowded around.  Not a good shot to demonstrate.

“Huh.” Off he went.  Not impressed.  I shrugged my shoulders.

“An expert.” I suggested to my wife. His bored daughter, (I guess), trudged after him.  There was traffic now, and a lot of it.  At least I had caught the Upper and Lower Gushing Falls free of heads and tripod legs.

I had got most of my shots.  I looked again at the rear screen, zooming in to check details.  Way up stream you could see the two sections of the Lower Gushing Falls shining white amongst the green overhanging limbs.  Again, think of that wide river bed being full, not quarter full.  I would love to go back in spring.

We were well on our way down the path but time was ticking.  Oh yes, and the loo!  My word!  Two hours ago it was needed, and all this water!  I know what many would do, and yes, perhaps the River Neath did need a hand that day.  But no!

The trail was reported to soon to change from moderately easy (?) to easy, after the branch trail that would take us up to Sgwd Gwladys, The Lady Falls.  From shots I had seen, together with Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf, Sgwd Gwladys was one of the falls I most wanted to photograph. 

That was until I had seen how low the river flow was.  I knew the Lady Falls wouldn’t have anywhere near the grandeur that I had seen in photos.  But, nevertheless, it had to be seen.  As I said before, this would perhaps be the only time I would be able to come here…

Part 4 From Sgwd Gwladys to the end of the trail, will be online in a couple of days! 

Please post comments, questions, suggestions and links to your images!


Best wishes and Happy New Year!

The Frustrated Photog


Iain Merchant(non-registered)
Love the blog, it's refreshing, honest and well written. Love the website too - keep up the good work :-)
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