Location: Ogwen Falls

Ogwen is one of those names (like Pen-y-Pass, also in Snowdonia) which are well known amongst lovers of the outdoors, but which are actually tiny locations in terms of population. Ogwen consists of a youth hostel, an Outward Bound centre, and a car park next to a new block containing toilets and a refreshment kiosk.

What Ogwen lacks in facilities, it more than makes up for in scenery, routes for walking and climbing, and photographic potential. On my first visit to the area last October, I took the short walk from the car park up to Cwm Idwal with the Intrepid 4×5. The glacial valley of Cwm Idwal is much loved by school geography field trips, but it’s big enough to find a quiet spot.

On my return to the area in January 2020 I focussed on the waterfalls which run right underneath the A5 road as it crosses the Afon Ogwen (River Ogwen) at the head of Llyn Idwal. This road has been an important route for centuries from London to Holyhead (on the Isle of Anglesey) and from there, by ferry to Ireland. However motorists who don’t stop will glimpse only a few small watersplashes on the lake side of the road, since the river begins to drop right underneath the bridge. If you get out the car and look from the bridge, you’ll get a much better view downstream. If you can find your way downsteam by a few metres, the view upstream improves.

All of these images were taken on a Mamiya RZ67 with Ilford HP5+ film, which was semi-stand developed in HC110 developer, diluted 1:160 for 50 minutes. The relatively low contrast of HP5+, combined with stand development, give me relatively flat negatives that could be given extra contrast to taste in post-processing, with no burnt highlights and plenty shadow detail.

There are actually several rivers and streams coming together at this location. The outlet from Llyn Ogwen comes underneath the road bridge, then there’s a stream coming from Llyn Idwal which runs alongside the road bridge, and a third which can be seen in the top right corner of the image above, presumably also coming from Llyn Idwal. There had been lots of rain when I visited, resulting in a very healthy water flow.

As you get further downstream you get to see more of Tryfan with its’ spiky ridge:

It is a little unfortunate that there are some prominent telephone poles and lines near the bridge. Some photographers are happy to clone out such unwelcome distractions, however I think as it’s a fairly well-known scene, including the wires, I haven’t done so. In any case, the bridge itself is a sign of the impact of man just as much as the wires.

I usually limit myself to two lens when I’m carrying the RZ67 about, as it’s a heavy kit, but because I didn’t have far to go from the car I carried the 50mm, 65mm, and 110mm lenses, and used them all to take full advantage of variety of viewpoints available. It may seem like I took a few somewhat similar views, but I only used one roll of 120 film in total.

I came to Ogwen in the afternoon after spending a very wet morning in Caernarfon with a Holga and only had about an hour shooting in passable weather before it got dark, but it was a very enjoyable hour and for me, the most photographically fruitful hour of the four-day trip.

It may be worth stating how to get to the views a little downstream from the falls. As well as the main car park, which is pay-and-display, there’s a small layby just to the north of the bridge (before you get to the bridge if you’re coming from Bethesda, or just after the bridge if you’re coming from Capel Curig). This has free parking for a few cars. At one end of the layby there is a gate which leads to a path which goes downhill for about 20 metres then turns left. This will take you to the area where these images were taken.

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