Adam Burton Photography

Llangattock Escarpment, Brecon Beacons

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Sharing a relatively small country with an ever increasing number of landscape photographers, it is a rare treat to discover a fresh new vista. 

So after arriving at this location one Spring morning I was completely taken aback by the scenery on offer at the fantastic Llangattock Escarpment.  Before I run the risk of upsetting anybody I would like to point out that I'm not for a minute stating that the Llangattock Escarpment has never been photographed before.  However, in all my time admiring beautiful photographs of the UK I had never come across a picture from this location, which is incredibly unusual considering it's such a memorable vista.

I chanced upon the Llangattock Escarpment while photographing for my book on the Brecon Beacons.  I had spent the best part of a year capturing various parts of the National Park throughout the seasons and was soon approaching the end of the project, finishing off with images of Spring.  Back home in Devon I had spent way too many hours scouring maps for locations to shoot in order to complete the book.  Locations offering elevated views were my priority, and I found this one while searching for far reaching vistas over the lush countryside surrounding the Usk Valley.

As I made my trip up to the Llangattock Escarpment before dawn one Spring morning, I hoped that the potential that this location offered on the map would be matched in reality.  I was not to be disappointed!  Once the darkness gave way to dawn, a bizarre landscape of miniature rocky hills were gradually revealed.  It was almost like a tiny Welsh version of the Isle of Skye's Quiraing, and quite unlike any landscape I had yet come across in a year photographing the Brecon Beacons. 

Subsequent research revealed that these hills are the remains of a long abandoned quarry, which was started in the 18th Century to supply stone for the construction of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.  I have never been too keen on photographing man made subjects, however these hills, inadvertently sculpted by quarrying had long since been reclaimed by nature to form a spectacular natural looking landscape.

Just behind the hills, the natural cliff of the Llangattock Escarpment offered a wonderful elevated view eastwards over rolling countryside.  Sensing a special photograph was on offer I scurried up the cliff and quickly set up my camera gear near the edge.  The sun would soon be making its first appearance of the day over the Sugar Loaf mountain to the north east, and this was where the dawn skies were currently radiating with colour. I decided however to compose my photograph looking eastwards, creating a composition that featured the lovely quarried hills proudly in the foreground, while also giving the picture a sense of place by including the cliff edge of the escarpment to the right.  Fortunately the dawn sky was obliging enough to spread some pink colour through the clouds above my composition.  Not a huge amount of colour, but just enough to compliment the beautiful landscape below and not detract from it.

After attaching my Lee filter holder to my 24-70mm, I slotted a 0.6 ND graduated filter to preserve the colour in the sky.  I contemplated waiting for the sun to pop over the horizon to highlight the hills, but quickly decided that the subtle glow already bathing the hillsides would be preferable.  One final series of checks to make sure my exposure was correct, the filter was positioned properly and my composition was harmonious, and then I fired the shutter to record the image.  As it popped up on my screen I was as pleased as punch; I had captured both a new location for the book, and as far as I was aware a new location entirely.

Two years later I've now seen several landscape photographs featuring these little hills. They seem to be gaining in popularity, and being such fantastic subjects that's perfectly understandable.

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