Mines, quarries and ruined mansions in Wales

Monday 16 February 2015

In December I visited Wales for the first time, assisting Danny on a shoot for a new project he's starting and helping out with a few other planned images, as well as taking in a few of the views along the way. On the journey up to North Wales we also stopped off in Birmingham to photograph the disused gala pool at the beautiful Victorian-era Moseley Road Baths - the caretaker also very kindly let us upstairs into the old laundry room, where there's a set of what are possibly the only steam-heated laundry racks in a pool left in Britain, as well as the huge original water tank. 

Wales lived up to our expectations of the weather (grey, rainy) so producing images which weren't full of flat, pale grey cloud was a little tricky; most of our images just didn't make the cut. We started at the Duke of Lancaster, a huge passenger ship now rusting away on the beach, the canvas for several large pieces of graffiti by well known artists. The rain completely washed away our chances of a decent shot of it, but we were treated to a great rainbow and at least a view of KIWIE's piece on the bow. The daylight hours of our trip were mainly spent at the foot of Snowdon, exploring Dinorwic quarry; following old mining tunnels, climbing heaps of slate, looking for the odd lonely tree, watching clouds of sleet move over the mountains, and even discovering an amazing turquoise blue pool, filled with dead trees and nestling a flooded miner's cabin. Our evenings were spent dragging portable studio lighting across unforgiving terrain! First, through incredibly thick, overgrown trees on the grounds of a ruined manor house, in order to light a partially derelict folly; and second, up onto the site of Dolbadarn Castle. Heavy going with a huge amount of heavy lighting equipment, but well worth it (and the hours wandering around in the dark) in the end.

Our final day was perhaps the most challenging: finding and navigating the insides of a huge abandoned slate mine in order for Danny to photograph the utterly bizarre 'car cavern', a giant chamber half filled with bright aquamarine water, with tens of wrecked cars cascading down from a hole in the roof. I didn't get to see it in person, sadly, as I was guarding the climbing rope at the top of one of the chambers leading to the cavern for safety purposes (unnervingly, in pitch blackness) - but Danny ended up with a fantastic photo anyway.

Bright blue water and dead trees in the pit at Dinorwic | Danny at work | the end of the rainbow by the Duke of Lancaster | views across abandoned buildings in Dinorwic quarry to Snowdon | bare branches and beautiful slate walls | ominous looking tunnels to explore | a lonely tree clinging to the slate piles | the burned out facade of a huge derelict mansion, now completely overgrown