• Daniel Wretham

Shooting Snowdonia - Landscape Photography Guide - Part 2

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

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The familiar sound of the 5 am alarm call rang in my ears and I hurried to look out of the window after the weather forecast of snow last night, It was a big disappointment, there was none. Snow had been replaced by driving rain and gusty winds, I was not amused in the slightest.

There was only one way to deal with a situation like this, console myself with a full english breakfast and go on a location scout again. Wednesdays weather was looking fowl and time was ticking away as I had to leave first thing on saturday morning and I started to feel some pressure which was exactly what I had come here to avoid. I had a stern word with myself and remind myself why I did this, because of the enjoyment I got from it, with that the pressure was lifted and I got back to the important business in hand and finished off breakfast.

I had crossed the Menai bridge and really liked the look of it and decided I would be back for some shots of it if the weather improved plus it had the back drop of Snowdonia to see, well you could see it if it hadn't been covered in thick grey photography hating cloud, but nonetheless I knew it was there and i'd be back.

Feeling rather sluggish after consuming a breakfast fit for a football team I decided a walk was my best bet to try and shake off the slow feeling and I might just find a few places. Nantlle was still fresh in my mind and Thursday looked like it could be a good bet for it so it was put on the back burner for later.

But for now I headed off towards Snowdon View on the other side of the mountain range in the hope that I might get some better conditions or find somewhere of interest, I didn't.

It was frustrating to say the least but I pressed on to Capel Curig and parked up and took a wander up the hill and found a very rocky area with great shaped rocks known as the Capel Curig Pinnacles and it looked really nice.

Snowdon was visible in the distance and it over looked Llyn Mymbyr too and I felt if the sunrise was decent it would drop some lovely light over Snowdon and was again noted as a possible for a morning shoot.

The weather had started to break a little bit and the cloud was giving way to a few rogue beams of light which would occasionally sweep over the mountain range so I headed back towards Snowdon View and waited.

It started with a small beam of light and quickly grew into a nice sweep along the flanks of Snowdon and I couldn't get the camera out fast enough.

This was the sort of photography I really enjoyed, now I might seem an obvious statement as light is the very building blocks of our photography but for too long I had chased sunsets and sunrises shooting into the light and not using it to its best advantage and it was this that really got my blood pumping more than anything.

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Crib Goch in the background with Snowdon obscured by the cloud

Large patches of light were now sweeping over the range and I did my best to capture them in between being asked by random tourists what I was taking a picture of, whilst pointing my camera at the glorious mountain scenery in front of me and standing on an area known as Snowdon View Point. I resisted the temptation to be sarcastic and pointed in the general direction of the mountains and got the usual "ooohhhh" reply and got back to work, the mind boggles.

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The light where I was standing wasn't especially good but the light on the mountains was rather special and I managed to pass around an hour while being mesmerised by it dancing all over the mountains like a naughty mistress flashing you her underwear with a cheeky smile of seduction.

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After a while the cloud started to get a little clearer and I went for a drive again to see if there was any chance of shooting Llyn Dinas but again the white dragon had waved its claw and breathed fire on my plan as Llyn Dinas was looking rather plain and lacking in light or contrast, I started to doubt I would get this shot at all during my trip.

Llyn Dinas was special and I felt I must earn an image of her beauty but so far I clearly hadn't done enough to impress her as all that was on offer was a date with her ugly sister with the monobrow and a peg leg.

I decided to return to Llyn Gwynant which had been much kinder in the past few days and I knew there was the old boat house there which I very much wanted to get a picture of.

On the way there I saw a decent waterfall which was coming down the back of Snowdon and it looked pretty good, it was fairly high up and a very steep climb but it looked like it was the only way to reach it but there was a road heading that direction so I took it and after a very narrow and tight path I ended up face to face with a very bemused gentleman on his driveway, I had dropped an extreme clanger and felt pretty embarrassed but I hadn't seen any signs to say it was private. Fortunately the old chap found it highly amusing and told me I couldn't reach the waterfall in question as it required going through private land and thats a boundary I won't cross. He wished me luck and sent me on my way to Llyn Gwynant with a smile and a wave, you have to love the Welsh they are such a friendly bunch.

I got to the top of Llyn Gwynant just on a bend of the road there was a small gateway through the high stone wall which lead down to the old boat house but I liked the view from up here and it gave a composition that allowed me to show the beautiful winter colours that the ferns and bracken had taken on like burnt bronze.

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After I clambered down the hill the old boat house looked pretty good to me but whichever way I tried to shoot it I would end up with branches in shot which I really didn't want, They could have been cloned out in photoshop but then it wouldn't be a true representation of what was there so I decided I would perceiver with it and see if I could get something half decent by the end.

The weather was rapidly changing and nice light filled the area and the clouds broke up once again.

Moss covered boulders at the back of the boat house glistened like emeralds in the sun and I wanted to get closer to them but the water was just that bit too deep and there was no one else around so I decided that a swim wasn't really the safest option. Not to mention the fact it was still winter and I didn't want to freeze my bits off !

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There was a newer boat house just to the right of the old fallen warrior but it just didn't have the same appeal to me as this weathered old mess but the light was getting good again and Llyn Dinas was only a mile or so down the road so I hurried the gear back in the car, spun round and headed in its direction ready to get the image I really wanted.

In the brief time it took me to get from Llyn Gwynant to Llyn Dinas everything changed and there was a splash on the windscreen followed by another and then another.

I pulled into the lay-by just in time for the heavens to open and a downpour of epic proportions had started, The white dragon of Llyn Dinas had once again decided today would not be my day as he guarded the ladies charms from the prying eye of my lens.

The white dragon was toying with me and I prayed that the red dragon would decide to have a rematch and finish him off.

As I drove away in the heavy rain I could swear I heard them both laughing at me.

Wednesday never really recovered after that and it stayed torrential for the rest of the day so I called time and drove home somehow once again going via the Llanberis pass to Llyn Pardan and that dam tree.

It was still in my head and I loathed it for being there, I conceded that I actually did want to shoot it but I wasn't going to let myself.

I got back to base and looked at the weather report, everything looked good for the morning and the shot I so desperately wanted at Nantlle was on the cards and sleeping that night was going to be hard as that all too familiar feeling of excitement and expectation crept in.

The banshee went off at 5 am and I leaped into action looking out if the window it looked favourable so I grabbed the faithful flask of coffee and the camera and headed off to Nantlle.

The drive there was only about 17 miles away and I had planned to arrive around 30 minutes before sunrise but already I could see signs of some high level cloud starting to take on a beautiful pink hue and the right foot once again become heavy to say the least.

I pulled into the lay-by and there was no one there, I was not used to having places to myself. Dorset has become the photography capitol of England it seems and everywhere you go there are dozens of other photographers jostling for position and trying to put another tick on their check lists formed by raping original photographers web sites of their hard found locations and compositions.

I liked it here and it made me realise I had fallen out of love with Dorset a little. I got to the bank of the lake and it was nice and calm and the boats were staying still and playing ball, and the sky was on the turn with some great pink and purple tones coming through.

I had lucked out for once and got the conditions I wanted at the first time of asking and I shot away happily at the scene in front of me. I couldn't help but feel sad knowing that I wouldn't be able to do this every weekend and that the only real option was back to the Dorset grind.

The other option was to shoot less but go a lot further afield for my shots and keep my interest going. This appealed to me and I would bounce the idea around in my head a lot over the week.

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Nantlle Sunrise

I tried several compositions here and tried to zoom in closer to the boats but the main area of sky was getting lost so I settled for the slightly set back image above.

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The composition form the side also appealed to me and after shooting the images I decided to sit on the nearby park bench and watch the rest of the sunrise unfold with a cup of coffee and thoughts of where to go next.

I've said before but it's so important to enjoy these moments and not get caught up in just the photography and then realise you have actually missed everything going on around you.