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Photographing South Wales & Snowdonia - June 2017

I'm back from from the latest of my regular trips to South Wales to see family and friends - except this time we visited Snowdonia too! It's taken a while, but I've finally finished sifting through and editing an SD card full of photos...

Saturday 17th June

The weather on my drive up to Wales from Cornwall was unusually hot - even for summer. The outside temperature gauge on my 12 year old Ford Focus approached 30° C! Except for the useless air conditioning, the old banger was thankfully very reliable for all of the 1200 (ish) miles we did over the week.

I arrived in Pontypridd on Saturday evening - just in time to stop in at a friend's birthday BBQ with toasted marshmallows around a bonfire - a great start to my week off!

Sunday 18th June

With the temperatures still soaring, we waited until the evening to go out exploring South Wales. In fact, it remained hot into the evening, but the softer, 'long light' made for better photos.


As there were no clouds in the sky on this hot summer day, my plan was to picture just that - and Llancayo Windmill turned out to be the perfect location.

The golden crops contrasted well with the bright blue sky - with the scene punctuated by the brilliant white windmill. The furrows in the crops made for great lead-in lines to the focal point.

Interesting fact about Llancayo Windmill -

The windmill dates back to circa 1850. After burning down, the ruin stood unused for over 100 years before restoration in 2007. It is now used as holiday accommodation with a twist!

Monday 19th June

On Monday and Tuesday I was left to fend for myself as my sister, Louisa, was working.

I decided to get up super early to photograph Caerphilly Castle at sunrise - my favourite time of day for photography because of the quality of light and peacefulness on locations.

Caerphilly was only 20 minutes or so from Pontypridd where I stayed - but at only two days before the longest day of the year, I had to get up at 4.30 am to make the trip!


Conditions weren't 'perfect' - as they rarely are. I would have liked a few clouds in the sky to pick up the warm morning sunlight to add colour and detail to the scene. Maybe I'm just too picky!

I decided to position myself on the side of the castle facing the sun - to capture it's warm light as it rose and illuminated the ruin. With the camera mounted on a tripod and the addition of a Hoya 10 stop filter screwed onto my kit lens, I was able to capture the image over a minute-long exposure. This flattened the ripples and removed the moving ducks in the water to create a peaceful, tranquil scene.

By this time it was around 6 am - but still over 20° C!

The plan was that after shooting the castle I'd go to IKEA in Cardiff to get some stuff for my new fitted kitchen. Once I bagged the shot I wanted, I googled IKEA opening times... it opened at 10 am! I had some time to kill!...

I began to walk around the castle's moat once more. As I turned a corner, I spotted my first ever kingfisher - sat on a post over the water. I'm not going to lie, I was a little excited. Quickly, but stealthily I could, I knelt down to swap the kit lens for my longest zoom - a Canon 75-300 lens. Not stealthily enough it seems, by the time I stood back up, he was gone!

I wandered the area for probably 45 mins - hoping the elusive bird would return. I once caught a glimpse of him swooping over the moat, but that was it.

I gave up on the kingfisher, but felt inspired to look out for other wildlife - not my usual photographic subject (of landscapes).


I soon found Azure Damselflies zipping around the foliage near the water. These little beauts stayed around for much longer and I was able to get a reasonable photo for a wildlife newbie!

With yet more time to kill, I decided to head for Roath Park in Cardiff.


First on the agenda was to bag a photo of the Scott Memorial. I always look for structures set in water for creative long exposure shots. However in this case, I noticed swans completing (very) slow circuits of the lake. So I waited (and waited some more) for the little fellas to pass through my shot for some added foreground interest.


As I walked around the park, I noticed that a runner had stopped to take some photos on her phone through the bushes into the lake. She had spotted a swan with her cygnets - and a few of them on her back. With my new-found inspiration to photograph wildlife, I switched to the telephoto lens and took a few snaps.

Tuesday 20th June

After a busy Monday and outside temperatures reading up to 31° C on the car's dashboard, I took the most part of the day off from photography to wander Pontypridd town and adjacent Ynysangharad park at a much slower pace.


Later that evening, we revisited Caerphilly Castle to photograph it all lit up at dusk.

Wednesday 21st June

A four hour chunk of Wednesday was taken up by the drive from Pontypridd to a bunkhouse near Capel Curig in Snowdonia's Ogwen Valley, which would be our home for two nights.


Although a longer drive from my home in Cornwall to Pontypridd, the cross country route to Snowdonia was much more interesting than the long drag on the A30, M5, M4, Zzzzzz. Instead, the route planned by the Sat Nav took us on twisty mountain A roads & B roads and through small towns & villages.

We arrived at the bunk house situated just off the A5 road at the entrance to Glan Llugwy Farm - under a bunch of tall pine trees.

We soon discovered that we were in a phone signal and data black hole! Meaning no checking the weather, no checking tide times (needed later) and no googling local landmarks / walks etc.

But wait!... A friend had lent me her OS Map of Snowdonia! We were saved!... now to make some sense of it!...

We spotted a "waterfall" marked on the map between our bunk house and Llyn Ogwen - so after unpacking, we set out to find it. Maybe it was because of the hot spell, but when we found it we were a little unimpressed. During my last visit to Wales we explored Ystradfellte Falls. This, in comparison, was a trickle. I took some snaps but haven't felt inspired to edit or share them.


After being feasted on by mosquitoes, we headed back to the bunk house for a BBQ. Later, I set back out to the lake on my own to find a good place for a shot in the evening light. The image above was taken quickly on the following day, as I discovered that I was too late to catch the sunlight on the boat house as it fell behind a mountain ridge and had to revisit.

Interesting note about Llyn Ogwen -

Wikipedia says - "It is said that after the Battle of Camlann (King Arthur's final battle), Sir Bedivere (Bedwyr) cast the sword Excalibur into Llyn Ogwen, where it was caught by the Lady of the Lake (the ruler of Avalon in the Arthurian legend)"

Thursday 22nd June

Without the luxury of phone data (or a TV at the bunkhouse), to check the weather, we set our alarms to get up at 4 am on Thursday to walk up Mount Snowdon in the cool of the day.

When the alarm sounded, we were greeted by howling winds and rain outside our little cabin. What had happened?! We delayed getting up until 6. After a little faffing about deciding on what gear to wear in the unpredictable weather, we set off for the start of the walk at Pen-Y-Pass.

Driving through thick fog (well, cloud at that height), we were wondering weather to call it off. I had written off the possibility of taking decent photos, but there was also our safety on the mountain. We parked up and after due consideration decided to go for it.


We took the "Miner's Track" from Pen-Y-Pass, which tracks along the lakes - first looking down on Llyn Teyrn and then along Llyn Llydaw at water level. The views were stunning - when we could see them!

Half way along Llyn Llydaw, the path steepens to pretty much climbing up the eroded cliff face and up into the clouds. With the pretty dismal visibility, we lost the path on the way up a few times. Our philosophy was that if we keep going up, we'll get to the top! And we did!

From the top I could see... nothing at all! But felt a sense of accomplishment that almost made up for it.


Our original plan was to walk back to Pen-Y-Pass on the "Pyg Track" - a slightly different route that would look down on Llyn Llydaw. But as we lost the path so many times on the way up and coupled with my soggy socks inside leaky my Timberlands we thought it would be a good idea to get the train to Llanberis and bus back to our car.


The weather started to clear soon after we arrived back to the bunkhouse - typical! After a brief moan about how great it would have been to photograph the lakes and view from the top in this clearer weather, I shot the breaking clouds rolling over the mountain ridges behind the farmhouse gate where we stayed.

Then, it was back to the OS Map spread over our dining table to find somewhere to go and enjoy the sunshine. We decided to head for Llandudno on the north coast. My intention was photograph its large pier - hopefully with a long exposure at sunset.


Without my smartphone data, I was unable to check that a high(ish) tide would coincide with sunset. Of course, it didn't. The tide was right out. Also, using my "Sun Position" app, I discovered that the large hotel at the beginning of the pier would obscure the sunlight from flooding the pier at this time of year.

So, I just popped off a few long exposure shots at around 7pm - just because.


I also took the opportunity to shoot one of the jetties. Bracketing the shot for a vibrant HDR image, I took the classic (or cliche maybe) jetty shot looking out to sea. You might be able to make out the off-shore wind farm in the distance,

Friday 23nd June

We drove home on the Friday. On the stint between Snowdonia and Pontypridd, we stopped at an antique shop / salvage yard that we had spotted on the way up.

Right in the doorway were some old reproduction miner's lamps. As we took the "Miner's Track" up Snowdon we felt that it would be apt to take one each as a souvenir - I'm just glad we didn't end up returning on the "Pyg Track!"

The landscape images are available to buy - please feel free to contact me for details.

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