Landscape Photography guide to Snowdonia, North Wales - The valleys of Nant Ffrancon & Ogwen
These two valleys alone could provide the photographer with a lifetime of possibilities. Access is via the A5, travelling either from Bethesda in the west or Capel Curig in the east. Bethesda, although lacking the attractive appearance of the more picturesque Snowdonia villages is certainly not without character. It was built around the slate quarrying industry and is surrounded by the evidence of this, photographers particularly interested in industrial landscapes will find it a fascinating area, don't dismiss it on first impressions. In contrast, Capel Curig is much smaller and generally speaking, more visually appealing. It is more a hamlet than a village and is surrounded on all sides by impressive scenery. The Afon Llugwy runs through the centre, providing the spectacle of the Pont Cyfyng falls, particularly photogenic after a period of rainfall. Also, just on the outskirts are the desolate looking lakes known as Llynnau Mymbyr, surrounded by Moel Siabod, the Glyderau mountains and in the distance, the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdon.
Starting the journey along the A5 from the west, after leaving Bethesda the Nant Ffrancon valley appears dramatically in view, the road surrounded by two impressive mountain ranges, the Glyderau on one side and the Carneddau on the other. The picturesque river Ogwen flows through the valley too, nearby the road for much of the route towards Ogwen and it provides a great 'lead-in' for a shot along the valley, mountains and all. For those energetic photographers, equipped with a well-detailed "Ordnance Survey" map, there are several walking routes that start from Bethesda and climb the surrounding mountains, indeed it's possible to walk the full distance from Bethesda to Capel Curig along the mountains – a distance of 16 kilometres and height gain of 1600metres, a full day walk. The drive along the A5 to Ogwen presents multiple photographic opportunities, indeed the most difficult decision is what not to photograph. A stop at Ogwen is not to be missed as here you will find mountain lakes, waterfalls, impressive rock formations, flowing rivers and all of these no more than 30 minutes walk from the car park. For the more energetic the walking routes from Ogwen are nothing short of spectacular and provide a further wealth of photographic opportunities.
If the walking route directly behind Ogwen Cottage is chosen, ascending the Glyderau, a fascinating range of mountain scenery can be captured. The rugged and austere mountain known as Tryfan, world famous amongst climbers, the picturesque lake of Llyn Idwal and the mountain pass of Devils Kitchen. On reaching the summit the views down the Nant Ffrancon valley towards the Isle of Anglesey and across the Llanberis Pass to Snowdon are just breathtaking. Notable features on the summit include Bristly Ridge, Yr Wyddfa and Castell y Gwynt on Glyder Fach and the infamous Cantilever, a precariously balanced slate slab. These are only a few of the numerous attractions of this distinctive mountain range, all of which provide more than adequate compensation for the photographers efforts in reaching the summit.
If the path across from Ogwen Cottage is chosen then an ascent of the Carneddau is the objective. Even before starting the climb you arte confronted by the imposing figure of Pen yr olwen, a rugged and distinctive mountain standing directly alongside the A5. The Carneddau are quite different in character to the Glyderau mountains, equally as high, but on reaching the summit much flatter and less rugged in appearance. The view across to Tryfan from here is excellent, probably the place to capture Tryfan at its best. Walking along the ridge between Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewelyn, the Isle of Anglesey and the Menai straits are constantly in view, although some distance away so a good telephoto is essential. The reservoir of Ffynnon Llugwy also appears well below in a hidden valley, forming the source of the Afon Llugwy river that follows the A5 down to Betws-y-Coed.
Restarting the journey by road from Ogwen travelling along the A5 towards Capel Curig, the Ogwen valley opens out wider, mountains still surrounding the valley but less imposing. Open moorland becomes evident and the Afon Llugwy river continues its route through the valley. There are several parking places along the route and a photograph taken looking back towards Ogwen provides a view of Llyn Ogwen and its spectacular backdrop, the Glyderau mountains. Tryfan is outstanding from here too, the best photograph probably captured during a winter sunset. Nearing Capel Curig the valley sides flatten somewhat and the drama of earlier subsides as the rugged mountains are left behind. Capel Curig itself though has several possibilities, as already mentioned.
Finally, if time was limited and I had to choose the best photographic opportunities along this part of the A5, without doubt it would be Ogwen. The variety of scenery and drama it provides the photographer, within such a small area, make it just too appealing to miss.
About the Author
UK landscape photography from Anglesey and Snowdonia in North Wales and other UK regions
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