I have just returned from a three day trip to North Wales where I was running a workshop in the Snowdonia National Park. Our base was the fabulous Tan-Y-Foel guest house where we were cared for perfectly by owners Chris & Maria. (If you are planning a trip to Snowdonia I can highly recommend staying at Tan-Y-Foel, the location is breathtaking from its elevated position set away from the road in above a beech forested valley with views to the mountains. The rooms, food and service could not be better and being just outside of Betws-y-Coed it is in the perfect place to explore magnificent Snowdonia – have a look at their website, which will be updated in early 2015 – http://www.tyfhotel.co.uk ) Chris and Maria kindly reserved the whole property for us so we had it to ourselves and this meant we could choose breakfast time to fit with our sunrise shoots – perfection!
I am always somewhat baffled as to why so many landscape photographers seem to ignore North Wales in favour of steaming northwards to The Lakes or Scotland. Both are amazing places, of course, and should be visited as often as possible but Snowdonia should not be excluded either. It is a stunning place with an amazing diversity of locations in a relatively compact area. You can select coastal locations, the mountains, lakes, ancient woodlands, quarries – it has it all and for many living in England it is much closer than Scotland and very accessible by road.
This workshop was designed as a luxury break. The choice of Tan-Y-Foel fitted with this and I hired a Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 to transport the guests for the duration of the workshop (and, yes, it was hard to give it back yesterday!) I wanted to include some lesser known Snowdonia locations in amongst some of the more well known ones to give an insight into ‘Secret Snowdonia’ and to show the group just how diverse and beautiful a place this is. I hope I succeeded.
We met at Tan-Y-Foel for coffee and introductions on Monday lunchtime and quickly headed out to a local cafe for lunch and an introductory chat. Then it was down into the woods to capture some of the autumn colour which is so stunning in the wooded valleys around Betws-y-Coed. (pronounced, I am reliably told, ‘Bet you iss eee co ed’) The heavens opened on us but fortunately the location has some covered shelters overlooking the canopy and so we were able to set up tripods and shoot from under cover quite happily until sunset. Then it was back for showers and off out to an award winning Indian restaurant for our evening meal (which was quite outstanding – and I have a lot of Indian meals to compare it to:).
No sunrise on Tuesday so a lie in and early breakfast was planned and then we headed out for the day. On my workshops I tend not to have an absolutely rigid itinerary. Rather I prefer to have a range of locations in mind and then select which I feel, on the day, is going to work best with the light and weather conditions. My decision was to head into the mountains after breakfast and it turned out well. Leaving the 4 x 4 near Llyn Ogwen we took a path into the mountains and had a few hours making images in absolutely perfect conditions. By perfect, I mean, atmospheric – although we had to shield our cameras from squally showers from time to time, these conditions gave us amazing light and wonderfully dramatic scenes around the ridges and mountain tops.
Lunch followed and then we headed into one of the abandoned Welsh slate quarries which pepper Snowdonia. Conditions were perfect and these places are full of image opportunities. We could have easily spent a full day here, but instead worked until nightfall capturing wide vistas right through to detail shots before walking back to the 4 x 4 and heading home to the comforts of Tan-Y-Foel. On Marias recommendation we ate that night at a local coaching in and again the food was AMAZING! I think all of us in the group were blown away by the quality of the food. I was beginning to feel that North Wales is becoming a ‘foodies heaven’. The talk over the meal, as ever, was photography based and I was happy to be grilled on camera settings, technique and Lightroom processes as we devoured our meal.
On our final day the forecast promised a sunrise and so we crept from Tan-Y-Foel at 05:30 and drove off into the night, our destination a wooded lake, hoping for autumn reflections in still water. Despite the odd shower, we were not to be disappointed, conditions were perfect and we could have stayed for hours but the full Welsh breakfast beckoned.
After breakfast we headed west and spent the day photographing hidden ancient woodlands and waterfalls, finishing up high in the hills of southern Snowdonia on the Cadair Idris range for such a tranquil sunset. Not a breath of wind and soft gentle pinks and blues in the sky, brushed with clouds, led to a stunning set of images to conclude the workshop. We shot until it was almost dark before heading home.
I am running this workshop again in the spring of 2015. If you would like to join me at Tan-Y-Foel there are just three places of the six remaining. You can get full details and book HERE.