Snowdonia – sunshine & steam

Those three ‘s’ words don’t often go together….. but for a full week in late February and early March we enjoyed a weeks photography in Snowdonia in wonderful sunny weather. Jane and I set off on Sat 26th Feb and passed through some forecast rain in the Brecon area, after which the sun appeared and stayed all week.
The aim was to obtain some landscape images of Snowdonia in late winter/early spring as most of our previous visits have been in the summer months, plus attend a two day photo charter event on the Welsh Highland Railway hosted by David Williams. Our rented cottage right in the middle of the National Park in Beddgelert was an ideal location, up a long steep winding track so a good job we decided to take the 4×4 on this trip. Sunday was largely cloudy but we did get some pleasant sunny breaks and some succesfull shots in the bag.
Monday was the first day of the two day charter, which was due to commence at 08.30 hrs from Rhyd Ddu station using the Tasmanian Garratt K1 and a rake of ex South African wagons. The start from Rhyd Ddu was ideal in allowing me to get some shots of Llyn-y-Gader as the sun rose over the nearby mountains. That duly completed the train arrived and we spent the next few hours obtaining shots either side of Rhyd Ddu in the “shadow” of Snowdon itself before heading south towards Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Pass and finishing the day near to Pont Croesor.
Tuesday the train started from Porthmadog and gave us the opportunity to try some shots of it crossing the Cobb against some quite harsh backlighting, a challenge in itself. The train on this day was formed of the Ffestiniog Railways vintage train hauled by Double Fairlie “Merddin Emrys” running along the newest section of the Welsh Highland towards Beddgelert with run pasts at a number of locations including the dubious sight of 40 photographers clinging to the sides of the cliffs in the Aberglaslyn Pass to get a shot of the train leaving the tunnels! The train was run north of Beddgelert for some shots on the sharp reverse curves before running round for the return to Porthmadog. The clear blue skies on this day were certainly unusual for Snowdonia on St Davids Day.
A regular client of ours joined us in Snowdonia for the week, and the day after the steam charters we met up in Beddgelert for a couple of days landscape workshop. Our first location was planned to be Llynnau Mymbyr, but were to be thwarted by the low cloud that the weather forecasters said was covering most of the UK so we opted for Llyn Dinas and got some very pleasant shots as the sun rose over Moel Meirch behind us. After a late breakfast we headed out to the Cadir Idris range and spent the afternoon making images of Llynnau Cregennen until the sun disappeared over the horizon.
Thursday dawned cold/clear and frosty so we headed off again towards Llynnau Mymbyr, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph Pen-y-Gwryd and the end of the Snowdon Horseshoe with the frosted grasses providing good lead in lines to our images. We spent sometime here before continuing to Ogwen and the walk upto Llyn Idwal which by now was getting some, although backlit, light into the famous “Devils Kitchen” basin.
After all of this we headed back to base for what could no longer be called breakfast! Unfortunately it did turn rather hazy in the afternoon, pleasant weather but of little use for serious landscape photography of the surrounding mountains etc. so we headed for Llyn Cwm Bychan, which did involve driving down a long steep lane with no less than a dozen gates to be opened to allow our passage and two hairpin bends that required the 4×4 to do a 3 point turn to get round! Arrival in the valley of the Afon Artro allowed us to get some closer in shots where the hazy light didn’t really matter. The haze did however defeat our efforts to get a shot looking along Harlech beach towards the distant Snowdon mountains.
Friday was again rather hazy to start, but perhaps a little less, so after a more leisurely start we obtained some shots of Llyn Gwynant and Llynnau Mymbyr before heading off to Betws-y-Coed for some more restful time looking round the numerous outdoor shops etc.  We were to be thwarted by the haze in any further photography of the type I intended to do, despite the pleasant spring sunshine – but hey who could complain after a week like that in what is often referred to as the wettest spot of the UK!
Now back and putting the exhibition together plus finishing my Bodmin Railway book and getting ready for the West Somerset gala, not enough hours in the day again! Roll on our next trip to Yorkshire….

About Don Bishop

Don Bishop is a professional landscape & steam railway photographer. Don is based in West Huntspill, Somerset and travels widely around the UK working to get very special landscape images which portray something of the mood and atmosphere of the moment he captured the image. For his landscape images Don concentrates on quite and remote areas of the UK around our coast across moorland and mountain areas. Don's steam pictures are mostly taken out in the landscape and so are very much "steam in the landscape" images. Don favours the period between October and April for his steam photography when the sun is lower in the sky and the light consequently better, it's also cooler so steam effects are much better. He has had 5 books published to date of his steam images which are otherwise often seen in the railway press and other publications. As well as his photography Don is an active volunteer and Trustee/Director of the West Somerset Railway Association.
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