Snowdonia Landscape Photography

Snowdonia Landscape Photography (A Local Expert Tour)

Our lucky photographer has Snowdonia in his backyard. You’re invited for the tour.
By David Griffiths – subscribe to David’s YouTube channel
Why has Snowdonia in North Wales become so popular with landscape photographers? Probably above all, one reason is that Snowdonia offers such a stunning variety of compositions in a pocket-sized area.

On my doorstep, I have five mountain massifs, numerous valleys, lakes, rivers and waterfalls and a spectacular coastline.

My obsession with the seasons, weather conditions, tides, and ever-changing light across a jaw-dropping geography is certainly more than enough for me. Likewise, a growing number of landscape photographers.

Your 1-Day Snowdonia Photography Tour

  • More Compact Than the Lake District, Even More Exciting
  • About 200 Miles of Coastline Near Snowdonia
  • Let’s Imagine Our Snowdonia Road Trip in Late Summer / Early Autumn
  • We’ll Greet Sunrise at the Lower Reaches of the Snowdon Watkin Path
  • Photographing Stone Slab Bridges, Rocks of Red and Gold, Clear Turquoise Pools
  • Into the Dappled Sunlight of the Valley Woodlands
  • Photographing Snowdonia Gives You Many Choices. Maybe Too Many…
  • Under the Snowdon “Horseshoe” Right from the Parking Lot
  • More Superb Snowdonia Views from the Road
  • Breakfast in a Photography Gallery? Yes Please…
  • Rugged Alpine Views of the Mighty Triangle of Tryfan
  • 15-Minute Hike to Photograph the Mountain Lake at Cwm Idwal
  • Be Sure to Bring Enough Memory Cards to Snowdonia – You’ll Need Them
  • Hillary and Tenzing Trained Here for Their Mount Everest Summit
  • Tracking the Sun Means All-Day Photography at Snowdonia
  • More Views from the Col Between Yr Aran and Snowdon
  • Anglesey Beach Photography at Sunset
  • Are You Ready for Photography in Snowdonia?

More Compact Than the Lake District. But Just as Exciting

My area of expertise is much smaller than people usually think. While Snowdonia National Park is over 820 square miles, the area I shoot in is about 75 square miles. Therefore, it’s not a huge tract of land like the Lake District or Scotland; hence I have come to know it very intimately indeed.

For that reason it allows me to react. Depending on conditions, I just grab my camera and hiking gear and head off at the drop of a hat. I’m constantly gaining more familiarity and love for this astounding corner of the United Kingdom.

I think that equipped with some good local knowledge, North Wales can be a location to beat all others. Yes, I know I’m biased, but I intend to prove my case!

About 200 Miles of Coastline Near Snowdonia

I live on the island of Anglesey, just across the bridge from Snowdonia. The island has a coastline of 175 miles, and when you add the mainland coast, you get just under 200 miles to play with.

Because the mountains are so close to open water it creates constantly changing weather conditions. That gives landscape photographers like me many options, often within an hour.

Small wonder that several well-known landscape photography vloggers have been seduced by the scope and locations of Snowdonia. Spending weekends almost exclusively in northwest Wales.

Let’s Imagine Our Snowdonia Road Trip in Late Summer / Early Autumn

Give me one day in an area you’ve never visited before to convince you that it’s time to get over here and see what you’ve been missing.

Prepare yourself for some short, not too strenuous hikes. There will be roadside stop-offs. No doubt some refreshments! But, above all, there will be incomparable landscape photography opportunities.

Snowdonia photography includes this dawn light view from Snowdon Watkin path.

We’ll Greet Sunrise at the Lower Reaches of the Snowdon Watkin Path

To start the day, I’ve chosen the secluded valley called Nant Gwynant towards the southern border of my patch. Don’t panic, we’re not attempting to reach Snowdon summit! If we were, we would probably choose another route. Because this path has the highest ascent of any of the six major routes.

The reason we’re going to hike just a little way up the easy Snowdon Watkin Path in the Nant Gwynant valley is due to the lowest part of the valley being wide and open, facing out toward the southeast.

This means early morning golden hour sunlight pours into the valley to illuminate the spectacular waterfalls, the lone pines and other features of interest to landscape photographers.

In addition, we can turn our backs to Snowdon, and photograph the sunrise itself. As the sky takes on colour above the majestic peak of Moel Siabod and the northern end of the Moelwynion mountain range, we’ll have stunning sunrise compositions.

Photographing Stone Slab Bridges, Rocks of Red and Gold, Clear Turquoise Pools

Leaving the path, we’ll venture down to the river’s edge. It cascades under ancient stone slab bridges and over rocks of red and gold into crystal clear turquoise pools. With the early morning side light reaching in over our shoulders, it’s perfect for many compositions.

Into the Dappled Sunlight of the Valley Woodlands

As golden hour starts to wane, we make our way back down through the ancient deciduous woodland, stopping to take images of the mountain streams tumbling between mossy boulders, illuminated by streaks of light. The rickety bridges and snaking pathways add to the magic of the valley. We could probably spend all day here, but there is so much more to see. Time to head back to the car.

Photographing Snowdonia Gives You Many Choices. Maybe Too Many…

If the weather is calm, a lake called Llyn Dinas is very close by. So we could stop off for evocative images of mountain reflections and old boathouses.

This location is very reminiscent of classic Lake District compositions, and is further evidence that Snowdonia has every imaginable aspect of landscape scenery crammed into close proximity.

We’ll take the northeast route up along Nant Gwynant. Perhaps if the light is interesting enough we’ll stop off briefly at the Nant Cynnyd panoramic viewpoint.

Another stunning landscape view from Nant Gwynant across to Moel Hebog

Under the Snowdon “Horseshoe” Right from the Parking Lot

Snowdonia offers superb hiking trails, and that is a great part of the joy of photography in our corner of North Wales.

But it’s also nice to have views of magnificent layered compositions down the valley right from the parking lot. No hike required.

The Nant Cynnyd panoramic viewpoint puts you right under the Snowdon “Horseshoe” looking eastwards. This is a famous ridge line which runs from Crib Goch to the north around past the main Snowdon summit, to Y Lliwedd in the south.

The morning light will be behind us illuminating the crags. Or maybe the skies will have dramatic clouds scraping the ridge line. Also creating flowing textures as the winds thrust them into the corrie of Llyns Glaslyn & Llydaw.

More Superb Snowdonia Views from the Road

A little later, perhaps we can also stop off at the twin lakes of Lynnau Mymbyr. Because their superb vista of the entire Horseshoe in a single composition, with the foreground of the lake and its rocky shore is a classic.

These last few roadside locations offer interesting compositions with no hiking required at all.

They’re well worth taking the time to pull over and set your camera gear up. In any case, we’re heading a bit further down the road to Capel Curig for breakfast.

Breakfast in a Photography Gallery? Yes Please…

We’re going to call in at the rather splendid hiking-base eatery of Caffi Siabod for a hearty breakfast.

The Caffi has an excellent photographic gallery which displays artworks from the small collective based there.

This includes the mountain guide Nick Livesey, author of the splendid book “Photographing the Snowdonia Mountains”. This is a highly recommended and definitive guide to some of the finest photographic locations in the area.

If you’re convinced by today’s outing to return and explore in more detail, this book will serve you well for years to come.

And, as it happens, Nick can often be found at the Caffi for a chat and an autograph!

Snowdonia photography from the roadside: Approaching Ogwen from Capel Curig

Rugged Alpine Views of the Mighty Triangle of Tryfan

Fully refreshed, we make our way northwest along the A5 road into the Ogwen Valley. This is where the scenery starts to become truly Alpine.

It’s much more rugged than the roadside views around the main Snowdon massif. We’ll be very tempted to stop in a lay-by along here to capture the atmosphere of this astounding location.

A little further on, we’ll park in a pull-in and take a short walk on the opposite side of the valley.

We’re after a classic shot of the triangular peak of Tryfan mountain, which any landscape photographer would be pleased to have in their portfolio.

We won’t climb too high because there’s more hiking to come later in the day. But there’s no need to gain any great elevation here.

To capture the majesty and scale of Tryfan you’re better staying low and shooting upwards slightly. The cascading white-water and boulders of the mountain stream Afon Lloer in the foreground, give us a perfect leading line to the peak of Tryfan.

In the heart of Snowdonia, beautiful Cwm Idwal is worth the short hike for the compositions

15-Minute Hike to Photograph the Mountain Lake at Cwm Idwal

Back to the car. After just a half mile, we pull into the parking lot at Ogwen Cottage. More refreshments are available if required, and it’s well worth a quick visit to the National Park exhibition.

A short hike later, we’re at Cwm Idwal, a picture-book lake in this beautiful north-facing corrie. By this time of the morning there should be plenty of sunlight getting down into the valley, and the surrounding peaks will be illuminated for us.

Be Sure to Bring Enough Memory Cards to Snowdonia – You’ll Need Them

We’ll spend the rest of the morning at this superb location. There is no shortage whatsoever of interesting images to be captured.

Options include a stroll around the lake, perhaps head up the shoulder of the impressive peak of Y Garn for a little more elevation. This allows us to shoot back towards the Ogwen Valley and get both Llyn Ogwen and the higher Llyn Idwal in the shot.

We could hike towards the foot of the Devil’s Kitchen boulder field route up to the ridge of the Glyders. From here we can capture images back towards the peak of Pen Yr Ole Wen from a high vantage point with Llyn Idwal in the mid-ground.

Hillary and Tenzing Trained Here for Their Mount Everest Summit

It’s time for lunch and we’ll take the car back down A5 and at the turn for Llanberis, we find the Pen Y Gwryd hotel.

This historic hostelry was the training base in the early 1950s for Hillary and Tenzing to undertake training expeditions for the world’s first ascent of Mt. Everest. The hotel is known the world over as “the Welsh pub at the foot of Everest”.

Excellent pub food and fabulous Purple Moose beer on tap (brewed just down the road at Porthmadog) make for a very pleasant and highly recommended port of call.

Another favorite Snowdonia landscape: Pen Yr Ole Wen seen from the Devil’s Kitchen

Tracking the Sun Means All-Day Photography at Snowdonia

Some photographers will tell you that they don’t shoot mid-day. Too much sun. Because of the mountains and valleys at Snowdonia, that’s not the case here.

As the sun has now swung around towards the southwest, we’ll head towards Beddgelert and Caernarfon.

We’ll park at another of the Snowdon mountain path trailheads for the Rhyd Ddu Path. Nothing too strenuous, just a short gentle stroll which gives us some elevation and all manner of compositions to work with.

Now we have various options. I strongly recommend we head up to the old quarry workings underneath the peak of Yr Aran.

In a slightly harsh afternoon light we can make good use of the contrast for some detail shots. There are also mountain streams and waterfalls to capture with the sun over our shoulder lighting our compositions.

Who can resist this Snowdonia landscape looking towards Rhyd Dhu from Nantlle?

More Views from the Col Between Yr Aran and Snowdon

This hiking route brings you out at the Bwlch Llan col between Yr Aran and Snowdon. From here, you can look back down the Watkin Path where we started our day.

Views from here are along the southern flank of Snowdon and across to Y Lliwedd. If it’s sunlit, the vistas will be perfect. But if cloud and mist have dragged over from the east of the “Horseshoe”, it may be time for dramatic high contrast black-and-white photography.

In either case, you’ll certainly have plenty of choice.

Abandoned slate workings on the Snowdon Rhyd Ddu Path

Anglesey Beach Photography at Sunset

After a quick meal at the excellent Cwellyn Arms pub in Rhyd Ddu village, we’ll take the A55 northwest towards Bangor, swinging left over the Britannia Bridge onto the Isle of Anglesey.

We’ve done enough hiking for the day, so we’re after something a little different for the evening. We’re probably going to take advantage of the westerly aspect of the beaches on the south side of the island for sunset.

This is a well-known photography location which often presents somewhat difficult conditions because it requires a certain confluence of light and tide to get the most from it.

But with some local knowledge, venturing there at the right time can produce stunning images which is what I’m going to try and deliver for you this evening!

We take the quiet back roads to the estuary village of Aberffraw. If we’re a little early then yet another pitstop can be squeezed in at the rather excellent Y Goron pub.

A short drive brings us to St Cwyfan’s Church In The Sea. And, most importantly, I have arranged for us to be here when a high tide fully isolates the island from the shore. At most other times, the church is connected by a causeway which remains accessible even at many high tides.

The position of the sunset at this time of year, whilst being off to the right-hand side of the beach still allows compositions where some colour in the sky can be included.

Alternatively, the Church with its white-wash finish, often catches projected light during golden hour. So, we have plenty of options to work with at this location as our day out together draws to close.

Are You Ready for Photography in Snowdonia?

Of course, this is was just a whistle-stop tour of a few highlights in the rather special part of the UK which I call home. A taster, if you will – a single day trip to visit and allow me to sell you on the delights of Snowdonia.

This might be something like a day out I would put together for you during high season. Or not. It’s perfectly feasible that I can put together any number of days out, none of which would involve any duplication of locations, with perhaps, the exception of the pit-stop venues along the way!

At other times of the year it may well be that the set of locations would be entirely different, but in contrast no less spectacular.

And we haven’t even considered where we might head for, in the event that we were going to be out for a whole day in a single location, or even a wild camp!

Pitching a tent on a 3,000-foot ridge and capturing sunrise over Castell Y Gwynt, or the Castle of the Winds as you might know it, is simply incomparable.

Here in this tiny corner of the UK you can be truly alone in a wilderness and yet only a couple of miles from your car!

Is North Wales the UK’s finest photography location?

So, this flying itinerary concludes my evidence for the astounding number of iconic, picturesque landscape photography locations within an extremely short distance of each other. Believe me, this isn’t even scratching the surface. As a result of decades of visiting this area, almost to the exclusion of any other within the UK, and now being based here, still have me finding new corners to explore.

Most landscape photographers in the UK find the journey to Scotland or even the Lake District lengthy and arduous. Of course, these journeys are certainly offset by the quality of the locations. However, North Wales is much more immediately accessible to the bulk of the UK population centres, and once you’re here you will find that everywhere you turn requires you to put your camera to your eye!

Then combine your photography with extended hill walking, and perhaps, wild camping – which I hope to cover in future articles – and I think I am justified in claiming North Wales is unsurpassed as the finest landscape photography location in the UK.

I rest my case M’lud.

David Griffiths

David has been a creative landscape photographer for over 40 years. He lives and works on the island of Anglesey in Wales, with the high ridges of Snowdonia on his doorstep.

David is an experienced hill-walker and wild-camper, which combined with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his locality, often puts him in the most spectacular locations when the light is just perfect to capture the scene.

He has been fortunate enough to travel the globe and now focuses on the virtually unknown landscape photography locations of north Wales. His photography reflects the ever-changing light, weather, tides and seasons of this spectacular region.

David is an advocate of lightweight equipment to facilitate his hiking, camping and photography passion. As a mountain and coastal guide to this region, he's among the best. He’s never happier than when he's guiding and coaching photographers to make the most of his region!

David also takes you along on many of his location shoots through his weekly landscape photography vlogs on YouTube at D Griff Gallery.

David Griffiths


David has been a creative landscape photographer for over 40 years. He lives and works on the island of Anglesey in Wales, with the high ridges of Snowdonia on his doorstep.

David is an experienced hill-walker and wild-camper, which combined with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his locality, often puts him in the most spectacular locations when the light is just perfect to capture the scene.

He has been fortunate enough to travel the globe and now focuses on the virtually unknown landscape photography locations of north Wales. His photography reflects the ever-changing light, weather, tides and seasons of this spectacular region.

David is an advocate of lightweight equipment to facilitate his hiking, camping and photography passion. As a mountain and coastal guide to this region, he's among the best. He’s never happier than when he's guiding and coaching photographers to make the most of his region!

David also takes you along on many of his location shoots through his weekly landscape photography vlogs on YouTube at D Griff Gallery.

1 Comment

  1. Charles Farnell

    As ever you have sold North Wales in an excellent fashion, and your images confirm the facts. Well done Griff.

    Reply

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