Mountain peaks sugar coated in snow, twinkling icicles on the trees and fog lingering on frozen lakes – photography might be more challenging in the dark winter months but it’s even more rewarding.
And nowhere is more beautiful than North Wales in winter, when the soaring peaks of Snowdonia are at their most atmospheric and snow blankets the rolling Welsh landscape.
If you’ve only photographed the area in the summer months, then wrap up warm and get back here when the temperature drops. While we can’t deny that those burning sunsets and vibrant blooms make for glorious snapshots; snow, frost and ice paint the area in an entirely new light, creating completely different photo opportunities.
Winter snapshots: top tips
Safety comes first
Yes, Snowdonia and North Wales are the ultimate winter wonderlands – but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your safety just to get THE picture.
Snowdonia’s mountains and hills are dangerous all year round, but accessing them in winter is on a completely different level. The key is planning for every eventuality – learn more here in a blog about planning a trip to the mountains in winter.
Realistically, we’d only recommend climbing mountains in the winter if you’re experienced, have the correct clothing, equipment and footwear and know exactly what you’re doing. Remember to inform someone of your route and when you expect to be back. Why not read our recent blog on safe winter walking?
Thankfully, there are plenty of easily accessible viewpoints and locations to get beautiful winter snaps which don’t require technical climbs. We’ll share our favourite viewpoints a but later but if you just can’t wait here are some of the best low level winter walks in the area – all great subjects for some wintry snaps too!
Wrap up warm
How are you going to get a winning shot if you’re freezing from head to toe? Before you embark on your sub-zero temperatures winter photography expedition, wrap up as warm and cosy as you possibly can. Our guide to layering clothes comes in handy here.
Getting that perfect shot means standing round in one spot for some time – making it easy to get chilly, fast. Multiple layers (including thermals), waterproof clothing, good quality boots and disposable hand-warmers work a treat!
Fix the white balance
A combination of pure white snow and bright sunlight is a disaster when it comes to automatic white balance. Most of the time, the camera misjudges the situation, leaving your photos with a strange, bluish tint.
If you’re a beginner, the ‘snow’, ‘winter’, ‘cloudy’ or ‘shade’ settings on your smartphone or camera should help alleviate this problem. Otherwise, have a play with your camera’s manual white balance settings until the colours are accurate – it’s all about testing.
Find the contrast
We all know how beautiful an endless vista of snow is – but for some reason, the camera sometimes disagrees. That white, powdery goodness looks stunning to the naked eye, yet somehow blends into nothingness in a photograph.
Add a little interest to your images by incorporating other elements. It could be the contrast of a bold, stark tree in the middle of an undisturbed blanket of snow or a leaf which has been silvered by the frost. Leading lines work well too, creating a path for the eye to follow and breaking up the sea of white. All you’ve got to do is look.
Our favourite spots for winter photography in Snowdonia
Come the winter months, the dramatic summits are a landscape photographer’s dream. However, the weather is harsh, winds are strong and blizzards are to be expected – so unless you’re an experienced adventurer, we’d advise against setting out on any of Snowdonia’s peaks.
Thankfully, if the roads are reasonably clear, you’ll be able to access some marvellous viewpoints straight out your car or by taking an easy walk without the need for crampons:
1. Nebo road above the Conwy Valley
Wrap up warm and jump in the car. From Llanrwst, take the B5427 towards Nebo and drive on for around 3 miles. At the top of the hill, turn around and you’ll find a lay-by on your left. From here, you’ll be able to enjoy a panoramic view of Snowdonia’s northern peaks in all their winter glory.
2. Nantlle Valley
If you’re itching to snap a wintery Snowdon summit, the road from Penygroes to Rhyd Ddu along the Nantlle Valley offers numerous glorious viewpoints. Once in the stunning glacial valley, you’ll be able to see Snowdon directly ahead of you for most of the way. Stop, take it in and enjoy – and don’t forget to take a few snaps!
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3. Cwm Idwal / Ogwen Valley
This is one of Snowdonia’s best-loved areas, renowned for its unique geological and glacial features – it’s impossible to take a bad photograph here! It’s incredibly accessible too, just a short walk from the car park at Ogwen Cottage is the stunning Cwm Idwal, a legendary (literally) ice-sculpted lake.
Although it’s a relatively easy walk, we’d advise wearing good-quality boots and approaching with caution, as it can get pretty slippy during the winter. If you’re up for a little more of a strenuous walk, head around the shores and follow the path to the far end for even more Insta-worthy shots.
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4. Llyn Padarn / The Lone Tree
The silent and still scene of the Lone Tree on Llyn Padarn, Llanberis, is probably one of the most photographed spots in the area. For seasoned photographers, trying to capture the overly-photographed iconic tree in a unique way presents a fun challenge – go on, you know you want to! When you’re finished, Llyn Padarn itself has several locations to get some stunning panoramic shots.