Wales is blessed with the best of both worlds: areas of breathtaking natural beauty mix with cities and towns packed with Welsh charm. Keen photographers can scale high mountains for panoramic shots, cross waters to capture wide-angled beach landscapes or get right down amongst the flora and fauna that has taken hold in lakes, disused mines and castle grounds.
With contrasting beauty all around this petite yet powerful country, it’s hard to resist snapping a photo to share with others. Here are 10 of the best places to go if you want to photograph Wales at its best.
The showstopping Gower Peninsula
It’s easy to see why this 19-mile stretch of the Wales Coastal Path was the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To hone in on the highlights, travel along the Gower Peninsula by car or bike, stopping at the most scenic points.
Start with Mumbles, a small fishing village that’s extremely popular when the sun appears. You can snap surfers emerging from the waves and dogs drying off on the pier, with Swansea on the distant horizon. Head west to Three Cliffs Bay, with its three limestone cliffs, salt marshes and sand dunes. Finally, at Rhossili, walk out onto the jutting stretch of land known as Worm’s Head to capture wide shots of Rhossili Bay.
Mediterranean vibes in Portmeirion
This coastal resort in North Wales has a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1900s, Portmeirion’s brightly coloured buildings contrast with the blue-grey water of the Dwyryd estuary below. Frame the heritage-listed piazza by taking photographs peeking through archways, from behind curved railings or looking down from the balconies.
Snowdonia’s stunning peaks and valleys
North Wales’ national park is a dream for any photographer after stunning landscapes and rocky peaks. Catch the Snowdon Mountain Railway to be effortlessly lifted to the top of Wales’s highest peak while taking in the scenery.
A classic summit photo always proves popular online, but the best photos come from the stunning 360-degree panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see as far as Scotland and Pembrokeshire.
While in the area visit Cwm Idwal, a massive bowl-shaped valley sculpted in the mountains by ice. Come rain or shine, the lake at the base, surrounded by towering crags, offers opportunities to capture the unrefined power and beauty of nature.
Honing in on Cardiff Castle
Thanks to its domineering exterior and opulent Victorian Gothic interior, the castle at the centre of Wales’ capital city has literally hundreds of great spots to set up a camera and shoot. To get wide shots of the keep, rest your camera on one of the picnic tables near the entrance to the Castle Apartments. It’s almost like they were positioned for this purpose!
Inside the Arab Room, the incredible gold ceiling calls out to be the star of the show. Hone in on tiny details or try to capture the contrast between the strict structural shape of the ceiling and the curves of the painted designs. Elsewhere, you’ll find spiral staircases, intricate wood carvings and elaborate murals; you just have to look carefully.
Ice cream and pastels in Tenby
Photographers are spoilt for choice at Tenby, a quaint seaside town in Pembrokeshire with three beaches. The harbour on North Beach, complete with boats, ice cream kiosks and fishermen, is a picturesque place to start. Experiment with the pastel-shaded town houses on the hill of Bridge St, a slope into the foregrounded harbour. South Beach’s vast spread of maize-coloured sand, sandwiched by the Bristol Channel and the lush green hills of Pembrokeshire, is well worth capturing too.
The Principality Stadium: a sporting epic
The national stadium of Wales doesn’t need world-class sporting clashes or chart-topping bands to look impressive. With a footprint of 40,000sq metres and a height of 90m, the Principality Stadium dominates the city skyline. It can be hard to fit the whole stadium into your viewfinder, but you can cross the bridge near One Central Square to reach Fitzhamon Embankment, which offers a riverside view, with the River Taff washing along the foreground. Alternatively, stroll along the boardwalk beside the stadium for close-ups or wander southward along Taffs Mead Embankment for more distant shots of the stadium.
Rockpools and ramblers in Barry Island
After consuming a tray of chips on the seafront, wipe your hands and head along Whitmore Bay. On a sunny day, Barry Island is full of life with families, ramblers, dog walkers, sunbathers and ice cream vendors. It’s great for full-colour snapshots of seaside holiday life, the neon glow from amusement arcades and the stripey windbreakers on the beach capturing the vibrancy of this popular staycation destination.
Even on murkier days, there’s still fun to be had. The rockpools provide a chance to play with macro settings by photographing limpets, crabs and shrimps against moody grey rocks. From the hilltop further along, you can get wonderful panoramic shots with dramatic clouds, book-ended by the Bristol Channel on one side and the promenade’s beach huts and multi-coloured climbing wall on the other.
Swans and paddle boats in Roath Park
Huge Roath Park in Cardiff is packed with greenery, wildlife and water features. A walk around the lake will give you a good chance to take photos of the water and its neighbouring landmarks, such as the boathouse full of paddle boats, cute wooden signposts amongst the trees and benches surrounded by swans.
Walk along the promenade to obtain front-facing shots of the famous white lighthouse. At sunset, this can provide a bright focal point when the night purples the sky in the background. Take time to explore the paths around the park too, as here you can discover mini waterfalls, meticulous flower beds, arches formed from bowing branches and sculptures beside the greenhouse.
Dam good: the Elan Valley
All along the Elan Valley in Mid-Wales are photogenic examples of how man and nature can co-exist. Four man-made dams stretch across the river Elan, while two dams span the river Claerwen. Each dam is accessible and has its own unique features, but the most spectacular dam is Craig Goch (meaning ‘Red Rock’).
A fast shutter speed on your camera will freeze the cascading water, giving definition to the individual sections. Slower shutter speeds will create a misty effect where one level of water hits another, which works really well on the highest of the dams. At night, this area is perfect for star photography.
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