After many years of moaning about drones, it was time to bury the hatchet, swallow…
“What are the best locations for Brecon Beacons Landscape Photography “
I often get asked this question and the honest truth is that is entirely depends on what you love within the national park. There are many places that are beautiful to photograph, some that work well for sunrises or sunsets, others that require a little more creative input, all equally beautiful.
However, in the interests of a little bit of fun I’ll highlight five area’s of the Brecon Beacons that I love to photograph and in no particular order…..
1. Craig Cerrig Gleisiad a Fan Frynych
What lies ahead of you is a path which winds it’s way through a small leafy wood which arrives at a clearing and a wonderful open vista of a Swiss “style” glacial cliff face. The reserve itself is an hilly region with steep sided crags, sharp escarpments and a sheer and rather shady north-facing cwm or corrie which eventually leads up to the summit of Fan Frynych at 629m
There are a few ways to walk around the reserve, a low level circular route or one which involves a rather lung bursting hike up the steep crags, but is rewarded with a rather special view across to Pen Y Fan.
This is one of my favourite spots in the Brecon Beacons, it offers a photographer large vistas, isolated trees, mountainous landscapes, rivers and even close up detail.
The vistas are there, on a clear day, a view across to the Pen Y Fan and Corn Du is manageable for sure. If the golden hours are your thing, then this is most certainly a morning location, the sun rarely reaches the crags of hillside, so it is often in shadow. It has plenty of heather on top, so a good explore around the summit will reveal some lovely intricate detail.
A winter walk across the ridge is well worth the trouble, it’s a fairly easy path to follow. I’ll be posting a video of a walk I completed in the winter of 2013, where in some places the snow was waist deep.
As always in winter take care, be prepared, know your route and always tell somebody where you are going.
2. Nedd Valley
When you drive from Pontneddfechan to Ystradfellte you’ll see a sign pointing left to a track called “Nedd Valley, No through road”.
Next time, turn left and take a drive through, you’ll be able to turn around in plenty of places but park up and explore it’s a wonderful location, full of unexplored gems. It’s a quiet place full of thick forest, underground cave systems and limestone pavements. It looks up towards the wonderful Fan Nedd and Fforest Fawr.
The Beacons Way scythes it’s way through the moorland.
In some respects the Nedd Valley reminds me of Rannoch Moor in Scotland, isolated but with mountains dominating the horizon. I love it there, I feel I can disappear into a copse or a thicket, sit and listen to the sounds of nature and quietly contemplate. I’m undertaking a personal landscape photography project here, so far about 18 months in. Not even sure I have 10 images yet! The Nedd Valley was the last place in Britain to receive electricity when in 2005, yup 2005! it was eventually connected to the grid. You’ll find it a tough challenge to stop in the Nedd Valley for two reasons. The first is that it’s very close to the world renowned waterfalls country in the Brecon Beacons and if you do make it down the track, it can be difficult to park. Drop me a note if you need any suggestions. The Nedd is dominated by Fan Nedd in the distance, a real lump of a mountain, it jutts into the landscape and will form a solid foundation for most traditional landscape photographs. It you want to try something a little different, the copses and lone trees are plentiful, there is also an abundance of limestone pavement.
The weather can hit you from just about any angle here so be prepared for all weather! The Nedd Valley is a diamond of the Brecon Beacons, go and explore.
3. Llyn y fan fach
It’s timeless quality makes it a very special part Brecon Beacons National Park. The shape of the lake has changed little since the end of the last ice age, with the exception of a dam built by conscientious objectors during World War One. When you walk up to the lake from the little village of LLandeusant you will walk along a track built by the same objectors who also built the filter station and pipeline.
Making photographs in and around Llyn y Fan Fach is an absolute pleasure. The horizon stretches as far as the Gower Peninsula, or looking North a wonderful view of traditional field boundaries and farmland.
At 802 metres the summit of Fan Brycheiniog is the highest point in the Black Mountain range. I spent a lot of time during last winter in and around Llyn y Fan Fach which is a tricky location for photography in the Brecon Beacons, but if you can get there through the windy country roads, you are in for a real treat.
4. Waterfall country
I am lucky enough to work as a volunteer warden for the Brecon Beacons National Park and I get to spend a large proportion of this time within the waterfalls area of the park. The waterfalls are largely split into 2 main sections accessed either from Ystradfellte or Pontneddfechan. (which is where the waterfalls centre is actually located)
The waterfalls themselves sit within deep woody limestone gorges and follow largely three rivers the Hepste, Mellte and Nedd Fechan, perhaps the most well known waterfall is one that you can walk behind Sgwd yr Eira or in English translated to Fall of snow. One of the main walks takes in 4 of these waterfalls: Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and Sgwd yr Eira and is known as the 4 waterfalls walk. Sgwd yr Eira is perhaps the most well known as the path hugs the ledge behind the waterfalls allowing you to walk comfortably behind the cascade, as experience everybody must do at some point. It is a photographers paradise from cascading waterfalls in full spate, to banks of bluebells in May, beautiful leafy tree canopies and frozen ice waterfalls in winter.
The other side of the waterfalls is generally accessed from Pontneddfechan and takes in Sgwd Gwladus, Sgwd y Bedol, Sgwd Ddwli Isaf, Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf and the waterfalls at Pont Melin-Fach. There is a “secret” waterfall within waterfalls country that involves a few river crossings to get there called Sgwd Einion Gam, it’s worth the effort, but not for the faint hearted.
As you can can see the choice for photography is widespread, close up detailed photographs to wide vista are possible. The falls are terrific in autumn, with the burnt orange and yellow’s leaves scattering the riverbanks.
There are many trails to follow, some easier on the legs that others, I love nothing more than revisiting a small section at different times in the year, to see how it changes with the seasons. It’s a must visit and even more so with the camera
5. Upper Neuadd
This is one of the Brecon Beacons jewel in the crown vistas. Parking below the Lower Neuadd car park
In forms part of the Pen Y Fan Horseshoe, which follows the Roman Road and summits the 3 main peaks of the central Beacons, Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du before heading back along the Graig Fan Ddu ridge towards the Upper and Lower Neuadd reservoirs. You needn’t worry about lofty heights or burning thighs to photograph this landscape, it is the highest reservoir in the Brecon Beacons at a metre under 460m. but most of the surrounding land is relatively level.
It’s a another great place to explore from Victorian Dams, to reservoir islands, rivers, reflections and a glorious view towards the highest point in South Wales, Pen y Fan. A photographers delight and a personal favourite of mine.
Locations that nearly made the list: Llangorse lake: from Mynydd Troedd there are wonderful panoramic views across towards the Pen Y Fan range of the Brecon Beacons, taking in the misty and mysterious Llangorse lake in the foreground. The Summit of Pen Y Fan: I have been lucky enough to photograph a cloud inversion from the summit of Pen Y Fan, it involved a very early climb in the dark to get to the top of the mountain for sunrise, but what a morning. Well worth doing, although a very early alarm call and climbing a mountain in the pitch black may not be to everybody’s taste! Llantony Priory and the Black Mountain: Llanthony Priory is a ruined former priory set in the remote Vale of Ewyas,which is a steep sided old glaciated valley on the Wales/England border. It is within the Black Mountains area of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The views from the top of the Gospel Pass (which is the highest mountain pass in Wales at 549m) are terrific. The pass is sandwiched between the hills of Twmpa and Hay Bluff.
This is very much a personal selection of my favourite locations to photograph with the Brecon Beacons National Park, like most things in life, I’m sure they will change with time.
What are your favourites? Tell me all about then, I’d love to hear.
Neil Mansfield is a freelance photographer at www.landscapesuncovered.com
Brecon Beacons Landscape Photography