The Great Castles of Wales

Well things are finally coming together for our series on the great English castles in Wales, built by Edward I around 1283 to keep all you Welsh guys under control.

Our attempts in the past had been hampered by the wonderful Welsh weather, which meant that at the time I have been ready and waiting for the shots, the light has been either poor or terrible. However now I seem to be on a run of good luck, and the summer evenings have provided beautiful light and interesting skies to set these magnificent monuments off.

Although Conwy was the first castle to be built, in 1283 along with the whole walled town, designed by James of Saint George, a Sicilian, the first castle that we shot in our series was Caernarfon, and eventually decided on the classic view from across the estuary.

What I find fascinating about Caernarfon though is just how different the design is to the others, and how it appears to have been designed with a nod to the huge Roman forts, built around 1000 years earlier. There had been a massive Roman fort at Caernarfon, in fact one of the biggest in Britain, called Segontium, just a little further inland. Remains of it are still there now. This old ruined fort would have been as old to the people that built Caernarfon Castle as that castle is now old to us. Yet the medieval period people must have been quite in touch with their Roman ancestry, because Caernarfon definitely acknowledges the Roman influence in that area. There is a legend that whilst excavating the ditch that ran round the inland side of the castle the body of a famous Roman Emperor, Magnus Maximus was found, and King Edward ordered that the body be reburied in a local church.

Whether this is true or not we will never know. Perhaps a significant burial was unearthed and Edward was quick to make the association with Maximus, who was intertwined with Welsh folklore, having traditionally married a Welsh princess called Elen.

What is certain is that there was a strong association with the Romans of Wales long since passed, something that is quite new to me.

Technical details on the pictures: Caernarfon was shot on a Canon 5DII, and a first this time; I used an old Nikkor 50mm f/2 lens which has superb micro contrast when stopped down. 100 ISO as usual, though the 6D is so good at higher ISO you might see us moving away from our 100 standard soon, a handy little Manfrotto Befree carbon tripod. f/8, can’t remember the shutter speed. A five frame panoramic shot as usual in portrait mode.


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