CAD West (Cadair Idris West) is located on the A487, approximately 2.5 miles from the junction with the A470 at the Cross Foxes Inn, and is some 4 miles by road from the Bwlch. It provides possibly the best opportunity for close topside shots of low flying aircraft of any of the viewing positions in the Mach Loop, From the standard viewing position on CAD West to the road is only some 275 yards (250 metres), and the valley at that point is only some 600 yards (550 metres) wide in total. Spectacular frame filling topside shots of Hawks with the landscape in the background can be achieved with a 300mm lens on a crop sensor camera body.
The aircraft appear from one of three directions, from the Bwlch, which is to the right of the view from CAD West, from Bala, which is straight ahead, and from Dolgellau which is to the left. As they approach you, they will adjust their line, before flicking to knife edge with their topside towards you, then levelling out as they go towards Tal-y-Llyn lake, hopefully turning round Corris Corner as they head around the Mach Loop again, to appear from the Bwlch some 4 minutes later.
NOTE: Clicking on an image will display a larger version (where available).
There are a number of viewing position at CAD West, all located along the fence line (see the instructions below on the route to the viewing positions), you just need to decide how high you would like to climb. Of course, the further up you climb, the more likely you are to be above the aircraft, and the further away you will be from them.
Route to the viewing positions
- Climb over the stile from the car park;
- Just the other side of the stile, climb up the right hand side of the gravelly slope. Attempting to climb up the gravel can be extremely dangersous as it is loose and slippy, especially when wet;
- At the top of the gravelly slope you will find a path leading off to the right which you should follow;
- After a couple of hundred yards the path you are on will meet up with a well defined sheep track, follow that to the right;
- You will then come to the fence line. Follow the fence line up to a suitable height,
The preferred viewing area is from a point in the fence where there is a noticeably wider fence post, up to the next stile (you will clearly see it when you get up there), and on the opposite side of the fence from the side you climbed up.
Photography at CAD West
CAD West provides great opportunities for top shots of the aircraft with the side of the valley in the background, due to the close proximity of the aircraft as they pass. Frame filling shots of a Hwak can be easily achieved with a 300mm lens on a crop sensor DSLR. CAD West is however, a stern test of your panning ability, again due to the close proximity of the aircraft, but when you do get it right, the results can be spectacular. When the weather is good, CAD West can be relatively busy, and it can be a challenge to find a spot where you have a view of the whole pass of an aircraft unobscured by other photographers, and are not getting in anyone else's way. Please be considerate of the other photographers on the hill.
The following pictures (uncropped) below were taken at CAD West with a Nikon D700 Body (Full frame Sensor). Click a photo to view a larger version and details of the lens used.