Landscape Photography – Not as planned

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I wasn’t working on Friday 18th October so I planned to head up to what has become my second home, the Lake District. My intention was to start the day exploring Borrowdale, hoping to video and photograph the early Autumn colours and then hike up to Glaramara and Allen Crags. My days often include a hike as I am currently on a mission to complete all the Wainwright fells by next year. Based in Yorkshire, the drive is usually around two to three hours so I wanted to make the most of my visits.

The weather plays a big part and the forecast was favourable, cloudy with light rain. I had visions of trees clothed in their Autumnal hues in a moody, misty environment. As often is the case though, this vision didn’t present itself. The sun was out and the visibility was good. I didn’t want the sun to be out and I didn’t want the visibility good. I quickly changed my plans.

Lakeside start

I arrived in the Borrowdale area and stopped off at Derwent Water, off the Borrowdale road. There is something appealing with this lake side location. The reflections were beautiful. A colourful display of the trees across the lake, mirrored in the glass like lake. An excellent picture post card shot was on the cards but I resisted or so I thought. I wanted to capture something different and not the obvious. This however has been my downfall lately. The need to get something that is not the obvious and coming away with an image which later down the line I am not keen on. Thankfully, I decided to take a reflection shot. This was more about the atmospheric mist and the splashes of light. It was sort of different;

Woodland walk

I moved on down the road and into the heart of Borrowdale. I had not found what I had intended from the day. I wanted to make a video focusing on the Autumn colours and fancied myself with a bit of woodland magic. The light was not on my side. It was getting harsh and the friendly mist had decided to visit another day. The key was to adapt to what presented itself. I had found an interesting patch of woodland which soon became popular with other photographers as the morning progressed. This location was made even more popular apparently by a previous nights photography talk so I was told when speaking to another chap who had obviously liked the same composition as me. His ever nearing presence lead to a short exchange of pleasantries.

The scene was very worthy of a good hour, searching for the right batch of bracken against a backdrop of Silver Birch. Separation of the Silver Birch was easy, finding the foreground was the most testing. I was fairly pleased with the shots I took using both my 50mm lens, handheld and my Wide Angle lens;

The sun was reflecting harsh light off the bracken and an early morning start, together with the thought of a hike to come was hindering my concentration to work the area more so I moved on to my next destination.

The Hike

I parked at Seatoller and grabbed my walking sticks after a quick lunch in my car. It was hike time. By this time the weather had become more favourable for fell walking with a hint of rain and overcast skies. It was much later than my usual starting times to head out for a hike. I was conscious of the sunset times but confident that I would make it to the summit of Glaramara and back before dark. I did have my head torch as I always do but given the option, hiking back in daylight is always preferable.

It soon became apparent that this was no easy walk. The distance was around 3 kilometres but the ascent was testing. Glaramara was certainly not the tallest of the Lakeland Fells at 783 metres but it was not the smallest. Tiredness was soon setting in and I was reminded by a passing walker that my backpack was rather on the large side with 2 fairly large tripods protruding from either side. I decided to stop and record a piece to camera, giving me some outlet to share my pains. It was time to reconsider my payload if I was to manage all the Wainwrights by next year. I am currently contemplating a lighter option for the shorter hikes. Time will see if it works.

Time was not on my side. I wanted to grab at least one more shot for the video. Yes, the vlogging had taken over but that’s another article to be debated later. It was getting late and the sun was due to set in around 2 hours and I was around a kilometre away from my destination. Thankfully a scene developed behind me and my telephoto was again put to good use. The depth, layers, shapes and mood had yet again delivered;

I made it to the summit of Glaramara with around an hour to spare. The visibility was minimal and evoked a sense of eeriness and solitude. I love these moments. I was exhausted which had been proven through taking three small tumbles. Thankfully I wasn’t injured. With a few mouthfuls of coffee and a handful of Jelly babies, I made it back to my car in good time. I often say it in my vlogs but adapting and making the most of what you have got is key to landscape photography. It gains experience and improves chances to get it right when Mother Nature occasionally provides the near perfect canvas.

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Before the crowds

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I have recently read in social media of an opinion that landscape photographers should not name their locations so to limit the number of visitors which leads to damaging the environment. I am all for the importance of preserving our wonderful country side but I feel that not disclosing the location is not sharing the beauty such locations have to offer. As photographers, I believe it is important to aim to capture a different take of a scene. We should however educate ourselves on what we can do as photographers to maintain a beautiful location and the environment. I may touch on this in future vlogs.

In this session I visit one of the popular locations in the Lake District. I would guess the location to be more popular with non photographers and tourists. It is a place of beauty that is for sure and in this short photography session of around 3 hours, I feel I only touched the surface. Tarn Howes is situated off the A593 heading to Coniston and car parking is easily found just past the equally beautiful Yew Tree Tarn, which incidentally lies just under Holme Fell, a haven for landscape photography. I’m really not helping the environmental cause here. I am however sharing.

There was a faint veil of cloud covering the mid morning sun as I found my first composition. As I often do the location lead me off the path, treading carefully around the ferns, to the tarns edge. My luck was in. The tarn was in abundance with Lilly pads in flower. Excellent photographic subject. It was indeed a subject which I found hard to take my creative eye away from.

The crowds were slow to gather but slowly gather they did. By noon I could imagine the main car park be swamped with visiting hordes. I past a number of families, tourists with cameras and barbecue cooks on my way back to the car. The voices of people enjoying themselves in such a wonderful place started to echoe around me as I left the tarn with fond memories and a desire to return, albeit even earlier next time.

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Mono in the Mountains

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Location: Barrow and Outerside, Lake District

Posted: 26th May 2019

This session started in the afternoon following a visit to the Northern Photography show held annually at Rheged centre near Penrith. It was a very tiring hike from the moment it started from the small village of Braithwaite. Although Barrow and Outerside were relatively small fells at 455 metres and 568 metres respectively, it was still a challenging walk as I was both tired and the fell was warm and sticky. The clouds however were very interesting and broody. My waterproofs were at the ready. It had been a while since I had focused on black and white photography so this was a good opportunity with so much mood in the skies.

With black and photography, there are different approaches to be taken. One is to decide to convert to black and white once in post and Two, go out intentionally to shoot black and white photography. The former is no doubt the option that the majority of landscape photographers take. The latter helps to focus on what works and what doesn’t and is helped by the changing of my camera profile to monochrome.

Contrast is key in a good black and white photography which includes blacks, whites and mid tones. A good range of tones therefore often leads to success. Shapes as with all landscape photography plays an important role but in a mono image can really add more impact. Post processing is key here. The afternoon delivered minimal direct light so I had to add increased exposure to the areas of the image that mimicked side light. All but one of the images shot in the session were subject to a light dusting of the adjustment brush and radial filter. I find that I have more fun in post processing with black and white photography. I always aim to increase the black and whites with minimal clipping. This helps to achieve a good tonal range.

I was thankful that afternoon and evening that the rain didn’t arrive. It was a long and tiring day and one that added a couple of new fells to my list of Wainwrights ‘bagged’ If you reading this and black and white photography doesn’t interest you then I beg you to rethink. Mono photography has a certain timelessness about it and is a good genre to focus on if the creative juices have dried up. I will always have that passion and will no doubt continue to add black and white images to my portfolio.

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Time to move on

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Location: Ullswater, Lake District

Posted: 19th May 2019

Landscape photographers are often faced with the burning issue of deciding whether to move on from a location or to give it more time. These decisions of course can result in a better image or time wasted. During my recent visit to Ullswater, I was faced with this dilemma.

It is a beautiful location and one of my favourites in the Lake District. I was at this location, specifically Glencoyne which is on the Northern side of the lake last year and captured some wonderful scenes armed with my telephoto. This time was different however. It was the middle of the day and there no colours in the sky or mist hovering over the water so it was time to move on. Being a video maker and attempting to speak at the side of a busy road was also proving difficult

A stones throw away from the road was an area full of the joys of Spring with it’s luscious greens, white blossoms and photogenic gnarly trees. It was definitely worth an explore. I quickly discovered that the area was difficult trying to find seperation and compose a shot excluding distractions. I was also battling the rain…i’ve been there before. All was not lost however. Some good timings with my cloth and I managed to bring home the goods. This was another moody day, full of atmosphere but at the same time full of challenges.

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Your time will come

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Location: Near Skipton, Yorkshire Dales & Kirkstone Pass, Lake District

Published: 12th May 2019

Patience is a gift and also a very important attribute to have in landscape photography. There are many times when I have been disappointed but this has been balanced with the few occasions that I have been pleased. Happiness comes in all forms but for me in landscape photography, that feeling of elation is when the conditions and composition fall into place at the right time. I do believe I shot my favourite image of the year.

En route to the Lake District, my eye brows raised as a scene was developing in the corner of my eye, through the front passenger window to be exact. The mist was rolling over the hills and on those hills stood faint outlines of trees, a landscape photographers favourite models. To my astonishment a lay by appeared at the side of the road. A hard foot on the break and with a swift steer of the driving wheel later, I pulled up and assessed the scene in front of me. I had made the right decision but what’s this? The clad was rolling in and my hopes were being rubbed out as if it was a pencil sketch in front of me. Could it be happening again? I was hearing a faint voice in my head saying ‘maybe another time’ Surely not.

My adventure continued from my next destination, a lay by off Kirkstone pass in the Lake District. Misty moody conditions were all around me and distant silhouettes of our favourite models could still be scene. Another moody day. I needed to find a composition and again, hope the misty mood would hang on until my conquest is complete. The journey continues.

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The Importance of Mood

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Location: Buttermere/Derwent Fells, Lake District

Posted: 5th May 2019

Intricate planning of photography sessions has never been important to me and probably never will be. The location and time of day is all I want to know as I am a great believer that in-depth plans do not always come together and is often more exciting to witness all the elements fall into place unexpectedly. What is frustrating however is where the elements fall into place when not prepared. This is especially annoying when those elements consist of low lying clouds and swirling mists, ingredients of mood and atmosphere.

I set off from the conveniently positioned Honister Pass in the North Western region of the Lake District and headed up to Dale Head. The mist was rolling in through the valley at some pace and the clouds were hugging the crags. As a videographer I was keen to film the changing conditions and I knew straight away that my next vlog was going to have a theme of mood. I was confident that this was going to be a winner. I love the atmospheric conditions of mist and low lying clouds as they often create a sense of mystery by shrouding what lies behind. To have mood in landscape photography is for me having sugar in your coffee. Mood can be brought into your image in many ways but more often than not, it is the conditions that help. I came away with some pleasing footage and time lapses. Time for a photograph. On reflection now, that is where it went wrong. I put video before photography. By the time I had finally found a composition I was pleased with, the mood had escaped me and was left with remnants of mist and the clouds no longer hugging the valley walls.

I continued up to my first fell of the day, Dale Head. I had visited here before but this time instead of heading East, I walked West and onto the fells of Hindscarth and then Robinson. There is no denying that Dale Head summit has for me one of the best views in the Lake District and one I highly recommend. The conditions were not ideal and taking a photograph did not interest me. This was a time for reflection, a drink of coffee and a moment to enjoy my corned beef sandwhich. The mood and atmospheric conditions did not present themselves until later. For now, I had to do with flat, hazy and uninteresting light. My spirits were still high however. I was walking a mountain ridge in the Lake District with wonderful views surrounding me. This is a place I will never get tired of and the practice of mindfulness is highly recommended in such locations. Live for the moment.

The light improved as I ventured on towards Robinson after an uninspiring summit of Hindscarth. My attention was caught by the vivid greens and shapes of the crags and rocks that overlooked the valley looking towards Buttermere. This was a time of long lens abstracts using the diagonals and contrasting light. I had attempted a wider angle scene but nothing fell into place at the time. A telephoto often comes to my rescue. Robinson was looming. Robinson came and Robinson uninspired me. Looking towards the Southern fells however brought a sense of excitement and the mood was brewing. The clouds were forming some wonderful shapes.

As I often do on my walks, I looked around the scene and a 360 degrees survey presented clouds rolling over the West and Robinson. They were moving at a pace where excitement was turning in panic. The mist was also moving in from the South and dancing over Dale Head where I was heading next. I successfully captured these moments on video but I am predominantly a photographer and a composition was surely priority. I will leave it there and recommend you watch the video as to what happened next. Looking back now, I have learnt that capturing the moment is one of the most important aspects of landscape photography. The conditions change quickly, especially in the Lake District. Finding a composition does not come quickly however and that is why luck is a major factor. We are often lucky to be in the right place at the right time. No camera shop to this date and to my knowledge sells luck

A Different view – Buttermere

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My creative side comes into strength when I am on my own.I find it is good to be free of any conversation and social interaction. What I have learnt however over the past year with landscape photography is the importance of the community spirit and having a craic with good like minded people who share a common interest. I love this art form.

This episode is filmed from Buttermere, situated in the North Western area of the Lake District. There are a couple of iconic shots from which are the lone tree at the Northern end and the pine trees at the Southern end. I believe a landscape photographers, it is important to experiment and venture away from the normal views. By shooting the iconic shots, we are basically allowing someone else to do the creativity for us when finding the composition.I try to find a different view and an alternative take on a scene.

I am joined by a couple of other landscape photographers which made this morning a thoroughly enjoyable occasion, some of which is captured on film. Having a craic is a good foundation to set you up for the times when thoughts of building up a good composition is needed. I didn’t take one single shot whilst both Darren J Spoonley and Diarmuid O’Donovan were with me. Memories of the morning however will keep with me for a long time

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One Shot/Great Mell Fell

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Posted: 10th March 2019

Location: Glenridding & Great Mell Fell, Lake District

In this episode, I visit a fell that has been on the cards for some time now. Not only have I not ticked this relatively small fell of my list but I have heard good stories and potential compositions to be found. Great Mell Fell in The Lake District did not disappoint.

I start off the day with a trip to Glenridding, in particular a shop selling mountaineering and outdoor adventure equipment, Catstycam.com. They have kindly reserved me a photography book by one of my favourite landscape photographers, James Bell. ‘Capture Lakeland’ is his first edition and is such a wonderful display of James’s photographic talent and knowledge of my favourite National Park.

I meet up with Mali Davies, one of You Tubes biggest landscape photography characters and one I have had the pleasure of knowing for a good year now. The trip was never going to be dull with this man besides me and his enthusiasm and excitement of the art is a pleasure to be part of.

Great Mell Fell has lots of potential with its weathered trees and rolling fells as backgrounds but I found it daunting on this first visit. Places like this make me feel overwhelmed as there is so much potential and in the right light, plenty of portfolio images are on offer. One shot is all it took to make me happy that day and set me up for a revisit. The session was ended with one of those great moments where the last thing I wanted to do was to run around looking for a composition. A sunset to remember.

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