Is it the end?

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There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. As I write this article it has been approximately been a month since the release of the roadmap which will slowly bring us some freedom from the lockdown. There was definitely some small release of emotion when at last we were given dates when local restrictions would be lifted, depending of course the curve of new infections plus other criteria is met. For me, the main impact of the lockdown has been the ban on travelling to my beloved place on Earth, The Lake District. Social Distancing, rule of 6, Pubs closing, to name a few of the limitations, did not alter how I lived. Beauticians and hair dressers were also not high on my agenda. Taking the Lake District away however was difficult but now, at last, I am planning my return.

By the time I return to the Lake District, it will be approaching 6 months of absence. I remember the day well where I lost my direction slightly on the Buttermere fells. Thankfully GPS came to my rescue. Although at the time, I recall visions of curling up in a tight ball under some large boulders acting like a shelter to settle down for the night, I miss the adventure and excitement. The unexpected situations that every now and then, the fells throw at me. I miss that emotion and it is a feeling that I have experienced for what seems longer than 6 months. I am currently working on the best route for my return. The day will be about the reacquaintance of the area and the photography will come second. I am looking forward to the wind on my face, the chill of the rain, the smells, the pains from the hike and of course…a nasty McDonalds double cheeseburger, large fries and a coffee on the way home. Paradise awaits.

We are nearly there but as the title says, is this the end?

Not too long ago was my birthday and the day when I received my first Covid 19 vaccination. I remember slowly gaining a temperature, feeling tired but thankfully there were no hints of little robots running around inside me. That day was a good day. I am fortunate to not have struggled during lockdown. I am not a hugger, a socialite, an extrovert or someone that must be around people. Working from home is a luxury and the return to office life wiIl no doubt be a struggle at first. Life will slowly see normality and part of that norm for me will be a regular visit to the Lake District.

The Route

I am nearing the end of completing the Wainwrights and that remains the most important goal in 2021. For that reason, a return to my favourite photography location in the Lake District was not priority, despite my long absence. To be honest, I do not have a single favourite as most areas hold some form of sentimental value. Some locations I have visited will no doubt open better options on different days. The land changes with the light. It will be about the hike and my plan is to continue with my list of Wainwrights. I have decided to head to Udale in the Northern fells. There will be 5 fells on the map to complete that day, none of which will include any fell over 700 metres. I am hoping for a gentle 11km hike with nothing too technical, over mainly open grassland. Another reason I chose this area was the opportunity to drive through the heart of the National Park on the A591 and join the A66 to reach my destination. I will pass 4 lakes on the way and will stop and breath in the Lakeland air as the sun is starting to rise. This will be help to feed my love and reconnection to a long lost friend. That is of course if these visions in my head comes true. Unpredictable being the key word.

The clocks are due to go forward the day before I head back to the Lakes. This will obviously be in my favour as I plan to set off at around 4am and arrive in the area before the sun casts its first light. The early rise from bed will be difficult no matter how much excitement I have. My body has not suffered the shock of a few hours sleep for many a month and a strong coffee with more strong coffee in a flask for the journey will be much in need. A 2 to 3 hour drive will be the next stage which will no doubt be a platform for visualizing what’s in store for me, what to film, what to photograph and how will the story build. The uncertainty is in some way what makes it exciting.

Looking back

Why does it pains to write about what I have learnt during lockdown, suggesting a definite end to this pandemic and the return of a normal life. It is different this time in comparison to when we came out of the first lockdown. The infection rates are reducing in the majority of arears at a rate which is in comparison to last Autumn. That all came to an end however. The rates started to rise again and lockdown was reintroduced. This time is different however. A third of the population is now vaccinated after their first dose. One of those is a 51 year old Yorkshire man who has patiently waited to be released back into the fells. There is a definite hope and for that I feel I can justify to briefly write about what I have learnt.

From a photography stance, the woodland arena was my definite play ground in the last 6 months. The best way to establish if I have learnt or improved is to look back at that photography. I have done that and it’s hard for me to judge. One thing I have come to realise in my opinion is that good woodland photography needs the right conditions and light. I may have experimented with compositions and post processing techniques but a fogless woodland makes it hard. It’s pretty safe to say that 6 months is not long enough. Here is a collection of my favourite shots from October 2020 to present date;

Lockdown 2 has proven that a location needs to be given time to mature. With the right ingredients, the building blocks that these past months have built will be ready to be iced when the time is right.

There is not a composition in all that is around us that can form a good photograph. Nature has plenty to offer and a landscape photographer is best in a place where there are good offerings. The Lake District is one such place. I use to think that a good photographer is one that has the skill to work any area and deliver to a high standard. My mindset has changed however. I believe it is important to identify potential and be persistent, likewise to be able to move on where the location does not deliver.

A few days from now I will visit the Lake District and spend a full day walking the fells, breathing the air and enjoying the sounds. Whatever the weather will offer, I will still be wearing that long lost smile. I will shake the hand of a friend that temporary moved away. I will no doubt update you on how that day went soon.

New gear with no idea

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If you have recently watched my YouTube videos or follow me on social media, it is no secret that I am now the proud owner of my first full frame mirrorless camera. I have finally made the transformation from a DSLR and simply put, I am loving the start of a new era. Why though did I change from a camera that was working for me in the place? The answer for me personally was simple. It was new. There was of course other factors.

I had been using my Canon 5D mark 3 for around 3 years. A work horse of a camera that never failed me, brought me confidence to be able to mount on a tripod during a rain storm and still deliver images that I was pleased with. The fact however that it was a camera that was 8 years old and it felt time I moved along and get down with the kids. I am near now to retirement than what I was when I purchased the 5D and had a desire for a younger model. A model that was lighter, less in volume and with a quicker brain. Perhaps I was going through a late mid life crisis after all.

Since beginning to write this blog, I have owned the Canon EOS R6 for a few weeks and enjoyed 3 fairly successful photography sessions with it in a location where my faithful 5D spent many an hour, The Lake District. I have only touched the surface of its capabilities and yet satisfied with the end product. I would actually put it on a level of satisfaction I had with my 5D. I love the similarities of the old camera such as the joystick as an option to navigate the menu and is simple to use. The dual card slot is also handy as I can record both stills and video separately. I loved my old 5D. Where am I going here? Why have I fixed something that wasn’t broken. Do I have GAS? I am slowly convincing myself I am actually having a late mid life crisis.

I will now list the reasons why I spent a good proportion of my monthly income on a new shiny camera;

  1. Lighter and easier to carry
  2. A vari angled screen to make composing easier
  3. In Body Image Stabilisation
  4. Updated processor
  5. A pro level sensor
  6. Dual stills and excellent video capabilities
  7. Its shiny and smells good

The last one will soon lose its attraction no doubt but the big question is, does it justify forfeiting a holiday abroad when the world opens its doors? Does it please the Mrs when the decorations have to be put on hold? Does it give a reason why my mortgage can’t be paid off quicker. No is the simple answer. For the person with a logically programmed brain, it makes no sense. For myself however who has a less logical mindset and a dreamy disposition, yes it does. The new camera has released some more of those endorphins. I feel good in the fact that I have a new up to date toy that I can use to fulfill my creative desire. I don’t care about the pros and cons. The fact is, this camera will make my life easier with its many features that I am slowly familiarising myself with. Will it though, make me a better photographer?

Not that long ago, I returned from a good mountain hike in the Mosedale area of the Western Lake District. I made a film of course which is a given each time I venture out to the fells. This episode however was slightly different. When I record a video, I usually use my smaller mirrorless camera, the EOS M50, to cover the b roll and narration pieces to camera. The main footage from this session was filmed with the R6 and the results of which were very pleasing. I am now able to improve my editing with the addition of colour correcting and grading as the R6 records in Canon Log, similar to shooting using RAW with my stills. It will open up a new avenue for me and may even replace the M50, although I do like the idea of a 2nd camera. This wasn’t the question however, I am digressing. Will it make me a better photographer?

Time will have to tell and its difficult to understand how a new camera will make me a better photographer. The purpose of improving my compositions, making the most of the conditions and having the eye to grab the opportunity was never on the list of the pros and cons of making this purchase. This was not the deal clincher. I can however say with confidence that I am more than delighted with what this new camera has brought to the table. The following 3 images were all shot hand held and will be added to my Portfolio. Perhaps this new camera will open up a new approach, perhaps it will even………let’s not go there.

Adding mood to your photography

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For a photograph to stand out among the crowd, it has to have an instant appeal. This is obvious and relates to all art. Composition including a good balance of the elements within the frame often become lost if the lighting is poor. There is not a given rule however that good composition leads to a photograph that is individual and has that wow factor. More often than not, the light and weather conditions falling onto the scene make an image pop and result in that instant satisfaction. Mood is a main contributor to a satisfying image but what is mood?

Sca Fell – The Danger and Delight

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I had planned this walk pre lock down, around early March 2020. This was a hike that would include Englands 2nd highest peak and one I was very much looking forward to. Then came the uninvited guest which lead to a stop to all hiking in the Lake District. Since the ease of the lockdown, I had already returned with a more gentle hike, detailed here in another post ‘Lakeland – The Return’ On my 2nd return to the National Park however, it was time to face the big one, Sca Fell. The majority of the walk seemed quite gentle. Maps however do not give any idea of what faces you in terms of the weather conditions. This is the story of a day where my confidence diluted the risks.

Lakeland – The Return

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It had been 2 months nearly to the day when I finally hit the road and headed back to the National park that had brought me so much fun, solitude, adventure and creativity. As a Yorkshire man it pains me to say that this place has an edge over the Dales. Mountains, lakes, weaving paths and rolling hills has attracted me to The Lake District for several years. This was the day I returned.

Creating a Lockdown album

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There is no question, 2020 will leave a lasting memory for the majority of the people on this planet. As I write this article, there is no indication when society will get back to a normal way of life. Lockdown measures are still in place. Social distancing has become a natural behaviour for many. In the UK, our daily exercise is something to look forward to. It is no longer a chore but an escape from your homely confines. For many people with a passion for landscape photography, an opportunity for a slice of normality.

Good for the mind

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I will not be the first to suggest that landscape photography is a soothing tonic when life throws you setbacks. Yesterday I posted a video which touches on the importance of living your life with the mindset that whatever hard times get in your way, it is always important to remember the good. To reflect on what you have and the simple things in life that bring you joy. Bereavement of a loved one will play a part in most of our lives and we choose our own way on how to cope with it. My hike and landscape photography day in Eskdale in the The Lake District certainly eased my soul and reminded me how good life can be.

The Black and White landscape

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It is often found that black and white landscape photography is an alternative option when things do not go to plan. This maybe down to the weather conditions being overcast or that elusive sunrise not painting the sky with its pink, orange and magenta hues. This option mainly comes into consideration in the post processing stage with the mindset of trying a black and white edit before being discarded to the bin. Occasionally it works but what if we set out with the premise of purely shooting black and white?

A Winters day – Dow Crag to Coniston Old Man

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UK weather can be so varied and unpredictable. I thought that this Winter was going to be a case of very cold temperatures and lots of snow. A time where the UK would come to a stand still. It usually does after a couple of centimetres of the white stuff to be honest. I wanted deep layers of snow dumped on the Mountain tops and snow drifts creating patterns for me to point my camera at. Here we are however in late January and I’m still waiting.

When or if it does come then no doubt it will be mid week and by the weekend, when i’m ready with my camera, a warm front would have arrived and melted away any hopes of bagging a good iconic shot of snow capped mountains. If I was to get a taste of any snow this Winter, then I had to get up high. This is a short story of my adventure up to Dow Crag and Old Man of Coniston. I was pleased I got my shot.

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.