A Photography Weekend In The Lakes
Friday and a start to a long weekend in the Lake District National park.
I was feeling excited about this weekend and I was full of optimism. My plan was to meet up with my best friend and shooting buddy Neil Bage. Our first stop was to be at Whinlatter Forest near Keswick. It was the first time I had visited here so it was an exploration adventure. Parking at the information centre we we both met up and after a quick chat we set off on the green rout which incidentally is the longest. I was a little concerned too to be honest as I was trying my new kit bag which holds just about everything including my drone. So not a light thing to carry up hill on a long hike. Still I wanted to test it out and also gain more fitness.
After what seemed like hours (well it was all up hill) I spotted something that caught my eye. It was just a small little tree with no foliage or bark, completely white and bleached out. This contrasted so much with the fir trees in the background, it was simply asking to be photographed as the light from the sun was perfectly side lighting this little tree, where as the background was in complete shade. It was if it was meant to be. I shot this with my 24-70 f4 2.8l lens at 70mm with an aperture of f5.6. This combination allowed for a fairly shallow depth of field where the background is soft which helps your eye focus on the main subject. I also used a polariser on the lens just to eliminate any glare. I have toyed with 2 ways to process the image, one way was to completely remove the background altogether and the other slightly de-emphasising to leave a hint of its surrounding.
After more searching, hiking and climbing we were pretty much ready to get back to the vans but then out of nowhere turning a corner a little oasis of beauty opened up on the forest floor. This opening also lead on to a view through a gap in the trees towards Skidaw. It was simply stunning. Now this shot was rather more technical. The problem was the contrast, or rather too much of it for the camera to cope. Normally we can use our gradient filters for this, but not in this case. Those trees to the left and right framing the shot would be affected, which I didn't want to happen.
Therefore there is no other option than to bracket the exposures and take several shots exposing for the sky and forest floor. I made several exposures allowing for the highlights, shadows and mid tones with a view to blending later in Lightroom HDR. Composition wise I used the large sprig of heather to anchor the shot in the foreground and then the 2 trees to frame the shot with the sky on the top third. I waited for a few clouds to roll in to the frame and took the shot. I immediately knew I had something worth all the effort we had put in to this walk.
Later that day we headed into Borrowdale and our first stop there was Seatoller Fell. We visited here back in January with a rewarding shot of Hows Gill. It was blazing hot which was amazing since it was mid April. Having parked the van up I just wanted to chill for a while and take in the scenery around me. While I was gazing round these trees kept catching my eye. I liked the stark contrast against the distant fells, so I decided to have a shot of that. Sometimes when images are not forthcoming it pays just to stop what you are doing and take in your surroundings more slowly.
After some time we headed off to Honister Pass for the evening and find a camping spot for overnight. It was almost sunset and time to search for a composition. Scurrying up the scree slopes of Honister I set up position for this final shot of the day. I have had this image in mind since our last visit to Honister Pass back in January. The subtle outlines of the fells that criss cross and overlap each other make your eye wander through the image and finally rest on Buttermere naturally framed by the scree slopes of Honister Pass. A feeling of calmness symmetry and order is what I feel this image portrays.
After that it was time for a recap of the day, plan tomorrows shoot and some sleep.
The Next Morning.
I awoke the next morning refreshed and ready for the day. We packed our beds away and headed off back down the valley in to Borrowdale once again. This time searching the forests in the lower valley. These forests are much more ancient and natural than the plantations of Whinlatter Forest offering a wide range of indigenous species of trees. Finding compositions is all part of the craft of landscape photography I tend to go out with an open mind. I'm generally on the lookout for something interesting that catches my eye. It may be a pool of light, something contrasting heavily with another object, a shape or just something beautiful. There is no rule, so when I saw this tree I knew I had found something of interest. It had character with the twisted nature of the of the vine growing up the main trunk of this old tree. In my mind it was something out of a fantasy film, rather like the Hobbit and the forest of Wilderland. I framed my composition and made the shot.
Moving on a little further in to the forest I eventually came to Lodore Falls. The waterfalls are just behind the Lodore Hotel situated on the B5289 road out of Keswick. There are plenty of opportunities here for compositions. I opted to get in close for an intimate shot of just part of the waterfall and also to use a long exposure to give the image movement and grace. I opted for a Lee 10 stop ND filter and a polariser to give me a 2 second exposure time. Unfortunately when using ND filters they more often than not produce a colour cast. But I have a nice method to combat this problem. I use a colour checker passport made by x-rite. This little bit of kit is brilliant as it corrects all the colours as well as producing a perfect white balance. Basically a shot of the passport is made first in the same lighting conditions and this is then used later in Lightroom or Photoshop to make a profile for your camera.You can watch my tutorial on this here.
Next Stop Buttermere
After a morning shooting the falls and forest I decided to have a ride back over towards Buttermere for the afternoon and in to evening. Its a stunning place and right up there with my favourite spots in the lakes. Opting for the North West shore I wanted to have a look to see if I could find any new compositions. There are plenty of trees, rocks and of course the waterfalls and stream. Fleetwith Pike is the mountain in the main view from this end of the mere. I found some short sedges on the edge of the lake that I could use for foreground interest and to anchor the composition. I also employed the use of an ND grad in the name of a Lee Big Stopper to reduce the amount of light entering the lens and hitting the sensor. This gave me a long exposure of 30 seconds which helped reduce the choppy surface of the water. This also put a little sense of movement on the sedges and gave them a softer appearance, The only thing I didn't like was the green bit of Forrest entering the frame on the right. Still I like the image overall and I may return to do this shot again another time.
After our afternoon there we decided to drive down to the south lakes and the Langdales. The sunset was not what we were hoping for and a storm was brewing to the south. We drove through the most amazing lightening display I had seen for some time. I could see torch light on the sides of the fells and I could only think I was glad to be in my camper rather than having to endure this torrential deluge I was driving through.
Sunday Morning. Langdales.
After the storm of Saturday night the morning was calm but overcast so a sunrise was not going to happen. I was still determined to capture something though. The sky was still moody and the sun had already risen an hour ago. I had a look round near Blea Tarn with a view to getting to the top of Tarnclose Crag just south of Blea Tarn. The clouds to the North were incredibly beautiful and looked like molten metal swirling above the Langdale Pikes. Setting up my tripod for a panoramic shot I made several image to link together for one huge panoramic image. It was a beautiful dramatic sky, so I was happy I made the effort to get out even
though there was no sunrise that morning.
After some time wandering about in the Langdales we drove to a little spot I discovered for the first time last Easter. Hodge close quarry. This area is pretty famous for its 300ft deep excavation. Although I did take a couple of snaps of this, it was not my main focus of attention. I was more interested in the trees namely the Birch trees that are in abundance here. After looking round the area for some time (and I was struggling for compositions) I picked up on a section of trees. I rather liked this composition using long lens just to pick out the section of tree trunks. I liked the contrast of the white bark against the slate and surroundings. It felt as though these trees were defiant and standing strong as sentinels against a man made landscape. My thoughts anyway.
A little further exploring in a somewhat overcast changeable day the light broke through a patch in the sky and shone its majestic light on a distant hill covered with Scott's Pines. It was if the stage had been lit purposely. So I broke out the tripod and and my trusty 70-200 lens, composed the shot and just waited again for the light to do its magic again. I didn't have to wait too long and I got a shot. Not my best of the weekend I suppose but beggars cant be choosers and it was nice to come away with a couple if nice images.
After a long day we started wrapping things up, it was time to start making my way back through the Lakes. I had a plan just to make one last image. Stopping at Rydal Water I wanted to make an image of the lone tree on a little island. Its a cliché image that has been taken time and time again. Well its good subject matter and when your in the mood for taking pictures its a nice way to just round off a weekends photo shoot with something you already know. It can be a little boggy down on the lake side so its always worth while going with wellington boots, I didnt take my own advice and got wet feet in the process. The conditions were not optimal to get the best out of the shot and I couldn't get the contrast needed between the background and tree. So I shall return again at a later date. After that I made my way back through the Lake District and my favorite drive through the Kirkstone pass and North to the A66 and back home.