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If there's one place in England that looks as though it's been put together for a photographers play ground, then this is it. The Lake District National Park, over 800 square miles of fells, forests, rivers and of course lakes. Having planned a week long trip this February, I had hoped for winter conditions, crisp warm winter light surrounded by snow and ice - the perfect combination to make images.
Although it snowed almost the whole drive up the M6, it turned to rain over night and had all melted apart from altitudes above 700 metres. For this trip at least the Lakes wasn't to be shrouded in it's winter coat.
Conditions for the first couple of days were bright overcast with a cloud base below 2000ft. With no visibility of the summits, attention was turned to waterfalls, woods and forests. My plan, an easy 6 mile walk that explored some of the woodland in the Borrowdale valley, took in the beautiful vista from Castle Crag. Incidentally, the only fell under a 1000ft featured in Wainwright's pictorial guide to the Lake District. Aiming to finish the walk by following the meandering River Derwent via a disused slate quarry.
After a couple of days of overcast grey the weather picked up, the chance to do a longer walk involving a more arduous ascent up the popular Hay Stacks was the choice. I classify this as an 'arduous ascent' as my legs were unconditioned to carrying heavy camera gear and winter clothing - a combination that makes almost any ascent 'arduous'. Hay Stacks is a Fell I'd not climbed before, but one that offers spectacular views of the central mountain range, including Great Gable and Green Gable. The view from the summit didn't disappoint either, although not conducive for photography at that moment, it was great to just take in the stunning scenery. I've made a mental note to return, wild camp at the summit to shoot the view. It would suit early or late light in the summer months as the mountains are north facing.
I spent a cold -5°C morning kicking my heels down by Derwent Water. I arrived well before sunrise as the first colour was just coming into the sky. Positioning myself by one of the many landing stages (piers), I watched the world come to life as I set up my gear. It was a calm, tranquil and misty morning with ducks bobbing in the water and woodpeckers knocking in the background. The lack of wind meant the lake reflected the fells opposite, although not perfectly mirror like (doesn't happen often) it still made the shot. When the sun finally rose above the horizon, it created enough energy to start fuelling a small breeze and with it killing the reflections.
The best light was saved for the last full day of this trip. An afternoon walk up Brandreth to arrive on the summit to shoot the late light over Great and Green Gable. A spectacular light show rewarded the effort, one of those sunsets that gets better and better. Conditions were clear, still and cold producing vibrant colours and intensity to the light. The return journey down Brandreth to Honister Pass and the car, was an adventure in itself. Extremely steep gradients, an almost non existent path, frozen ice fields and a pitch black moonless night. Progress was slow going and took over an hour and a half to walk less than two miles. Finding a safe route down was challenging, there were many 'exciting moments', this wasn't helped by my almost flat head-torch batteries (school boy error) but added to the whole experience.
It's hard to explain the intensity and vibrance of winter light at altitude on occasions like this, you simply don't get it at 'ground level' and certainly not in the warmer months. The fells had been busy that day with many people making the most of the conditions, but all had returned to their cars by the time this light show started. I'm passionate about the outdoors and photography. Landscape photography enables me to do both by my being in these places, at these times, experiencing these moments. I'm not sure it's a shame most people miss out on these occasions or I have them to myself. Central heating, traffic jams, wifi, starring at screens and sitting on office chairs is modern life, but for me at least reconnecting with nature is import for my soul, it recharges me and I live for these moments.
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