Getting Back to Basics

I felt compelled to write this blog mainly as a reminder to myself, that like most things in life you only get out of them what you put in. It’s a cliché (a bloody annoying one) but more often than not it rings true. When I look at some of the images I’ve taken recently, whilst I’ve been pleased with the diversity of them what struck me is that I feel disconnected from them. Before yesterday I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but then when I’ve got home from yesterday’s shoot and sat down and looked at them I realised what was missing – the experience.

Now, what we come to understand and get from 'the experience' can vary drastically from person to person. For me, it most definitely is being out in the landscape and having the time to absorb the surroundings, and not feel rushed or pressured. Most of the images I’ve taken in the past few months have been opportunistic, time pressured – an hour here, an hour there. ‘Oh the weather looks good out the window….’ (grabs camera) you know the drill. Those who do this as a hobby all know this feeling, fitting camera time in around everyday life is a struggle for most, especially if you have a young family. In the past month my personal life has been quite difficult and stressful. I don’t really talk much about my personal issues however I have a young 4 year old son who is autistic and non-verbal, so life at times can be a bit of a battle. One of the major challenges we face with him is a very erratic sleep pattern, and lately he’s been a nightmare! This, coupled with a taxing shift job where I'm often getting home very late from work, means suddenly getting the camera out of the bag becomes a job in itself. Looking at my Lightroom catalogue lately I can see that whilst I enjoyed making some of those recent images, they left me feeling a bit hollow and unfulfilled on a personal level. The point I’m getting at is that a big part of why I enjoy Landscape Photography is getting out and really absorbing the landscape, good and bad, irrespective of whether I create any decent images. Lately I’ve simply not done this enough despite having a pretty rough time of it behind the scenes. To put it bluntly you’ve got to get off your arse and ‘go and get it’ so to speak no matter how tough it gets, so yesterday having finished work the previous night at 2330pm, I stayed up (sleep seemed pointless for a couple of hours) and then headed out to pick up my friend Billy at 0245hrs with the plan to climb Dale Head for sunrise. I headed out with the mindset of ‘I don’t care what I come back with, it’s just great to be out’ and so off we went.

'I'll sleep when I'm dead' I thought.................

Morning Rays

For those unfamiliar with Dale Head, first and foremost it’s a fantastic viewpoint. For me it's one of the best in The Lakes, although from what I can see it's seldom shot other than by fell walkers. This is perhaps understandable, as to get here you have to drive past the lure of Buttermere, which I can imagine for a lot of people (and especially photographers travelling from afar) is pretty difficult! If you can manage this however, around a 1/3 of the climb can be removed by parking at Honister Slate Mine then starting the climb from there. I’d describe it as a stiff but short (ish) walk (about 50mins) though an extremely rewarding one. The ascent passes some old Slate Quarries (which in darkness need to be avoided) and is a bit featureless but then once at the top the view is both immediate and dramatic. We were hoping to see some hanging mist in the valley’s below which sadly there wasn’t much of, but the reward for our efforts was an unexpected show of stunning dawn colour. Having visited Dale Head twice before I already knew the composition I wanted to capture, so I set about getting ready then waited for the light to develop. The ‘useable’ light in reality only lasted for about 5 minutes, as once the sun broke the thin band of cloud on the horizon conditions became extremely bright and harsh.

We’d hoped on the way down to capture some images in the opposite direction back towards Buttermere from the Honister Pass, however due to the position of the sun that shot wasn’t really going to avail for a good hour or more later. So, with extremely tired eyes we’d had our 5 minutes of fun and were ready to head back.

Dawn from Dale Head

Crummock Water


As we passed Buttermere on the drive home we both commented that neither of us have got a decent shot of the approaching Crummock Water. It really is a beautiful lake but is often bypassed by many on their way to its more attractive sibling, which is a shame as I really like the variety of compositions there but I never seem to get the right conditions. I commented that the water is nearly always choppy when I'm there as it's more exposed than Buttermere, and whilst I don't particularly seek out reflective shots the one I have in mind for this place probably requires them (failing that some mist which also never happens for me!). Anyway, as we approached the water was pretty much mirror calm, so we hopped out and fired off a few frames. In hindsight we were probably an hour too late for the really good light, but then you can't be in two places as at once. I still like this image as it's bright and positive, the sort of image I'm trying to embrace a bit more. It's certainly a spot I need to come to and investigate further, especially the opposite end of the lake from where this was taken.

20 minutes or so later we were both ready for our beds so we returned home. Feeling a little fuzzy I grabbed a couple of hours on the couch before heading out to work for back shift later that afternoon. Now I know some of you might think this strategy might be foolish/reckless etc. and in fairness I’d probably agree with some of that but lately it’s been either this or nothing, and frankly I’d rather chance a bit of tiredness and pay for it later than risk missing out on morning’s like yesterday. I can now look at these images content and know that I’ve got back to what fuels my photography in the first place. So despite struggling through the rest of the day like a zombie and consuming about 27 cups of coffee, it was totally worth it!

Until next time happy shooting guys, thanks for reading.