I am sure by now that my wife knows what is in store for us all when I book a getaway to a place as picturesque as the Lake District. It all starts with a google map with a collection of pins, and I say, "these are all of the places that I want to go to."
The response is, "that looks lovely, lets go there" but of course she doesn't realise that I mean at sunrise!
I always try to cram in too much to my holidays, but I would rather have too much to do rather than the other way, which I believe is called 'relaxing'. For landscape photography this is probably not the best approach, as you need to do each location justice by visiting the place at the right time of day (the right season even!) and the tides may also play an important role. The obvious variable of course is weather. However when I set my mind on going to a location, it is happening.
I had a clear three days in the Lake District, plus the evening that I landed & the morning that I was commuting home. I had an itinerary sorted before I left the south coast, and there was very little flexibility for revisiting a location. I had a long list of places that I wanted to see, and if the weather was less than favourable, then shake it off and call it a recce. I will be coming back one day.
Looking through the interweb for inspiration with a quick search for 'the lakes' makes your jaw drop, and at the same time ask yourself - can I get anywhere near what they have achieved? Probably not with 3 days, but I will give it a go!
To balance out all of this photography, of course the weather and facilities had to be pleasurable for my wife and daughter during our stay. Lake Windermere delivered, and they had plenty of activities and the weather wasn't bad either. However shooting landscapes in August meant that I was up at 4:30 every morning, having a family daytime, and then staying out till late. All in the pursuit of collecting pixels, I don't know why I put myself through it.
Being based in Brighton, we have a mixed bag of weather, however the Lake District is on another level. I wouldn't want to be a weatherman there, I suspect that they just shrug their shoulders; as conditions are very unpredictable. They good thing about predicting weather is that I could see the rain coming from a few miles away, so at least I had the opportunity to cover my camera and filters to avoid the ongoing clean-up operation of shooting in the rain. I am generally a good weather photographer, however mixed weather can provide some spectacular light and moody images.
The rain wasn't going to stop me this time. I was all in. If I could shelter my camera from the rain and stop the wind from shaking the tripod, then I was making images. If you wake up at 4:30 in the morning, then I wanted to go home with something to show for it. Out of the three days that I was there, I think I had half a day of sunlight breaking through the clouds, and not all of that was at the right time of day. I worked with what I was given and I worked hard to get what is shown here.
In an ideal situation, I would have joined a photography workshop for a couple of days, and I could have left all the hard work of planning to the tutor, but where is the fun in that. I have learnt a lot from this expedition though. Take the lone tree at Lake Buttermere for example. This tree does not have a postcode, or a street, and at 5am there was no one to ask for directions. I researched which lake it was on, and which angles to shoot it from, however Lake Buttermere is fairly substantial. I found the nearest car park, but now what...I follow my gut, I head towards the lake on a well-worn footpath. The footpath has a fork in it, I choose right - wise decision. I end up at the lake and as I start to eye up my surroundings, a high level cloud comes over, darker clouds follow. I am sheltering under a trees where I sit listening to photography podcasts when I spot the lone tree in the distance. I run towards the tree and shelter under a less rain-proof tree than I previously called home. I don't regret it, as I have the place to myself.
I openly describe myself as a 'postcard photographer' which I don't see as a bad thing. A lot of photographers/enthusiasts groan about cliche images of places that have been photographed from every angle, however I want a piece of that action. The whole reason that I went to the Lake District was due to photographs that I had seen of well known locations. I don't hesitate for one minute to put my tripod in the same holes as the last person, and this is for a good reason. The angles that you see day in and day out are probably the best. Other photographers have been there numerous times, done a full 360 and returned to the same spot that everyone else sets up to get 'the shot'.
Sure, I don't just take the obvious shot and pack away my gear, I work the scene to see if I can make something that I call my own - but to get the creative juices going I start with the 'safe shot'. Anyway, I was talking about jetties. I wasn't going to leave the Lake District without my shot of some famous jetties. Once again, these jetties aren't easy to find on google maps, you will need a boat stop map or do some more research on them before you venture out. But I found them with a bit of walking.
I can see incredible potential in all of the places that I visited, and I will be going back some day. I return to Brighton questioning whether there is any point in photographing landscapes here, when there is the complete package in the Lake district every where you look. Mountains, water, rock formations, jetties, uninterrupted views for miles. Of course I am going to shoot landscapes in Sussex, now that I have come down from my Lake District high.
I will be following up this post with a video of my adventures in the Lake District, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment if you enjoyed my inner-monologue.