A sunset visit to Strumble Head lighthouse in Pembrokeshire, Wales.Read More
Mountain photography trapped in a hotel room in Colorado…Read More
I'm very late with this blog, I should have typed this up ages ago, but here goes.
I was lucky enough to be able to get a week's holiday to myself again this year, and after enjoying last year's Highlands trip there was nowhere else I was ever going to choose as a destination.
Skye last year was very nice. It was however incredibly busy. And I also felt like everywhere I went was to some honeypot location. The problem is it's now too well-known for my liking. The more times I see the same image of a location the less I like it, and the less I want to photograph it. Moreover, I love the feeling of solitude you get with landscape photography and I'm not a portrait photographer so I'm happiest with no-one around.
With that in mind I decided to spend most of my time somewhere I knew would be beautiful, but not quite as over-photographed or busy - Torridon, taking in Assynt and the much busier Glen Coe which you pass through on the way. My guess is most people don't know where Torridon is or what it looks like unless they've been there. They're missing out, as to my mind it's the most picturesque part of Scotland I've seen so far. But please don't go, just let me go on your behalf.
The first couple of days were pretty miserable. Heavy rain started as soon as I got near Glen Coe, so instead of camping there as I'd intended I decided to drive straight through and head for Applecross. I'd heard good things about the famous Bealach na Ba ('the pass of the cattle') road which gives exhilarating driving combined with spectacular views over to Skye. But due to the weather it was slightly disappointing so I didn't bother stopping at the top, instead I went straight to Applecross and had decent a pint of local ale at the Applcross Inn. Unfortunately it was so busy I didn't manage to get a table to eat, so I set my tent up next to the beach and hoped the rain would stop by the morning. It didn't.
As the forecast was for the weather to improve somewhat I decided to use the wet weather as an opportunity to do some scouting so I stayed in the car most of the day and explored the Torridon and Beinn Eighe area. The area is absolutely incredible with high mountains in every direction and more lochs that you could ever visit in a lifetime. Loch Maree in particular is an interesting area worth exploring more, and the tiny villages of Diabaig and Inveralligin beg to be revisited.
Eventually I got my bearings a bit and at tea time I went to the Torridon Hotel for some food (venison burger) and to use the wifi to check on the forecast again. The good old Met Office were a bit pessimistic as it wasn't supposed to stop raining until late at night but by the time I left the hotel around 7.30pm it had already cleared, leaving the area resplendent in the late sunshine.
I got a few images from the bay and once the sun had gone down I decided it was time to go and get a campsite somewhere, so headed up the hill overlooking the loch where blue hour lived up to its name.
Part 2 to come...
A report on my hike and camp up on Haystacks, with some nice photography including some astro stuff thrown inRead More
A couple of weeks ago I was up in the Lakes in the Buttermere area and decided I wanted to try somewhere I'd never been before. I wanted somewhere that would be a good choice for sunset, which gave good mountain views, and would be quiet but not involved too long a walk back to the car in the dark, as I didn't want to get home too late.
Checking my usual sources for ideas - Google Maps, Earth, The Photographers Ephemeris, Flickr, and a couple of books, I settled on Low Fell which is a smallish hill right at the north-western end of the Lake District, at the head of Crummock Water but with good views down the valley all the way to Buttermere. Having pondered it a bit more and examined the map a bit more closely, I decided on a last minute change of plan while sat in the car, and instead plumped for Darling Fell which is the adjoining hill to Low Fell, both of which are part of the massif shown as Loweswater Fell on the OS map. (I think this is correct, I find it difficult to work out where one hill ends and another begins, and what is the name of a massif rather than an individual hill!)
The advantage of Darling Fell over Low Fell is that it overlooks Loweswater which is the much-ignored lake right on the edge of the national park and one I'd only ever visited once before - and that was a very brief visit last year which involved me being eaten alive by the dreaded midges.
It's an easy walk from the lay-by on the road alongside Loweswater, down a road leading to a farm, then up a track, across a stile, then down another track and finally over another stile which gets you onto the fell itself. From there the marked path on the map seems to want to take you up a steep scree slope but there is actually a fairly clear path taking a lower-level route. You have a to hop over a wire fence which has been damaged by previous walkers but as there isn't any other proper way to get across I didn't worry too much about that - a real stile or gate is needed I think. After the fence the views open up and you can see all the way along Crummock Water, with Buttermere curving off to the south.
I was pretty stunned to be honest, although I'd seen a few pictures from Low Fell before I was still pretty pleased with myself for finding such a great vista. The good thing is that the views are very extensive, with loads of mountains on clear display, but it's also very open. I can't think of many other locations where you can see so many hills (and bodies of water) from such a relatively low altitude. From where I was - approx 300m up I would guesstimate - I had a clear view of a full 7 miles down the valley to Fleetwith Pike. To the west was Loweswater and the aforementioned fells of Blake Fell and Burnbank Fell, with Gavell Fell, Hen Combe, Mellbreak as well. On the eastern side are Grasmoor and Rannerdale Knotts, with the higher mountains of the High Stile range on the west of Buttermere as well. To the north west is the plain out to the coast, with a wind farm between Workington and Maryport, and the Galloway hills of Scotland just visible across the Solway Firth.
Anyone who comes here is utterly spoilt and I don't know why people bother with wasting time on the likes of Blea Tarn and the damn Buttermere tree when if you want a fairly easy vista and one which will certainly not be overphotographed, you can come here instead.
Of course getting on the hill is only part of the job, and you also need to hope you get some light, especially at sunset. Earlier in the day I'd been up the hills overlooking Buttermere and it had been iffy weather - mainly low cloud with some snow and strong winds mixed in. Certainly no clear skies or sunshine except for a couple of very isolated rays here and there. I'd actually nearly gone home early even 90 minutes before sunset the sky was still grey, but the forecast had predicted some clearing skies which was why I risked it. After maybe half an hour I could finally detect a bit of colour appearing in on the hills to the east, and eventually the sun dipped below the thick cloud layer and bathed the area in gentle golden light.
I grabbed a few shots while I could but I spent quite a while just marvelling at the scene and not even touching the camera. Finally the sun dipped below the horizon and briefly turned the sky purple and pink. As the cloud wasn't really getting any thinner and it was going dark I didn't hang around after this point, instead opting to make a move back to the car. As predicted it was a nice easy walk back, probably taking about half an hour.
This location was a bit of a revelation. I don't think I have ever seen any other pictures from this hill which pleases me. I got a bit lucky with the weather although I think there's more to come at different times of the year and in better weather when the golden hour lasts a bit longer. I'll definitely be back, and I still have Low Fell to investigate which I suspect may provide just as good views from a slightly different angle.
Anyone who is into landscape photography will know that a large part of a successful trip is down to luck: timing, weather, circumstance. To a certain extent you make your own luck by getting out of bed and into the car, but if things are against you they're against you. This time I got lucky.
I'm lucky at the moment to have a job which means every few weeks I only work from 4pm to midnight, from home. This gives me the opportunity to get out for some photography in the daytime without having to take time off work. Having spotted on the weather forecast a few days in advance that there was a big snowstorm heading towards Scotland and the far north of England I decided I'd better make a plan to get out with the camera and make the most of it. I didn't quite know how good the conditions would be.
Because I only had limited time - I had to be leaving the Lakes at 2pm at the latest to get home - I wanted to give myself the best chance of getting decent images so I decided to go somewhere I'd already been that I knew I could easily get to but would give different images due to the snow. So I plumped for the south Ullswater area again, specifically going up to Boredale Hause part way up Place Fell - I know from there you get excellent views of the Helvellyn massif, Ullswater, Brothers Water and more, with minimal climbing involved.
Getting there wasn't as easy as I'd hoped - I naively decided to go up the Kirkstone Pass from Windermere but half way up the wheels began to spin and I couldn't get up any further. So I had a hairy half-mile drive back down the hill in reverse before I could turn around and get back, then a big detour to get to Patterdale via the A591 and and A592. Thus I missed sunrise by at least a good hour or so. I did eventually get there and was pleased to see a good amount of snow on all the hills - everywhere was looking stunningly beautiful.
Parking in the car park opposite the Patterdale Hotel I quickly got my gear on and set off up the road and then through the farm to the gate which leads you to Boredale Hause. (The word 'hause' means a place where mountain paths meet. In this case there's several paths leading to various fells and valleys in the area, Boredale being one of them). Climbing the gentle path up the southern side of Place Fell you quickly gain height, passing a well placed iron bench which in dry weather gives excellent views across the valley but today was covered in several inches of fresh, fluffy snow. As I got higher the snow got deeper but luckily there were a couple of sets of footprints to follow making navigation easy. Keeping an eye all the time on the hills to the west I was itching for a chance to stop and get a shot of the panorama opening up but I needed height and the right angle, as well as decent light which hadn't yet hit the fells.
I didn't have to wait too long. Reaching Boredale Hause after half an hour or so the snow was getting really deep - knee deep and more in places. The footprints also ended - whoever had walked ahead of me seemed to have either turned back or disappeared. I was now the only person on the hill and had the place to myself. The steep path up Place Fell looked like it had poor visibility and the snow was likely to be very deep, so I crossed the tiny stream called 'Crookabeck' and climbed up a knoll to get a better angle of view over the valley towards the Helvellyn hills opposite. It was then a case of waiting for the sleet and snow showers to die down and the sunlight to pass across the hills for long enough
Eventually I managed to get several attempts at a panoramic image consisting of five or six images, the best turned out to be with the 24-120mm lens and f/8 (see top image on this page). Conscious of the time with it being after 12pm I decided to head back down and head for home. At this point I was able to capture some more interesting shots as the light and weather changed almost by the minute.
On the way back I discovered I'd made the best decision to call it a day as the light went quite gloomy and never came back. I stopped off at my regular lay-by on the shore of Ullswater on the way back home to capture my usual pano of Place Fell and its companion hills from across the lake. then I went home and was back in time to get a bit of editing done before starting work at 4pm.
All in all, a shorter day's photography than I would have liked (largely my own fault due to the Kirkstone Pass foolishness) but one with weather and views that I'll remember for years to come. And another example of local knowledge paying off: time-constrained or potentially awkward trips clearly benefit from knowing how to get into position quickly and easily for guaranteed views.
Trip rating 9.9/10
Stats (from car park back to the car)
Total distance (approx): 4.2km
Total elevation (approx): 260m
Total time: 3 hours
This was my second Sunday in a row up in the Lakes and unlike last week I was finally blessed with great conditions all day. Blue skies, lying snow, no wind and easy walking. My only frustration was with myself due to missing the sunrise - luckily sunset made up for it.
This was another spontaneously decided location. Picked because it's been on my list for ages now, and when I checked the route the night before i discovered there's a fast, straight, direct route up from Honister Pass which involved minimal difficulty. In addition having researched on Google Earth several times it seemed that it would likely provide excellent views in all directions. This turned out to be bang on.
The route up was just as easy as stated in Wainwright and the other sources I checked. Just follow the path opposite Honister Slate Mine and follow the fence and a few cairns for about 3/4 of a mile until you get the summit. No false summits, no bogs, no scrambling. I reckon you could go up in a Land Rover if you wanted. Too easy really. The only difficult bit was actually on the tarmac of the road - unusually for me the only time I slipped on my backside was on an icy patch on the way back to the car.
The astonishing thing when you get to the top of Dale Head is the 360 degree views. You have mountains everywhere (although no lakes properly visible ). Major mountains too, all the highest ones. Skiddaw, Blencathra, Helvellyn, Great Gable, the Scafells, Robinson, Grasmoor and loads of others. All topped with snow. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.
Having got to the top so quickly and easily I spent an hour or so marvelling at the views and decided I still had plenty of time to get across to Hindscarth Edge to see what the views were like from there - it looked like Skiddaw could be showing a bit better from that angle plus Buttermere should be on show. I set off down into the col and it was such easy walking that I quickly got to the fork in the path where you can go north to Hindscarth or north west on to Robinson. Robinson didn't look too far and with that also being on my wish list for a while I headed that way. More great views on the way and especially when you get to the summit. You get great views of Crummock Water and Loweswater and all the way out to the Solway Firth and the Galloway mountains of Scotland in the distance.
I stopped in the shelter at the top for a brew and a sandwich. It was a daft place to sit as the wind was blowing in my face and into the shelter so I should have been on the other side. Schoolboy error but no harm done.
I'd say that for scenery, Robinson doesn't quite rival either Dale Head or Grasmoor on the opposite side of the Newlands Pass. You do get amazing views but a lot of it is partially obscured from the summit. I'm splitting hairs though, it's amazing. And if you're into short walks it looks like you can get up really easily from the car park next to Moss Force on the Newlands Pass. Another option to kill a couple of hours if in the area.
I still had a couple of hours to kill before the sun started to set so I dawdled along a bit of a detour to Hindscarth. More great views across the Newlands Valley towards Skiddaw and Blencathra. Another nice easy walk across an inch or two of snow with the occasional tiny frozen tarn. The shadows were lengthening nicely indicating golden hour would soon arrive.
It was nice to see Catbells from the opposite side - most of the time you see if from across Derwentwater or from the top of itself; the western side is less commonly photographed. Nice to see with Skiddaw and Blencathra in the distance.
I got back to Dale Head just at the right time. I had a good hour of light during which every hill top changed from white, then to orange, then to pink. I was like a kid in a sweet shop at this point.
I have loads more of these.
I hung around until after the sun dipped behind the hills and then set off back down the hill, noting it only took just over half an hour to get from the summit to the road. For a change I didn't even get my camera back out on the way down - even though there was still a bit of light in the sky I knew I had enough on the card already.
I've struggled a bit getting the right words to describe this trip. I will have to begin using a thesaurus. This was a very rare occasion when everything went right - weather and location made for a really enjoyable day with plenty of images to pick from. Probably the easiest day's photography I've had in months, even accounting for the 8 mile walk.
As a location this is highly recommended as a winter location. Maybe in summer it would be half a day unless you were going to make it into a really long walk taking in Newlands Valley or Buttermere. There's always the possibility of a summit camp as well, considering the fairly easy and short hike to the top.
Total distance: 13.97km
Total elevation: 981.4m
Total time: approx 6 hours
Time to close out the old year with a longish walk in an area I've neglected too long - Langdale.
It took seconds to decide where to go for this one: I opened up my 'Best Walks in the Lake District' book that I haven't looked at for a while, the page fell open at 'The Ascent of Pike O' Blisco' and I knew that with a name like that, that hill was the one. I had a choice of days to go out so I closely watched both the local weather as well as the mountain forecast and eventually plumped for new years eve which looked likely to have the best chance of some dry weather, despite looking pretty gusty up on the hills. As usual the day didn't quite go to plan...
It started going wrong as soon as I parked the car and got out to put my boots on. This robin flew into my car and defecated in it. Cute...but...you know.
The route described in the book as basically as shown in my recorded route shown below, except for a couple of deviations where I ended up slightly off course for various reasons. Starting at the New Dungeon Ghyll car park, I went anti-clockwise, up Pike O' Blisco, down round Blake Rigg and back past Blea Tarn. The advantage of doing the route this way is that there is a decent engineered path up the Pike O' Blisco, and you get to the top of that hill early on which is generally a good thing, rather than getting to the summit towards the end of the walk when you're tired.
The problem is that for me, Blea Tarn would have been better in the morning light rather than the evening (not that there was much light all day to be honest) and also climbing up that direction means you have your back to the Langdale Pikes all the way up. This meant that several times on the way up I looked around and discovered there was a hint of good light hitting the Langdales which had gone by the time I got my camera out for a shot. I suppose the flip side is that going up the other way would have been a bit of a nightmare as the path was indistinct and basically just grass and bog, so it would have been an unpleasant slog anyway with an even steeper walk down. I suppose you can't always have your cake and eat it.
So anyway, to cut a long story short there are no photos from the climb up. The climb itself was fairly uneventful. With your back to the Langdales it's not the most inspiring view. The recent snow had largely gone so apart from the occasional patch of melting ice there wasn't much to see. When you get to the top things improve somewhat.
At this point things got a bit hairy and I was met with the 60+mph winds that had been forecast. It's almost always windy up at the top of the hills but this was something else and it was genuinely difficult to stay upright. I got blown off my feet a couple of times and it was futile trying to take pictures, it was just too gusty. I abandoned my plans of getting some pictures looking down at the valley and headed down the hill, sulking.
Not too much to report from the way down. It's lots of grass, lots of rocks. The hills were shrouded in cloud and there was little in the way of snow. There is a pretty cool river which runs down with lots of little waterfall sections but I didn't bother with that really, it has some potential but not particularly spectacular.
The next part of the walk takes you along the Wrynose Pass for about half a mile before you branch off to the left, bypassing a rock formation with potential called Castle How and heading for Blea Tarn. On the way to the Tarn you pass a few really nice features including a double waterfall and a large rock outcrop called Tarnclose Cragg. Both of these have excellent potential and I'll be paying a visit at some point in the early morning when I reckon the light could be quite nice.
Blea Tarn is somewhere I've seen so many photos of already that I'd never really fancied visiting. However as I was passing anyway I could hardly pass up the opportunity. I doubt there's much in the way of original compositions to be had, certainly on the first visit as it basically photographs itself. I will be back though, if only as it's an easy option with a car park right next to it. Cheating I know, and breaking my rule of trying not to take the easy option but what can you do?
The final section of the walk was along the Langdale Valley back to the car park. The light (such as it was) was totally gone by now. I managed to grab a quick pano of the valley to at least provide I've been there - not a great shot by any means but it will be a reminder for the future.
So all in all a mixed day. A decent length walk where I didn't get rained on for a change. Pike O' Blisco itself is a bit 'meh' - definitely not a classic hill in my opinion. But I beat my aversion to Blea Tarn and have found a few other future locations too. Great Langdale in general looks to be a great area so I'll definitely explore here more in 2018. Not too much in the way of amazing images but overall an enjoyable end to the year.
Total distance: 13.64km
Total elevation: 970.4m
Total time: approx 6 hours
A great walk with some beautiful early morning light.Read More
Right then. After several abortive attempts my website is finally here. What took me so long you ask? Well, to be honest I never really felt like the standard of my images was good enough. No matter how often people tell you they like them, if you're not happy yourself then you're not happy. But after entering the Landscape Photographer of the Year this year (and not being selected as expected!) I at least managed to come away with a few individual images where I though 'Yeah these are actually OK'. And so that gave me a little confidence to try to put myself out there a bit more.
So here it is. I'll try to keep this site for my very best photos and my other online presences will be more for dumping images up while I decide whether I like them or not. I'll sell images via this site and also try to keep up this blog - I'm no Charles Dickens but it will give me somewhere to empty my mind of photography related thoughts without the pressure of worrying about whether anyone is reading them! I may even do the occasional review, talk about my gear, report on locations and things I've discovered, things like that.
Bear in mind the website is new so there's not much here at the moment but check back as I'll do my best to keep it fresh. If you like any of my images and would like a copy let me know - they are very reasonably priced and will come in many different formats.
So, thanks for visiting - hope to see you again soon.