About 2 years ago I discovered a (previously unknown) love for hiking, or fell walking as it's also known, and I've since become something of a fell walking enthusiast with my main location of choice being the beautiful Lake District National Park. I have ventured to Snowdonia, The Brecon Beacons and the Peak District a handful of times, but the Lake District remains the default choice if a free weekend comes around and the weather forecast looks good. It's an interest which has sort of gone hand in hand with my passion for landscape photography and the great outdoors.
To start with I had no idea of where to go and where walk - I honestly didn't know that you could essentially walk anywhere you wanted, so I found reports online and started off picking routes from written descriptions and photos people would include in blogs or walking websites. I found this really useful and have enjoyed some spectacular hikes and views I had no idea existed in little old England. The time is perhaps right then for me to write my first report.
Last weekend we did what I've termed the 'Little Buttermere Horseshoe'. I say little, because there is a route already known as the Buttermere Horseshoe, and it's a lot bigger than the route we've just done. It's a worthy candidate for my first photographic fell walk report though, as the area and views are genuinely spectacular and as such the Buttermere / Borrowdale area has shot to the top of the list of my favourite parts of the Lakes.
I'll perhaps add in a route map at a later date, but for now I'll just have to describe the route as best I can and let the photographs do the best to illustrate the route.
Photography wise I do tend to take a DSLR and tripod with me wherever I go, I find it hard not to, even though I rarely use it and it weighs a ton with the tripod to boot - but on this occasion I did get it out more often that usual and when I didn't, I used my iPhone instead. The photographs that follow then aren't exactly long thought about compositions, I've not set up the tripod (despite carrying it) or dropped any filters in, I've just sort of snapped away along the route.
On to the report then; the route starts at Gatesgarth Farm car park at the bottom of the Honister Pass, you can't miss it on your right as you drive into Buttermere from Borrowdale. The path starts here and crosses the flat valley floor heading over towards High Crag over Peggy's Bridge, where you get a nice view down the valley and over the lake.
Warnscale Beck running under Peggy's Bridge and into Buttermere. The Lake District.
The path then goes up the fell side and bears left quite gently up the slopes of High Crag and carries on up to Scarth Gap, where it flattens out at the seat between High Crag, now behind over your right shoulder and Hay Stacks ahead left. There is the first noticable change in the landscape at this point (at least in summer) with the appearance of a surrounding carpet of heather.
Wild heather at Scarth Gap. Fleetwith Pike seen in the distance covered in shadow.
The route now gets a bit more interesting and scramble-y. Scarth Gap sits at around 1,150ft. altitude and you now need to do a bit of clambering up rock and scree to get up another 800ft. or so to the peak of Hay Stacks, which sits at 1,959ft. You pass lots of wonderful rocky outcrops and pools with the view down Buttermere eventually opening out in front of you as you gain height.
Panoramic view of Buttermere from Hay Stacks. High Crag to the left, Fleetwith Pike (in shadow again) to the right.
The peak of Hay Stacks sits next to a little pool between crags that I assume is too small to be named as a Tarn. Tom Tarn it is then...
Unnamed Tarn at Hay Stacks summit. Tom Tarn perhaps? Pillar (right) and Kirk Fell (left) just about visible in the distance.
This rugged and pretty little pool sort of holds your attention and distracts you from the great views the summit of Hay Stacks offers. Once you're up and around the summit cairn, you realise that you can see right down to Ennerdale Water and further still, right on and out to sea.
Ennerdale Water just visible in the distance between Pillar (left) and High Crag (right). Seen from the summit of Hay Stacks.
The landscape now changes again, becoming a wide open expanse of boulder and crag strewn heather fields with dotted ponds and pools. The remote head of the Ennerdale Valley, the Black Sail Pass, disappears right in front of you, towered over by the giant peaks of Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar. The route takes you winding through this landscape and on to a very famous (around the Lake District at least) spot; Innominate Tarn.
The Black Sail Pass / Ennerdale Valley sitting below Great Gable under cotton wool like skies.
The path to Innominate Tarn. Wainwrights resting place of choice.
Innominate Tarn seemed a fitting place to stop for lunch. The wind was up and the clouds moved quickly, letting the sun through and then shutting it off again just as quickly. The famous author and fell walker, Alfred Wainwright, whose name is written into Lake Districk folklore and who must of walked the entire Lake District over and over, chose this spot above all others as his final resting place. I can easily appreciate why. Photographs can't really illustrate just how beautiful the surrounding are sat up here, 1,700ft. up.
Unsettled cotton wool skies above Innominate Tarn. The Lake District.
It's only a short walk onwards from Innominate Tarn to Blackbeck Tarn. Black Beck itself runs off the edge of Green Crag here (good name) and down into the valley below. The view opens up between the rocks just slightly here but quite spectacularly, and offers a quick glimpse of Buttermere and the valley below.
A glimpse down into Buttermere between the rocks of Green Crag at the top of Black Beck. The Lake District.
The route now returns to the open expanse of rock and heather before entering another change in landscape to the slate mines and quarries of Honister.
The path can be taken back down into the valley at this point, be we wanted to descend along Fleetwith Edge, which first meant climbing Fleetwith Pike. Unsure of exactly where the path went at this point we wandered over to Dubs Hut, an old mining hut that now serves as a Bothy, basically a place away from it all for anyone who fancies it, as long as you leave the place as you find it. Those are the Bothy rules as I understand them anyway.
Dubs Hut, and old mining hut now Bothy on the slopes of Fleetwith Pike above Buttermere. High Crag looms in the distance.
Taking 5 at Dubs Hut. An old mining hut above Buttermere, The Lake District.
With nothing but a general sense of direction at this point, we followed the mining track that skirted the slopes of Fleetwith Pike and on to the giant piles of spoil and mining equipment we could see in the distance. From there we found a faintly warn track that went up and in the general direction we were after. This path though soon disappeared, so we just carried on heading up through the heather and bog, making our own path hoping to reach the summit.
Rach summits the slate mine spoil.
Pressing on pathless and making our own way to the summit of Fleetwith Pike, through heather and bog.
This is it now, the end of the 'up bit'. We were approaching our reward and high point of the day. At 2,125ft. up - the summit of Fleetwith Pike. The route chosen doesn't give you any glimpses of the views you can expect from the top, which is good in a way as it really does just hit you. You come up on the summit and bang, it's all suddenly out in front of you in all its spectacular glory. Buttermere below you, the Honister Pass and Derwent Fells to the right, Crummock Water in the distance and High Stile and High Crag towering up on the left. Hay Stacks and Green Crag below and behind complete the panoramic feast for the eyes. What a view.
The spectacular view from the summit of Fleetwith Pike. Looking down on Buttermere, Crummock Water and the surrounding fells.
We like to take our time when we peak things, we're not the fastest up or the fastest down, but we take time to absorb and enjoy our surroundings when we get up there.
Rach enjoying the view and a Mars Bar at the summit of Fleetwith Pike, The Lake District.
The final section of the walk is where things take a change again; Fleetwith Edge.
Fleetwith Edge is a striking feature, a narrow and steep plunge back down into the valley. At several points along the descent here, I found myself stopping to look up and out to take in the view and realised that everything I was standing on below left my field of vision as I did, so you're sort of left with the feeling that you're suspended in mid air, unable to see what you're actually standing on below.
The path along and down Fleetwith Edge dropping off and disappearing into oblivion. Looks fun.
Working my way back down to Buttermere along Fleetwith Edge. From the summit of Fleetwith Pike.
An almost aerial view down onto the Honister Pass road below. From Fleetwith Edge, The Lake District.
The descent is sharp and fast, and you're soon back down below the fells in the valley below. All that's left at this point is a short walk along the road back to the car park with a wave to the locals to round off a thoroughly rewarding day out.
A Buttermere Cow
That pretty much concludes my first photographic fell walk report then. If you're here and you've read through it, thank you and I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to leave a comment so I know you have and to encourage me to do it again!
My photograph of the view from the summit of Fleetwith Pike can be purchased as a Canvas Print here, and soon to be available as a framed print too. Watch this space.
A few weeks ago now I had a free day, the weather was good and I'd got it into my head that I wanted to watch the sun come up on a beach somewhere. A couple of minor snags there though; it's summer and I live in Manchester, so that equates to a sunrise time between 4am and 5am with at least a 2 hour drive on top, so watching the sun come up on a beach is something of a luxury for me.
Anglesey was my chosen location, having spent years here with my family as a young chap I was sort of familiar with the area, even though I haven't been there for well over a decade now, possibly approaching two decades in actual fact. There is a lovely little out of the way beach at the north east point of Anglesey, just past Penmon, that has a little black and white striped lighthouse sat on the end of some rocks. The spot is generally known as Black Point, or Black Point Lighthouse, but its proper title is Trwyn Du Lighthouse I think. This place would be perfect as the sun would rise quite high in the sky over another familiar landmark on the landscape of my youth; Puffin Island - which we used to be able to see out of the window of my Grandparent's caravan over the water at Penmaenmawr.
A microscopic amount of sleep and an alarm set for 1:30am was totally worth it though, I spent the whole morning there and was even joined by several dolphins playing around in the bay in front of me - a nice surprise but as I've since learnt, not at all uncommon.
I took a fair few different photographs as the sun came up, this one though is probably my favourite out of the lot. Everything came together at the right time; the sun just kissing the top of Puffin Island, the tide running over the rocks and the shapes in the clouds catching the yellow, orange and red tones off the sun. Another one for the wall I think.
As the sun rose higher above the horizon the vivid colours disappeared from the sky, but there were still some nice photographs to be had, so I carried on shooting from a couple of different spots.
If you would like to buy a print of any of my other photographs not on display in the Buy Prints section but shown elsewhere, I'd be more than happy make one for you, just click here to get in touch and ask me about it.
Look at that gap between now and the last blog post, ouch. Well, there is at least good reason; it's been a busy period for me and although I haven't gotten out much with my landscape gear, I have been kept busy on the wedding front, and with just one more in the diary before my summer holidays I'm sat here wondering where this year has gone already. I've also done quite a lot of work on this site, which probably isn't immediately apparent, so you might just have to trust me on that one. The website as it stands right now is as close to being finished as it has for some time, I'm very happy with it and indeed glad its (for the most part) done and out of the way now. If you do notice something that doesn't stack up, or if you just fancy giving me some feedback or critique, please get in touch here.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to photograph an ice hockey match between my local team, Altrincham Black Bears, and the Grimsby Lightning. I’ve always fancied trying my hand at sports photography but because I play and watch it myself, I’ve generally used football as a mental benchmark - which has put me off a little. It’s put me off because photographing a football match requires some serious fast telephoto lenses! The 300mm to 400mm range is generally the norm’ and a minimum requirement due to the size of the playing surface and these sorts of lenses can start around the £4K mark. Ice hockey however is a bit of a different animal. Most importantly, end to end, the average ice hockey rink is just over half the size of your average football pitch and therefore not a great deal of anything that happens is going to be too out of reach of my standard telephoto 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom. In most cases I image that focal length to be ideal for ice hockey. I’m also lucky enough to own a Nikon D3s, which is essentially a camera built for sport photographers – as well as being a fantastic wedding camera due to its high speed and low light abilities. So, I’ve got the equipment for ice hockey photography, no doubt - I just have to learn how to use it.
Not wanting to go in completely cold I went along to a couple of practice sessions first, to get my eye in and settle on what group of settings I would use. I’ve never seen ice hockey played live in front of my actual eyeballs and not via a screen before and the first thing that really hit me is the speed factor. The speed of everything; the speed of the players, the speed of their turns, the speed they hit the puck, the speed the players can see the puck coming, control it and pass it on, the speed of the goalie’s reactions... you see where this is going? It’s all quite fast, basically.
The first dilemma was where to stand and shoot from. There were two basic options open to me; at rink level or on the first tier – in summary – to shoot through the glass or over it. There are pro’s and con’s to both options as I saw it. My way of thinking was that the better photographs in terms of content and framing would be had at ice level, through the glass, but the better photographs in terms of clarity and sharpness would be had over the glass. The glass is generally all beat up, marked and dirty so would have a detrimental effect on any images taken through it. I decided to start on the first tier shooting over the glass but eventually found myself at ice level behind the goal, which I came to prefer.
A couple of practice sessions later I was happy and settled on a group of settings. The lighting in an ice rink is deceptively poor, and bearing in mind the action is very fast, the shutter speeds would need to be fast too if I wanted to freeze the action, anywhere up from 1/500th of a second to 1/1000th of a second, minimum. In order to keep the ISO down and noise levels to a minimum I decided to shoot wide open at f/2.8 – this will be one of the things I’ll look to change next time. Focus settings wise, I used back button focusing with continuous servo, single point (top dead centre) which I would try to point at the players head whilst holding the focus button down. Not easy, but I managed to keep up often enough.
Aside from the high ISO settings and noise level, which I could maybe have gotten away with being lower, I’m quite happy with the results. I decided to shoot straight to JPG too, so I could maybe clean the images some more from RAW.
I’m now keen to build on the experience and am looking forward to the next opportunity, which shouldn’t be too long with a game in June and two in July. I plan to have a bit more play and change the focus settings, to give 3D tracking and auto area settings (with a reduced 11 points) a go and to try and have 3200 as an absolute high ISO ceiling to get cleaner images, if I could get the ISO down to 2000 that would be ideal.
The experience of watching a few games now and building a basic understanding of tactics has also helped and I’ll be trying to plan a few shots ahead next time, we’ll see how that gets on.
A very big thank you goes out to Altrincham Black Bears IHC for the chance and I’d urge anyone local to follow them on Facebook, to keep up with their news, fixtures and to get along to a game. It is certainly entertaining. I for one have really enjoyed it.
I also have plenty more photographs from the match on my Facebook page. Please pop over to 'Like' and follow me there, here.
Last weekend I was in Cardiff shooting a wedding. I have family in Cardiff so decided to make a few days of it as there are several locations relatively local that I’ve had my eye on for a while. Logistically everything had to run fairly clockwork; I’d drive down on Friday morning arriving at Ystradfellte for lunch and an afternoon in Waterfall Country, before heading on to the wedding venue to meet the Bride and Groom before their big day. I’d then get something to eat and head up to the Wenallt, a Bluebell wood in Cardiff, to shoot the sunset through the trees and hopefully over carpet of lush Bluebells before heading off for an early night. Saturday was the wedding day and Sunday morning would see me arrive at the Neuadd Reservoirs in the heart of the Brecon Beacons for shortly after sunrise where I’d get an awesome view of the early sun hitting Pen Y Fan and its neighbouring peaks. This view would be perfectly complimented by the still and reflecting water in the reservoir. Lunch would follow, time with the family, then I’d visit the Glamorgan Heritage Coast for sunset before the long drive north. It seemed fairly simple.
In the end though, the only element that really worked out was the wedding, thankfully, and some great time with the family. The Bride and Groom were extremely easy going and that made for a really great day. This was the first wedding where I’d decided to keep 2 camera bodies on me at all times, one with a long lens, one with a wide lens, and a bag of primes over my shoulder. This made shooting the day a lot easier, but a literal pain in the neck come Sunday morning.
Let’s go back to the start though; Waterfall Country. This really is an awesome location, a pristine protected forest area with a high concentration of waterfalls, caves and gorges. What I really wanted was a view from the northern side of Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, one of the smaller but more picturesque falls, but with the main trail being on the southern side of the river I struggled to find a crossing point that mean that a) I remained dry from the waist down and b) I wasn’t swept away completely. Eventually, once I’d found where I wanted to be from the other side of the river, I went upstream, crossed and tried to find my way back. A few scrambles and short climbs later and I was where I wanted to be – with not another person in sight.
The only slightly disappointing thing about this photograph for me is how bare the trees still are, I’d prefer the forest to be as lush as possible, so at least I’ve now done the hard work, found my spot and I can easily return at the end of June when I’m back in Cardiff for another Wedding. On to sunset at the Wenallt then, which quite simply didn’t happen. Despite promising weather earlier, flat grey skies rolled in a set up camp for the evening – dull. The wedding the following day benefited from perfect weather and everything went smoothly. It got me thinking though, which part of a wedding do I enjoy photographing the most? I’ve decided that it’s probably a toss-up between the speeches and the evening do – specifically the dance floor. As a photographer during the speeches there are moments of genuine emotion and laughter to capture that give you a similar sense of enjoyment looking back on when you review the photos in camera or in post.
As for the dance floor, the lighting conditions (or complete lack thereof) can make it a great challenge, but I’ve settled on a technique which essentially mixes a slow shutter speed, which introduces blur, and then a single pop of concentrated flash at the end of the exposure to freeze any people in the frame. This method can get some great results, stuff to really look back on with a smile and a laugh.
After a long 12 hour day on Saturday, miraculously I managed to get up into the Brecon Beacons as planned on Sunday morning. The weather didn’t really play along again, but even more disappointing was the water level at my chosen location, the Upper Neuadd Reservoir. I arrived at the reservoir and was greeted by lots of works equipment belong to Welsh Water, as it turns out, they’d almost completely drained it in order to carry out works on the site. Oh dear. I had to settle on a short bike ride around the area, a few quick snaps just because I was there, and a deflated return to the car. By this point exhaustion was catching up, and with a hefty drive north still to come, an early departure home was decided on.
Still, there’s always next time - and thankfully that’s not too far away.
I've never had a blog before, this is my first. So that makes this my first post on my first blog and I expect it'll probably only be read by close friends and family. I don't really know how all this works, yet, but if you're reading this and you're not in that friends or family category; hello to you, stranger!
For my first post I wanted to type a bit more than the normal little description boxes allow about one photograph specifically.
In the grand scheme of things I'm still very much in the early days of my photographic journey, having only bought my first DSLR (a Nikon D3000) about 3/4 years ago. A lot of what I've done since then has been about discovery, trial and error - and there have been plenty of errors. Learning the craft I suppose, and because of that, this photograph is an important milestone in my own mind. Its the first landscape photograph I can remember taking that turned out to be exactly what I wanted, exactly how I planned - if not better.
We were staying in Elgol on the Isle of Skye for 3 nights in a lovely, cosy thatched cottage, just over a mile from the beach. That beach as it turned out was a little bit special, offering up an awe inspiring view across Loch Scavaig right into the heart of Cuillin Mountains. When I saw the view for the first time (in pelting rain) I knew I had to take a photograph home with me that did it justice. So in my head the planning began; I checked tide and light direction, settling on somewhere around 9am to take advantage or the softer early morning sun - the weather just had to play it's part - I wanted a blue sky but with fluffy white clouds high enough to keep clear of the 3,000ft+ peaks of the Cuillins. A wish list that in Scotland would normally be laughed off, but good old mother nature came up trumps the very next day. The next thing I decided on was a composition and exposure. The beach was rocky and the waves were quite reservedly running over and through them in a not too crash-y sort of way. It was this movement in the water I wanted to capture. I chose my composition and decided on slow enough shutter speed to capture a sense of the water in motion; half a second. I set the camera up on the tripod and slotted in a couple of my battered Lee Filters, a 2-Stop ND Grad for the sky and mountains, and a 2-Stop ND for the whole exposure to keep the shutter speed down. This is the result, and the result of that result was a large smile across my face.
This photograph is one of my favourites, if not the favourite - as hard as that is to decide - so much so that it is hung right above my head as I type this out, printed nice and large and hung on the wall, as it should be. A good subject I hope you'll agree for my first ever blog post. Thanks for reading.
A lot of my photographs, including this one, are available to buy as prints - as Canvas Gallery Wraps or Framed Prints and I'd be grateful if you would have a look through my galleries by clicking here. Maybe you'll see something you like.
If you're planning a trip to the Isle of Skye I would highly recommend Mary's Thatched Cottages in Elgol (Click here for the link) and the Aqua Xplore boats trips that operate from the beach (Click here for the link). Both of which contributed to a fantastic and unforgettable few days away.