It's been crazy weather in the Lakes over the last few days and we've seen some pretty 'unseasonal' weather..... I mean 14°C in Feb...Really??? Not that I'm complaining and I have enjoyed the pleasant weather. On Friday, myself and Shaun Derby, a good friend of mine and talented photographer headed out to scout some new locations and we had a full days itinary planned. The weather for sunrise was looking a little flat but sunset was definitely looking a little more promising. We had identified Hard Knott Fell for sunrise and Great Gable for sunset. I had worked out all the timings (drive time, walking time etc), so we could arrive in plenty of time to have a good scout of the area before the sunrise. The alarm was set for 4.50am with Shaun picking me up at 5.15am. It's only a 20 mile journey but it's not the easiest drive as it is on very narrow roads and it climaxes with a drive up Hard Knott Pass, which can be interesting at times, if you've never been on it think narrow and steep with some killer switchbacks. We arrived at about 6.20am and there was already some colour in the sky, I think we both had a feeling that the sky was going to light up and we would have to get moving to get to the summit in time to catch the colour. It was about a 30 minute walk to the summit, so we were cutting it fine.
On arrival at the summit we were in awe of the view, which looks towards the head of Eskdale and the Scafell mountain range. It really is a magnificent sight and is as wild and rugged a landscape you will find in the Lake District. Once we had picked our jaws off the floor, we set to work finding a composition. Well the summit is grassy with plenty of rocky outcrops to use as foreground interest, the problem being is there is almost too much to go at and it can be a little chaotic, we both really struggled to find something that worked initially. With the clock ticking and the spectacular colours in the sky diminishing, I had to take emergency action and just plonk the tripod and camera down and capture the scene in front of me, I wasn't entirely happy with composition but it was necessary to get a shot. Once the colour had eased, I then had a little more time to tweak my composition in time for the golden light to come. I found a composition I was pleased with, got reset, had a brew and waited for the light. The morning light gently warmed the tops of the Scafell range in front of us, the sky still had some lovely colours and it looked gorgeous. I took a few images and then the sun got caught behind the cloud and that was all we got for golden hour, which was a pity, but the weather forecast suggested we wouldn't even get this.....so I shall not moan. After this we had a good scout around and got a really good feel for the location for the next visit. A good mornings work.
Hard Knott Fell Sunrise colours - The old plonk it down technique.
Hard Knott Fell Golden Hour - I was a little happier with this composition.
After this we headed back to the car and made our way to Wasdale. By this time it was absolutely red hot and we decided to park up at Wastwater and enjoy the sunshine while we had our lunch. It is such an amazing place, we pretty much had it to ourselves, apart from a Father and Son enjoying a spot of Kayaking. We then had a look at our options for our climb and drove to Wasdale Head. The walk didn't start as well as planned and 10 minutes from the car, we managed to get stuck in a farm yard with a rather stubborn gate. It must have been some sight seeing two grown men struggling to open a gate. Luckily a hardy cumbrian lass turned up on a quad bike and helped us get through the gate, she must have thought we were a right pair and you could see the smirk on her face. She opened the gate and sent us on our way and offered us directions for the way back......needless to say we made a sharp exit with tails between our legs.
We had chosen the most direct route up the front of Gable, which in theory was a good idea, but it was very very steep and with heavy bags, 14°C heat and fleece lined walking trousers it became a very slow ascent, definitely need to improve my fitness levels and choose my walking attire a little better. The wind had really picked up and we had serious doubts about getting to the summit, so we made a plan to head to the pass in between Kirk Fell and Gable, which was about 800 feet form the summit, and decide what we should do. It was no surprise when we reached the pass that the winds were far to strong to attempt any photography, it would have been impossible and the threat of damaging expensive equipment made us reassess. So we decided to descend to a lower vantage point. We found a spot about half way down the mountain and where the winds weren't as strong. We still had a good few hours before sunset so we pitched up and enjoyed the sunshine and glorious view over Wastwater.
Late afternoon light flooding the Wasdale Valley
As golden hour approached, we looked at potential compositions. This was fast becoming a really difficult shoot in very challenging conditions. We were shooting directly into the sun initially and this was causing all sorts of lens flare issues, this is when light is scattered within the lens and leaves visible artifacts on the image, some people like this look but I usually avoid this at all costs, its not a look I personally like. The wind was also a major issue, I had my camera set up as low to the ground as possible, to avoid camera shake from the wind gusts, which were very powerful, any slight movement to the camera would mean an image that was not sharp and would appear blurred. Anyway I had settled on a composition and I just need to wait for the light to get a little lower in the sky and soften slightly and I was on for a lovely image. I then had a change of plan when the sun suddenly beautifully lit the valley and cast a lovely shaft of light on to the flanks of Ling Mell. I quickly reached for the longer lens to get really close into my subject and getting closer in helped to avoid the lens flare. I used the river as a nice lead in towards Wastwater. I waited for the wind to drop and got my image. This, as it happens, was the best of the light on offer that evening and shortly after the sun sank behind the clouds and that was our lot, which was slightly disappointing as it had promised so much. So we waited a little while longer then decided to make the hike back to the car...... this time the correct way and avoiding any troublesome gates.