There is no doubt that we are facing extremely challenging and uncertain times. In my life I've never experienced anything like this, everything we know has well and truly been turned upside down. However all these measures need to be strictly adhered to in order to beat this deadly virus. Before Boris enforced the 'lock down' of the UK on Monday evening, I faced a decision which I had weighed on my mind heavily for that last week....was it responsible to continue with Photography amid the CoronaVirus pandemic? As you all know well I absolutely adore my photography and being out in the Lake District National Park, but as much as I love both of these dearly, there are somethings which are far more precious to me......the health of my family, friends and the community I live within. In the end it was actually an easy decision to make and I'd already made up my mind well before my trip out on Sunday morning to Ullwater, this very much acted as confirmation that it was indeed the correct decison to put photography on the back burner for the being in these most challenging of times.
Sunrise over Ullswater from Yew Crag, Gowbarrow Fell:
Even though I'm only venturing out at the time of day when I have very little contact with people, there are also other factors I had to take into careful consideration. Now I could have used the old 'social distancing' or 'exercise' card but 2-3 hours out with my camera, where I've had to travel too really didn't seem to fall under the Governments advice. The other problem as I saw it was if I were to get into any sort of trouble and the Emergency Services had to be called this would put further unnecessary pressure onto an already stretched service and that really didn't sit well with me. I couldnt really justify that me heading out with my camera was 'essential travel' because it certainly wasn't, as much as I love doing it and it's my release from everyday stresses, photography isn't my main source of income and as a result It isn't deemed essential. We really have to minimise the risks and climbling up hills in the dark isn't eliminating risk. Yes I'm sensible and take every precaution to minimise the risk factor but accidents do happen and that was always in the back of my mind. These were my main reasons, however what actually happened on the shoot really did take me a little by surprise and as a result, confirmed to me in no uncertain terms that I shouldn't be out.
The light finally arrived and washed the landscape with lovely warm golden light:
I'd planned to head over to Ullswater and take a hike up to Gowbarrow Fell, my intention was to spend as little time as possible out, to minimise potentially meeting other folk. I'd set my alarm for 3.50am. After a nights sleep which I can only describe as restless, the alarm sounded and I got set and off I went. I parked at Park Brow car park and made the short walk through Aira Force and up on to the lower slopes of Gowbarrow Fell, it's a short 20 minute hike but it really gets the lungs going as it is relatively steep. I then veered off the main path and headed across to Yew Crag with only myself and the herdies for company. I had a little explore and found a nice set of rocks which I would use as my foreground interest. I followed my usual process of setting up and making sure all my settings were correct and took a couple of tester shots to make sure the image was in focus and sharp across the frame. Usually once thats done I have my brew and wait for the light, take in a deep breath and enjoy that view. Well I had my brew and looked out over Ullswater and it just didn't feel right, I was anxious, a little nervous and it felt strained, in truth it just felt wrong. The sunrise was absolutely stunning and usually I would be a kiddy kipper, but instead I wasn't really engaging with what was happening, my heart wasn't in it. The whole time I was clock watching and waiting for golden hour to end so I could go. As soon as the light hit and golden hour was ending, I packed my stuff up and exited the fell as quickly as I could, trying to avoid people and touching any gates or other surfaces on my way back to the car. Once in the car I cleaned my hands and felt a little more at ease. It was at this point when the enjoyment had gone, I knew what had to be done.
The old Shepherd's hut on the bottom of Kirkstone Pass looking towards the head of Troutbeck and the Kentmere Fells:
I made one more stop on the way home to the old Sherherd's hut at the bottom of Kirkstone as the light was looking quite nice, it was still relitively quiet and I was only there for around 10 minutes, but this was more a 'well if this is the last time, I might as well have another 10 minutes' than anything else. So I took a few images and then had one final glance around and jumped in the car and made the journey home. The drive home was extremely reflective and as much as photography has become a huge part of my life, it's not as important as other things. I had to feel like I was doing my bit, as many people will be making huge sacrifices due to this disease and I felt like me going out with the camera and passing it off as exercise or socially distancing just wasn't right, it felt like I would have been bending the Governments rules. I didn't want to do this and so photography trips had to take a back step, I had to lead by example. In all honesty I have been taking the advice of the Government very seriously and we have only been leaving the house for work and shopping...apart from my trip out on Sunday morning. I'm 42 and in good health, however I do have Asthma and as a result I have always been cautious since the virus has hit the UK. The way I see it, the Fells aren't going anywhere, they will be waiting for me when I'm able to return under better terms, I have that as motivation and to stay safe and take note of the Governments highly important advice. The sooner we all do this, the quicker we can sort out this horrendous mess. Obviously as Monday transpired more drastic measures were put in place, which I applaud, as some people simply were unable to follow the rules. Stay safe folks and please stay at home.