Lake District Photography - What Did I learn in 2020

January 18, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

I've always enjoyed the persuit of improving my photography skills, its something that really drives me forward. 2020 has been a challenging year for all and I've suffered my fair share of rough times as a result. However, my photography hasn't really suffered and infact, its been an enjoyable year for photography and for which I count myself very lucky and also very very sane after all the crazy times. I've definitely produced some of my best photography in 2020, I've had an images shortlisted in a few competions and I've had my most successful year from a business point of view. Aside all of this I've also learned some really valuable lessons in my approach to photography along the way. Not only has my approach changed but also my tastes. So all in all, I would count that as a successful year in the world of photography. Read on to find out what I've learned and also what has been inspiring me and altering my photography tastes over the most turbulent of years. All images were taken Handheld and outside of golden hour.

Black Crag View - The beautiful view of Little Langdale, Lingmoor Fell and the Langdale Pikes taken in the middle of the day and hand held: 

Black Crag Summit StileBlack Crag Summit StileThe old wall and stile at the summit of Black Fell with sits above Tarn Hows in the Southern Lake District. The View out over High Arnside, Little Langdale and the Langdale Pikes beyond is one of my favourites in the Lakes.

Shooting outside of Golden Hour:

You will often hear photographers constantly banging on about 'golden hour' and how this is the best time to get off your backside and get out with the camera. If you don't know, the golden hour is the hour after sunrise and before sunset. The light is softer, warmer and alot easier to work with and can really improve the look and feel of your images. Now while I do agree that golden hour is definitely the optimum time for landscape photography, one of the most important lessons I've learnt this year is you should NEVER discount shooting outside of golden hour. Now I've definitely been guilty in the past of day time shooting snobbery and I wouldn't dream of taking my camera out in the middle of the day...oh no. This, I now believe, was a huge mistake and rather nieve on my part. Over the course of the last year I taken some of my favourite images in the day. I can attribute this to spending more time in the field and witnessing the changing light at different times of the day and the quality of that light. I realised that good light is good light, whatever the time of the day. Why was I limiting my options to take images? As that is what I was doing. I want to take images with freedom and not shoot outside of golden hour because of 'experts' saying so. Keep your mind open and your options as wide as possible, never discount any situation, opportunity is always around the corner and we shouldn't stiffle it. So my camera never leaves my side when I'm out and about. Sometimes it stays firmly tucked in the bag...which is fine, but if you don't have it with you you are potentially missing opportunities. 

Looking North - Another hand held shot from black fell and at a longer focal length to really maximise the impact of the fells:

Black Crag moodBlack Crag moodA moody winters afternoon looking North from the summit of Black Fell towards Loughrigg Fell, Silver How, Helm Crag and Seat Sandal covered in a splattering of snow.

Ditch the tripod....its quite liberating:

I've also taken my camera off the tripod and started to hand hold a lot more. I've found this absolutely vital when shooting in changing light, when we don't have time to faff and fumble about with a tripod. Lets face it, tripods are great if you've got time to adjust and refine, but when time is of the essence, they can be a damn nuisence. I've often been seen wrestling with my three legged thing on the side of a mountain and missing the shot in the process. Moving away from the tripod really does free you up, open up your creativity and speed of response to changing conditions. Modern cameras have advanced in camera stabilisation where you can shoot with really slow shutter speeds hand held and retain pin sharp images. So this begs the question, do you really need a tripod? I think there is definitely a time and place for the humble tripod, but there is alot to be said about the freedom you get without. I do believe it helps with the understanding of your camera settings a little more, as you aren't relying on the tripod to keep you steady, ok you may have good stabization but you have to get it right in the camera as well. It also helps you to develop that all important steady hand. In my opinion, its really good practice and an important skill to have and ultimately will make you a better photographer and increase your freedom and creativity. Another major lesson learned. 

A handsome couple - A lovely set of silver birches on Holme Fell catching the afternoon sun. 

Holme Fell - CompanionsHolme Fell - CompanionsTwo birches catching the afternoon light on Holme Fell, near Coniston with Tom Heights behind covered in shade. A shot taken in late Autumn.

My tastes have changed over the last year:  

I've noticed a shift in my photographic tastes this year as well. I have found myself moving away from lake reflection shots and I've become more intrigued by woodland and trees. It had always been a genre I've greatly admired but never really knowing how to start and as a result I kind of dismissed it. However like anything, it takes time and you don't just say 'oh I'm going to take an award winning woodland images today' and do just that. I have to admit that I'm certainly no expert, but I'm really looking forward to exploring it more and developing my skills and eye in this genre. My days of using wider focal lengths and cramming every imaginable element into a shot has changed. I used to think that wider is better, squeeze it all in, but in reality wider doesn't always offer the greatest impact in your photography. I now find I like to get closer to the action and pick out smaller scenes within a bigger picture. My wide angle lens has probably been out of my camera bag about 3 times over the last six months. As I've mentioned before, wider shots tend to push your background further away making them smaller. Now as a Landscape Photographer, my subject is usually a mountainous backdrop, so why do I want to make the 'star' of the show smaller?? In short I don't. I find I shoot alot with a my 70-200mm lens and actually enjoy using it more than my wide angle. 

Wetherlam Storms - Stormy conditions are perfect for photography. This shot was taken mid morning, a good 5 hours after golden hour.

Sunshine and ShowersSunshine and ShowersThe rain sweeps in over Wetherlam as the morning light filters through the fast moving cloud to wash over the Torver and towards Coniston. This shot was taken from Lowick Common.

I really do, if you dont already, recommend you try the areas I've mentioned in this blog. They will really free up your creativity and open up a whole lot more options and help you to develop as a photographer. Ultimately thats what we all want to do, improve and be the best we can possibly be, so by getting out more and more with freedom can only be of benefit. Until next time, keep smiling.



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