Lake District photography - Its all about the effort

June 06, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

My photography journey has been a multitude of light bulb moments. Times of extreme clarity, the final piece of the jigsaw, the moments when it all makes sense and we wonder how the hell we didn't realise this before. Without a doubt in my mind, the biggest light bulb moment for me was back in 2015. I was a frustrated photographer, an occasional snapper. I only really got out with my camera on family walks in the middle of the day and I was always underwhelmed with my photography and often wondered why other people's images were so much better than mine. It was then that somebody flicked that switch and it hit me straight in the chops, it was so very obvious but before this I couldn't see the woods for the trees. I came to realise that amazing conditions wouldn't come to me, I had to actively go out and find them. I had to put more effort into my photography and get out at the right times of day to get these amazing conditions. So one Saturday morning I got up and did my first proper sunrise shoot and I've honesty never looked back. I believe that the more effort and time you invest in our photography the better the results we get. 90% of photography is not about technical skill or gear, but having the desire and making the effort to be in the right place at the right time. 

The red sun rises over Harrison Stickle: 

harrisonharrison Last weekend was definitely one of those times when all the effort paid off. I had decided to head up to Crinkle crags for sunrise with fellow photographer and friend Shaun Derby. Crinkle Crags sits at the head of Great Langdale and is around 2800 metres in height, so it is a good hike. It is a wonderful vantage point and somewhere I hadn't been for sunrise, so the prospect was really exciting. Sunrise was around 4.45am, so it was going to be an early start. I estimated that it would take around 1 hour and 20 minutes of hiking to get onto the fell. So we decided to set off around 2am, as it is a good 45 minutes drive, this would get us to our start point around 2.45am and would allow us enough time to get on the fell and find a composition in time for sunrise. The weather was looking a bit hit and miss, but we still decided to go. The alarm sounded at around 1.30am and I begrudgingly scraped myself out of bed, luckily the excitement soon took over and I was raring to go. We arrived on top of Wrynose Pass at around 2.45am, got our kit together and with our head torches on we set out into the night. It is a moderate climb from Wrynose and you avoid the really steep ascent from Oxendale, however it is still a good trudge. The journey up was good and filled with much chatting and gossiping. As the light started to increase, it looked like sunrise was potentially not going to materialise, as there was a lot of cloud in the sky with not may breaks. However the conditions looked interesting with a lot of mist, low cloud and haze in the atmosphere. 

Bow Fell and Scafell view - The light finally broke the clouds

Morning Light on Crinkle CragsMorning Light on Crinkle CragsA wonderful morning on Crinkle Crags, Great Langdale. The first of the morning sun breaches the heavy cloud and beautifully warms the fells. This is looking across Crinkle Crags towards Bow Fell and the Scafell massif covered in low cloud. It was well worth the 1.30am alarm call to get up to the fell in time for sunrise. Definitely worth all the effort.

We arrived around 4.10am on top of the fell and it certainly looked like there would be a shortage of light which was a shame. However it was just nice to be out and spending time with Shaun, as I hadn't seen him for ages. Sunrise had already been and we watched as the faint sun, glowing red tried but failed to break the cloud and haze. At this stage, sunrise was looking a bit of a none event. I must admit I was feeling a little uninspired, I'd tried a few shots but nothing too special. It was then, it all started to get a little interesting. A small gap in the cloud had developed and it looked the perfect size for the sun to squeeze through. I quickly alerted Shaun to this and said I was going to move further along the ridge to get a better view. I grabbed my gear and made way down to the next section of the ridge. I swiftly started to look for a composition, as when the light gets through it will be pretty quick, so it was a race against time. I set up looking towards the Scafell mountain range with Bow Fell in the distance. My word, within minutes of setting up the light hit and it was absolutely glorious, it perfectly hit my foreground and lit up Bow Fell with a gorgeous warm glow, I was in absolute heaven. Happy man indeed, but it was only to get better as I turned around to witness the most amazing light streaming out from the cloud and washing over Great Langdale. It really was a special moment, I quickly spun my camera around and literally started snapping away. I would have like more time to play with my composition, but some times we just aren't afforded the time. Unbelievable scenes and the best sunrise I've witnessed in a long time.  

Look behind you - Awesome Light show over Langdale:

The BreachingThe BreachingThe Morning sun breaches the cloud casting glorious light over Oxendale. An awesome sight. Taken on a very early morning hike up Crinkle Crags, Great Langdale. One of those occasions when all the effort really does pay off. Its mornings like this that makes it worth it.

Once the light wained, it was time to take a well earned breather after what had been a crazy 10 minutes of photography. Elated I met back up with Shaun, had a banana and revelled in the glorious light show we had just witnessed. I managed to take another couple of images and had a further explore, but at this point the light was going and I was already really pleased with what I captured and my mornings work. So we made our way back to the car in good spirits. We also stopped via another small fell called Cold Pike for a bit of a recce for a future trip out with the camera. In total we covered around 7-8 miles of hiking and all before 8.30am....I was certainly ready for a brew, breakfast and a pretty hefty snooze. I really hoped that I managed to make the most of the conditions and capture some really nice images. There is always that nagging doubt in your mind that you made a mess of the images. Luckily, on this occasion, I managed to get a few that I'm very happy with. What a wonderful morning. It was also great visiting a new location I wasn't familiar with and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to find compositions in a new environment. It was thrilling to say the least. 

The last of the light - looking towards Pike O'Stickle, Great Knott and Wetherlam:

Blisco lightBlisco light The trip out was a wonderful reminder of why I get up at frankly stupid times of the day and hike up a mountain in the dark with a rucksack of very heavy equipment. It's because you get out of photography what you put into it, the more effort and time you invest in it the greater success you will have. It's not easy getting up at stupid o'clock and it really does hit you later in the day, however you don't witness these amazing scenes when tucked up in bed. The memory of this morning will stay with me forever and hands down beats a few extra hours in bed. The rewards for making all the effort of getting up the fell really does out weight the negatives. 6-7 years ago I would never dreamed of doing this, but in doing so, I've produced some wonderful images, seen some unforgettable sights and forged some amazing memories that will last a lifetime. Now thats surely better than a kip. 


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