Something New

Well, one thing i have never really done since i first picked up a DLSR was go shooting during the middle of the day, as i'm usually to be found in the middle of nowhere either waiting for the sun to some up or paddling round in the dark finding my car after the sun has long gone.

So on Friday my friend Stuart ( go check him out) and I decided to head through to Keswick once the kids were off to school. Unusually for us we headed through with no plan whatsoever and just thought we'd follow the skies to wherever the conditions looked the most advantageous to us.

We headed to Keswick, mainly because Stuart wanted to scout for a particular image he had in mind at Castlerigg Stone Circle, somewhere up to now i've never been to, each time i've gone for a sunrise there i've turned up and seen there were already half a dozen other photographers beaten me to it, something we don't often encounter because we generally end up hiking for an hour or so to get a decent sunrise and rarely is there anyone other than us up that early.

When we got there it was raining and covered in heavy clouds, but there was signs of promise in the distance with the sun often peeping through the clouds.

I was told that these conditions are ideal for black and white photography, but as 'shooting with mono in mind' is something that comes about as natural to me as flying. It's something that i have to consciously work at and push myself to improve on. I am trying mind you, i'm far from in my comfort zone processing these and sometimes struggle but i do feel like i'm making progress, and if we stayed in our comfort zone we wouldn't ever grow would we?

This was a scene that i had looked at from several angles trying to find a reasonable composition but just wasn't able to get one i was happy with, i finally settled on this one and was quite happy with it as the stones didn't dominate the scene as there was some lovely light shining down the valley ahead, i guess you can decide for yourself if i'm getting the hang of black and white yet, no need to be gentle ha. 


While here i experienced one of those 'if only' moments. One that i will probably still be thinking about for some time. 'If only i'd had a faster shutter speed', 'if only i'd got the wireless remote out and didn't have the 2 second timer on', there was many times throughout the day that i moaned about my lack of foresight, although in reality there was no way that i could've reasonably predicted what was about to happen.......

I had better tell you because i have a habit of digressing and completely wandering off track when i'm talking, it's something i'm unable to combat, i'm even doing it now. Anyway, to set the scene, myself and Stuart had set up facing Blencathra just waiting for the clouds to break in the hope of some lovely broken light hitting the glorious beast that is Blencathra. We'd been stood there for around five minutes when one of those mountain goat tour buses came and off jumped a load of Japanese tourists, all armed with camera and went right for the sheep, they were absolutely loving them and taking pictures of them everywhere, one by one the sheep drifted as far away as possible to get on with eating their breakfast when i spotted a giddy lamb just tottering it's way through my shot, i pressed the shutter release (forgetting it was on 2 second timer) and just after,  the lamb leapt in the air as if taking on Bechers Brook to win the national, closely followed by one of the bus trippers in hot pursuit with her camera at the ready. Now, the image i got was nowhere near as special as it could've been had the shutter speed been a bit faster and gone off slightly earlier but what i was left with is an image that has been tickling me for days, i hope, after all that rambling that it wasn't just one of those 'you had to be there' moments, but you can judge for yourself below: 

We'll call that and England Football team shot, so much potential but delivered so little!!

We'll call that and England Football team shot, so much potential but delivered so little!!

It didn't look like the weather was going to get any clearer and all of the action looked to be over Derwentwater way. As Stuart hadn't been to Isthmus Bay we decided to head down there and see if we would get any more luck. It took us a little longer to get there as Crow Park was blocked off due to the Mountain Festival kicking off and on our detour we managed to get told off for cutting through the park rangers yard, but we got there in the end, and the sight that greeted us was just lovely, patches of light dancing all over the side of Catbells. It was coming and going in the blink of an eye so we got set up and waited for our moment. It was in this moment that i realised the beauty in daytime shooting, it's so much more relaxed, there was no mad rush to get in position for two minutes of brilliant first light (although that is my favourite time to be out with the camera), it was nice and calm and we just sat talking and chilling out watching the boats go by. I could be a convert to this daytime lark.


30 second exposure of Isthmus Jetty

30 second exposure of Isthmus Jetty

Next on the list was a trip to the world famous (ok, well definitely famous in the cycling community) Chalet at Portinscale for one of their homemade stone baked Pizzas, absolutely phenomenal and set us up for more comping around Derwentwater in the afternoon. We headed down to the Borrowdale hotel where we absolutely did not park on the customer car park. We headed down to the boardwalk at the south end of Derwentwater, mainly because i hadn't been down this way before. What a lovely little place it is, if you haven't been down that way i'd definitely recommend it, if you park at Kettlewell car park it's a bit of a walk but well worth it, you just walk until you can see the path to the Chinese bridge and follow that along over the bridge and you'll pick up the boardwalk.

We stopped first off to get some shots of Skiddaw as there was some amazing light moving over the mountain as the sun burst through the clouds, the only problem was that someone (me) forgot to turn the long exposure noise reduction on, meaning that four exposures over three minutes each were all ruined and unusable. Doh, i did manage one without ruining it but unfortunately missed the best of the light. Definitely missed a good opportunity though and i'm pretty sure Stuart will have taken full advantage of those conditions without messing it up.

What always amazes me since taking up photography is just how little of the Lakes i'd actually experienced, i said the exact same thing seven years ago when i took up cycling but photography has taken it up to another level, I've been to Keswick hundreds of times in my life and haven't actually seen anything other than the chip shop, the ice cream shop, and the traditional sweet shop!! Oh and the boats.


It was while standing knee deep in the water taking these shots of Skiddaw that we had a few interesting conversations with passers by, none local, and four out of five of them actually stood and watched us, looked at us and asked "what are you snapping then"? we looked at each other and just said "Oh Skiddaw over there, that mountain" and pointed to the huuuuuuuge mountain in the distance, to a man/woman every single one of them looked at us like we needed our heads examined stood in a bog up to our knees looking at a mountain and said "what mountain"? Despite the fact that we're surrounded by the things these people literally hadn't noticed the scenery around them, this got me thinking how lucky we are to live in an area where by and large, life is so laid back, we have the time to sit and look around, appreciate and absorb our surroundings, this is something that i will never take for granted.

Anyway i've gone off track again, back to the boardwalk, we carried on round the track until we came to the end and i was blown away by the views in front of me (you'll find i say this quite often, pretty much anytime i go anywhere) It was like something out of Jurassic Park. Lush Greens and beautiful mountains all around, looking towards King's How and Castle Crag to your left, and High Spy to the right, all looking down the Borrowdale Valley. It was quite difficult to get some images from here as it was just so busy, and rightfully so, being a beautiful friday afternoon.

I nearly ended up in trouble as a couple were about to jog past us so we moved our gear off the track and heard "MOVE FATTY" by the time it registered in my head i was about to set off running (yeah right) after the bloke when i realised he'd shouted "room for a fatty?" Just confirms what i always tell our girls, make sure you're always listening because one day it'll get you into trouble.

It was time now for the long walk back to the car, the day was running away with us and it was nearly three o clock, so as we were crossing the Chinese bridge i spotted a shortcut. Now anyone who knows me knows all to well how effective my shortcuts can be, well this one followed suit and found us traipsing through knew high water and reeds over a field, by the time we'd reached dry land i felt like aqua man. My welly's were full to the ankle with water and my legs felt like i'd just completed Ninja warrior. All good though, the car was in sight.


On to the last stop of the day and i had a composition that had been in my mind for a while but hadn't had the conditions or the opportunity to try it, my patience ran out this afternoon so i went for it.

Honister Pass, the beautiful, painful, (on a bike) majestic road cutting between Buttermere and the Borrowdale Valley is one of my favourite roads, mind you, i'm not such a fan of it on two wheels and leg power. Alongside the road runs a stream, more often than not i drive by this oblivious, as no matter how often i do this journey i never fail to be amazed by the scene in front of me. We stopped around halfway down the valley, because of the heavy rain lately the streams were full of water and it was rushing down the valley, this made for a much better shot. I found this was the ideal shot to highlight the differences between shooting at 17mm and 50mm, below are two shots at these focal lengths and they really show how effective a longer focal length is at bringing the scene closer to you and compressing the perspective to keep parts of the image significant that you don't want to lose.

17mm taken right at the falls

17mm taken right at the falls

50mm from 10 yards further back 

50mm from 10 yards further back 

If you're not familiar with these differences you can see how the 50mm shot has compressed the scene to make the road more prominent and looking closer to you, this can come in handy especially when posting to social media because the background would be completely lost on a small screen.


If you're still awake and have got this far, thank you. This is my first attempt at writing a blog or jotting my thoughts down. I enjoy revisiting these days and it makes me appreciate just what beauty i encounter just 30 minutes from my door. Not to mention a good laugh and being able to switch off for a few hours and just enjoy the day.

I hope you've enjoyed, or at least managed to get all the way through these ramblings.


Until next time...............