Following up from an outstanding workshop in Snowdonia back in April with Greg Whitton (You can read all about that one BY CLICKING HERE), as soon as the batteries were running low again I thought it was time for another go in the Lake District. There’s nothing quite the Lakes in autumn, though it has to be said I really wasn’t coming for the trees and colour, but for the opportunities afforded by the potential for quickly changing light and weather. But after the amazing light of Snowdonia surely I couldn’t be that lucky twice right?
A late cancellation coincided with some very interesting looking weather predictions so I signed up at short notice. I got up to the Lakes for about lunchtime on Friday and took the long slow road over the Hardknott Pass into Wastwater. This is West Lakes country, it’s actually pretty close to the coast but I’d never spent any time over this way beyond Tilberthwaite before. Don’t shoot at midday right? What greeted me was an unbelievable start to the weekend with passing storms, rainbows and breaking light. The weekend hadn’t even started yet and already the character of the Lakes was well and truly in full flight…
Later on I accidentally bumped into Greg at Wastwater for a fantastically moody late light show and if nothing else came off we had already bagged a pile of images which were about as gorgeous as it gets across the region. No complaints here again whatsoever.
Unbelievably the weather predictions were looking as wonderful as Snowdonia in April, not altogether surprisingly in some respects – April and October are transitional months and weather can be extremely changeable wherever you are but I was trying to contain my expectations because April had been pretty special and getting the ‘right’ weather in the Lake District is a game of chance akin to your luck on a roulette wheel as many will agree.
Saturday morning and all was calm. The light was flat, some rain was forecast and the plan was to walk from the north end of Wastwater up over Wasdale Head under the peak of Scafell and back down again – about 13 miles or so, but with all of the elevation thrown in. It didn’t sound super easy but at least I knew what I was really in for this time after Snowdonia. There was a problem though – only a few days before my knee collapsed. To this day I’ve no idea what I did but I could barely walk three days before the weekend and I was on some heavy duty painkillers. Damn. We went out for a woodland walk at first light and I found a nice spot near a river to get my tree quota in. It was still pretty dark, we had head torches on but the edge of the wood was at least letting some early light in across the gloom…
Unexpectedly disaster struck – I tripped on a cobbled stone path in the wood while walking with my D810 & 70-200mm which was hanging around my neck. I’m not sure what was more painful – my right knee which took a very heavy blow or the crunch of my gear as I went over on it. I’ll write another blog post soon about how I’ve managed to repair most of the superficial damage to my D810 but there is a reason why it’s still worth buying a sturdy and well made DSLR; it’s like a piece of rock itself. Even I was surprised to find that the camera and lens performed perfectly still – the same couldn’t be said for my knee however. I was so angry with my clumsiness but occasionally these things happen, neither my D810 or my knee looked very pretty at all – deep scars in my D810 were also matched by a hole in my hand too. Grrrr.
There was no way I was going to let any injuries beat me though. Not today. You can’t go to the Lakes and not get up there, even with cuts and bruises. That prediction turned out to be right, it was pretty hard going carrying injuries but it was spectacular up there. As before Greg was an immaculate guide, impeccably organised, superbly knowledgable, commanding and conscious of the limits of everyone – particular me now I had managed to add new problems into the mix. Regular stops are a must regardless of whether you think you need them or not, but as the day drew on we started to fill up the memory cards with some incredible breaking light which spread over the landscape below us and across the peaks. Immense.
About 3/4s of the way around we stumbled upon a pool at about 2500ft, right under the shadow of the summit of Scafell Pike. What turned out to be the best shot of the day had initially been written off by me as “a shitty composition” much to the amusement of the group I was with. This was a pretty ridiculous statement looking back on this now because The Mercury Pool was an absolute gift and I’m hopeful others think so too. I absolutely love the contrast of the pool but the strip of light across the face of Great Gable behind was a fleeting moment and absolutely makes it for me. This is the stuff I’d come for and I couldn’t believe that we’d got this lucky again, regardless of the painful physical cost.
Time was against us by this point, my leg hurt a lot and there was a long way down. Last shots of the day were over the top of Wastwater for an incredible dramatic sunset and you can see the sort of elevation we were still at here. The cloud moved in, the light fell away and we had to descend most of the way in the dark. It’s a hideous descent from this point – the path is covered in rock all the way down and every step jarred. I’m not sure how I got to the end because sheer will power took over from the pain I was in despite stuffing pills down me to try and take the edge off. Ridiculous. Some things are worth it though, some things are best done only once, and potentially some things just can’t be bettered. This was one of those days and I’m incredibly grateful to Greg that I was there and got off in one piece. If you get a chance to go on a workshop with Mr Whitton – just don’t hesitate, very few people out there will deliver real experiences like these.
Sunday morning wasn’t exactly gorgeous. The rain had moved in to obscure Wastwater almost completely and worse still my injuries from the pervious day had taken their toll. There was going to be no walking for me today so after a rain drenched spell at the south end of Wastwater I bid the team goodbye and set off on a slow drive home. The very best part of shooting in the Lakes is its infinite beauty and photographic possibilities easily accessible at the roadside so I wasn’t too upset that I was making my way back on my own. Sure enough more incredible light on the way back with some exceptional scenery. I drove back over Hardknott Pass through Coniston and of course you get to see things from a whole new angle. Regardless it was another wonderful spell of weather to finish the weekend, quite exceptional. There’s no way I’ll be this lucky again but Scotland beckons in February so here’s hoping…