Lake District Mountain Photography Workshop Review By Trevor Thurlow LRPS
As a new member of the RPS Landscape Group I was really looking forward to this workshop based in and above the always beautiful Buttermere Valley on Friday 8 October 2021. Though the weather and light, as is often the case, was sometimes challenging I was not to be disappointed.
Six members of the Landscape Group assembled at Gatesgarth Farm Car Park in good time to meet our Workshop Leader; Ade Gidney FRPS. The day getting off to a positive start as the park and pay machine was “out of order.”
After a brief resume of the plan for the day it was time to set off for the hills. With Ade’s first piece of advice being that we were not looking to just take photographs but should be aiming to capture well composed and considered images. He also advised us that he was not here to capture images for himself but was here to help and advise us on camera settings, compositions etc, if and as required. This proved invaluable to most of the group, some of whom were new to their respective cameras.
The conditions at first looked promising with the sun peeping through over High Stile and the brisk wind, which was to remain a constant for the day, sending shafts of light over the surrounding hillsides. Setting off along the footpath at the head of Buttermere we soon reached Peggy’s Bridge and the first photo opportunity of the day. The light playing on the Scots Pines behind us and enticingly on the reed flanked beck discharging into Buttermere with the full length of the lake being laid out in front of us.
The first semi-serious ascent of the day started now as we climbed up Buttermere Fell to look down at one of Buttermere’s ‘iconic views’ - the white bothy at the head of the lake with an attractive row of towering trees behind it, enhanced by fleeting shafts of light dancing over the fell side in the distance, illuminating the early autumn colours. Being reminded of the requirement to separate the elements in a composition I took 2 steps to the left to make sure the small tree in front of the bothy was not obscuring part of the building’s gable wall. Result: a much improved and satisfying image.
Banks of cloud now rolled in on the increasingly strong wind as we climbed Scarth Gap Pass, with the earlier shafts of good photography light now becoming increasingly rarer. As I think like many photographers, I sometimes turn an image into monochrome in Lightroom as a last resort to try and save a composition that I like but which doesn’t work in colour. Ade advised us, in flat lighting conditions like today, to try and see and think in black and white by changing the in-camera picture style to Monochrome, while preserving all of the colour data in the RAW file. The capture of a monochrome image is then a positive action rather than a last resort.
Climbing to the top of the pass, with its views down into and across Ennerdale I was rewarded with my favourite capture of the day with a stormy sky and fleeting misty clouds providing the opportunity for an atmospheric shot looking over to Kirk Fell. This opportunity only lasted for a few minutes reinforcing the need to always have your camera at the ready with appropriate settings. I share Ade’s view that if you come back from a day in the hills with just one or two good shots then it is a success. This image made the day a success for me.
This being a “mountain photography workshop” it was now time to tackle the ascent of Alfred Wainwright’s favourite of the 214 Lakeland Fells described in his famous pictorial guides: Haystacks. While just being short of the 2,000 feet required to be described as a mountain in England it is an interesting climb which involves a fair bit of scrambling, requiring both hands and feet to be securely fixed to the rock, in order to reach the summit. The wind level and cloud cover now increasing allowing for some detail shots on the shore or long exposures over Innominate Tarn to smooth out the water.
Descending from Haystacks we made our way firstly across to Dubs Hut and its remnants of the Lake District’s slate mining industrial heritage, before descending to Warnscale Bothy and its fabulous views down the length of Buttermere and Crummock Water beyond. Today was unfortunately not the right day or light to take advantage of this famous location - but as always with landscape photography there will be other days and I will return, perhaps spending the night at the bothy to capture sunset or sunrise.
Making our way back down into the valley, passing some interesting waterfalls on the way, it was now time to say our thanks and goodbyes at the end of what had been a good day and a very instructive and worthwhile workshop. As Ade said “if you don’t learn anything on a workshop then it was a waste of time taking part”. I learnt a lot from my day in the Lakeland hills and look forward to my next RPS Landscape Group workshop.
All images © Trevor Thurlow
This article was featured in the RPS Landscape Group's Newsletter, January 2022.