After my workshop day in the Lake District, the rest of our trip focused on a good old family holiday and so I didn't really get a chance for any landscape photography until our last evening in the lakes. We'd been out all day, our two-year-old was wiped out by about 3pm and so we crashed back at the cottage and after some prevarication I decided to seize the opportunity for a rushed bit of landscape photography. I'm glad I did.
The weather wasn't great—rain was closing in again—but hey, I had a new waterproof jacket and was desperate to take some more photographs. I wasn't entirely sure where I'd been with Nigel on the workshop earlier in the week, so I just aimed generally for Rydal (we were staying down in Bowness) and then kept picking interesting looking roads from there. As chance would have it, I ended up at Sticklebarn, where we'd started the workshop day, anyway.
Having rounded Grasmere, I took a high road that looked interesting and eventually began a descent into what I think was Langdale. I jumped out of the car for some quick shots with the Fuji 50-140 without any great success. I liked the moodiness of the clouds over the land in the image above though. There are a couple of others this leg of the drive that I think have potential but I need some more time to decide how to best process them.
Driving on a while, I passed an amazing-looking group of large boulders sat around some lovely big old trees in a field. There was a young couple hanging out on the rocks so I assumed it was accessible and found a space to stop on the side of the road then walked back. At the gate there was a National Trust sign labelling them the Langdale Boulders and so it turned out that the couple were there for bouldering.
I wandered down the hill a bit to look for interesting angles on the surrounding valley but without anything standing out and not having too much time before sunset, I walked back up to the boulders and ended up making a few images from back on the road, leaning over the wall.
This first image is not of the more impressive boulders, but provides a nice backdrop (I think that's Stickle Ghyll you can see just above the tree on the right) and I liked this composition as there's a nice path through the image: from the boulders to the tree and further on to the mountain behind.
It can be difficult conveying the scale of landscape images without easy reference points at times, but this cottage and caravan set against the dark hillside behind provided both scale and a nice bit of contrast. It helps show the steepness of the land as well I think.
Using the 50-140 on my Fuji X-T2 was great for picking out details like this, and the perspective compression at longer telephoto lengths also helps with the sense of scale. For wider images like the boulders above, I didn't bother swapping lenses but did a quick hand-held panorama at 50mm and stitched the images together in Lightroom later.
By this point, I was already so happy that I'd pushed myself to head out and had logged a few locations to come back to in future.
Treating this as more of a location scouting trip freed me up a bit, though I did also want to practice some of the advice Nigel had given a few days earlier where possible.
My last image this spot was a wider shot, including some local sheep and I think giving more a sense of being down in a valley. I went for a 6x17 crop that helps throw away some of the less interesting content from the sky and near wall. Chopping the top off the tree on the left possibly isn't ideal but I think actually helps close the image in and give a sense of scale near in as well as the distance to the hills and mountains behind.
This image certainly reduces the grandeur of the pikes in the distance a little but provides a bit more context. Not a stand-out image but a nice reminder for me of the location and the conditions that evening.
Next up is an image from just a little further down the road after I'd got back in the car. Coming round a bend, the view opened up and the rain and mist coming in provided some nice separation of the background.
The bend of the road down in the bottom corner leads nicely into the the mountains behind while disappearing into the trees so the image isn't too much about the road itself.
As you can see, it was already getting dark at this point thanks largely to the weather rolling in so I hurried on to the car park at Sticklebarn. I did stop to take this next photograph which, aside from being a nice scene, confirmed my vague hunch this was the place I'd been earlier in the week for the waterfall photos.
Sticklebarn & Stickle Ghyll
Having been here earlier in the week I felt I had an idea of some shots to try. By the time I'd walked from the car park up to the waterfalls though, it was clear that the kinds of image we'd been making and thinking about earlier in the week weren't going to work in this light (quite obvious really).
Instead, I focused on trying to capture the atmosphere of the cool light and harsh weather, both with the X-T2 (with 16-55mm f/2.8 on now) and with my DJI Mavic Pro. As a quick note, I have to say I was impressed with the Mavic in these conditions (especially now I'd charged the remote!) [see previous article]. There was a decent bit of wind and spotting rain as I took off, and I kept it up as long as I dared while the rain came in a bit harder; it didn't bat a metaphorical eyelid.
The scene and the conditions felt rather cinematic and I've ended up cropping most of the images on the ground to a panoramic 6x17 ratio. I really love this letterbox crop and may well over-use it but hey, what can I say? I like it.
After a few images on my walk up, I decided to get the drone out to see how things were looking.
I quickly noticed this stone path with a flock of sheep congregating on and around it and, flipping the Mavic camera into portrait mode, shot a small panorama. One good tip Nigel Danson had given me was to shoot 5-frame exposure brackets with the Mavic to help combat its poor dynamic range, particularly in low light. The above image therefore, is a pano stitch of three, five-image HDR merges.
Moving the drone around a bit for a better view down the valley, I found a wall of rain approaching me on my iPhone. As the rain was already getting heavier where I was standing, I started to bring the Mavic back home.
I did take a few more image but nothing special. As I was landing the drone, I heard a cry behind and a woman burst out laughing. I'd assumed I was the only idiot up here, but there was a couple hiking from much higher up and the man had apparently slipped and gone down on his backside, which his partner found hilarious.
With the Mavic landed and packed away, the pair were on their way again and just below me: about to head over a small ridge on the path down to Sticklebarn.
The bright rain covers over their backpacks acted as a nice pop of colour amongst the dark, rainy, muted surroundings so I focused in with the X-T2 and photographed a few frames as they approached the lip of the path before disappearing further down the mountainside and out of sight.
Once the hikers were gone, I decided it was best if I made my own way down as well—the light was all but gone and I was still aiming to get back to the cottage in time to see my son off to bed.
Being the person I am, I still couldn't help taking some more snapshots as I walked back down the path (actually the grass to the side as the rocky path was super slippy).
None are great images as I was just a bit too wet (turns out I need some more-waterproof hiking trousers) and in a rush by this point but still give a bit of the feel of the scene.
From the path down, the view left over the river/waterfalls and down to the valley was nice and muted, with a small break in the trees providing a reasonable frame for a vertical composition. I think there's a much better shot to be had here though, so it's one logged as a scene scouted for another time.
I also really liked this scene with a couple of pine trees(? I'm so bad at trees) poking up over the general tree line and set against a nice pastel, muted and misty backdrop with just the faint outline of the mountain behind.
The small waterfall directly below the main tree in the image is also nice and gives something to anchor you in the dark lower third of the image.
Making photographs in these light conditions and then processing them to convey that darkness can be a dangerous thing for sharing on backlit screens, as the variety of screen quality and brightness across the multitude of devices out there means a decent number of people might just see mostly-black images. I've decided I'm OK with that though, in order to try it out and because it's a time of day I'm drawn to.
I've been pondering for a while creating a series of photographs based more around blue hour and twilight: darker scenes, trying to show that there's beauty to be found beyond the traditional landscape photographer's sunset. These images have acted as a nice test shoot among others as I very slowly build up to a decision on whether to try and focus on such a series.
I'll leave you with one final photograph: a near-repeat of an image I made on my walk up that shows some of the change in conditions during the short 45 minutes I was there. The rain has come in, there's no more sharpness to anything and certainly not to the other side of the valley. The wisps of low cloud earlier are now a blanket of mist.
And finally, you can view any of these images a bit larger in the gallery below. Hope you've enjoyed them.