Book reviews have been on my list of things to feature on the blog for some time now, and as I know many of you are planning breaks in the Lake District this year, I thought it would be a good time to review the first of many Lake District guides which are available – in this post, a guide to photographing the Lake District.
Although I’m really into photography, buying a book about places to photograph isn’t something that’s ever appealed to me. After all, I don’t want to recreate someone else’s work – I want to find something original of my own! But having just upgraded my camera, I wanted some new inspiration on great places from which to take landscape photographs without walking for miles and miles, and took a look at Photographing the Lake District by Stuart Holmes.
Stuart is a commercial landscape and outdoor action photographer who lives and was brought up in the Lake District – so he should know his stuff! The book is split into distinct areas such as the South East, Central and North West Lakes, and covers around 70 general locations, with several suggestions for viewpoints or places to explore at each one.
Because I already knew that some of the viewpoints close to home were good suggestions, I was fairly confident that the places I haven’t explored will be worthwhile seeking out. And with the help of Google Maps, I’ve already discovered the odd low-level walking route here and there that I’d no idea existed!
Last weekend I thought I’d put the book to the test, and as my gem-hunting companion for the afternoon had been keen for me to see the Langdales for some time, we took a bit of a drive, stopping off first at Elterwater.
I’ve never actually been out to Elterwater, which now seems a shameful thing to say, because living in Windermere (for nearly 30 years!), I’m so near! But seeing new things is one of the reasons I started blogging about the Lake District, so I’m putting my sins right one at a time! Although beautiful sunshine in Windermere turned to a drab grey by the time we reached Elterwater, the area’s photographic potential, without even having to leave the car, was immediately obvious.
Because of the weather we actually decided not to search Elterwater any further (the book contains several suggestions here) but carried on driving through to Great Langdale, where the sun even made an appearance – I’ll definitely be back to Elterwater soon though.
On our return journey to Ambleside, we stopped at Skelwith Bridge to try out another of the book’s suggestions – Skelwith Force and woods. I’ve stopped here before but was unaware the waterfall was so close by, so the book has already done its job and made me more aware of what’s hiding just a short distance from something I’m already familiar with.
Once you’ve found the waterfall, the book encourages you to keep walking just a little further upstream, where you come across Woodburn Bridge, a distinctive metal arched bridge which was apparently designed by Chris Brammall (a well-known local designer of architectural and sculptural metal work, whose work includes the renovation at Claife Viewing Station on the western shore of Windermere). Stuart describes Woodburn Bridge as ‘skeletal in appearance’, and it’s quite a feature.
As Stuart also points out, you must take care when photographing the force, because to get the best view you need to cross rocks and a small bridge to further rocks below. The stones are sometimes underwater, and the surfaces all looked so slippery that I didn’t dare try them. I did however get a few shots of the surrounding area in the increasingly misty conditions, so was more than happy with this find.
The book is full of Stuart’s own beautiful images, which he creates using a wide variety of techniques, including selective focus, fast and slow shutter speeds, and unusual framing of scenery, so there’s plenty of inspiration. All the photographs are accompanied by the camera settings (e.g. ‘Canon 5D MkIII, 24-105mm at 58mm, ISO 1000, 1/4000 sec at f4’), so if you’re keen to improve the technical side of your photography, this is a particularly useful feature. Don’t worry if these terms don’t mean much to you though, because the book’s all about developing your interest and passion for photography, whatever your level of technical knowledge.
Finally there’s a neat little section at the end of the book dedicated to technique, equipment and planning, and there are also diagrams showing the sunrise and sunset times and their positions throughout the year, as well as sun elevation in degrees above the horizon, depending on the time of year.
Stuart provides a grid reference and parking postcode for each location, and includes other little tips such as best time of year or day to visit, as well as guidance on accessibility. All in all, it’s a really thoughtfully put together book, which encourages you to get creative and discover things for yourself rather than follow a prescribed set ideas for what makes the perfect picture. I’m glad I purchased it, and would recommend it as a real time saver, especially if you don’t live in the Lake District – in which case your time here is particularly precious, and you’ll need some prior knowledge to plan ahead and fit in all you want to see.
Have you any favourite locations from which to photograph a particularly great Lake District scene? If so, I’d love to hear your suggestions, and you can share them with other readers in the comments section below.