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Monday, 30 November 2015

A Lake District Holiday - landscape and weather

I've just got home from a lovely holiday in The English Lake DistrictFor the first time ever, I stayed in the Lake District for more than a week. It was great!

Panorama from the summit of Wansfell

Every year for more than 2 decades, some friends and I have spent a November week in The Lakes - always staying in the Ambleside area, and for the last few years in Troutbeck. This year, I decided to extend my week with my friends and book the same holiday cottage for myself for the preceding week. Of course, I invited them to join me whenever they could.

This post is all about the first week, which I specifically planned to be for landscape photography.

Sunday was dominated for me and everyone else in the area by Storm Abigail, which was passing over the north of Britain. This being my holiday, I wasn't paying attention to the news, so I didn't know that authorities were advising everyone not to travel in Cumbria.
I set out in the morning planning to do some photography in Borrowdale. I successfully passed through some shallow floods across the roads on the way to Grasmere, then it was pretty easy until I got to Borrowdale.
Finally, north of Grange, I came across a flood that was obviously too deep for my car to cross, so I turned back a little and ventured up toward Watendlath and stopped at the famous, and very well photographed, Ashness Bridge. 

Most images you see of Ashness Bridge view down the valley with Keswick and Skiddaw looking magnificent in the distance. All I could see looking that way was cloud, mist and rain, so with plenty of water flowing and falling down through the bridge, I pointed my camera up towards it.

Ashness Bridge
As you can see, it was still raining, so I was constantly fighting rain on the lens.

Ashness Bridge

My next intended subject in the area was Castlerigg Stone Circle. Sunrise over the circle was my ultimate target, but I thought that for now I'd take a look and recce the scene.

If anything the rain was harder when I got there, and the wind certainly was. Happily, the wind was blowing from behind me as I set up to try out the angles, but I still didn't manage to keep all the rainspots off my lens. I shot a panorama as best I could in the wind.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

I decided that as soon as the forecast looked good for sunrise, I'd come back.

My ignorance of the extent of flooding now started to become clear.
I had already decided that one of the floods I had successfully traversed heading north through Rydal would be impassable in the other direction (for my car), so I expected to go east on the A66 then around via the M6.
The A66 was closed. I decided to head south and try to get around Rydal via the roads over the back of Loughrigg. No luck. I got across to the Ambleside-Coniston road, but found half a metre of water heading to Ambleside and was told of a whole metre depth towards Coniston. Maybe Langdale would be clear. I met other travellers who clearly thought that I wouldn't get through.

Anyway, to cut this already too-long story short, I ended up getting "home" via Carlisle and the M6 - 4-and-a-half hours and 100 miles from Keswick to Troutbeck.

Call me weird, but I found this more an amusing adventure than anything else. I didn't feel in danger - I was confident that I wouldn't try any flood that would leave me stranded, and that if the worst came to the worst I could park up somewhere and sleep in the car.
I must admit, though, that my sense of humour had become a little strained by the time I reached Carlisle!

Monday was a lovely day! It was windy and a bit squally, but the sun shone and there was some blue sky so I walked up Wansfell straight from the cottage.
On the way up, I passed through a brief shower and saw this lovely rainbow.

Just as I reached the front summit, I was hit by a squall of sleet. The sleet stopped as soon as it had started, but the wind continued. I could stand up, but I wondered just how sharp my hand-held shots for this panorama would be.
Panorama from the summit of Wansfell

It worked out ok. This is a view of more than 180 degrees and includes a distant but great view of a lot of Lake District fells. The path down to Troutbeck goes off to the left of the picture, Windermere is obvious, Ambleside is in the centre with the Langdale Pikes beyond and the Scafell Pike ridge beyond them, and the ridge to the "other" Wansfell summit is on the right.

The first of my friends arrived on Tuesday afternoon, so on Wednesday morning we drove out in more rain up over to Ullswater to visit Aira Force. Floods seemed a possibility again, but proved to be no more difficult than very large puddles. When we got out of the car to walk to the Force, the word "rain" really didn't do justice to the conditions.
Photography conditions were " challenging". It was a real fight to keep water off the front of the lens. I took an umbrella and cloths, but eventually I only really got one decent shot of the Force. This was from the bridge at the top.
When we got down to the lower bridge, the dark, spray, wind and rain completely defeated me, but my friend managed a phone image of me to show the conditions.


One thing that images obviously cannot capture is the sound. I didn't have a sound recording equipment with me, but I can tell you that the sound was fantastic - loud, deep and constantly changing. I almost enjoyed the sound more than the view!

More friends arrived on Thursday evening, and Friday proved to be another lovely bright day. We kept the walking very simple and took a stroll around Tarn Howes. The place was popular (it always is), so landscape photography opportunities were scarce, but this bench makes an interesting pattern.

A seat at Tarn Hows

At last - The weather forecast for Saturday suggested that skies would be clear. A Castlerigg sunrise was on!
We (four of us now) arrived at the stone circle 30 minutes before the published sunrise time. There was already one other photographer there who was concentrating so hard on his shot that when I walked up and spoke the poor chap jumped out of his skin!
It was a beautiful morning, and the previous night's snow looked amazing on the tops as the sun's light slowly extended across them.
News of the possibility of a nice sunrise had obviously got around because as the next 45 minutes passed, more and more photographers arrived. Though we were all intent on capturing the view to the east, I swung my camera round to look towards Blencathra and capture the more general scene.

The circle is surrounded by fells, of course, so the horizon is higher and sunrise over the fells is later.
While I waited, I shot several panoramas. This one was just a few minutes before the sun finally appeared. The cloud has lost a little of it's orange. but you can see the rays of the sun shining across just beneath it.

Sunrise at Castlerigg Stone Circle

Finally, at around 8:45, the sun rose. It was worth the wait, and with quite a small aperture, my camera captured a lovely "starburst" effect for my final shot of the morning.

Sunrise at Castlerigg Stone Circle