Michael Cartwright Photography
Shooting Landscapes In The Lakes - Wasdale
Posted on 15th January, 2019
I've been dreaming of shooting winter scenes since the last traces of snow made way for one of the hottest Summers on record, so a few months back I thought i'd book a place to stay in a location that would be sure to have plenty of the white stuff by mid-January. I decided on Wasdale in the Lake District as the high fells would likely be covered with snow at the very least, and I'd probably be faced with Arctic conditons on the ground. Perfect for a winter wonderland photography fix.......what I didn't bank on was that January would be unusually warm and that Wasdale would still be clinging to the last shades of Autumn without even the hint of a frost in sight! (As I write this blog from my warm living room the weather forecast is playing out on the news.....apparently the temperature is finally about to drop and winter is set to arrive next week).
Anyway, not to be deterred by the good weather, I headed across to Cumbria with my pal Matt to embark on the first shoot of 2019, hoping to catch a sunrise en route to Wastwater.
It didn't take long for us to realise that a sunrise (and in fact the entire morning) would be a complete wash out! An unforecasted rain set in as we made our way West, with swirling winds making landscape photography almost impossible. With Matt at the wheel, we crossed the Wrynose and Hardknott passes in pre dawn darkness and descended into Eskdale for a pit stop at The Woolpack Inn, grabbing a coffee while waiting for a break in the weather. We met Wooly too, the pub's friendly Golden Retriever.
The weather began to ease so we decided to try our luck at Devoke Water. I'd read a great article about this location in Amateur Photographer earlier in the week exclaiming that this tarn was a solid location when the weather wasn't great. Devoke Water lies at the top of Birker Fell, at an altitude of almost 800ft. As we started to climb, the weather reverted back to the stinging rain that hits you from every direction (typical Lake District). Better luck next time.
Moving briskly down to a lower level we headed for Wastwater and finally caught our break as the rain eased. I finally took my first photograph (a section of trees backed by the Wasdale Screes) at 11.15am, a full 6 hours after setting off from Teesside. Fortunately enough, the weather would improve dramatically for the remainder of our time in the Lake District.
Wastwater is the deepest and arguably the most dramatic of the English Lakes, surrounded by giant fells at the head. The view looking toward Wasdale Head has been voted "Britains Best View" and it's easy to see why. With the light hiding behind thick clouds I opted for as long exposure shot, using shoreline boulders as foreground. The area along the West side of the Lake has many opportunites for creative compositions. With the cloud beginning to break and pockets of light filtering through, we were hopeful of catching a decent sunset and so made for the fells at the top of the lake.
As we were walking towards the famous Wasdale Head Inn the light broke through, hitting Kirk Fell and offering a glimpse of the potential ahead. A beautifully strong light persisted for the next two hours, streaming through between cracks in the clouds, turning this walkers paradise into the perfect playground for photographers. I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable sessions that I've experienced, wonderful light in the perfect location after a tough start to a long day.
As the sun finally dropped and the light began to fade, feeling rather elated we made our way to The Strands Inn Micro Brewery for a beer, a well earned hearty meal and a good nights sleep.
Day two began with a 7am drive to the top of the Hardknott Pass for big sky views. The weather seemed unseasonably warm and the wind speed was low, even at the top of the exposed pass. We waited for daybreak and were treated to a beautiful lightshow from the rising sun over the Coniston range.
From one dramatic road to another, we crossed the Wrynose Pass, shooting panoramic views into Little Langdale. The low sun, even at midday seemed to struggle to make it over the high fells to our West. Our patience was rewarded as the light finally came through, illuminating the landscape below.
Moving into Little Langdale I found a delightful tree set against a stream at Fell Foot Farm. By this time the light had all but gone, hidden behind the Western fells. We knew that we had made the best of the conditions so as the rain began to drop we headed for Ambleside for a bite to eat at Daisey's Cafe. It's so easy to become consumed in image making, particularly when the conditions are good, so it's important to take stock during the poor weather and refresh the body and mind.
So for a final push before heading back home we tried our luck at Loughrigg Tarn, an easily accesible location close to Ambleside. It's a beautiful tarn and the line of the sun looked perfect for a great shot. We set up and waited, keeping a close eye on the sky hoping for a break. The shot I had in mind didn't happen, as the light failed to materialise on the tarn, However, a line of trees caught my interest and offered a great silhouette, backlit by the sun.
I can only hope for more days like these throughout 2019. The weather and the light play such an important part in landscape photography and I wouldn't care to remember how many times I've been disappointed by the conditions in the Lakes. It just goes to show, you've got to keep putting yourself out there and the moments will come.