Once again I found myself in the Peak District ready to give a landscape photography workshop. This was my fifth in the last 18 months concentrating primarily on 3 Edges. Stanage, Curbar and Baslow. Although, on previous occasions, I had explored much of the Dark Peak (North) area, there was still a number of places I wanted to visit, not least as I am planning on holding a two day workshop in the autumn of 2012.
I arrived at the campsite late in the afternoon, 2 days before the workshop. It was raining. That incessant, drizzle where you can see no end in sight. I got out of my car and surveyed the site looking for a suitable place to pitch my tent. The site was on a slope so clearly the lower fields were out of the question since these would become progressively waterlogged and, of course, somewhere flat! Most importantly of all was not to be too near to other tents but there was no fear of this as on the whole site there could have been only around half a dozen. I found where I wanted to pitch, got back inside the car and again, waited. It wasn’t going to stop so, with a sigh, I got on with it. There is no fun putting up a tent in the rain especially when you have one where the inner has to go up first! Who, in their right minds, designs a tent where you put up the inside first?!
I don’t camp often, perhaps only a few times a year (mainly in the early spring and autumn, when campsite’s are most quiet and the countryside is at its most photogenic) and, although it may seem like a cold, inconvenient way to spend 6 days, I am always glad I did. You not only save yourself a fair bit of money but you can eat as and when you please and not endure finding somewhere to eat after you’ve had a long day shooting. Instead, I can return to my tent, prepare dinner and put on the radio or read a book. The best part, if you have chosen your campsite well, is that you can just lay there and listen to nature. I always choose those sites with the most basic of amenities and far from shops etc. This invariably stops families with children, barking dogs and teenagers and attracts hardened hill walkers with a respect for their fellow campers. I may sound like an old misery but really, who wants to spend the night in the tent in earshot of chattering families or hoots of laughter at 2 in the morning! Instead, I had a pair of vocal tawnies and pheasant in the adjacent woodland.
On my first morning, I headed for Curbar Edge in the hope of shooting a misty sunrise. I arrived at dawn and spotted a stag and hind just 50m away. It was still too dark to take pictures but wonderful to see, all the same. The sun did appear, at intervals, and the mist/fog cleared and thickened for the next hour or so.
I scouted a couple of other locations and that evening walked up to Higger Tor. It was a relatively clear evening and shot until dusk. I also bumped into a couple of other photographers and chatted about the kind of things photographers talk about, cameras and the weather!
The following day’s workshop went very well with, unfortunately, periods of more cloud than sun! As we met, we were greeted with the sight of a lenticular cloud overhead. It was a great day and the group were really good fun.
The morning after, I returned to Higger Tor in the hope of a decent sunrise but the fog put pay to any landscape work. Places such as this, in this kind of weather, take on an otherworldly character and as I wandered amongst the heather and boulders, I took this image of a carrion crow.
The fog didn’t look as though it was going to budge so waterfall and woodland photography it was going to be! I drove to the north east of the Dark Peak region where, earlier in the year, I stumbled upon an incredibly photogenic area where, it seemed, not too many others were aware of and this is where I stayed for the next 3 hours. I was looking for something different other than the usual waterfall shots so I turned my attention to this pool which had “captured” fallen leaves that slowly swirled within. It was barely visible to the eye but with the aid of an ND filter and resulting shutter speed of 8 seconds, the motion was exaggerated. With images such as this, it really is a matter of trial and error to get the desired effect. How time flies when you are immersed in photography as I spent close to an hour and half shooting these three compositions.
I rarely change the WB, preferring to do this in the post-processing stage but, on this occasion, I tweaked the setting in cloudy to accurately replicate the colour of this dark, peat-stained water.
Wanting to reach another site some distance away, in time for sunset, I slowly walked back to the car and noticed the play of light on the rocks and water produced by the late afternoon sunlight on a distant hill side.
I then drove to Curbar edge and enjoyed an hour of glorious red light.
Once the sun had set, I laid on a soft patch of heather, with not a soul to be seen, and took in the silence. The sound punctuated, only, by a Train of Jackdaws flying overhead.
The following day was forecast as being cloudy so once again, into the woods I headed. This time it was to be Padley Gorge. The colours of the beech were amazing and I spent an enjoyable few hours shooting foliage and waterfalls.
On my final morning, with clear skies forecast, I visited Mam Tor which has wonderful views across the Hope Valley. I arrived in the dark, stars overhead and walked to the summit full of optimism. But, as dawn broke, I breathed a heavy sigh as the landscape was clothed in heavy fog. I stayed an hour in the hope it would clear but alas, it never did completely.
I headed back to the car and began the drive to the campsite to pack up when I noticed this view. I was drawn to it by the graphic lines of the stone walls and subtle shades of autumn colour. A nice end to a thoroughly enjoyable and productive trip.
I will be leading a 2 day workshop in Autumn next year to the Dark Peak region, taking in some of the places mentioned here. If you would like to attend, please register your interest by contacting me at email@example.com or tel: 07939 117570. Numbers will be limited to just 6 participants.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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