1. Peak District

    Just under 2 weeks ago I returned from a week in the Peak District, more specifically, the Dark Peak (northern) region, leading 3 workshops. A 2-day residential and 2 one-day workshops. Over all, we had good weather in that, prolonged spells of rain were absent. You never know what Mother Nature will throw at you here and, I guess, that is what draws me, and others like me, back there time and again. Also, as a “Southerner” it makes a welcome change from the flatness of North Kent! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore photographing the North Kent Marshes, but everyone needs a change, right?!

    Arriving 3 days prior to the first workshop gave me time to explore new locations and reacquaint myself with the familiar.

    View from Baslow Edge at sunset

    Sunrise. Higger Tor.

    Sunrise from Higger Tor.

    I stumbled upon this scene when returning to my B&B in Hathersage and, remember at the time, thinking it would make quite a pleasing black and white image.

    Burbage Brook

    Oak tree panorama

    Last leaves of autumn

    Whenever I lead workshops I rarely take pictures for my own purpose. Clients, after all, have paid me to spend time with them and be on hand whenever they require advice. I am forever amazed when told storied by guests of workshops they have attended where the photographer shows them how to set  up a picture then disappears, some distance away, to do their own photography or of a lottery system to decide who captures sunrise at the water’s edge and who stays in the minibus. Incredible!

    Having led countless workshops over the last 20 years (with, and thank you all, a significant percentage returning) you do learn when to approach and when to leave alone. No-one wants someone looking over their shoulder all the time and as a tutor, it’s important you give the attendee time to explore and experiment and then for you to guide and advise. It is on these occasions that I keep my eyes open for an image that I can set up, leave to discuss something with a client and return again. More often than not, it will be a close-up or detail and the image, below, is a case in point.

    Nikon D300, 28-105 @ 48mm, iso 200, 13 sec. f16, polarising and ND filter.

    I came across this wonderfully picturesque scene when scouting new places to take my guests, prior to their arrival. It’s always a great feeling when you happen across such a location!

    On the final morning of the 2-day workshop we were fortunate to have a very nice sunrise.

    Sunrise over Curbar and Baslow Edge

    That evening, with a relatively clear sky forecast, we headed to Higger Tor. Extremely strong winds forced us from our first-choice spot to the eastern end which provided a little more shelter. At least our tripods remained upright!

    Sunset. Higger Tor.

    Workshops gusts shooting the sunset.

    A very obliging herd of highland cattle provided great subject matter for the first group of my one day workshops.

    The morning after my final workshop, I arranged to meet one the guests for a sunrise shoot on Curbar Edge. It was a beautiful crisp morning and a great way to end a week in the Peaks.

    Curbar Edge

    Workshop guest, and friend, Phil Drury.

    I shall be doing the same again next autumn so should you be interested in attending, please contact me at rmcanis@msn.com to register your interest.

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  2. A week in The Peaks….well, almost!

    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?!  

    North Lees campsite, Hathersage.

    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. 

    View from Curbar Edge towards Baslow Edge, at sunrise.

    Silver birch in mist

    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! 

    Higger Tor

    View from Higger Tor

    Photographer on Higger Tor at sunset

    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.

    Lenticular cloud

    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 rmcanis@msn.com or tel: 07939 117570. Numbers will be limited to just 6 participants.

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  3. Peak District workshop

    Having arrived a couple of days prior to the workshop, I thought it would be good to check on a few new locations. One of which was a stream with quite a substantial waterfall. Well, substantial it was not due to the dry weather we had been experiencing. It looked pretty pathetic and certainly didn’t warrant any pictures but in autumn and after heavy rain, I’m sure it would be a gem!Well worth a look when I return. One of the locations which I take my clients to is Curbar Gap which aside from 2 stunning edges, Curbar and Baslow Edge, there is a marvellous stone-walled National Trust site at it’s base. I arrived at dawn in the hope of getting a sunrise shot of Baslow Gap which, with clear skies and a sharp frost, looked promising, only for the clouds to roll by and give me seconds of red light. 

    Baslow Edge

    Baslow Edge

     From here I walked down to it’s base to shoot the stone walls, taking advantage of Nikon’s self-timer function!

    Curbar Gap

    The other place I wanted to check-out was Derwent Edge. There didn’t seem to be a “short-cut” to the top so after a fairly lengthy trudge with backpack and tripod, I found myself looking over the most exquisite view.  I arrived a couple of hours before sunset to familiarise myself with it and decide upon a suitably photogenic outcrop.

    Hurkling Stones

    Hurkling Stones, Derwent Edge.

    As is so often the case with this kind of work, you spend long periods of relaxation and contemplation waiting for the light, only to dash around like a blue-arsed-fly when it’s at it’s optimum!

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