Finally it looked like my weekend off would co-incide with a promising weather forecast ! The Lake District was beckoning & location I've not visited before but it offered everything that gets me excited about photography....water , a lone tree & if I was very lucky , some good reflections . I had a vague idea of where I needed to park & how to get the Tarn & I had a new gadget to try out .......a Garmin etrex20x , a handheld GPS system . I cannot tell you just how bad my sense of direction is & it's closely matched to my inability to read a map ! So I kinda figured I try this device & see what happened .......hmmmmm .
Now , given that its good weather & a saturday in the school holidays I fully expected to be sat in endless traffic jams as I got closer to the lakes particularly as I was heading round one end of Coniston . I was really surprised as I motored along through quaint villages , past Coniston Water & along winding country lanes to my destination without getting stuck once , in fact I barely saw another vehicle - very odd !
I pulled in to the carpark around 4pm , it would have been earlier but I got a little distracted as I passed the bottom end of Coniston water & saw a few boats , a tree lined shore & with barely a breath of wind , some lovely reflections . Smothering myself with Smidge ( darn midges ! ) I spent a 1/2 hour wandering around looking for the perfect composition as I was in no real rush to reach Kelly Hall Tarn , sunset wasn't till around 9.30pm .
My plan was to wild camp on my own , being a bit of a scaredy cat this was going to be a big adventure for me but I had a back up plan ! I have the back of the car set up so i can , if I bottle it , kip in it & as it's just a short walk to the Tarn from the carpark I wouldn't need to get up much earlier for sunrise . I dropped a pin onto my cars location on the Garmin then dropped another on the Tarn , pulled my rucksack on & set off , following the direction on the garmin screen . It was lovely & warm ( warmer than the forecast had suggested it would be ) & after 10 mins of walking I began to wish I hadn't opted for lightweight but lined trousers ! After about 15 mins of walking through knee high ferns across decidely boggy ground I figured I wasn't heading in the right direction . I walked back up the road & tried again , clearing the GPS system & re-inputting the pins....same result ! I knew it was pilot error but couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong ...the penny dropped later that evening ! Thankfully a friendly local farmer appeared ( he'd probably been watching me going round in circles ) & confirmed the Tarn was where I thought it was so finally I was pointing in the right direction . A short walk down a farm track, through an old wooden gate & I was there ....along with the midges but the Smidge seemed to be working which was a huge relief .
Dan had phoned & as he was in the area he was going to join me , for which I was grateful as I was beginning to wander about the merits of camping on my own , I was sure I'd be safe but still had a nagging doubt in the back of mind .
My 1st view of the Tarn proved it was everything I'd hoped it would be , sheltered from the wind , a lone tree to one side , water lilies in bloom & views out across to the distant mountains . The only very slight downside wasI was one very happy bunny as I set off following a track up the side of the hil the large amount of reeds in the watr, spoiling the reflections but hey, can't have everything I guess ! l in search of a suitable spot to pitch 2 tents .After a few minutes I found a flatish area, far enough from the path that walkers wouldn't fall over us but still with views across the field to the Tarn & beyond . Keen to check out some compositions in readiness for sunset I dumped the rucksack , grabbed the camera bag & set off down to the waters edge just as Dan appeared .
After 30 or so minutes of mooching about , getting the lie of the land & deciding on my composition for sunset I fired off a couple of shots ,making the most of the flat calm water & fairly decent sky . There are 2 trees at the Tarn on almost opposite sides - on a clock face they would be at roughly 2 & 6 , the tree at 2 was the obvious Lone Tree shot as , positioning the camera carefully , you can get a simple but effective image across the water with a reflection & distant hills behind the tree adding some balance to the scene . The tree at 6 however is another matter altogether ! I suspect it would be easier in winter with snow on the hills surrounding the tarn which would allow a bit of separation ...frustrating as it has a lovely shape , but hey , work with what you have .
Happy with my choices I headed back up the hill to the chosen camp spot with Dan & we set about putting the tents up & brewing a cuppa whilst we waited for sunset to arrive . The ground was fairly flat but dotted with tufts of heather & mounds of moss which meant a truly flat area wasn't happening but as moss & heather are quite squishy I wasn't too concerned . A small battle with the tent poles ensued ( I always get the big one wrong ! ) but eventually it was up & useable ( just ) if a bit on the squiff . A short walk across the field bought us to a beautiful view down through the valley with Coniston Water sparkling in the early evening light , I'd love to get a shot from that vantage point but , for me at least , the scene needed more clouds & detail in the sky to make it work as vista image . Back to the tents for some food , a natter & a little more waiting , keeping a watchful eye on the sky , ready for the moment the color would start as the sun started to set . I'm not very good at BIG landscapes , I prefer the more close up shots & reflections but I decided to give it a go tonight & try something out of my comfort zone .
I set the tripod up a little way down from the tents using a few rocks as foreground interest as they seemed to lead your eye down to the Tarn & on to the layers of rolling hills beyond . The sun was setting almost behind me so I knew ( well , hoped ) the view in front of me would light up . The color started , soft pastel pinks , purples & muted reds lighting the clouds above the distant hills , beautifully soft light bathed the Tarn & surrounding fields & I pressed the remote to trigger the camera . 2 second shutter speed , f16 , manual white balance , iso 100 & a soft grad .6 ND filter . The sunset continued so I changed the composition slightly , always worth trying a couple of angles I find especially when the colors & soft light are lingering .
A bit of a jog down the hill & I tried for another composition , this time shooting straight in to the sun as it dipped below the hills giving some strong bands of color which reflected perfectly in the Tarn . I'm not a big fan of shooting in to the sun , can't seem to master it , I tend to end up with blown sky & silhouette'd foregrounds so I tried bracketing . Not entirely unhappy with the result but much preferring the 1st shot .
Finally the color faded , it was still beautifully peaceful & very mild & I really didn't want to go to bed but with sunrise at around 5am I needed some shut eye . We had hoped for clear skies to shot the Milkyway but cloud cover was heading in so that idea was knocked on the head . Dan & I sat round talking for a little while over a cuppa then tiredness took over & I turned in , even the sheep & birds had gone to sleep !
I woke just before my alarm was due to sound , sunrise was approx 04:45 so I'd planned to get up & out around 04:15 . I poked my head out of the tent & saw grey skies with very little detail in the clouds so decided there really wasn't any great rush to get up & promptly dozed off again .10 minutes later the alarm sounded & I could hear Dan stirring so figured I'd best get my backside in to gear & go see what I could make of the morning . 1st things 1st though , I need a cuppa ! The sheep were still asleep but the birds were welcoming the start of a new day & the air smelt clean , there really are few finer things than waking up outside in the country , it both invigorates & relaxes me .
I grabbed the camera & tripod & headed down to the tarn having 1st smothered myself with Smidge & with the sun rising over the hills above Coniston Water I set up by the 1st of the 2 trees , still not 100% certain the composition worked but determined to give it a try , nothing ventured nothing gained . I waited patiently for the color to start , the light was soft , perfect for photography but the scene needed some color & then the sky in front me started to glow , just slightly , nothing amazing but it added the punch the view needed . I waited a few more minutes hoping it hadn't peaked & then it really started to glow , almost as if there was a fire starting to burn beyond the hill .The color rose & reflections started in the Tarn so I took the shot & a couple more just for luck before the color started to fade . I quickly moved the set up to grab one shot of the tree on the bank , just catching the last few moments of color , job done .
The sun was now starting to peek out from behind the cloud bank so I wandered round to the other side of the Tarn looking for 1 last composition . Looking across the tarn from the other side gave a beautiful view over the small group of trees to layers of hills & mountains with fields in front of them . I struggle with what I class as BIG landscapes & this view was just that but I was going to try as I had a feeling that any minute the tops of the trees & distant hills would start to catch the light . & i was , for once , right ! Settled with the composition I only had to wait about 5 mins for the scene to come to life . The fields nestled below the hills caught the light 1st then the tree tops started to glow & I knew I had my moment , remote pressed , image captured & a perfect end to a cracking morning .