We pulled in to the carpark at Buttermere Youth Hostel just after 10.15pm Thursday , I’d collected Andy around 7.30pm & the journey up had been uneventful and was filled with talk of the plans for the next couple of days & the shots we really wanted to get . The receptionist at Buttermere Yh was most helpful in sorting our room so we didn’t need to move when the others arrived & we set about unloading the car . At which point Andy realised he’d forgotten his tripod ! The next couple of hours saw Andy sending emails & messages to his long suffering wife & to Mark , who was arriving Friday ,which added more stress as there is no data signal out there & the Wifi signal was temperamental to say the least ! Midnight arrived & we turned in , Andy hopeful that he’d averted disaster .
The alarms went off at a little after 5am & bleary eyed we grabbed breakfast & headed out to the end of Buttermere Lake hopeful for a good sunrise . Mother nature decided otherwise & we had very fine misty rain so we settled for just drinking in the peace & tranquillity . Andy was a little relived about the weather due to his lack of a tripod & I felt a little guilty for taking a few shots , we couldn’t even share a tripod as his L bracket didn’t fit my tripod head .
I’d seen him doing little videos using his phone so we started chatting about them & he introduced me to You Tube…..So on the waters edge at Buttermere I did my 1st ever mini video & on returning to the hostel opened a You Tube channel . On each little trip I do I’ll be shooting some more & posting them , nothing deep , just my ramblings and thoughts from the day.
The rest of the day passed without much notice as we were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive .We were sharing a 6 bed room at the hostel & had the room key so couldn't venture too far but we managed a quick wander down to Crummock Water to visit the trees we'd seen previously . The skies were still grey & bland with fine misty rain hampering any attempts to take photographs , we did however find a likely spot for a wild camp (on a date to be arranged) so not a wasted afternoon at all . Rich & Adrian arrived around 3ish and we headed off to Parton , approx 1 hour away , where the others would be joining us in hopes of a sunset over the beach .
Parton beach is mainly pebbles and rocks , plenty of foreground interest when the tide is out but our timing was, as ever , slightly off & the tide was only just starting to go out so we didn't get to see the best of the rocks . No major drama as the sunset wasn't happening either ! Simon, Timmy & Anand rolled up a little later & Matt & Alf , who live local , joined us for a couple of hours as well . As the light started to fade the guys headed off to Castlerigg for some light painting & I headed back to the hostel in need of food & a shower plus an early night , though I doubted that would happen . The guys arrived back just before midnight , the mornings plan sorted out & alarms were duly set for 4.30am .
There was hope of catching a cloud inversion at Catbells but a last minute check on the weather made me doubt it would happen , plus I really didn't fancy trekking up the hillside in the dark so I opted to venture out alone whilst the guys headed there . I spent 10 mins in the carpark debating where to head to , Ullswater being 1st choice but eventually I settled on Blea Tarn in the hope of some stunning reflection shots....I just can't get enough of those mirror like reflection images :-) The drive to Blea took a little over an hour down some very narrow fun twisty roads where the only hazards I needed to be aware of were the sheep who, for reasons I don't quite get , decided that sleeping on the tarmac was far preferential to the grass verges !
I pulled in to the carpark a little after 6.30am , just 2 other cars already there and the dawn light was just starting to break through. I pulled my wellies on thinking the grass would be a tad wet , grabbed the camera rucksack & tripod & headed off across the road, through the gate & down to the waters edge . I discovered just how wet the grass was when I put my left foot down and promptly sank up to the top of my welly in mud , Hey ho !
I walked along the edge of the water looking for "the " spot , small rocks scattered outward in to the Tarn all in completely the wrong direction for the shot I was wanting ! On the plus side the water was completely calm giving mirror like reflections of the tree lined bank to my left & the mountain range in front of me( not sure they're strictly mountains but it's a close enough description ). Eventually I found what I was looking for & took my 1st shot of the morning , just before sunrise with lovely cotton candy clouds and soft bluey tinged light .
Today was going to be a good day :-)
& then the color started ,soft muted reds and oranges lighting the cotton candy clouds....just as I'd wandered off from my chosen spot ! I raced back along the shoreline, set the tripod up, framed the scene & took the shot , several shots in fact, then moved location slightly, reframed & took a few more . The peaks in the distance started to light up, just for a few minutes & this was the shot I'd been after, reframed, focused, held my breath & triggered the camera , GO IT ! I almost did a jig I was so happy :-) I glanced across the shore to my left & saw the sun starting to hit the hillside above the tree line , a quick recompose , 2 shots fired off & then the light was gone , it literally lasted a minute ! I was one incredibly happy bunny . Happy that I'd got what I'd come for I packed up & headed back to the car , it was around 8.30am & I figured the guy's would be heading to Keswick for around 10am so plenty of time for a steady bimble back down the twisty lanes .
Back at the car I flicked through "The Photographers Guide to the Lake District " , which I'd purchased from Rigu , a specialist photography shop in Ambleside - can't recommend them highly enough, superb customer service ! The book itself is a godsend when time is limited , loads of information on various top locations in the area . I spotted a place called Side Pike which seemed to offer big views across the valley & as it was just a little way up the road from the carpark in the direction I was heading it seemed rude not to pay a visit .
I parked at the side of the road just before the cattle grid , grabbed my bag & tripod & set off through the gate & up the hill hoping the candy floss clouds wold stick around till I reached the top . The 1st part of the path was muddy & rocky but that gave way quite quickly to just rocks & I had to concentrate on where I placing my feet as I still had my wellies on which gave very little grip ! Reaching the 1st plateu only took about 5 mins & gave pretty good views both down the valley across the Tarn & across Langdale in the direction I was heading in the car . The grassy areas were very boggy so I picked my way across to a rocky outcrop carefully trying to avoid sinking again , losing a boot was not option ! I found the spot I wanted , set the tripod down, popped the camera on complete with polariser & grad filters, framed up & fired off a couple of shots before the clouds decided to vanish . Mission complete , though I'm not sure I was at the top of Side Pike , I needed to head off to meet the guys & with the lack of phone signal I wanted to make it to Keswick before 10am.
I headed off along the lovely flowing , if somewhat narrow, country lanes , every turn revealing new scenes that needed photographing, rolling hills smothered in rust colored bracken , fields of green split by grey stone and slate walls & sheep ,lots of sheep . Cumbrian sheep like to lie in the road & are apparently so used to the traffic they don't like to move out of the way, they just lie there & look at you ! Eventually the phone signal came back & Andy rang to confirm he & the others were in a cafe by the carpark in Keswick, postcode was duly put in the satnav & I went back to enjoying the views . The road was lined with trees just on the cusp of their autumn colors , another week or so & they would be perfect yellows , oranges & reds & I could already sense a return visit would be happening later in the month . I rounded a corner & caught sight of a lake to my right, yet more reflections & I knew a detour was needed...the boys could wait :-)
As usual I wasn't entirely sure where I was but as I drove along the road I realised it was Rydal Water ( we'd planned to call here on the way home sunday morning ) but the reflections were so good I had to stop. The trees on opposite bank were again just holding on to their summer colors , the sky still had a few fluffy clouds & the sun was just breaking through, lighting up the grass between the trees. I settled for pulling in to a layby on the main road & taking a couple of shots from a viewing point as I couldn't see a simple way down to the waters edge, just 2 shots then back in the car & off to Keswick , I was much in need of a brew by this time.
The guys jaunt up Catbells had been worth the early start though the cloud inversion had happened ( there'll be other times for sure) , breakfasts had been eaten & a rough plan made for the rest of the day, head to Blea Tarn, then back for a trip up to the Bothy for sunset . I kinda put a small spanner in the works as on my drive in to Keswick I'd passed a lake with , yet again, mirror perfect reflections & , as we were going to be driving past it on the way to Blea then it'd be worth a stop if we could find a spot to park . I had no idea what the place was called but I'd noted on the way in to Keswick that parking was almost non-existent so Andy was lookout for likely spots. The 1st pull in was full so we continued on almost to the end when a layby , or so we thought, appeared on the left ! Dam , it was a no park area on front of some gates complete with a " no parking access needed " sign. Just opposite we spotted an area big enough for 2 cars, again in front of a gate but it didn't appear to have been used for some time so we figured , what the hell , worst that could happen was someone shouting at us to move the cars !
WOW , WOW......& WOW again, the view was incredible . It turned out to be Thirlmere (more info here: Thirlmere ) & I was in heaven . Even with the main road running along side the place was beautifully quiet , we were the only ones there & the reflections , oh my....have I mentioned the reflections at all :-) We all headed off to various points along the waters edge & spent a wonderful couple of hours snapping away & drinking in the atmosphere , it was so incredibly peaceful & calming .
We finally dragged ourselves away from Thirlmere and headed off toward Blea Tarn ,everyone in high spirits & the sun still shining ....life just doesn't get a whole lot better than this .
Traffic was a little heavier but the winding roads were still a pleasure to drive and we arrived at Blea carpark in around 45 mins , to find it full ! I pulled in to a small space right at the entrance , not ideal but it had to do . A few moments later a group of people arrived , pilled in to 3 cars & freed up enough spaces just as the others arrived . After a few minutes discussion & sorting of parking tickets we all headed off in different directions around the Tarn having agreed to meet back at the car park at 2.15pm .
I followed the path towards the wood & went for a wander along the far side of the tarn hoping to find some Funghi and finally get some use out of the Macro lens ( Tamron 90mm ) . As usual I got a little distracted by those glorious reflections & wandered down to a very boggy area at the head of the Tarn & set up for a shot I'd using a few rocks as the lead in and waited for the light to hit the hills at the other side of the tarn .Thankfully I still had my wellies on as the bog was deeper than I thought....I ended up perched precariously on a mound of grass , tripod legs splayed out to reach 3 other dryish spots, rucksack near my right foot getting damp & filter pouch by my left foot also getting damp . The gentle breeze was pushing the clouds across the sky quite nicely so I opted for a long exposure shot using the Lee 10stop & hoped neither I nor the tripod would sink whilst doing it ! Eventually , after several tries I got exactly what I wanted so packed up & headed back along the path, over the little wooden bridge & in to the woods .
I found a few funghi in the boggy areas near to the shore line and a few growing up a tree but they were a little past their best so I took a slow stroll back to the car to meet up with the others .The macro could wait till I found something in perfect condition .
Everyone was back at the cars a little after 2.15pm , a brief chat & we headed back to base for a cuppa & chat about the plan for sunset and hopefully catch up with Phil & Lynn . Phone signal in the lakes is poor to non existent so the last message we'd sent said we'd see them at the car park below the walk to Warnscale Bothy around 4.30pm . Back at the hostel a long discussion ensued , the short version is we decided ( under advice from Adrian ) not to go to the Bothy, the reasoning being the light would possibly not hit the hillsides . I left the guys deciding an alternative venue & whizzed up the road to see if Phil & Lynn were at the car park . They were indeed so we had a bit of a natter & they followed me back to the hostel where they guys were already in the cars waiting for us , Waterhead had been chosen & off we went .
Traffic was heavier than expected & it became obvious that getting to Waterhead in time for sunset was going to be a real push . A quick about turn & we headed to Derwent in search of the Gate & Fence that leads in to the water . & we found it but alas the water level was too low for the image we all wanted so I wandered off to the other fence & went for a long exposure as the sunset didn't particularly inspire . Frustrating but that's the way the cookie crumbles with photography & the weather :-)
After a bit of a gossip a few went off in search of something to eat in town & Andy & I headed back to the hostel for a shower , food & to figure out plan for the next morning .The others arrived back & we retired to the lounge area to natter & have a few beers ( & no mention of snoring was made at all :-0 ) Decisons made regarding sunrise we headed for bed around midnight again , Andy & I were heading back to the top end of Buttermere & the others to the bottom of Buttermere .
The alarm went off far too soon & we all sprang in to action, actually we all fumbled around , bleary eyed & still half asleep ! Goodbyes were said at this point as we all planned to head for home at differing times , always sad to say goodbye when you've such a fab weekend....In Rich's words.....great company, great weather = great photo's :-)
The clouds were light and fluffy again as we stood on the bank of the Buttermere filled with hope & anticipation of what would happen this morning . I found my spot & fired off a few test shots to help me settle on a composition I was happy with . Andy wandered off further along the waters edge but I could still hear him doing his little vlogs ,all going really well until he dropped his phone in the water ! It seems iPhones are remarkably water proof.....
We waited patiently & then the sky started to glow just above the hill tops , finally , it was happening ! I shouted excitedly to Andy who still doing his vlog.....
Just a few moments later the light started to move across the hill tops & the clouds began to turn a lovely pastel pinky color .I snapped a few shots , moved positions & took a couple more then swopped lenses....I'd started with the Nikon 17-55 but wanted a wider view so popped the Sigma 10-20 on .I hated this lens when I 1st bought it but it's grown on me over the years , I guess I've learnt when & how to get the best results from it . I was really hoping the light would drop low enough to light the tree line but It didn't quite happen , so having taken all the shots I wanted I just stood & drank in the view for a while . All to soon Andy appeared so we headed back to the hostel to check out , neither of us really wanting to leave .The visit wasn't quite over as we'd decided to pay the Bothy a visit , just as a reccy for a future visit .
We loaded the car & headed to the car park at Gatesgarth Farm to start the walk to Warnscale Bothy , it was around 10.30am & there was already 1/2 dozen cars parked up .The sun was shining ,the breeze was light & we were in high spirits . The 1st part of the path was a gentle incline along & around the base of the hill which I belive is Fleetwith Pike , to our right was a small copse, to our left the slate & green hillside . We lost the path on several occasions but eventually picked up the main trail & started the climb , a series of small waterfalls with startlingly clear water on the left grabbed my attention & I made a mental note to stop on the way back down . The path was littered with loose stones & rocks which made for an interesting walk but the views making it worthwhile . Around this time the sky decided to empty itself of clouds so about 3/4's of the way up I made the choice to stop & let Andy continue on to find the Bothy . I found a comfy spot and just looked out across the valley to Buttermere lake & Crummock water behind it , the view was breath taking with the sun now high in the sky .
I'd lost sight of Andy so took a short walk back down to one of the water falls to try for a long exposure .The idea was good though it didn't quite translate in to a photo , but it passed a pleasant 1/2 hour while I waited for Andy. Eventually he appeared , all bubbly with excitement that he'd found the Bothy & we immediately started making plans for a return trip, hopefully in the winter . This is Wainwrights country & Andy is a fan so we nattered about him on the way down & passed a family who were following one of his walks, there's more info on his books here : Wainwrights Guides
So, another successful trip drew to a close & we're already planning the next visit, somehow the Lake District gets under your skin .