I'm extremely fortunate to have a friend of the family who owns a holiday chalet in the Lake District. Positioned between Keswick and Penrith in the north Lakes area this made for a fantastic base for some Lake District explorations at the beginning of November.
I had actually hoped to head up the week before I did because I wanted to catch some of the prime Autumnal colours and atmosphere and I spent most of that week at work cursing my luck that I couldn't go at that time. As it turns out I got thoroughly rewarded for my patience (albeit enforced), and because I missed half term I had a much easier drive and was generally quite alone on my travels.
Sunday 1st Nov:
With the alarm set for 5.30am I had a pretty average nights sleep, I often find when I know I'm getting up early for a reason I sleep badly. It's similar to knowing you have to get up to go the airport and you just can't miss the flight! So, after a night of tossing and turning I was actually quite happy to get going in the pitch black. I already had a solid plan for the morning, often I work this way and then have some rough ideas for where the day can progress to, this is usually fluid as the weather can dictate the best option accordingly, a balance of flexibility and patience often yields the best results.
I'd picked Ullswater as my Day 1 location as it was an area I knew a little already, you can't beat a bit of local knowledge when you're driving around dark lanes at silly times of the day! So, I had my first location in mind and it was at the shore line. I spent a good 90 minutes here watching the landscape light up slowly as the sun struggled to rise behind a fairly serious bank of cloud and fog. I actually got a couple of shots I was happy with here but they were earmarked for a privately commissioned piece of work so they can't currently be shared publicly, more on that next year!
Happy with this tranquil start I headed up Gowbarrow Fell towards the viewpoint at Yew Crag. This path ascends steadily and offers excellent view down Ullswater towards Glenridding and from the viewpoint you can see all the way up and down the lake in both directions. However about 2/3 of the way up the path I was conscious that the sun was finally managing to break through the cloud cover and I was treated to a pretty special few minutes of heavenly light as it ploughed across the lake.
When you're treated to a light show of this nature the challenge is keeping concentration enough to still make strong compositions, the temptation is to be slightly overwhelmed by what's happening and either shoot haphazardly or in some cases be frozen into in-action. It's the buzz of these moments that make 5.30am starts and dragging a heavy bag and tripod up hills all worth it!
The light continued to change and it was a pretty spectacular 20 minutes or so, although the main action lasted just 2-3 minutes. Energised by this fantastic scenery and with the day to day worries of normal life dripping away I charged on up to the main viewpoint. I spent some time here playing with different compositions but really the main excitement had happened, and deep down I knew it. So, after taking some time to imbibe the gorgeous views I headed back down towards the car.
After an early lunch (desperately needed after a 5.45am breakfast and some solid ascending and descending) I headed over to the other side of Ullswater to Hallin Fell. Even the drive around the lake is very picturesque and thankfully most of the half term crowds were probably heading back down the M6 so it was fairly quiet.
After locating the car park at the foot of Hallin Fell I kitted up and started up what is probably best described as a short but very steep ascent to the top. Hallin Fell has excellent views back over Ullswater and also towards the lesser known valleys of Martindale and Boredale (see below):
I spent a good 3 hours or so up Hallin Fell, in fact I even had a little snooze behind a cluster of rocks near the summit. Amazingly the temperature was between 17-21 degrees and the sun was blazing down, quite impossible to imagine in November! In fact I even got a tad sunburnt which seems frankly ridiculous. However, the clouds never completely disappeared and this led to some wonderful late afternoon light, especially as the sun neared the horizon of the peaks. The texture and depth on the fields below was wonderful as I looked down towards Ullswater, the remnants of Autumnal colour and with some leaves left on the trees it was really an excellent spot of weather for the day and I felt suitably gracious for the show.
Feeling more than a little guilty and smug after being treated to such warm and wonderful light I headed back to base. Time to eat, re-charge (batteries and feet!) and get ready for Day 2...
Coming Next Time: Day 2 - Buttermere & Beyond...