Lake District trip 2017 - ditch the tripod!

It's been a while since my last post for various reasons - and a quiet summer for photography - but a week in the Lake District in autumn was just what I needed to get back in the swing of things.  This trip had two purposes - a) to take photos (duh) and b) to get to know more of the lake district for future shoots, having only been to a few valleys before.  I've learned that it's almost impossible to arrive somewhere and know the best places to shoot from straight away, and I prefer to do my own location research - through trial and error usually - because then I really get to know where I'm going and what can be seen from there.

I was hoping for some quiet autumnal conditions (and the tree colours that go with them) but that was out the door almost immediately, hitting as I did the remnants of hurricane Ophelia, which had nicely blown most of the leaves off onto the floor of the lake district!  With much of the coming weekend predicted to be stormy and wet (with storm Brian on the way too), I had to change my plans somewhat.

Adventurous family walking the beach at Silecroft, Lake District after Storm Brian

I initially based myself around the Coniston area, having planned a few reconnaissance walks around the lower fells there.  It soon became apparent that there would be little point venturing up the hills in the first few days, due to driving rain and high winds, so I make a quick decision to head out to the coast instead, since I fancied my chances of catching breaks in the weather from the comfort of the car, and because I just feel that overcast weather can still work well there.  I managed to get several hours of shooting in (and get pretty wet) - nothing amazing was happening the first day, but I took some shots like the one above which I thought would suit some moody B&W conversion later.

The weather eventually broke and, on a different day and different beach, things were looking up - I got some very nice evening light among the grassy sand dunes at Drigg.

Sand dunes at Drigg, Lake District during evening golden hour

After that golden sunset, the weather reverted to grey and mostly feature-less skies for the remainder of the trip, so I concentrated on taking walks up some of the north-eastern fells to get my bearings (none of those photos turned out well!) and following some small waterfalls up the hillside to see what compositions I could find.  They are one subject which can work perfectly well in overcast light and at midday (usually a time that I and many other photographers avoid like the plague).  There were enough autumn leaves on the ground to add a hint of colour against the dark rocks, and I found a nice scene further upstream from Aira Force.

Small waterfall (does it even count?) upstream of Aira Force, Lake District

I had a lot of fun searching out angles and compositions but I felt I was being dragged down (mentally and physically) by the 10 kg+ of camera rucksack and tripod I was lugging around.  So for the final day's trip, I junked the kit and just took my smaller camera and a solitary lens - no tripod or bag or extra layers. To be fair, the weather was settled, I parked nearby and I only ventured a small way from the car, meaning this was easy enough to do - not an option for a serious hill walk.  But I rarely leave kit in the car, preferring to take the 'big' setup wherever I can, so it was very refreshing to ignore the kit and, having no option to spend ages faffing around with a tripod, I could focus on trying lots of compositions.   Without said tripod, I relied instead on the knowledge that the IBIS system (stabiliser) in the camera was perfectly good enough to get me the approx. 1/10th sec I needed for a bit of water flow handheld (also helped by the low-ish light conditions, so no ND filters either).  Almost no shots taken this way suffered from camera shake, and the increased work flow eventually got me probably my favourite photo of the trip.  I wouldn't have got this if I'd have taken my main kit bag, as I just wouldn't have made it that far up the falls before giving up, so I'm glad I made the right choice.

Small, unnamed falls near Brotherswater, Lake District.  Taken handheld at 1/8th sec, f/7.1

Overall it was quite a good trip - another useful exercise in working with non-dramatic light (it's still welcome for next time though!) and learnt quite a lot about places to visit next time around.  Maybe winter - have always wanted to shoot some snow-topped peaks but they usually evade me.  Below are some of the other highlights from the week too.  Catch you next time!