April 17, 2019
Cover photo by Simon Baxter.
When you think of England, your mind probably jumps to Big Ben or the Tower Bridge or the centuries of history the country holds but breathtaking landscapes? That’s not something you immediately associate with England unless of course, you know the country well. Hidden up in the North Western part of the country lies a beautiful little place called the Lake District.
Okay, it’s not so little. This National Park covers 2,362 square kilometers and showcases the country’s largest lakes, tallest mountains, and most stunning scenery. As you might guess, the Lake District is named after16 glacial lakes that lie in long ribbons among its fells, moors, and verdant valleys.
If you find yourself in England and craving some landscape photography, head up to this beautiful little corner of the country but be warned, it’s a popular place. To best avoid the crowds, plan your trip in the offseason. Winter makes for beautiful frosty images and you won’t have people ruining your shots!
Best of all, it's free! The Lake District is a National Park and there is no cost to enter. There are attractions within the Park that you will have to pay for should you wish to visit such as The World of Beatrix Potter, Windermere Lake Cruises and Honister Slate Mine to mention a few, but if you want to just admire the beauty of the Lakes then you can enjoy the area at no cost (except for parking in some areas).
We chatted with local Vallerret Ambassadors Lee Gale and Simon Baxter to get their best tips for visiting and capturing the magic of the Lake District.
LEE: There are sixteen lakes in the Lake District and many Tarn’s (small mountain lakes) each with many areas of interest around them. One of my favourite areas within the Lake District is the town of Ambleside that sits at the head of Windermere, England's largest natural lake. There are a variety of walks and hiking trails around Windermere (as well as the rest of the Lakes) varying from gentle walks around the lake to more strenuous hikes in the fells.
Other areas of interest around the Lake District are definitely places like Whinlatter Forest near Keswick and Grizedale Forest that is situated South of Hawkshead and both of these have lots to offer such as Go Ape, walking and Cycle trails and picnic & BBQ areas. If mountains are your thing, then take advantage of the fact that England only has four of them and they are very close to each other, the rest are classed as high peaks.
The four mountains are Scafell Pike (3208ft / 978m), Scafell (3164ft / 964m), Helvellyn (3117ft / 950m) and Skiddaw (3054ft / 931m). All of these mountains have hiking trails, but they have varying levels of difficulty and you should research them before going.
Photo by Simon Baxter
LEE: I still have a few of them to visit, but I’m not sure I can pick a favourite. Lake Windermere will always be somewhere I’ll go back to again and again, but each lake has its own points of interest. Buttermere has its Lone Tree, Derwent Water has Ashness Jetty and Ullswater has the Duke of Portland Boathouse, but there are amazing subjects to be photographed all over the Lake District.
LEE: Think about your composition and try to find some foreground interest like a rock of some vegetation coming out of the water. If you can’t find any foreground interest, try throwing a stone into the water to create ripples in the foreground or have someone stand in any negative space of the image to add balance. Reflections are also great for images of a lake, but they only look good if the water is calm. If you get good reflections, try adjusting your tripod height to best place them in the image and use a Polarising filter to help manage those reflections.
LEE: Some of my favourite places to shoot in the Lake District are:
Loughrigg Fell near Ambleside. From here you get amazing views in most directions including a stunning view of Windermere and if you’re lucky enough (I haven’t been yet) you may get to see a cloud inversion from here.
Buttermere Valley. This is a place where you can’t go wrong. The whole area around the lake is beautiful and you can go see the famous Lone Tree near the village end of the lake.
Keswick Boat Landings and Friars Crag are two locations very close together and the view over Derwent water is amazing. Hope for a nice calm day with the mountains reflecting in the lake or go for sunrise and hope for mist over the water and watch it burn off.
Aira Force is an amazing 70 ft high waterfall surrounded by beautiful woodlands with a stone bridge at the top of the fall. The grounds are owned by The National Trust so expect to pay for parking here.
Photo by Simon Baxter
LEE: With over 15 million visitors going to the Lake District every year, a lot of them being photographers of some level, you may find it hard to find a unique shot of any location within the Lake District...but I implore you to try! Whenever I visit a location, I refer to Google to see what the most popular shots of a location seem to be and then use that to look for something different. Try shooting different angles or using something in the foreground to frame your subject.
SIMON: One of the most exciting parts of photography for me is the exploring part - I love the feeling of discovering something, making a composition work and then enjoying the resulting image that feels unique, personal and creatively fulfilling. Exploring in the hope of finding something can feel counterproductive if you're not time rich, but I'd aim for just one photo that I'm particularly happy with. Strap on your walking boots, enjoy a hike and be open minded. There are still plenty of areas which see very few photographers.
LEE: It does rain quite a lot throughout the year due to its geographical position. Like with most landscapes in the UK, I prefer to shoot in late spring and autumn, but if you’re visiting for the first time, I would think about how you want the scenery to look and make your decision on what time of the year to visit based on that.
SIMON: If I can get the time then it would be in the autumn for the wonderful colour in the silver birch & bracken and with high hopes for a calm, crisp and misty morning. The Lake District can get very busy so I always avoid it in peak season and public holidays.
Photo by Simon Baxter
SIMON: I love being at the water's edge but lakes aren't something that I get the opportunity to photograph very often. I prefer to be exploring interesting woodland which the Lake District has in abundance. Having said that, I've enjoyed some lakeside shooting at Grasmere, Rydal Water, and Derwent Water - all three of these lakes have some interesting wooded shorelines and fantastic areas to explore nearby. If I had to pick one then it would be Derwent Water and the surrounding area.
What equipment would you recommend a photographer takes when visiting the Lake District? (clothing and camera equipment)
LEE: Dress appropriately for the time of year you’re visiting, but even in the summer months be sure to have some kind of waterproof coat with you. Have some good walking boots as the terrain can be quite diverse and also be sure to take a reusable water bottle with you if you are planning on doing some of the walks.
I’d recommend taking a few lenses (if you have the option) to shoot with varying focal lengths. I carry a 16-35mm, a 24-70mm, and a 70-200mm with me and this gives me a great range in just three lenses. You’ll probably want those wide vistas from the top of a fell, but you may also want to capture closer, more detailed images.
I would take a selection of ND filters if you like to shoot long exposures and Graduated ND filters a polarising filter to help balance the light in your images.
A good tripod is a must if you shoot long exposures and you may also want a remote shutter release trigger.
Having a torch with you is always a good idea as the Lake District doesn’t suffer from a lot of light pollution, so you can get some nice night sky images and you may want a torch to light up any foreground interest.
SIMON: My own photography isn't about location - they are typically anonymous woodlands. However, I'd look to take advantage of features and characteristics that aren't available to be locally such as steep fell backdrops, painterly white-barked silver birch, misty morning lakes. I don't look for anything too specific as I don't want to create expectation and visual constraints. I prefer to explore, experience the whole area and repeatedly visit any locations that I feel offered the most potential. I'd aim for one shot that captures the very essence of a specific location rather than dozens of slightly less successful images from a wider area.
Photo by Simon Baxter
Simon Baxter and Lee Gale are Vallerret Photographers focused on landscape photography. You can follow their work on Instagram or visit their websites.
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