Fifty Shades of Grey in the English Lake District

The English Lake District is a favourite part of the British Isles for many people, the rolling countryside, rugged fells dotted with attractive mountain tarns, picturesque villages and of course lakes. Regardless of the time of year, or conditions it has a special appeal, but parking up in Ambleside with a heavy drizzle falling it didn’t seem too promising. As the primary aim was to photograph the tarns and fells, prospects appeared particularly bleak.

Reflections in Blea Tarn in the Langdale area of the English Lake District in Cumbria on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Blea1408143 blea_tarn

Reflections in Blea Tarn

“Photography is often about being in the right place, at the right time”

Most visitors to a destination are seeking perfect weather, clear blue skies, a gentle breeze, possibly the odd fluffy cloud drifting across the sky. Conditions which are likely to provide an equally perfect sunset, enjoying the view as the sun sinks behind a distant horizon from a beachside bar, or slowly retreating below the rugged skyline of a mountain ridge. However, it’s not always possible to enjoy such conditions, at times the heavens open, and the rain hammers down, the wind can blow so strong it is difficult to remain standing, or the sky is just grey, dull and uninspiring.

Lone tree near Thirlmere in the English Lake District, Cumbria, United Kingdomon Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes140798 thirlmere

Lone tree from one angle

Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick, Cumbria in the English Lake District dates back to the Neolithic period or Bronze Age on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes1408190-Iain_Mallory_Hel14015231 castlerigg_cumbria

Castlerigg near Keswick

‘Poor’ conditions however, can be favourable for photographers. Pure blue skies seem boring in images, and the harsh light of a midday sun is usually avoided. Rolling or low-lying mist can add drama to a scene, crashing waves are often spectacular, and of course a winter wonderland under several feet of pure white snow can be particularly stunning.

Lone tree near Thirlmere in the English Lake District, Cumbria, United Kingdomon Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes1407998 thirlmere

Another view of the moody lone tree

Photography is often about being in the right place, at the right time, capturing that instant which tells a story, portraying a scene perfectly. The best chance of achieving success is to live near the place, enabling the photographer to visit when suitable conditions occur. Those not fortunate enough to live within easy travelling distance will need to pay close attention to weather forecasts and be ready to travel when the conditions are right. Travelling photographers often just need good fortune, arrangements were probably made months in advance, and the weather will be down pure luck.

Sheltering from the rain in Ambleside’s famous “Apple Pie” café however, it did not appear that luck was on our side. I was visiting with fellow photographer and regular contributor to this site Alison Bailey, and the following day did not seem anymore promising either.

The boathouse at Pooley Bridge, Ullswater in the English Lake District, Cumbria on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes1407963 pooley_bridge

The famous boathouse at Pooley Bridge

“like a spectral fog from a horror b-movie”

Starting out early at the iconic Pooley Bridge boat house on the shores of Ullswater, the sky was a flat, dull grey only punctuated by the occasional darker cloud. When the conditions aren’t exactly ideal for landscape photography, the challenge is to find landscapes which suit the prevailing weather, or something else of interest to point a lens at.

After concentrating on a lone tree in a misty valley for nearly an hour, we visited the much photographed jetty on Derwentwater before finally heading to Castlerigg Stone Circle to capture huge, dramatic, dark grey, almost black brooding clouds at dusk over the Neolithic stones. In the meantime, I’d managed to grab some images of a host of garden birds feasting on the feeders of a hotel, and some long exposures at a nearby set of waterfalls.

Finding some interesting images became an exciting challenge, some worked, some didn’t, but the search became fun in itself. Shooting the lone tree from every possible angle of interest, as a slow-moving mist flowed down from the surrounding fells looked especially moody. The low clouds slowly creeping, edging ever closer to the valley floor, swirling around the buildings of local stone, and around the isolated rocks, and trees, flowing over crumbling dry stone walls, and climbing over stiles like a spectral fog from a horror b-movie.

Close ups of fallen trees, concentrating on the patterns and texture of the bark, or patches of soft moss contrasting with the rough ridge like contours of the tree, nature; the ultimate designer.

Lone tree on the shores of Derwentwater in Borrowdale Valley in the English Lake District, near keswick, Cumbria on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes1408085 derwentwater

The quest for lone trees

This search meant a long day, and it was a couple of tired, and hungry photographers which returned to our secluded cottage at Hall Hills, near Dalston. There was plenty of animated conversation during dinner, while checking the images captured, and while researching potential locations before we retired, hoping for more favourable conditions the following day.

Waking up to a bright, clear morning with wispy clouds, it seems I might have greater favour with the weather gods than many might imagine. The clouds thickened but the favourable conditions and our research led us deep into the Langdales, soon standing next to the crystal clear, mirror-like waters of Blea Tarn. The surrounding fells reflected perfectly in the still water, almost like an oil painting, the bright sun occasionally breaking through the dark clouds turning the lower slopes of the fells a golden colour. In the calmest corner of the tarn a thin film of ice was still in place, despite the signs of spring everywhere, threatening it’s fragile, crystalline existence.

Meandering slowly through the Langdales, stopping when a suitable scene presented itself, often waiting for angry-looking clouds to part, or drift over the fells providing deep shadows, contrasting with the stark landscape of the rugged fells.

“nature mastering the many shades of grey”

Eventually arriving at Loughrigg Tarn as the sun began to sink behind the highest peaks, depriving the tarn of it’s life giving warmth, until the small, secluded lake almost seemed drained of any hues. The stark black silhouettes of leafless trees reflected in the still waters of the colourless water, while bulrushes waved slowly in the slightest breeze. It was a moody scene which contrasted perfectly with the scenes from earlier in the day, and was an ideal climax to our trip.

Robin redbreast in the Borrowdale Valley, Cumbria near Derwentwater in the English Lake District  on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes1408143

A cheeky character

The film “Fifty Shades of Grey” was released the weekend we visited, tickets for the premier in Keswick had apparently sold out within minutes. It somehow seemed appropriate, as the Lake District had surely presented every possible hue during the last few days, nature mastering the many shades of grey far more effectively than anything portrayed in a film.

Loughrigg Tarn near Ambleside in the Langdales, English Lake District, Cumbria on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes1408405-Iain_Mallory_Hel1401523111a loughrigg_tarn

Loughrigg Tarn; a natural mirror

During the three days spent in the Lakes, we may not have experienced the National Park in all its moods, but we’d been treated to several sides of its character. It’s not merely about grabbing an image of a subject or destination at their best, or only taking picture postcard images. Stories are usually complex, many details telling a complicated story, capturing these details, and showing every facet of the character is part of the appeal of photography.

Reflections in Blea Tarn in the Langdale area of the English Lake District in Cumbria on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_Lakes1408288 blea_tarn

Blea Tarn; another of nature’s mirrors

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Comments 11

  1. Tess Travels

    I have so wanted to go to the Lake District in England so long as I defintely think that region of the continent is sorely overlooked by many tourists, especially my fellow Americans. For the record, looking at these pictures was much more entertaining than that movie was, I walked out halfway through!

  2. Aijika

    You make me happy for this photos. You have an incredible Great skill in photograhpy,
    All angles are awesome! for me, i want to improve my skills in photography
    and i’ll wait for your next adventure.
    Thanks 🙂 you inspired me to do my desire.

  3. Rojalin Das

    I love the images you have clicked. You have truly spoken that photography is often about being in the right place at the right time. Your incredible great skill about photography and the way you have written minutely about images is great learning for others. Once again hats off for your beautiful pictures.

  4. Sofia

    Your shots of the lone tree were among the prettiest I’ve seen.. and I do think the dark sky and the fog added the drama. I do love your every shots in here; the bridge, the mirror shots of the Blea Tarn and of the Loughrigg Tarn, and the lovely bird.
    A very magical place they have become.. magical and mysterious.

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