A weekend of Landscape Photography in the Lake District – Castlerigg, Derwentwater, Keswick, Ullswater and Red Squirrels!

Sunset at Castlerigg Hall Campsite

As it has seemed to turn into a bit of a tradition over the past few years, in the middle of April I ventured off for my annual landscape photography trip to Keswick in the Lake District. As last year I was meeting up and camping with a few photographer friends for what would hopefully be a great weekend of landscape photography and socialising. Unfortunately, after a dry spell, the weather forecast wasn’t looking great for the weekend we had chosen. So would it be worthwhile, or just a washout?

As I left my home in Leicester and drove up to Castlerigg Hall campsite early Friday afternoon I passed through a myriad of varying weather conditions, from bright sunshine, to rain and even a small amount of hail, but as I arrived near Keswick the sun had come out, and left me and the other guys who were already setting up their tents with glorious sunshine.

I got to work erecting my tent, and once it was up I joined the other guys around the table for a well earned beer whilst we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. It was pretty obvious that there was no photography on the agenda for that evening!

Just as the sun was starting to set the skies lit up, and me, Mark and John quickly grabbed our cameras to see if we could make the most of the setting sun and grab something from the campsite.

Glorious sunset through the trees at Castlerigg

The photograph above and the one at the top of this post were the best that we could manage. In my hurry to get a photo I’d picked up my Canon 7D and 100-400mm lens, leaving my 5D Mark II and more ‘traditional’ landscape lenses in the car.

After the sun finally set, it was back to the barbeque whilst we waited for the last of the stragglers to arrive. Then, once they had and we’d enjoyed a few more beers and a bit of banter it was time for an early night, as sunrise was scheduled for just after 6am and so we had to be up at 5am to get ready and set off.

5am came soon enough, and after a quick wash, getting dressed and meeting up with a few weary looking faces we got into the cars and headed down to the banks of Derwentwater. We’d visited this location last year, but were met with dark, colourless skies. This year we were hoping for a nice sunrise…

After taking a walk around the area, I eventually settled at the same spot I had last year – there’s just something about the viewpoint there that works for me. Getting out my trusty landscape kit of 5D Mark II, 17-40 lens and Redsnapper Carbon Fibre Tripod I composed my image, before getting my Lee 0.9 hard ND grad and 0.9 ND filters and fitting them to the front of my lens. The grad was to hold detail in the skies, and the solid was just to lengthen the exposure slightly, but not so much as to completely flatten the water.

Good Morning, Keswick

The results were pleasing – the sunrise was illuminating the bottom of a thick dark bit of cloud that was just approaching Keswick, which was currently basking under blue skies – the variance in the weather was all too plain to see from this photo.

After this, I ventured a little to my right, where we had carefully dragged a massive branch to use as ‘foreground interest’. The setup was the same again – 5D Mark II, 17-40 lens, Redsnapper tripod and Lee Filters.

Also Branching Out

After taking this photo, one of the other guys came running over to tell me he’d spotted a Woodpecker in one of the nearby trees. Grabbing my 7D and 100-400 lens I went off in search of it, but it had gone. Denied.

As we’d all pretty much finished by this point we headed off back to the cars. The plan was to head over to the Keswick side of Derwentwater and get some quick cliched photographs of the rowing boats before heading back to the campsite for breakfast, but just as I’d finished putting my camera bag in the car I spotted something out of the corner of my eye, something that delayed us a little bit… I quickly got my camera bag open and fitted my 100-400 to my 7D and quickly ran over to where I’d just seen the rare red squirrel. It was on the move however, so a chase ensued, until eventually I caught up with it taking a break on a tree. It posed for me for a good few minutes, so I took the opportunity to get a few photographs of this rare encounter…

Red Squirrel near Keswick

Once I’d got my photograph it was finally time to head back to the cars and go and photograph the boats. However, having shot the boats before, whilst the other guys set up their cameras around that area I kept on walking, to see if I could find something different to shoot.

As I approached Friar’s Crag I just decided to shoot the landscape naturally, no tricks, just the natural landscape. It was beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.

The Natural Beauty of Derwentwater in the Lake District

After a few photographs a bit further along the shore we finally decided it was time to head back to the campsite and get some breakfast.

When we had finished eating it was time to get back in the cars and head over to Ullswater. Having never been to Ullswater before I was really looking forward to visiting this lake and seeing what it had to offer, however as we got there the weather finally turned for the worst and we ended up with rain and a bit of sleet. Making the most of a bad situation, I hid under a tree and took a few photographs of a nearby boathouse.

The Boathouse – Ullswater

As the weather showed no signs of improvement, we decided to head over to Aira Force, a waterfall we’d seen signposted on the way down to Ullswater. After a steep climb we reached the top of the falls. Whilst the others took their photos relatively traditionally, getting in as much of the streams and rocks as they could, I took a different perspective.

Stone at Aira Force Waterfall near Ullswater

I fitted my 100-400 mm lens to my 5D Mark II and went in close on one of the stones in the water. Using my Lee 0.9 hard ND grad upside down, I managed to darken the whiteness of the falling water, allowing me to keep detail in it. A relatively short shutter speed gave a good sense of motion, whilst still showing the fluidity and path of the water.

Once I’d finished there, I ventured downstream in order to take a wider shot of the main part of the falls.

Aira Force Waterfall near Ullswater

Using my 17-40mm lens I took the shot above, however just as I was doing so the weather turned for the worst again and it started to rain once more. Sensing we were beaten we headed back to the cars again to meet up with the other guys who had gone ahead to the campsite.

The evening was once more photography free as we went to the George Hotel to enjoy the ‘Cow Pie Challenge’ (a whole kilo of beef wrapped in pastry – only one person from our group managed it) and then back to the campsite for a few more beers, a quick portrait session and then to sleep as we had another 5am start ahead of us!

Once again, morning came quickly, and we got dressed and headed off to a location I’d heard about, but never visited before – Tewet Tarn, near Castlerigg Stone Circle. This is a little hidden gem near Keswick, one which I’d hoped would provide us with some lovely sunrise photographs.

After we eventually found the public footpath allowing us access and climbed up to the tarn, we set up our cameras to shoot towards the sunrise. Again, I used my 5D Mark II and 17-40 lens along with my Lee 0.9 ND hard grad and 0.9 solid ND to take the photograph below.

Tewet Tarn Sunrise

However I wanted something a little bit different to the normal sunrise shot, so I quickly grabbed my camera and headed off to the other side of the shore. I knew that from where the sun would be rising it should glance the side of the mountains, and would hopefully provide a little depth to the scene.

I wasn’t disappointed. From this side of the tarn it gave me better views of Blencathra, and the rising sun illuminated the forming clouds over the mountain beautifully.

Happy with my morning’s work I went back to the car, and after a quick stop off at Castlerigg Stone Circle it was time to have breakfast, pack up our tents and head off back home, happy with the fruits of our labour.

The weather wasn’t the best for us, but we made the most of it, had a great weekend with a great bunch of guys and got some good photographs. Here’s to next year!

The photographs above are available to purchase from my gallery