© Simon Owens. 2015 

Haystacks - From Winter to Summer

25 Jun 2018

Buttermere & Crummock Water, Nikon D610 with Tamron 70-210 f4 


I have always preferred being in the mountains in winter, mainly as I have always felt uncomfortable climbing in the heat having turned around much more in climbing mountains during summer than I have in winter. I can recall feeling too hot, sweaty and soaking through from the climb, but something has changed. I think firstly I am enjoying being back in the mountains again, reigniting my passion for the views up high. But secondly, I think the effort during winter has given me my mountain legs back. I am definitely feeling much fitter and stronger carrying my overnight kit and camera equipment and even though we are currently experiencing a very hot few weeks, I've not felt too uncomfortable with my approaches and I have enjoyed being in the mountains during summer for a change.  


With the summer solstice being this week and long nights, I have been keeping an eye on the weather with the hope of high pressure, high cloud and a chance of sunshine. This week is certainly not disappointing so far with temperatures into the high twenties, and chances of it rising even higher. With the weekend approaching I opted for an overnight on Haystacks the day after solstice. It offers plenty of opportunities for photography, with 360 degree views over looking Buttermere to the West and Great Gable to the South east. With summer sun setting and rising very high on the compass degrees this is an ideal location for a double chance on the Great Gable mountain range, it lights up its northern face at both times of the day. So the plan was being high up on the fell to catch the warm light for my main shot, with a secondary plan of a small tarn just past Innonimate Tarn. Arriving a bit later than hoped, the light was changing fast and so did the plans so as to catch the last of the light . The first shot you can see if of Buttermere and Crummock Water taken from little round how, which was on the chosen route to Haystacks and just after Dubs Hut. it was hard not to stop, even though I really wanted to be up higher it would have been quite difficult to have gained the height without running the whole way, which wasn't something I really wanted to do and rather than chasing the light I worked with it. We had already briefly stopped at the hut to capture the side lighting on the mountains before it went and decided to stay around here before hiking up to camp for the night. 



 Nikon D610 and Tamron 70-210 f4. 


The views from our chosen campsite were amazing, I opted for my Bivvi Bag on this trip as there was no chance of rain through the night and it is a much lighter choice than the tent. Besides,  I can lie in my sleeping bag and look at the views if I select my site carefully and the spot we chose on Haystacks had a great view over Buttermere. Unfortunately, on this occasion I didn't take any photos from the evening as I opted for an early night with the alarm set for 3:30 am to begin to prepare for sunrise. 


Sunrise was very intense, with bold colours and extremely high dynamic range. Taking photographs into the light was proving difficult of the central and northern fells and I calculated that the range was somewhere over 20 stops difference from sky to shadow, so I opted for plan b instead and dropped down to the tarn in the hope of side light on Great Gable. I just managed to capture a couple of brief moments of light, then it was gone with mid cloud beginning to form. 





In planning this shoot I used the following methodology:- 


1. Pre planned the shoot by visiting the location multiple times on day hikes, taking some shots of the area to get a feel for compositions. its always good to have a feel for the area, but not essential in my opinion. Although I have achieved better photographs when I do this as in my above write up we arrived late, had I not known the area I may have made some different choices or not known of other view points.  


2. Research other photographers work from the area, Innominate Tarn is a very popular landscape photography location. It is worth looking to visualise the area and to avoid the popular compositions if you wish. I opted for this and looked for alternatives, settling on the smaller tarn. 


3. I used Photographers Ephemeris, which is an App on my mobile phone to work out the degrees of the rising and setting sun and visualise the direction. Once on location I used these bearings with a compass to see exactly where the sun will rise. 


4. Weather checking the days leading up to the shoot, this is best for when you have flexibility. If you have a planned week or weekend then you are at the mercy of mother nature, but you can still plan your locations. I use the Mountain Weather Information service and the Mountain Forecast website for better weather predictions than the Met, it considers the variables at altitude and taps into the weather stations on the mountains for live information. The second site is my favourite site. App wise, I use the Clear Outside App that gives you the cloud cover prediction at low, mid and high points, wind ,rain and dew point predictions which are all useful for landscape photography with it mostly being about the weather and light. 


5. On location I also use the App Photo Pills that gives live planning for the sun, moon and Astro locations as well as useful tools such as Depth of Filed and exposure calculator. Useful to see when and where the sun will appear whilst on location. 


6. Knowing what equipment to take, on this occasion I knew I needed a long lens and I have recently purchased the Tamron 70-210 f4, which is an amazing lens that captures so much detail and sharpness. With such big files on the panoramic work this is definitely a requirement as images can be blown up very large at print. Also, it saves on weight knowing what you have planned and require, why carry the extra lenses. Although on this occasion I did also pack the 18-35 mm, but that was it other than my camera. Additionally, planning what overnight kit to take, what tent, sleeping bag, food and all that I need to be comfortable. 


7. Finally a sense of adventure and not being too caught up in the images, its also about being out and about on the mountains and if I've not come away with a good photograph its likely I have had a great day in the hills regardless. More often than not I will come away empty handed, planning certainly helps a lot. Considering how much hard work it is to get to mountain locations it certainly pays to plan. just imagine, if I have visited a location one or two times and explored the area well, then continue to visit until I capture the image I want or the very best I can get out of a particular location I may have walked a route several times. For example my image of Sprinkling Tarn at winter was 3-4 winter seasons in the making with several cold nights spent in a tent, only once have I been that lucky where I waked up and bagged the best possible shot I can get first time. Nobody said mountain photography was easy.  


I will leave you with a few images that did not make it to the portfolio 







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