Friday, 6 November 2015

Blencathra Long Weekend

Hoylake Photographic Society decided earlier this year to book a long weekend at Blencathra Field Study Center near Keswick in the Lake District as a bonding and photography session for club members, and having returned from the three night trip (30th October - 2nd November) it can be regarded as a resounding success.

Eighteen club members made the trip in several cars, some arriving early in the day to take the opportunity to use their cameras and suss out the landscape. Blencathra is an old building with lots of character. It has a youth hostel feel about the accommodation and the food was plain but very tasty and plentiful with a bar open from 9-11 pm. No-one could have asked for more of the service provided for the price.

Blencathra Field Study Center
Sitting high on a hillside with Saddleback to the rear, the Autumn mornings provided stunning views of a mist filled valley hiding the main A66 road to Keswick.
Keswick, Derwentwater and the A66 in early morning mist
On the first full day everyone split into small groups with their own list of places to visit and photograph. High on the list were local tourist attractions such as the Castlerigg Stones, Ashness Bridge, Watendlath Tarn, Honister Pass, Buttermere, Aria Force and Ullswater. Unfortunately, most of the day was lost to rain which is typical of the Lake District. Much better weather was to follow over the weekend.

Some keen members rose at dawn in an attempt to shoot the Castlerigg Stones in morning mist only to find fifteen other photographers with tripods had the same idea and it was impossible to get a clean shot without some-one photobombing the image. On one early morning visit the mist was so heavy that the stones couldn't be seen at all. Such dedication.

Ron Cooper

After breakfast it was usually off towards Ashness Bridge overlooking Derwentwater along with the general public and every other photographer in the Keswick area. Patience was needed to get a good shot, as some-one was usually walking into shot or setting up a tripod in front of you, but the waiting time was used to pass on some tips when requested.

Too many photographers spoil the shot
Barry Quatermass talking photography with Phil and Cynthia
Rob Devenish shows Ron Cooper his many phone apps
At times there were so many photographers at Ashness Bridge that they were up stream, down stream and even under the bridge.

Photographers above Ashness Bridge
Photographers below Ashness Bridge
And photographers under Ashness Bridge
Further along the steep road beyond Ashness Bridge we passed "Surprise View" which really had the "Wow" factor overlooking Derwentwater and onwards higher still to Watendlath Tarn and a lovely cafe serving builders strength tea in huge mugs and home made cakes. Most members had decided to spend a few hours photographing around the Tarn and waterfalls before moving on to Buttermere via Honister Pass after lunch.

Rob Devenish wearing the correct shoes
A macro workshop in session
Les is frond of ferns

One of the biggest problems of the trip was the short daylight hours during Autumn which caught out many of our members when trying to photograph Buttermere. By the time they arrived in mid afternoon the sun was already setting behind mountains providing very poor lighting conditions but Judith Dundass took a laid back approach to her landscape photography, whereas Gill Lewis just gave up and laid down.
Judith's relaxed approach to photography

The short daylight hours were handy in one respect, as it gave us the opportunity to practice some light painting in early evening. A trip was made after supper in total darkness to the local Castlerigg Stones as it almost guaranteed that no other photographer with a tripod would be there. It was an absolute hoot.

While the group were practicing light painting the ancient stones using torches and long exposures, George Evans decided to light paint the group using a head torch.

Bulb mode and counting
Light painting the Castlerigg Stones stopped at 9 pm because, as you'd expect, the bar at Blencathra opened and members occupied the lounge to talk about the day's photography. The approximately fifty students from Leeds University staying at the same time preferred the Games Room and television below the bar.

On the final morning we handed in our keys and bedding straight after breakfast and had just enough time for a group photograph taken by Anthony Clarke before setting off again in search of photographic opportunities in the area before making the trip home. Some of the members made another trip to Buttermere hoping for better light only to find the lake covered in mist. It was a photographers dream come true, plus The Fish Inn served a great steak.

A lot of thanks needs to go to Peter Watson and Les Pickstock for their hard work in arranging and organising this very enjoyable trip and the club will soon be working on its next organised trip to Malham Tarn Field Study Center in the Yorkshire Dales in late May 2016.