Autumn colour in Borrowdale

It’s been a long, hot, dry and sunny summer in the UK; the best for many a year.  But long days filled with dust and haze make it my least favoured time of year for photography.   In fact, the camera stayed in its bag for the whole time!  With Autumn approaching and in September I returned to Dartmoor but it was a week of high winds and road-level clouds all thanks to the remnants of US hurricanes making it across the Atlantic.  Nothing came from that trip πŸ™

A few weeks later and with Autumn in full swing I thought I’d try a trip to the English Lake District, staying at the Bridge Hotel in Buttermere.  The Bridge is a lovely traditional family owned hotel with much history; its somewhere I’ve stay before on at least two occasions.   In the bar at the back of the hotel are five or so large landscape photographs of the area framed and hung on the walls.  They’ve been there for many a year but the colours still look great πŸ™‚  One of these day’s I’ll ask who the photographer(s) were as there is no indication on the frames.  Shame.   The Bridge is slightly cheaper than many of the Borrowdale hotels and it’s only a short drive over the Honister pass.  The Buttermere & Crummock Water area is also much, much quieter than Borrowdale and being a school holiday week it made a stay in the Lakes much more pleasant. My thanks to all the staff at the hotel, especially for receiving a truck wheel after mine was stolen shortly prior to the trip!

BorrowdaleAt this point let me just remind readers that you can click on the images to view a larger version.

I do think that I’ve managed to upset some weather gods tho as again it was predominately a cloudy week, but unlike Dartmoor there were great colours that made up for the dull weather.  In fact the first good day of the trip was the day I left!  Just my luck πŸ™  Several nice images did come from the week tho, nothing I’d call special, just nice.  Sufficient reason to return, perhaps next year, with the hope of better light.  But I’d also like to see what snow does to the landscape.  Trees without leaves, the ground covered in a simplifying duvet of white and distant rocky outcrops could look quite dramatic.  Add a little colour too, and wow… πŸ™‚  O’ to be a painter rather than a photographer sometimes!  Reality is such a pain!

So, Wastwater aside, Buttermere area does seem a reoccurring theme with me and many trips have been made over the years!  Whilst writing this post I found another three my site:

So, perhaps the title for this post should be ‘Buttermere yet, yet again!’ but as its mostly about Borrowdale that doesn’t seem right.  During Christmas 2017, I did much planning for the forthcoming year and one of the projects I settled on was to photograph Borrowdale in the following Autumn.  The intention was to get off the beaten tourist tracks and explore something new, new too me anyway and that’s what happened.  It was a real pleasure parking at a National Trust car park only to head off in the opposite direction to everyone else, find some small, moss covered stile/gate and cross into new, unexplored territory.  It should have come as no surprise to find the occasional photographer crouched behind a tree or bushes but as the area was so large, what photographers were about, didn’t get in each others way.  Well I don’t think so. πŸ™‚

BorrowdaleDespite it being a school holiday week and towns such as Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick being rammed with people, away from the tourist hot-spots was really very quiet.  Just photographers and dog walkers!  O’ and occasional shouts of ‘Climbing’, ‘Off belay’, ‘Safe’ emanating from the crags.  One pair of climbers were obviously having a hard time hearing each other, but away from the crag every shout was heard clearly!

So, getting back to Borrowdale.  As it happens I recognised a few off the views from the work of others whilst rooting about in the woods, so I certainly cannot claim new and un-photographed territory.  Worst luck!  I doubt whether there is anywhere new and un-photographed in the Lakes these days.  Borrowdale is, of course, synonymous with Castle Crag.  It’s the smallest summit in the famous series by Alfred Wainright and he described the wooded area between it and the River Derwent as β€œthe loveliest square mile in Lakeland” and I think I agree!  It really is a lovely place.  In addition to dominating the Southern end of Derwent Water and Borrowdale, Castle Crag has a wonderful, almost conical shape when viewed from the North.  Including Castle Crag in some photographs was something I had specifically wished to do and, as it turned out, it wasn’t at all difficult!  It was actually quite hard at times to shoot such that it wasn’t in the frame!  As you can see, it made it into this post too πŸ™‚

BorrowdaleCommon to nearly all the photographs from the week are the grey clouds as can be seen in this post but sometimes there was a little sunlight to lift the colours which made all the difference.  To be honest the Autumn colours were probably a little past their best during the week but speaking with a more local photographer Autumn has been really short this year.  Just two weeks previously the leaves were still green.  Certainly by the end of my week there were noticeably fewer leaves on the trees than at the start of the week and there was always a steady trickle of leaves falling.  Most of the red colours had gone but there was still a great variety of yellow, gold, green and, yes, the bracken really was a deep brown!

One characteristic of the area that made it special for me was the space between the trees.  It wasn’t dense woodland packed with trees; there was plenty of open ground punctuated by either solitary or small groups of trees, sometimes with rocks or other interesting objects at their base.  This made for more interesting compositions and gave the subjects ‘room to breath’.  

Whilst I’m no arboriculturist, the trees looked like Silver Birch and in the gloomy conditions their light/silver coloured trunks and branches added a skeletal component helping emphasise their structure and add a little interest.  Sometimes tho, when the sun did peek out from the clouds the light/silver colours became very bright reflecting sunlight and making exposure difficult.

Great Autumn colours in Borrowdale by Andy Gawthrope Photography Click To Tweet

Silver Birch, BorrowdaleMost of the photographs from the week set a tree/trees in the context of  their landscape, but I was also looking for interesting close-ups too.  Almost at the top of the hill and tucked at the back I spotted the two in the photograph.  Its not just the curving trunks I like but the detail in the bark πŸ™‚  It was shot at F8 to add a little separation between the main subject and the background, a wider aperture blurred too much of the main subject.  When viewed at 100% the Silver Birch trees are wonderfully sharp and its probably my favourite image from the whole week.

Not far from these trees a small patch of red and green moss hung to the side of a rocky step.  It was really beautiful and very, very different from the normal big landscapes I photograph – the opposite extreme!  Perfect job for a macro lens, but I didn’t have one so I made do with the 50mm but the results were pretty disappointing.   But I learn’t a few lessons trying so all was good πŸ™‚

Ah, the 50mm lens… That was a present to myself earlier this year.  Its a Sigma Art model and it seems to have become my go to choice.  It just seems to magically frame whatever the subject!  It’s great for single exposure images but, importantly for me, panoramic’s too.  There are two lenses always in my landscape bag now, the 50mm and a 21mm.  The 21mm used to be my go to lens but nowadays it only get used when the much wider field of view is needed.  Shooting from a little further back and with a little magnification really seems work.  A few years ago I’d never have considered 50mm being my default lens for landscape work – at 35mm full frame anyway.

BorrowdaleWell, that was Autumn in the Lakes.  It seems fitting to end this post with a photograph that summed up the weather.  Clouds covering the high fells, grey cloud but lovely colours. πŸ™‚  Roll on winter and let’s hope its a snowy one πŸ™‚

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