The Lake District on the cusp of Winter / by Neil Alexander

The Old Man of Coniston

"It's all turned to sh*t!" Was the last thing I said to my wife before turning round and heading for food. 

I'd scheduled in a weekend in December to get away, shoot some landscapes, and possibly even combine it with a model shoot idea I'd had. Initially the plan was to head up to Skye, but the closer the time came, the more family and business pressures squeezed my window on both sides. 

As mid November came, the time required for the 20 hour round trip had been nibbled from my window leaving me with Friday afternoon until Sunday lunch. Two potential sunrises, two sunsets. With a 6 hour max drive there and back. So the Lake District it was. There'd been snow on the tops, and more was forecast. 

Friday afternoon I was in heaven. Getting some keepers on the side of Ullswater shooting towards Patterdale. Seemed like ages since I had been in the fortunate position to pursue nothing other than the light and the shot. No one to answer to. No time constraints or pressure whatsoever, other than my own desire to make wonderful photographs. To really try and do justice to the beauty in front of me. The scenery is so jaw-droppingly beautiful up here, than one can feel nothing other than inspired, even on the greyest, dankiest of days. 

Honister Pass

I shot and shot until it was dark, my fingers were numb and my cable release died. I drove the short hop back to my B&B, dumped the gear, extracted memory cards and headed off for a mighty fine feed at the Brackenrigg Inn.

Sufficiently replenished I returned to my digs for the night, had a large glass of Merlot, and promptly fell asleep. It was at that point my luck changed.

I overslept, waking 5 minutes before dawn. There were pockets of fluffy pink in the sky, like balls of candy floss on a pale blue carpet perched atop snow kissed mountains. It was stunning, and minutes away from disappearing. I was in my pyjamas. 

I had arrived at the bed and breakfast in the dark, so hadn't been able to appreciate the beauty of surroundings and its views. Actually I had planned on being an hours drive away by about 30 minutes ago in case of such an eventuality. "P*ssed" doesn't quite do justice to quite how I felt. All that way for a sunrise and I'd slept through the bloody thing. 

Looking over Little Langdale 

Always the eternal optimist (my glass is never less than half full), the weather looked like it might hold. After Nailing a quick insubstantial breakfast, I jumped in the motor and headed for Plan B. Up over the tops I went, up into the mist. But down I came again towards Coniston arriving at a spot I'd poured over using GB outdoors Ordinance Survey maps, The Photographer's Ephemeris, Flickr, Google Image search, Google Earth, Street View and my own Geo-tagged archive (my go-to tools for distance scouting). It was all I had expected, but it was flat, misty & bleurgh. I stopped, took a call from home about faulty fire-alarms - It sounded like they were going deaf and out of their minds at home, but naff all I could do from 100 miles away. Then the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and blessed the landscape in front of me with a smear of its golden lips. Frame after frame I made whilst giving instructions on isolating rings in the main fuse box at home over the phone. But they were keepers - I knew it.

And then I headed off to my next location and on the way, to do a little scouting for a model shoot I'd lined up for the next day. Within 2 hours, I'd called off the model shoot and informed the wife that the weather had gone to mush and so had any possibility of making anything worthwhile. 

But was a productive trip. With such a busy home / work life, it's extremely freeing getting the opportunity to blast up and down the lanes in a set of wheels perfect for these roads (sans snow and ice) with very little chance of anyone getting hold of me (its like one giant cell phone black spot up here), and make some creative work in the process. 

I'll share some more with details over the coming week or so, assuming I don't burst with the excesses scheduled in the next week or so...

Have a great Christmas y'all.

Neil