A Photographic Exploration Of Upper Wensleydale
17th February 2014
I was recently given the opportunity to go and spend a weekend in a holiday cottage in Burtersett, near Hawes - in upper Wensleydale, in return for a series of landscape photographs. Now, I know the area very well as it is only an hour away from Richmond, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be based there so I was happy to take this opportunity. There was no pressure on the photos, as we all know that at this time of year the quality (or even possibility) of any photos is highly dependent on the weather... but even for my own sake, there was an internal pressure to make the most of the weekend regardless of what the weather threw at us... and by god did it throw stuff at us.
I'd settled on a spot on the northern side of the valley, towards the Buttertubs as it allows for views both directly into the rising sun, and for some sidelit shots. As we arrived half way up the hill in the car and stepped out, still in semi-darkness, things did not look at all promising (although, all you photographers who are used to driving to locations... you have it too easy... for someone like me who has to walk everywhere... you should all give it a go. This was a lovely surprise to have car access!). For the entire 30 minute walk up to the top of the hill we had rain, snow and hail blown right into our faces by gale force winds. I don't mean to exaggerate - but I have been out in all sorts of conditions these last few years and these were easily the strongest winds I've ever attempted to shoot in... sending me stumbling backwards over and over again as I attempted to take photos.
We arrived at the spot I'd intended, and as usual, it wasn't quite what I'd hoped - so I continued to wander along the top of the hill in search of some foreground. Invariably, this happens most of the time. I'm not one to settle on a location and stick with it. Luckily, as the sun rose the heavy shower passed over, allowing me to shoot away and I grabbed more than a handful of shots. I'd taken my tripod, but it was entirely useless in such wind - which was kind of nice as it freed me up to shoot in a way I've not done for years... each shot was taken about 10 times in the hope of getting a sharp one out, but their are so many angles possible without a tripod that I wouldn't bother setting up for usually.
Next, we headed back to the cottage to warm up and enjoy a quick breakfast... although we couldn't hang around for long as rain was forecast for the afternoon. So by 11am we were heading back out - this time to the southern side of the valley... where I'd spotted snow earlier that morning. We headed up past Gayle on the Kettlewell road and stopped just below the summit of Dodd Fell, at the start of the roman road - which we followed around the back of the hill on foot. It soon became clear that the primary subject of interest around this side of the hill was Ingleborough. It has always been my favourite hill due to it's imposing shape, but I'd never seen it from this angle before. It was capped with snow, and flirting with the clouds as showers passed above it. Rather than walking any further, I hung around, still fighting the wind and endless splashes of rain on the lens, for about an hour... exploring the nearby landscape in relation to Ingleborough... looking for interesting compositions. The light really wasn't playing ball, with grey skies as far as the eye could see, so it was all about composition to create something interesting. Eventually, Ingleborough disappeared into the cloud - and I made my escape before the rain managed to reach me. This was a perfect chance for our first trip to the Creamery of the weekend... where I enjoyed one of their amazing (and huge) cheese scones, Wensleydale and ginger cheesecake, and a nice cup of coffee.These are the images from this part of the day...
The rest of Saturday was rained off entirely - so we sat in the lovely warm cottage with wind and rain battering the window - with a roaring fire. Not a bad afternoon/evening!
On Sunday, we woke up to more of the same - but decided to head out and make our way down the valley - back towards Richmond - but with plenty of stops whenever the rain let up for a moment. This was, of course, after another trip to the creamery for dinner... and to stock up on Wensleydale butter and Abbot's Gold cheese. Our winding route down the valley consisted of a trip to a wet, moody Semerwater and a stop off at the top of Redmire bank - where the sun tried to break through. The strong wind still blew rain into the camera from the showers higher up the dale though - making it difficult and causing all sorts of flare from the sun. So these are the final images from the weekend... (as you can probably see, Semerwater was about twice it's usual size... it was quite a sight!)...
So, all but the last two photos here were taken within walking distance of our lovely cottage in Burtersett. It may have been the worst weekend's weather that I've experienced all winter - but I am very proud of what I achieved. I've almost gone full circle. From taking photos as a side thought on walks, to getting out for the best light at sunrise/sunset, to now going back to learning to shoot in the daytime. Whilst shooting sunrise/set brings - undoubtedly - the most standout images, and has all of it's own challenges and intricacies to make the most of often difficult light.... it is relatively easy to shoot something worth looking at. However, this weekend pushed me to my limits in terms of creativity and sheer bloody mindedness to get the shots in the most awful of conditions... and in the end, I got so many I'm happy with. So, although it's not always visible in the photos above - please do keep in mind that every single one of them was taken in gale/storm force winds, with rain blowing around all over the place and constantly spotting my lens.
So... overall... get thissen t'dales and enjoy!... whatever the weather.