There was snow on the fell tops so I thought a walk to a summit to capture the winter scenes from high up would be a great way to spend a day during the festive break. Helvellyn was the chosen summit.
The walk would be nine miles with 3000 feet of ascent, so the key thing, to photograph the walk, was to travel light. My photography kit included:
This basic kit keeps the weight relatively light but gives enough flexibility to capture most scenes. For this walk I knew I would want a wide lens to capture the view of Red Tarn from the summit. It is important to plan ahead which lenses you will need, you may want a longer focal length lens in some cases. However, if you have a superzoom lens (a lens with a big focal range) such as the Nikon 28-300mm, then that should be perfect for all walks as you will have so much flexibility in a single lens.
Walker on Swirral Edge
Reaching the summit via Swirral Edge
The walk started in Glenridding, up to the mine, then followed Red Tarn Beck, to Red Tarn. From there we went over Swirral Edge to Helvellyn summit, over to Raise, then took the path down Glenridding Common back to the starting point. This is a walk with so many views, waterfalls galore and incredible scenes of the valley. However, my target today was photographing the snow so I didn’t get the camera out until I reach Red Tarn.
Both Swirral Edge and Striding Edge can be viewed from Red Tarn and I decided I wanted to capture the whole snowy scene in a single image. The only way I could do this was to create a panorama. I set my tripod up on the edge of Red Tarn and took three images sweeping round the tarn. I would stitch them later (coming soon, a blog about how to create a panorama). There was snow everywhere, so remember that your camera will want to underexpose the scene, you’ll need to compensate for that when you take your image by using exposure compensation when in aperture priority or ensuring you expose for a suitable time if in manual. Remember your white balance too. Your camera will set the scene quite blue due to all the snow, so using a slightly warmer white balance to compensate for that.
From the Tarn I also used the 24-70mm lens to zoom in on Striding Edge and capture the walkers crossing the ridge. The snow on the ridge and the white cloud in the sky behind allowed for a simple but contrasting image to enhance the shape and drama of the edge.
My images were taken at the tarn, so now the hike up Swirral Edge. I wanted to capture the walkers on the edge, the trodden snowy path, the blue sky contrasting against the snow. It was also important I didn’t hold up anyone on the path so I didn’t want to use the tripod. The images taken from the edge were handheld, I made sure the camera was working fast enough not to get any blur so I used an aperture of f6/3. This would allow enough depth of field to keep most of the image sharp but also allow me to handhold the camera. But with the snow and the sun, there was so much light that I was able to keep my ISO very low and still achieve a shutter speed of 500th of a second.
Reaching the summit we had the wonderful view of Swirral Edge with Red Tarn below. I created a hand held pano of just two images to get the composition I wanted. Then turning around and you have the view from the summit over to Windermere, it had the most wonderful light filtering through the fells and the sunlight catching the lake. To capture this scene I would be shooting into the sun. When shooting into the sun, to avoid lens flare keep the angle of the lens below the sun and try not to include the sun in the picture. If the sun is in the shot, it will always blow out and you might find that the foreground will be way to dark. By keeping it out of the composition you will have better control over the light in the image.
Summit done we then headed over to Raise, looking back over the path we had just walked I could see the wonderful diagonals of the snow cornices clinging to the edge of the fells all the way back to the Helvellyn summit. Including diagonals in your composition give the viewer a clear line to follow.
On the way down from Raise we had views of the entire valley which includes Brown Cove and Keppel Cove, with the dam at the bottom. It was entirely covered with snow, so to capture the scene in one shot I used the 20mm lens to get whole valley with the great patterns of the beck running through the snow below and Catstye Cam towering above.
As we walked back down the valley to Glenridding, the moon was rising ahead of us, and the sun was giving it wonderful later afternoon glow behind us.
It was a beautiful day and a fabulous walk with some great opportunities to photograph the snow. There are some more great tips in my earlier blog 9 tips for great winter landscape photography.