Wildcamping - Holme Fell

On the 2nd of December two of my friends and myself set off for Holme Fell for a relaxed wild camp. I had done a little research and found a sheltered area to set up camp and there was plenty of photographic opportunities around the area and with good weather forecast it looked like we were in for a good night. Holme fell was picked cause of the relatively short walk from the car park and its fantastic view of the surrounding fells. We quickly got to the area I had found to set up camp which was a natural bowl with lots of flat ground and an opening at one side where the sun would rise in the morning overlooking a tarn and more fells. We set up the tents and settled in for the evening, it was getting dark and there wasn't much interest in the sky to take any photos, the weather looked better in the morning.

Sunrise casting golden light on a tree not far from camp. Canon 6D , Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM @200mm, f/4, ISO 320, 1/40s, CPL.

Sunrise casting golden light on a tree not far from camp. Canon 6D, Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM @200mm, f/4, ISO 320, 1/40s, CPL.

Sunrise was just after 7 so I had a decent nights sleep before getting up at 6.30. I had a cup of tea while sat in the tent overlooking the fells in the distance where the sun was going to rise. I got up and wandered around the immediate area looking for a composition. I found a tree (technically two trees) standing on a small mound across from the campsite, I was drawn to its simplicity and set up for the sunrise.  The sun rose above the horizon and started to cover the ground with its warm light. I took multiple shots as the tree was moving in the wind and ended up with one of my favourite photos to date (above).

The same tree taken about 10 minutes later from a different area.  Canon 6D  , Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM @200mm, f/4, ISO 200, 1/80s, CPL.

The same tree taken about 10 minutes later from a different area. Canon 6D, Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM @200mm, f/4, ISO 200, 1/80s, CPL.

I repositioned to try get a slightly different photo of the same tree. This time I got really low to the ground and included a second tree to give a sense of depth. Both of the photos turned out really well in my opinion however I think I prefer the first as its more subtle and has more emphasis on the tree. After taking a few photos in the best light I headed back to my tent, had some breakfast and another brew before going on a wander around the fell looking for other photos. I took a photo looking over Coniston water and headed back to the tent to pack up.

Looking over Coniston Water from the top of Holme Fell.  Canon 6D  , Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM @16mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/1000s, CPL.

Looking over Coniston Water from the top of Holme Fell. Canon 6D, Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM @16mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/1000s, CPL.

We packed up, headed back to the car, left our stuff there, and went and explored Hodge Close an old slate quarry. I took quite a few photos in the quarry my favourites been of a rather friendly Robin that kept landing near me. I think the quarry would be better in summer or autumn when the trees have some colour in them and stand out against the black rock. I'll definitely be returning to Holme Fell and Hodge Close when the Heathers out and when the trees have leaves on them.

Wildcamping - Place Fell

Bit of a late blog but I thought it would be interesting none the less. In August 2017 a friend (Luke) and I decided we should go wild camping. It had been far too long since our last wild camp and I thoroughly believe it is one of the best ways to relieve stress and just get away from everything. We chose Place Fell due to knowing the area and also the relative closeness to the car meaning less of a walk to get there.  The weather looked fantastic with clear skies all night so I thought it would be great to get some astrophotography. This meant carrying all my camping gear along with my camera gear. Those that have done this before know that its difficult to choose what to take as you are limited by space and also weight. Luckily I had just got my hands on a Lowe Pro ProRover 45l AW which is designed for just the task and I can say that it happily swallowed all my gear though it was rather heavy with everything filling it to the brim. 

3 shot Panorama looking north east out towards the top end of Ullswater. Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @24mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/4s, CPL.

3 shot Panorama looking north east out towards the top end of Ullswater. Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @24mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/4s, CPL.

We arrived in Glenridding at 5pm and left the car shortly after that. The walk up wasn't bad as we were on paths most of the way, however carrying all the gear up the hill was fairly tiring. We arrived at the top of Place fell an hour and a half later after a leisurely walk up and we quickly found places to set up our tents, did so and checked the weather. Unfortunately the weather had changed and it was now going to be cloudy until midnight but that didn't bother me as I wouldn't have been getting up until around then anyway. We both had some food and a cup of tea and then we both set off to do our own things. I of course came for the photography and Luke came to do the bare minimum and relax which usually entails him sitting somewhere reading a book happily.

Sunrise from the top of Place Fell.  Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @24mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/13s, CPL.

Sunrise from the top of Place Fell. Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @24mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/13s, CPL.

I didn't have too much luck taking photos that evening, I took the usual camping photo of me and my tent and tried to get some other photos but none of them really worked well, the only one I was happy with was the panorama of the trig point (above). With clouds blocking the sunset I decided I would go to sleep and get up during the night and see if I could get some astro photos. I woke up just after midnight to gentle wind blowing over my tent and my alarm. I opened the tent door hoping for a clear sky and instead was greeted by an overcast sky... I checked the forecast again and sure enough it was saying it would be cloudy for the next two hours before clearing. I set my alarm and went back to sleep. I woke again, opened my tent only to be greeted by clouds, clouds, and more clouds. I checked the forecast again and sure enough cloudy for the next few hours. I gave up, what was meant to have been a clear sky all night was completely overcast. 

Golden light bathing a tent just after sunrise.  Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @31mm, f/11, ISO 200, 1/40s, CPL.

Golden light bathing a tent just after sunrise. Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @31mm, f/11, ISO 200, 1/40s, CPL.

I woke up that morning just before sunrise, hoping for some clear skies and luckily the clouds were starting to clear. I quickly made a cup of tea and had some breakfast before getting up and starting to find a composition for sunrise. What I really needed was a telephoto lens say a 70-200mm to pick out compositions but unfortunately I hadn't packed it opting for my 14mm f2.8 for the astrophotography I had planned to do. I was struggling to find a suitable composition with my 24-70 and decided I would try get another photo of the trig point. I composed my photo and waited for the sun to rise. Before I knew it the sky set alight as the sun rose, illuminating clouds high in the atmosphere with colours ranging from deep red through to bright orange and the slightest bit of purple. I took the photo (above) and continued to watch the sunrise just enjoying the calmness and tranquillity. After the sun had rose I set out to take a few more photos and have a bit more to eat. By this time the sun had popped above the clouds and bathed the landscape in golden light enabling me to get a few decent photos. 

Golden Light bathing the landscape looking south from the top of Place fell.  Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @35m, f/11, ISO 200, 1/20s, CPL.

Golden Light bathing the landscape looking south from the top of Place fell. Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @35m, f/11, ISO 200, 1/20s, CPL.

I finished taking photos and returned to my tent to have another cup of tea and some more food while waiting for Luke to wake. It wasn't long before Luke appeared and after he had had breakfast we took our tents down and began our descent back to the car. We arrived back at the car quickly as the return journey was all downhill and as we unpacked the weather came in and it started raining, we left at the best time. Still hungry and knowing there was a shop (Patterdale Village Store and Post Office) round the corner that did really good and pretty cheap bacon sandwiches we both got some more breakfast before we started our journey back to Yorkshire. 

Looking North East before we left Place Fell and returned to the Valley.  Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @24mm, f/11, ISO 200, 1/60s, CPL.

Looking North East before we left Place Fell and returned to the Valley. Canon 6d, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @24mm, f/11, ISO 200, 1/60s, CPL.

Reflecting on the trip it may not have gone to plan with the weather and I don't feel like I got any decent photos but the whole point of going wild camping was to relax and get away from everyday life... that we did. We both had a great time and felt thoroughly refreshed despite the lack of photography. 

I look forward to my next wild camping trip.

Chamonix 2017 Part 2 of 2

In part two of this Chamonix blog I'm going to talk about the climbing I did while in Chamonix. If you've read the previous post you'll know that I split my time between landscape and climbing photography. I spent the best part of a week focussing on landscapes and then once the rest of my party arrived that took a back seat and the focus was on climbing.

Two of my party heading down the Midi snow arête on our acclimatisation day. Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 70mm, 1/800s, f/4.0, ISO 100.

We had a few objectives in mind. The main two been the Forbes Arête on the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Frendo Spur on the Aiguille du Midi. Our first job was to acclimatise. I had a head start as I'd purposely headed higher during my week of landscape photography, so me and my climbing partner decided that we would go up to the Aiguille du Midi and try do two relatively easy routes; a traverse of Pointes Lachenal, and then the Arête a Laurence, before returning back to the valley. 

Chris looking over the Col du Midi toward the Aiguille du Midi and the Refuge des Cosmiques. The Cosmiques Arête (classic route) is the ridge between the two.  Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 35mm, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 100.

We had a great start to the day we got down the Midi Arête (those that know this know that its always a bit daunting heading down) and arrived at the Refuge des Cosmiques where we left two of our group to climb the Cosmiques Arête. Chris (my climbing partner) and I headed across the Col du Midi to our first route. We got off to a great start and were making good progress. We made it to an abseil halfway through the route and I headed down. I made myself safe and then I heard Chris shout "rock" I looked up to see a rock heading straight for me...it hit me!

Two groups walking across the Col Du Midi. Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 70mm, 1/500s, f/11, ISO 100.

I quickly realised I was ok, however, in a lot of pain. I had managed to move just enough that it had avoided my head, but it still went into my knee - I was pretty lucky. I shouted up to Chris to let him know I was ok and he joined me. My leg was in a lot of pain but I could still walk, albeit slowly.  We carried on and managed to make the summit, we decided to go ahead with our original plan and do our second route as I could still walk and we weren't feeling the affects of altitude.

We arrived at the second route of the day and realised that it was pretty easy, we made quick progress and finished the route at the Refuge des Cosmiques. We decided to sit down and have a bite to eat before catching the cable car down to the valley. We realised as soon as we stood up to head back to the midi station, that it was going to be struggle, as all of a sudden both of our heads were killing...altitude had got us. An hour and a half later, with awful headaches, we stepped into the station and returned back to the valley where we quickly recovered.

We sat down that night and started to plan our next few days, I had three days before I had my Conville course so I had to be back before then. Three of us decided we could do the Forbes Arête if we headed up in the afternoon the next day on the last chair lift, bivi that night and get up at 2am before heading to the route. That would allow a day to recover for my course.  We agreed and started to prepare. That morning we checked in with the guides office, got some supplies and packed for our first proper mountain summit.

We set off at about four in the afternoon, we got the chair lift as far as we could and walked the rest of the way arriving at the Albert Premier refuge late afternoon.  We found some suitable places to bivi, played boules with some rocks for a bit and then went to sleep in preparation for the big day.

Chris On the approach to the Albert Premier Refuge the day before we Climbed the Aiguille du Chardonnet via the Forbes arête.  Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 50mm, 1/2000s, f/4.0, ISO 100.

We woke up around 2am, had some food, and stashed away our sleeping bags before setting of across the glacier. The approach to the Aiguille Du Chardonnet was long and tough as navigating the crevasses took time, but we eventually made it to the base of the route. We had a quick drink before carrying on. The  perfectly clear sky was starting to glow red as the sun approached the horizon, revealing the vast landscape around us. Not wanting to waste any more time we started the route.  

Chris having a quick drink after arriving at the base of the Forbes arête. Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 42mm, 1/40s, f/7.1, ISO 160.

The route was bare with nowhere near as much snow as there should have been for the time of year. The lack of snow made the route harder than it should have been. Once easy walks across snow, now required technical climbing across rock. None of it too hard to do, but it slowed us down a little each time and it slowly added up.  We kept going still feeling fresh and the altitude wasn't causing any problems. Thinking we could see the summit in the distance, we were spurred on. Ten minutes later, we were disappointed as it was a blind summit. This carried on about three times, each time looking like the top, only to be disappointed by another possible summit in the distance. We eventually reached the top 2 hours after we had originally planned to, exhausted and relieved we had a quick break to take in the views before starting to descend down the other side.

Chris On The Forbes arête. In the distance you can just make out the Matterhorn. Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 24mm, 1/400s, f/8.0, ISO 100.

The decent goes down a couloir which you usually walk down but due to the lack of snow we had to abseil the whole way, which slowed us down considerably...but things were going to get worse. We had got about halfway down, when an unforecasted snow storm developed and temperatures dropped considerably, which further slowed us down. It was evident that we weren't going to get down before nightfall and we were all showing signs of hypothermia so we decided to try find some shelter. 

Chris On The Forbes arête. Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 26mm, 1/800s, f/5.6, ISO 100.

I can safely say it was the worst night of my life. We were perched on a small ledge in blizzard bags, in a relentless snow storm. None of us got any sleep and the hours passed very slowly, the temperature continued to drop and to top it off, very occasionally, the storm let up for a minute or two and we could see the lights on in our chalet where the rest of our party were.  Eventually, it started to get light again and although the storm was still going strong we knew we had to get moving. We set off again, all of us tired, dehydrated and hungry and eventually made it to the glacier below. A few hours later, after crossing a bergschrund and pulling one of our team out of a crevasse we made it back to the bivi spot.  We were exhausted and dehydrated but we still had to get back down to the valley. We packed up, had as much water as we could and set off. We eventually made it to the chair lift and after a short ride and a bus we made it back to our chalet where we all went straight to bed.

I woke up the next morning with one of my group shaking me telling me I was going to be late for my course. I'd completely forgot about it and due to spending an extra night on the mountain I was exhausted, however, that was the least of my worries upon standing up I realised I couldn't feel my feet, I later found out that I had indeed got minor frostbite!

This was taken on the Col des Grand Montets on the first day of my Conville course. Chris On The Forbes arête, in the distance you can just make out the Matterhorn. Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 70mm, 1/2500s, f/4.0, ISO 100.

I spent the next three days on a Conville course. A course for young adults that teaches you all the skills you need to know to safely explore an alpine environment. The first day was spent on the Mer de Glace practicing axe and crampon techniques, as well as how to place ice screws, all of which our group could do before the course, so this day was pretty relaxed and allowed me to recover from my epic on the Aiguille du Chardonnet. The second day was slightly different, the weather was pretty grim and usually you don't go into the mountains if the weather isn't perfect, however, as we were on a course our guide took us onto a glacier to practice crevasse rescues. This was great to practice and although the weather was appalling, it was rather fun. We came off the glacier early and went for a coffee, before going to a crag to practice ascending a rope and moving together on easy ground. 

The third day was spent putting all we had learned to the test on an actual route. Our guide chose a small route and spent the day following us, while soloing and shouting at us the whole way, to force us to move quicker. 

This was taken on the Col des Grand Montets on the first day of my Conville course. This is one of the other groups that where on the course. Canon 6d, 24-70mm F4L IS @ 76mm, 1/540s, f/8.0, ISO 100.

The rest of my trip was spent taking it easy, as my feet were extremely sensitive and even easy climbing was difficult. I spent a day struggling to sport climb in the valley and a day using as many lifts as possible, trying to get the most out of my lift pass and also trying to grab some more photos.

As for my feet, as of writing this in December 2017, I have regained all feeling in them, however, they are still extremely sensitive to the cold, winter climbing will be fun in Scotland...

Thanks for taking your time to read this and please let me know what you think. Sorry for the lack of blogs, I find it quite hard to sit down and write, however, I'm going to try my hardest to write at least one blog a month, even if its just a small one.

Chamonix 2017 Part 1 of 2

Here's my first blog post and the first of two blogs about my trip to Chamonix. I've split it into two parts. The first about landscape photography and the second about climbing photography. You can also see more of my images from the trip on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

The trip got off to a great start... My flight was delayed by 2 hours and my friend's flight was cancelled. I finally got to my campsite at 19:00 and by the time I had put my tent up and sorted everything else it was 19:30. I had planned to walk up to Lac Blanc that evening to catch sunset, sleep up there and return to the valley the next day. Unfortunately, due to my delays and the walk, which was supposedly going to take me three hours, I would miss sunset. I decided I would still go and hope the sunrise was good.

The walk up was tough, with the temperature well into the mid thirties; a heavy rucksack and steep paths. However, I pushed on and arrived only two hours after setting off. Unfortunately, the sun had set five minutes before I arrived. I quickly found a spot overlooking the lake; had a bite to eat, set my alarm for 00:30, and got in my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

I woke up to a crystal clear sky with the milky way rising above the Mont Blanc massif. I left the comfort of my sleeping bag and spent the next hour taking photos. The photo below is the result of that hour.

Samyang 14mm, f/2.8, ISO3200, 30s, Stack of 16 Images

Samyang 14mm, f/2.8, ISO3200, 30s, Stack of 16 Images

Waking up in the morning, I was disappointed... I was surrounded by cloud. As It was evident that sunrise wasn't going to materialise, I decided I would pack up and head back into the valley. I packed, took two steps, and stopped; I was in luck.  Just as I was about to leave, the clouds suddenly dropped into the valley, leaving a completely clear sky. The sun hadn't quite breached the horizon yet, but was gently illuminating the top of Mont Blanc in a deep red warmth, which contrasted the still deep blue sky. I composed a photo using the perfectly still lake and took the shot.

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @24mm,  f/11, ISO 100, 0.5s, CPL

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @24mm,  f/11, ISO 100, 0.5s, CPL

I changed my plans. Instead of heading back down as quickly as possible, I decided to head down a different way and visit Lac De Cheserys. I arrived there twenty minutes later and almost wished I had slept there. For those who haven't been to Lac De Cheserys, it is just below Lac Blanc, slightly smaller, rounder, and less visited than the latter. Unlike Lac Blanc, it doesn't have a hotel at the side of it, so it is much quieter. It has a fantastic view of the mountains on the other side of the valley and providing there is no wind, it boasts an amazing reflection.  I decided a panoramic photo would be the only way to do the view justice. I took the photo and decided it was time to head back into the valley.

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @38mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/20s, CPL, 5 Image Composite.

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @38mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/20s, CPL, 5 Image Composite.

I spent the rest of the day climbing, which was great, but in retrospect it would have been far more sensible to rest for the day as I had another long walk ahead of me. I came to Chamonix primarily to climb with friends from university, but decided I would come out earlier to do some landscape photography. I started taking landscape photography seriously 2 years ago, during this time one of my favourite photographers has been Thomas Heaton . 

For those that haven't heard of Thomas Heaton, he is a landscape photographer based in the North East of England and is known for his fantastic YouTube Channel. If you haven't heard of him, I highly suggest you watch some of his videos and check out his work. Thomas went to Chamonix around Easter last year and captured a particular photo of the Mer De Glace. This Photo has been a favourite of mine and I couldn't miss the opportunity of being out there to try and get a photo of my own.

Unfortunately, being a landscape photographer can be quite challenging at times, as the best light is usually around sunrise and sunset. This usually means very early mornings and late evenings. To get to the Mer De Glace you usually get a train up Montenvers and you can view the glacier from there, but these trains only run from 09:00 to 17:30 and with sunset around 21:30 you either wait a long time or walk up there. I decided to walk as I did not fancy waiting for sunset. The walk took two hours and due to the temperatures again been in the mid thirties, I arrived dehydrated, exhausted, and very hungry. I could now focus on the one photo I had wanted to get. Compositionally its pretty straightforward. The Mer De Glace is France's longest Glacier and weaves down the valley forming an S-shape, which draws you through the photo towards the mountains in the distance. I waited for the light and took the photo. I stayed up at Montenvers that night and in the morning took the same picture at sunrise. Here's the photo. I'm pretty happy with it, although I still prefer Thomas Heatons, but this is probably me been overly critical of my own work. 

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @55mm, f/10, ISO 100, 1/30s, CPL

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @55mm, f/10, ISO 100, 1/30s, CPL

Later on in the trip I spent a lot more time climbing and one of the routes we wanted to do was the Forbes arête on the Aiguille du Chardonnet (I will talk more about this in my next blog but for now lets just say it didn't go as smoothly as we wanted). This gave me the opportunity to get a photo I had previously got in the previous year, the photo can be found here. This photo is one of my favourites that I've taken, even though its far from perfect as it reminds me of my fist alpine route and my first visit to Chamonix. So one year later I thought it would be nice to get the same photo and see If I could improve on it having another years experience and new camera gear. 

We set of around 16:00 and instead of walking the whole way as we did last year (a bad idea) we got the chair lift from Le Tour and walked the rest of the way. We arrived and choose our bivi spots, my two climbing partners had a large one and I had a smaller spot away from them so I didn't keep them awake with my astrophotography during the night.  We spent the next few hours packing for the route, chatting, and playing boules with a few stones. By this point the sun was getting low in the sky and I decided it was time to take the photo I came for, and then get to sleep as I had a very early start ahead of me. The photo I got this year is below and I'm rather happy with it. 

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @35mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/30s, CPL

Canon 24-70 f/4L IS @35mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/30s, CPL

I will get writing my next blog which will be about the climbing I did while in Chamonix. Thank you for taking your time to read this blog and I hope you liked it, stay tuned for my next one which I hope to have up by the end of September.