|Mam Tor sunrise|
A few emails pinged back and forth back in January and three of the CamPhotoWalk group decided we would go to the Peak District in February. Phil, Jeremy and I - the same bunch who made it up to Arran back in 2014. Phil suggested that we stayed over three nights travelling up on the Friday and back down on the Monday, taking a day off work. It seemed a sensible idea since you really can't plan ahead for the weather. Jeremy's plan was to head off on the Sunday, only two nights away.
Phil booked us in at Castleton YHA which was a great base for getting out and about. Sunrise was at around 7:30am which meant getting up at a relatively civilised hour. Phil and I arrived at the YHA first, just after 8pm on the Friday evening with Jeremy 20 minutes later. After unpacking and a bit of last minute fine tuned planning alarms were set for 6:20am. Morning came and with hot flasks in hand we set off for Winnats Pass. Parking at the side of the road and pulling on some extra layers (there was a biting wind) we headed off through a gate and then a few fields to the head of Winnats. We had hoped there might be a bit of mist in the valley, but no such luck. There was a dusting of snow on the ground and a little bit of cloud in the sky to offer a potential sunrise so not all was lost.
|Cold Start Winnats Pass|
It's a brisk 10 minute walk up to the top of Mam Tor one reason why it's often so busy. We passed walkers, fellow photographers and two guys carrying their bikes. Great views down the Hope Valley and across into Edale. Phil & Jeremy took a few panos from the top while I concentrated on the windy road down to Edale timing my shots to avoid any cars.
|The winding road to Edale|
When we had finished off at Mam Tor we headed down the windy road and parked up at Barber Booth in the Edale Valley. The plan was to walk up onto the flanks of Kinder Scout which also had a dusting of snow still evident on the tops.
A quick packed lunch thrown together from supplies we set off up Cowden Brook. 15 minutes later I stopped for a shot of one of the little waterfalls while Phil & Jeremy carried on. "Catch us up when you are done" about 20 minutes later and nothing to show for my efforts I caught Phil up, but no sign of Jeremy. "You must have passed him further on down?" "Nope". Anyway Phil and I carried on up following the brook. Every so often we would stop and look back for Jeremy, but no there was no sign at all. By lunchtime Phil and I had reached Crowden Tower and with a mobile signal returning Phil fired off a quick text to Jeremy. In a flash Jeremy responded with the coordinates of his location. Sure enough after checking the map we could see a tiny speck in the distance. Not in the valley as expected, but halfway up another hillside!
After a leisurely lunch Jeremy eventually caught us up. We then all wandered along the ridge taking lots of shots of the grit-stone rock formations. The light was a little stark in the middle of the day, but there were some nice clouds breaking up the sky. By 2.30pm it struck me that unless we really got a shift on then we wouldn't be over at Stanage for our planned sunset location. It was clear we wouldn't make it as we headed along the path towards the Penine Way then back down Jacobs Ladder. By the time we got back to the car it was gone 4. In an attempt to salvage any sunset opportunities we returned to Winnats from where we had started the day. Compositionally it was a disaster which was a bit of a relief since the sun didn't play game. There is nothing worse than a great sunset when you are in the wrong location with nothing to work with.
Back to the youth hostel and a bit of time to relax before heading out into Castleton for some hearty food and a photo review. Lots of shots taken a few keepers. It was also a good opportunity for me to spot a huge black dust spot on my sensor which I was quick to remedy with my cleaning kit.
6am start on Sunday with the plan to try for a sunrise at Higger Tor, just above Hathersage. After parking the cars and walking for five minutes I discovered my map reading skills needed a little adjustment. Another 1/4 mile up the hill and we were back on course. The weather forecast had predicted mist, but it seemed to be much further East over towards Chesterfield. We all managed to get some photos although the pickings were a little scarce. There was some nice light over Hope way ironically lighting up the Cement factory, but it was a little cloudy on Higger.
Breakfast back at the cars. A very short hop and we caught a few shots at the mill stones just beneath Stanage Edge. This was the intended sunset location from the night before. By mid morning the sun showed it's self, but the light was quite harsh. The green grass looked unnatural on camera (hence my b&w conversion).
|Stanage Edge mill stones|
Next location was Ladybower, we had planned shots of the Ashopton Bridge and the overflows at the dam end. It seemed every man and his dog were out and there wasn't anywhere to park one car let alone two. We ended up in a truckers cafe stop about 1km from the bridge. A bit of a trudge back along the busy road we made it to the western bank. Ladybower was like a mirror and the bridge looked great with good cloud detail and reflections in the water. After a few shots we headed over to the far side with similar results.
|Reflections Ladybower Reservoir|
Back to the cars we decided we would drive up to Fairholmes for lunch and then and try our luck with reflections at Derwent Reservoir and the dam. Lunch was great surrounded by loads of ducks, but after wandering aimlessly for over an hour trying to find compositions of the dam we gave up. The hope now was there would be somewhere to park down at the dam end of Ladybower so we could have a crack at the overflows.
Squeezing into to two parking spaces just down from the dam was a stroke of luck. Gone were the reflections of earlier and there was now a distinct ripple on Ladybower. What was called for was my 10 stop filter and some long exposure shots. Capturing the water towers and then the far overflow made up for the lack of focus earlier at Fairholmes. Phil and Jeremy couldn't get all of the overflow in as they couldn't go wide enough it only just fitted in for me at 16mm. I think Phil did a bit of a pan, but I've still to see that shot.
|The Plug Hole Ladybower|
At this point late in the afternoon Jeremy decided to call it a day and head home to Cambridge. Phil and I headed on to Bamford Edge for a possible sunset. I have to say it was a little uninspiring the light was flat and the prospect of a decent sunset quite remote. We passed another photographer who packed up and was heading home wishing us all the best. We started walking back towards the car thinking we were done. In a split moment the clouds parted and the heather was bathed in a beautiful golden light. Phil and I both rushed to set up quickly and grab some shots. I really hate it when I'm forced to rush, where is my composition? what should I do? Is there enough time for filters? Running around trying to find a shot is not great when you are clearly up against it.
|Bamford Edge striking light|
After a quick burst of light there was a little lull followed by a nice sunset. I struggled with further compositions so didn't get much else to show for my efforts.
Back to the YHA for a third night and another meal out in Castleton. Again the weather forecast for morning was mist, but we were doubtful. Alarm set for 6:20am with a plan that we would give Winnats or Mam Tor another shot. I had wanted to try for a sunrise at Chrome Hill, but this would have required an even earlier start so we decided to stay local.
Emerging out of the youth hostel at first light it was thick fog. Fantastic, this was the sort of opportunity we had been waiting for. Driving up Winnats, should we stop or carry on up to Mam Tor? We made the right decision, parking the car at Mam Tor it was evident Winnats was still shrouded in fog, but we were sitting above it. It's mornings like these that I dream about, but which never happen. Amazing conditions and even though it was a Monday morning 10 or so other photographers had already set up on the top for sunrise.
When you are greeted with phenomenal conditions such as these I sometimes find myself getting "writers block" Where do I start? What do I capture? Although the overall scene was amazing, how do you try to distil that down into a single shot? Is it possible? 3 or 4 compositions later I wasn't sure what to do next other than to repeat again as the mist changed shape spilling over the landscape.
|Mam Tor path|
|Mist from Mam Tor|
20 minutes later Phil and I re-grouped and walked down the path into the mist hoping it might clear revealing more of the landscape. Quite the opposite even with a good breeze blowing it got thicker. Back at the top just about everything was obscured. All bar one photographer who we had chatted to had gone. Breakfast was very much in our sights again so we headed back to the car. The plan was to start heading South hoping that there was some fog at Chrome Hill. Driving through Buxton there was still lots of fog and the air temperature dipped at one point to -2. Stopping briefly for some roadside shots near Chelmorton we arrived at Earl Sterndale for Chrome Hill. Despite conditions looking bleak we still made the trek up the path overlooking what would have been Parkhouse Hill if you could have seen it! I hunkered down pulling on all my layers in the blind hope it would clear. It didn't so in the end we gave up.
We headed off out of the fog towards the Roaches. After a quick stop at Ramshaw rocks we continued on to the infamous old barn. With the barn done from various angles and a bitterly cold wind blowing we decided it was time to head for home. Pointing the car in the right direction we were off.
Great company, great weather and some great photos made for an enjoyable trip all round. Where next? We will have to see.
Peak District Flickr album