Is there anything nicer than an early morning swim in a warm still lake? The surface of Coniston Water is a mirror reflecting the surrounding hills as I swim out from the small beach above which I pitched for the night. The water is lovely, warmed by the sun over the past few weeks its at that lovely sweet spot of being warm enough to be pleasant but cool enough to be refreshing.
Peel Island is famously the inspiration behind Wildcat Island, a place of adventure and exploration in Swallows and Amazons. I had paddled over in my packfraft the day before with the intention of camping overnight on the island, however having explored the nearby shore I found a lovely spot hidden amongst oak trees above a tiny gravel beach.
I was using my Alpaka Caribou cargo fly for the first time and must admit to being slightly nervous. This is a rather neat storage solution where you keep all your camping kit inside the inflatable section of the raft itself. This obviously means access is required so Alpaka installed a half meter long air tight zip in boat. Whilst to me this seams rather worrying I have to admit its working fine so far, and certainly leaves the cockpit area much less cluttered than otherwise.
My campsite is lovely but within 10m of where I have pitched I find evidence of 4 fires, this appears to be becoming more and more of an issue as wild camping becomes more popular, and I'm not sure of an easy way to educate people against it. With the shelter up, I wade out into the lake for a swim out to Wildcat Island for an explore.
The lake is busy with swimmers, paddlers, and the odd boat making their way here and there. The island is a focal point for stopping for a bite to eat, but although it's small I find a corner to a relax in the sun before swimming back to my campsite.
The following morning I'm up at six hoping for some nice sunrise photos; it's perfectly still giving lovely reflections in the surface of the lake but unfortunately also overcast. I play around with my camera for a bit then because its super early on a Sunday strip off for a skinny dip.
It's lovely swimming out from the beach into the undisturbed water, the visibility looks great and I make a note to invest in a snorkel so I can see whats going on below the surface. Ten minutes into my swim and it starts to rain causing the surface of the lake to jump wildly around me, a delightful experience.
I'm becoming completely sold by camping via packfraft, I can't wait to take it to Scotland and explore the lochs.
A few weeks ago I enjoyed a weekend exploring the castle that dot the north coast of Wales, Conwy, Caenarfon, and Beaumaris were all built by Edward I and are remarkably well preserved. Conwy castle is particularly photogenic from just up river, Turner painted the castle from here, although at that point the railway and Stephensons magnificent box girder bridge had not arrived. The skies were pretty dull and it was the middle of the day so I opted for a simple B&W image in post processing.
I spent the night wild camping just above a beach on Anglesey, it was ridiculously warm for February and barley a breath of wind rustled the fabric of my shelter. I had a location in mind for a sunrise photo and was up early to walk across to the island of Llanddwyn and the fantastic lighthouse of Twr Mawr. The island is connected to the Anglesey by a spit of sand which is covered at high tide but fortunately today the tides were working in my favour.
I arrived in plenty of time only to discover I had left the matches for my stove back in the car a mile back along the beach. This put me in a grump immediately, and my mood want improved by the lack of colour and warmth in the sunrise. I salvaged the trip with a nice long exposure shot that with a B&W conversion in post processing works quite well.
I spent the weekend in Northumberland, it's been a few years since I last visited and I wanted to explore some locations that i didn't feel I had go the best out of on my previous visit. Costal Northumberland is beautiful, long sandy beaches, dunes and castles perched above the sea. Two of these were on my list, Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh, the first a gaunt ruin the second virtually intact and still very much a home, if an expensive one.
During my previous visit to Dunstanburgh I had tried photographing it from the south but had not been very pleased with the results; I'd then discovered that from the north it can appear a very striking prospect. With the winter sun due to rise pretty much behind the castle I planned to camp on the beach, liking the idea of falling asleep listening to the sounds of the waves using up and down the sand. A forecast for strong winds through the night drove me from the top of a dune to a hollow at its base, a decision I was thankful for as later tucked up in my sleeping bag my shelter was battered by strong gusts even in the lee of the dune.
Morning brought clear skies, although a bank of cloud was fast approaching from the east. The wind was whipping up the sea into a series of rolling waves which passed under the castle to crash onto the beach. Despite all this kinetic energy my favourite image from the shoot was a long exposure smoothing out the sea but accentuating some movement in the clouds and the colours of the sunrise reflected off the retreating water of the waves falling onto the sand.
Later I went north to Bamburgh, cloud coated the sky and the wind picked up. I was initially sceptical about the conditions but notices the wind was picking up streamers of sand which then danced over the beach towards the castle. I was able to combine this fain leading line with a stronger feature of outcropping rock in an image I was really pleased with.
I was very lucky this January have to go to Australia as part of my day job, and a free flight to the far side of the world was just too good an opportunity not to tag on to the trip a holiday to New Zealand, a place I have dreamed of visiting for over 20 years. Although I was in Australia for two weeks I had very little time to explore, so I made use of my one free weekend to drive as much of the Great Ocean Road as possible. The Southern Ocean crashing into the cliffs of Victoria has created a stunning coastline of sea stacks, arches, and great beaches, although you will have to get up early to avoid the crowds.
New Zealand was more relaxed, but still a question of choices. I knew I had two weeks, hardly enough to scratch the surface of the country, so I decided against rushing around and instead chose to focus on just the South Island. In the end even this plan proved too ambitious, I was so taken by the landscape and relaxed culture I chose to loiter rather than rush through.
Photography was not the main aim of the visit, I was there to enjoy hiking the hills, exploring on a bike, and swimming in lakes, but the landscape is so stunning it was easy to get myself out of bed on a morning to grab an image or two. Very few things you dream about for 20 years surpass expectations, New Zealand did, I'm going back.
Assynt in the North West Highlands is probably my favourite part of the UK, its spectacular for photography, great for hiking, cycling, and kayaking, and is home to some absolutely beautiful beaches. All this stems from its unique landscape of sandstone on top of Lewisian Gneiss which produces a landscape like no other, a feeling of space, a feeling of wilderness, and a feeling age. I mage use of the early Easter to head north and try and capture it at it's early spring best.
The above image of the mountains of Assynt at sunrise, Cansip, Silven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag, and Stac Polly is taken from just off the "Mad road of Assynt" otherwise known as the B869. There is a car park about 2 miles out of Lochinver from where a short climb gives access to this great view.
Suilven and Cansip reflected in Loch Druim. I had arrived a little late to capture the pre dawn colours but the water was so still I'm still happy with the results.
After a very disappointing sunset at Stoer thanks to some late intruding cloud and rain I played around with the big stopper to create this image of the lighthouse.
Sunset at Achmelvich, one of the beautiful sandy beaches that nestle in the coastline.