Jonathan Miles Photography: Blog en-us (C) Jonathan Miles Photography (Jonathan Miles Photography) Sat, 22 Oct 2022 14:21:00 GMT Sat, 22 Oct 2022 14:21:00 GMT Jonathan Miles Photography: Blog 112 120 Coniston Wildcamp 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.





(Jonathan Miles Photography) Sun, 01 Sep 2019 16:34:59 GMT
Black and White in Wales 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. 

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Fri, 01 Mar 2019 21:04:25 GMT
Stormy Northumberland 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.

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Thu, 31 Jan 2019 20:12:42 GMT
Australia and New Zealand 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. 

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Mon, 07 May 2018 12:21:48 GMT
Amazing Assynt 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. 

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Sun, 22 Apr 2018 16:03:17 GMT
Derwent Water Microadventure I think winter is my favourite season, a proper winter that is, not a damp rainy winter the likes of which this time of year usually inflicts on the UK. Winter adventures this year have however been limited because of an opportunity to head to Australia and New Zealand with work, a chance that was far too good to miss.

Now back in the UK and with late February and March delivering cold conditions in spades I was keen to get out for a bit of winter wild camping.  Most of my friends think I’m crazy camping in winter but I love it, its certainly nicer than camping in the rain. Temperatures below zero actually help keep kit dry compared to that horrible range between about freezing and +8 where its pretty impossible if its raining.

This does come with the caveat that you have to invest in a really good sleeping mat and bag to keep out the cold. I was also keen to try out my new shelter, a MLD Trailstar, a tarp like shelter from a small U.S manufacturer I had picked up just before Christmas and used for my trip round New Zealand. The Trailstar uses walking poles for support and is lightweight, but has a big footprint, is very weather proof and obviously well ventilated. I don’t intend to review it in any depth as many others already have.

I pitched for the night above Derwent Water hoping to get some morning photographs over the lake towards Skiddaw from the Surprise View Lookout. Snug in my sleeping bag with a big bag of tea and a book I was able to slowly drift off to sleep with the winter winds whistling over the tarp. This is what I like about winter camping, the feeling of being warm and comfortable whilst being surrounded by cold crisp air. I slept well getting a good 10 hours sleep before the pre-dawn light began to diffuse through the tarp.

Roused from my bag and with a warming coffee in hand the wind had dropped to virtually nothing leaving Derwent water almost mirror still.  I spent a couple of hours at Surprise View and nearby Ashness Bridge, the sunrise didn’t clip the top of Skiddaw like I had hoped but I’m pretty please with the images I captured.

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Sun, 18 Mar 2018 15:51:37 GMT
Winter Skies Winter may be my favourite season, or rather if winter turns up then it's my favourite season. The mountains of the UK are not only more fun to explore under a covering of snow and ice but I think they are more beautiful too. For a photographer winter is also a bonus as sunrises and sunsets are not only more spectacular but more accessible, no requiring late nights or early mornings.

I've been lucky over the past week to get some great images from both ends of the day, this has cheered me up after booking my last holiday of the year one week too late to catch the Scottish Highlands under their first winter coat. With storm force winds forecast this week and a cold rapidly working its way through a mass of tissues I decided a week of wild camping in Scotland was not the best idea and chose to make the most of what I can find here in Yorkshire. 

Some of the colours in the sky have been quite amazing, vivid to the edge of what I would have thought possible, I've actually struggled to recreate them after processing the RAW files the blues and yellows often overwhelmed by the pinks and oranges.

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:05:00 GMT
Wast Water Microadventure I had not managed to get out and sleep under canvas in September or October missing out on camp's surrounded by the beautiful colours of autumn. Motivation had been lacking, a prolonged period working away from home saw me arrive home late on a Friday tired, with a pile of washing and an empty fridge, this coupled with early starts on Mondays had sapped my energy. With the job complete I was therefore looking forward to getting out in the Lakes and an opportunity to wild camp and hopefully get some images of an iconic view.

I had chosen to head round to Wast Water one of the Lake Districts' photography honeypots; it's easy to see why, Englands deepest lake sits nestled below the seemingly vast screes of Illgill Head with fantastic views down to Yewbarrow, whose south east ridge seems to carve into the water like the great upturned prow of a ships hull. Beyond Yewbarrow is Great Gable and the Scafell peaks forming what must be the most famous and iconic view in the Lake District, even appearing on the logo for the National Park.

I had hoped to get some sunset pictures but the clouds were unkind, offering up a dull sunset and I retreated to the warmth of my sleeping bag disappointed. Morning offered slightly better conditions and I found a couple of nice although certainly not original compositions with foreground rocks in the lake mirroring the mountains in the background. For a time it looked like the rays of the rising sun would reflect off the cloud which was dancing around Gable to light its' snow dusted summit with warm pink and orange light, but it was one of those nearly moments you get so often in photography.

Wast Water RocksWast Water RocksThe sunrise didn't really play ball but these rocks make an interesting study.

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Tue, 14 Nov 2017 21:30:56 GMT
Hadrian's Wall Microadventure My tent is pitched for the night in the ruins of Milecastle 39, high in the Northumberland Fells where Hadrian’s Wall runs perched upon the outcropping Whin Sill. Reaching out and touching stones placed 2000 years ago by unknown hands is exciting, the wall itself  still an inspiring presence in the landscape.

To sleep in a milecastle – unsurprisingly placed every mile on the wall – had been something I’d really wanted to do; a way to link back to a time when there really was an edge of the world and one could stare out over land about which little was known. I had not really come north for photography but threw my camera in my bag regardless as I knew there were a few shots worth seeking out.

The section of wall on the high Pennines is the best preserved on the entire line, being furthest from large centres of population which will have robbed away much of the stonework over the intervening years. Its also probably the most spectacular the child of the Whin Sill adding to its grandure and emphasising its place in the landscape.

I ended up with a few pictures I liked including the photogeninc Robin Hood Tree at Sycamore Gap made famous by Kevin Costner at some point in the 90's. The biggest challenge was finding thirty seconds to take the picture as people were swarming all over the wall enjoying a day out.


(Jonathan Miles Photography) Sat, 03 Jun 2017 15:10:21 GMT
Langdale Microadventure With the mountains of the Lake District still capped with spring snow I plodded up to the top of Side Pike as darkness quickly descended around me. Fortunately it was not too steep a climb carrying full overnight and photography kit; the hill is diminutive but boasts fantastic views over the Langdale Pikes which was why I had chosen it for the weekends wild camp. I managed to get the tent set up with the last rays of warmth fading from the sky, pleased I have brought my winter sleeping bag with me as the clear sky suggested and delivered a cold night.

As tea cooked on the stove the stars bust into life throughout the blackness above, Orion and Sirius prominent to the south, and I spent about an hour trying to capture a tent lantern picture; something I have seen others do but which I found to be quite a challenge, juggling camera settings and trying to focus in darkness. 

After a good nights sleep I woke to a brilliant sunrise; a warm glow on the hills which gave way to the first rays of sunlight catching the white snow and then dappling the upper slopes of the Lansdale pikes with a gentle morning light. 




(Jonathan Miles Photography) Sun, 02 Apr 2017 19:37:53 GMT
Torridon Mountaineering I've not managed to get out much in the snow this year, mainly because there has not been much snow to play in full stop. Early this month the stars aligned, snow and high pressure in the North West Highlands; so with the mountains of Torridon being one of my favourite places in the UK my weekend plans where swiftly modified to include a 7 hour drive north on Friday evening. 

The trip was not about photography, but about traversing the ridge between the two Munro summits of Liathach, Mullach and Rathain and Spidean a'Choire Lieth. This under snow is one of the finest easy mountaineering challenges in the UK and had been on my wish list for a while. Weighed down with climbing equipment a heavy DSLR always feels a bit excessive and unnecessary, and there is the temptation to leave it behind. Its always worth the effort though as I hope the photos show.

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Wed, 22 Feb 2017 21:51:13 GMT
Mam Tor Microadventure Slightly disappointed in myself having made it to February and not camped out overnight yet, I took advantage of a good weekend forecast to head to the Peak District with the hope of spending the night on top of Mam Tor. The forecast was for fog in the morning and I was hoping for an inversion to be able to capture the ridge across to Loose Hill breaking through the cloud. 

Most people think I'm slightly mad for camping out in winter, but I really enjoy it, it adds a little spice to the adventure, and also there is the satisfaction of brewing up on a cold crisp morning whilst feeling warm and refreshed from cold night air! After experimenting for ten plus years I've made most of the mistakes, forgetting my sleeping mat during a winter climbing trip to Pembroke was the worst, a horrible cold night with very little sleep ensued even though I had a bag rated to minus twenty! A good bag is certainly worth the investment, I bought mine at least a decade ago and its still toasty, and coupled with an Exped down mat I've never been cold even sleeping in just pants.

Mam Tor was particularly exciting spot to sleep as I was also camped in the remains of an iron age fort which covers the summit of the hill. I pitched up somewhere within the ancient ditches for the fort, now little more than furrows in the landscape but still substantial enough to offer a bit of shelter, although these days from the wind rather than the neighbouring tribe on the warpath. I found it inspiring to go to sleep thinking about all the others through the millennia who have called this hill home for a night, what were they doing there and what did the landscape around them look like?

Come morning the cloud inversion didn't happen but I did set some sunrise photos although shooting into the sun was a bit of a challenge i'm not used to. Not sure there is a stunning image amongst them but thats not the point.


(Jonathan Miles Photography) Wed, 08 Feb 2017 21:53:07 GMT
Honister Microadventure A Honister Microadventure... or how I went failed to find Warnscale Head Bothy.

Pitched up above Buttermere

There are very few bothies (buildings left open as simple overnight shelters) in England and most of these are in and around Kielder Forest in Northumberland. A couple exist in the Lakes though, one above Buttermere on Warnscale Head, which I wanted to visit as it's a fantastic viewpoint down the valley and a great location for some photography.

Originally built as part of the slate mines which delve and burrow through the hills in this part of the Lakes,  the bothy is tiny, sleeping only three at a push, so as I left my car at Honister I threw my tent flysheet in my pack just in case.

Dubs Hut and Haystacks

Dusk was fast approaching as I climbed up the old incline to Dubs Quarry where a second Lakes bothy Dubs Hut sits nestled surrounded by scree and slate waste. Lights in the window showed the bothy was occupied for the night; I droped down towards Warnscale Head with Haystacks rapidly disappearing into the gloom towards where I thought the bothy was. Within 10 minutes or so the light and completely gone and I realised I had rather stupidly not bothered to get a grid reference for the hut so decided to find a patch of grass and pitch up for the night.

The spot I chose proved to be just about the least sheltered point I could have picked and the tent fabric snapped and rattled in the wind through the night, but cocooned in my bag I was warm as toast despite the temperature falling close to if not past freezing. Come morning I had a fantastic view down the valley but with the sun rising at my back behind the mountains the light was a little flat. 

Morning Sunrise

It was bitterly cold and the wind was still whipping past the tent so it was good to get moving up towards Haystacks to explore a view more photographic opportunities. The higher fells were still covered with snow which crunched satis-factually under my boots, the first snows of a new winter and hopefully one with many adventures to come.

Innominate tarn and Haystacks summit tarn were both frozen solid and offered some nice compositions, but taking any good photos proved a challenge as the low sun played havoc casting long dark shadows or brilliant glare across the landscape. Despite this is was good to be out and at least I can come back again and find the bothy intake for sunset next time.

Innominate Tarn from Haystacks
Ennerdale is shrouded in shadow between Pillar and High Stile
Great Gable and Innominate Tarn
Pillar and Innominate Tarn


(Jonathan Miles Photography) Sat, 10 Dec 2016 18:55:42 GMT
Buttermere Micro Adventure With the last colours of autumn fading I wanted to get out with the camera and try and capture some good images in the Lakes. Saturday was a bit overcast and made for poor images but I hoped Sunday would be better and if not the idea was to find a waterfall which is always a good fall back option when conditions crap out.

I camped Saturday night just above Buttermere as I wanted to try and take the classic view of the lake familiar from many others photographs. Its an unoriginal but great view, trees reflected in the still waters of the lake as the sun rises over the peak of Haystacks in the background. 

In the end I was not disappointed, the overcast sky lit up well in the morning and I took some lovely images before the sun rose above the clouds and the light went flat. With big landscapes shots now obviously out for the day I walked up to explore Scale Force, the highest waterfall in the Lakes with a tremendous main drop go 35m down a narrow gorge. I took some nice images and got excited with the though of how the route would look in winter, apparently it form a good grade five which I can possibly persuade someone to drag me up.

I finished the day with a hike up to Red Pike whose summit was lost in cloud and being beaten by a bitter wind, before dropping steeply back to Buttermere via Bleberry Tarn. My legs certainly felt a little out of condition, not a good sign before what I hope to be a big winter of ski touring and winter climbing. I've spent too much time recently visiting easily accessible viewpoints with my camera rather than going for a big walk with my camera and taking what comes. Best get training...

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Wed, 16 Nov 2016 20:06:36 GMT
Tarn Hows Microadventure I first saw a picture of Tarn Hows in a book on landscape photography and was instantly captivated by the beauty of the view. The mirror still waters of the tarn surrounded by trees in the full riot of autumn colour, complemented by a group of slender pines on a spit of land which jutting out into the lake to lead the eye towards the mountains in the distance.

The tarn nestles in the low hills between Windermere and Coniston Water, an area I had always bypassed in search of walks and climbs on the higher fells to the north. This weekend I visited with the idea of camping and capturing the location at sunset and sunrise.

I took some shots as the sun sank slowly towards the horizon as shadows crept slowly up the bowel of the tarn and onto the hills beyond. I pitched the flysheet to face the view even though the ground was scarcely wide or level enough to do so. I’m currently using my one man tent flysheet as a tarp until I can splash out on a Trailstar.

With tea brewed I sat down to welcome dusk. As the light faded hundreds of birds swooped cartwheeled and darted just over my head, calling to each other as they zipped through the air with an audible whoosh.

There are the best of my images, the trees need a little more time to retreat to their more stark winter shapes, sacrificing their leaves to give them the energy to make it through winter.

(Jonathan Miles Photography) Mon, 31 Oct 2016 20:24:52 GMT