Lake District | The jaws of Borrowdale
We had left early that day heading north
Making for the Lakes and a break in the journey before reaching Scotland. The miles rolled by. Decompressing as I went. The landscaped bathed in winter light. The monsoon that I had been tracking in the weeks before had disappeared. Forecasted rain failed to show. Pushing along the motorway and my southern eyes started to pop at the lower levels of Lakeland. The hard shoulder appears as a beguiling place to photograph. The light seductive and always saying “over here, over here.” To my growing chagrin, I do not know the Lakes well. It seems sprawling, complicated. Photographed to the millimetre. My mind has always wanted to go further north. To places, wilder. I was fortunate in my companion. Paul has spent much time among the hills and lakes of Cumbria. So it was that we were making for Shepherds Crag.
The A66 threatened to derail that plan. The light was overwhelming. So intense that it looked like summer. However, with winters added ingredient: it was low and slanting. Opportunities were everywhere. “Drive by photography” became the phrase for the week. Images that are formed in the mind’s eye seem so seductive at 50mph. Yet they fail when given proper clinical attention through the viewfinder. Why is that?
Five or so hours later and I was stood on the fringes of Borrowdale. We had wondered why so few people were out. Those that were wrapped in winter gear. Stepping out of the car, I appreciated why. A lazy icy wind leeched the heat gained from a comfortable car. The steep slopes of the Crag were above us. Shouldering packs, we headed up.
By any standards, the path is easy. However, days of sitting could not prepare for a quick lung busting march up. The march became a walk. Then rest. Heart beating in my chest. Clean air in my lungs. My eyes drinking in the landscape.
Standing at the top of Shepherds Crag, the wind gained in strength and cold. It had been zero degrees below. I guessed it was -5 now. Out of practice in dealing with the elements and my gloved hands fumbled with tripod and straps. As it often is at the start of a journey, I felt slow and cumbersome. My mind was struggling with the composition, just as my body was failing to deal with the climate.
The light pouring over the crags that surround Borrowdale was remarkable. Winking in and out, as the clouds scudded by. There was only one way to look. Then the mind games began. How much of the interlocking hills to exclude? How to expose for such dramatic light? Not forgetting trying to ensure that the tripod did not shake. Slow. Cumbersome. 30 minutes later and my hands had gone numb. The light hidden behind the hills.
Paul wondered if this had been the best light of the trip ahead. I hoped that it was not. Just as much as I hoped that, it was.