It would be inapporpriate to declare any one of the Lake District valleys as being more beautiful or popular than any other, but given the close proximity of, and easy access to, both the Helvellyn and High Street mountain ranges, Ullswater ranks highly in many peoples’ minds, including my own. When I decided to capture a new and original image of Ullswater it therefore came as something of a surprise to me to find just how limited my options were; preferring to avoid any of the well-known viewpoints I reconnoitred the area for several months before choosing a location above the eastern shore of Ullswater near Hare Shaw Crag on Place Fell.
The composition demanded capture mid morning, and whilst it boasted originality and included all the geographical elements demanded of it, I felt it lacked atmosphere and the magical light of dawn. And so I conceded to return to a much-visited shoulder of Gowbarrow Fell on the western side of the lake, prepared to accept the familiarity of the viewpoint in anticipation of capturing a scene with some interesting or unusual light.
It was on my third attempt that perfect conditions finally prevailed. On this crisp April morning overnight mist still lingered in the valleys beneath starry skies as I headed off by torchlight over the bridge that crosses the river feeding the waterfall at Aira Force and up onto Gowbarrow Fell. At 4.30am I reached the shoulder of the mountain overlooking Ullswater. The lake was entirely covered by mist but beyond, the mountains of Place Fell, St Sunday Crag and Helevllyn rose up into a clear blue sky. Having set up my camera on the shoulder it was just a matter of waiting for the sun to rise and the scene to develop.
As a mountain photographer, it is moments like these that excite and make the effort worth while. The commitment to rise early, to climb in the dark and to stand alone on a mountain top in the freezing cold has been fulfilled; one is now simply a part of the immediate environment; what happens next is in the control of nature; the photographer can do no more than observe.
Half an hour passed before the first welcome, warming rays of the rising sun illuminated the rocks around me and pierced the mists directly below to reveal the surface of Ullswater. The cold blue hues of pre-dawn were gradually replaced by spirit lifting warm oranges and yellows. With Helvellyn above in bright sunlight and Glendridding beneath still in deep misty blue shadow I pressed the shutter for the first time. I continued to do so regularly for the next 30 minutes, but none of the subsequent images thrilled as much as the first.
Date : 5th April
Location Map Reference : NY 40868 20940 : Green Hill on Gowbarrow Fell.
Time : 0505 GMT