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  • Writer's pictureGareth Partington

A photography trip to the Peak District

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

Planing a photography trip to the Peak District can be a tricky affair. It has been photographed so many times by some truly amazing photographers, it's hard to know where to go. I spent hours going through my guide book "Photographing The Peak District by Chris Gilbert and Mick Ryan" trying to decide on places to visit.

I kept telling myself I should avoid the most popular places as they had been photographed over and over but I had never photographed there. Could I do something different in Mam Tor or would I resort to the same compositions that every other photographer has created?

Look where you are going

I drove up to the Peak District at an ungodly hour of 3am. At this time in the morning the world is still and quiet and I kept asking myself why am I doing this. I could be wrapped up in bed, but the call of the wild and the chance of taking some great photos was too strong to turn off the alarm.

I had arranged to meet my friend at the foot of Mam Tor near the Blue John Caverns in the hope we could catch the sunrise. I arrived to a dark cold world and Paul was fast asleep in his camper van. I checked my watch and realised I didn't have that much time before the sun began to creep up. I grabbed my camera kit, put Dylan's harness on and gave Paul a bang. There was no stirring from the camper van, so in my frantic rush to get there before sunrise I started trekking up the hill.

It was an arduous walk up a very steep hill, my lungs were screaming but I kept on going then suddenly I stopped and noticed Mam Tor did not look anything like I remembered. I had started walking off in the wrong direction! In my hast to get to sunrise I had not looked at where I was going and needed to scramble back down and up the correct hill.

Photographing Mam Tor

So this time I was in the right spot and I spent some time trying to figure out a different composition to all the images I had seen created here before. No matter where I went I could not find a view point which worked, so I resorted the tried and tested path leading off or gate and fence disappearing across the top of the hills.

The sun began to rise and the world was filled with this strange purple light. I first tried to not include the gate and fence but I felt the image wasn't really working, so moved and reset myself back up.

This time I included the fence and the sun broke through horizon. The image was getting there but it still didn't feel that successful. I was beginning to get frustrated with myself as it's so hard to make decisions when the light is changing so fast. I realised the image had no foreground interest and this is why the gate is included in so many other photographers images of Mam Tor.

I moved myself behind the gate and began to try and figure out how I could photograph this scene. I feel the image was much more successful and the colour began to fill the sky as the sun rose higher.

There wasn't much time left before the sun was completely up, the clouds began to burn away and I felt the moment for the best photo had probably gone. I had just brought a new lens so thought I'd have a quick play around with the telephoto lens.

As soon as the new lens was on, the compression of the zoom made the hills come together and silhouette.

Mist was blowing off the hills and from the lone tree that stood on the horizon so I decided to move further along the ridge to see if I could isolate it.

As I moved down the tree was still along way off and I couldn't fill the frame. The sun was rising higher and the colour was starting to fade.

By the time I had got to a position where the composition seemed to work the colour had completely gone from the sky, the mists had pretty much gone and this was the best I could do.

Exploring Bamford Edge

As the day went on we went to a few different locations in the Peak District and stopped off at place called Bamford Edge which over looks Ladybower Reservoir. The walk up to the edge went through an amazing forest but I couldn't seem to get a decent picture in here. The light was far too contrasty but it was like something out of a fairy tale. I will definitely be returning to explore this bit of woodland again.

My Adventure Dog

Dylan was so tired at this point, he had done so well the whole trip but he looked like a broken dog. Little did I know he was very poorly at this point and was suffering with Kidney failure. We stopped on the edge for some lunch and Dylan had a snooze.

He has been my adventure dog on so many trips and at the age of thirteen I didn't ever think he would begin to slow down or not be able to join me on anymore.

For the rest of the trip I was very conscious of how Dylan was doing, so it was small trips out to different locations ensuring he had lots of stops and rests along the way.

A Quick Stop at Padley Gorge

We had a stop at Padely Gorge as I wanted to show my friend this amazing location. The light wasn't great for visiting here but its such an amazing place, how could I not enjoy myself wandering around.

Stannage Edge

The final stop of the trip was to Stannage Edge where I was hoping I might catch a good sunrise but the light really didn't play ball this time. I have been rock climbing here a few times so I knew what an amazing location it is but the sky was filled with over cast skies so I wasn't too optimistic about my chances of capturing a good image.

I think if there had been some dramatic light breaking through the clouds this may have worked but alas it is what it is.

I did have more success as I moved further along the top of Stannage Edge and decided to use a small puddle as my foreground interest. The light began to break through the clouds but but it wasn't anything too spectacular.

Dylan The Dog Update

I had a brilliant trip to the Peaks and it is always an an honour to spend it with Dylan. He is now in retirement as we try to manage his condition and make his life as comfortable as possible. He has done fantastically in trying to fight the Kidney failure but he is becoming more and more frail. He was given a matter of weeks to survive once he was diagnosed but we have kept him going for over a year now with special foods and medicines.

He is still enjoying life but big trips like this are now a thing of the past, it's so hard watching your friend age rapidly.

I will leave this blog with a few photos of Dylan. Do you have an adventure dog who joins you on your photo trips? If so send me some photos or a link to your Instagram and if you do enjoy every moment you have with them.

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