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  • Writer's pictureGareth Partington

Photographing Padley Gorge

It was a very cold bleak morning when I decided to head to the Peak District in search of a place called Padley Gorge. The previous week I had watched a Vlog by the photographer Ian Worth and he went to this mysterious place that looked like it was right out of a fairy tale. The photos Ian produced were fantastic and I just had to go and visit the location myself.

Waking at 4.00am is hard work

My intention was to drive to the peak district before sunrise in order to capture the gorge in the early morning light. The day before the weather was not looking ideal, the reports were for rain, drizzle and overcast skies. I could have turned the alarm off, rolled back over and gone back to sleep as the alarm blurted out at 4am, but I didn't. I forced myself up, I knew if the weather didn't play ball I would still have a great time out walking with my dog Dylan.

We arrived at 5.45am and the world was still covered in darkness, pulling on my camera kit and slowly making my way down to the gorge was a little difficult having forgotten to pack my head touch but we found our way down, listening out for the gushing water.

I was expecting to find a small stream which was what we found at first, but as I followed it down the water got faster, the stream got wider and the rocks got bigger. It was an amazing view in the darkness as the rocks were silhouetted against the blue/black sky.

Sunrise was not what I had hoped for

The sun slowly began to rise and light began to fill the gorge, I say fill, it was more of a slow dimmer getting turned on. The sky was completely overcast and there was no breaks for the sun to come through. There was no mist in the air and the atmosphere I was hoping for didn't materialise.

Even using the ten stop ND filter didn't really help to bring out the magic of the place or the colours I was hoping for.

A change of plan

Having such a dull day can definitely give your ego a kick after getting up so early, but it was in such a magical place. I had to continue to explore and find away to photograph the location.

A few weeks back I had been experimenting with photo stitching and wondered if perhaps I could photograph sections of the gorge and piece them together to create a bigger scene. The light was pretty pants so I decided a black and white approach would be best.

These are a couple of the images, and I liked the effect but there wasn't anything over spectacular happening. I couldn't include the sky as it was just white behind the trees and did little to help with the composition.

Perseverance is key

As I explored the gorge walking further along I came across a bridge and thought perhaps this could be used as a focal point. I tired all the lenses I owned trying hard to find a composition that worked, but I couldn't fit enough in the frame, so decided to carry on with the stitching approach.

This I felt was the most successful photo of the day.

It is made up of over forty individual images and each exposure took at least thirty seconds to take with the ten stop ND filter added. So I was stood in the same place adjusting the camera and tripod taking photos for twenty minutes in order to have enough to create this scene.

The time in Photoshop to process took forever, but I loved the composition and how the gorge flows down leading you to the bridge and beyond.

As the image was made up of so many photos the detail is insane on this image. Here is a couple of closer up sections.

It was disappointing I didn't have the light or atmosphere I was hoping for, but I'm still glad I forced myself from the comfort of my bed and out into this amazing location. One good image was worth all the hard work. I will definitely be returning to Padley Gorge and I'm not sure anyone will be able to recreate exactly my photo due to the way it was created.

There is so much to explore, the woodlands were just incredible and in the right light will look fantastic. The image below was my last photo before I packed up and headed home for breakfast before the crowds arrived. Imagine this place in the mist with rays of sunlight breaking through.

Have you discovered and gems of locations when out photographing? Or have you had a similar experiences where your expectations were beyond what you could achieve? Let me know in the comments or send me an email.

Until next time.


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