The Dawn Shoot

What is the hardest thing about landscape photography?

Surely it’s dragging yourself out of bed at the crack of sparrows to go and get those sunrise shots. At times it feels that way at least. That mental battle that takes place – tired, warm, comfortable, as opposed to beautiful sunrise, soft light, being out there before anyone else.

And so it was a few weeks ago, when I saw how good the forecast was for the following day that the mind games began. In truth it was just a lot of hopeless posturing on behalf of the warm, comfy bed argument. I’d made up my mind that it was going to happen. An opportunity to be grasped incase another one didn’t come along anytime soon (see footnote).

So the alarm went off at 4am and I was heading out of the door at 4.30am – cup of tea in hand. My dog Fly got an early morning surprise as he came face to face with a hedgehog in the dark, before I managed to redirect him to the car for fear of the repercussions from his over inquisitiveness. I really didn’t have time to deal with a nose full of needles.

Mist clings to the River Brathay as I wait for sunrise on Loughrigg Fell

Research is always a useful thing in these situations and whilst I’d done some research i.e. identifying my chosen vantage point – Loughrigg Fell near Ambleside in the Lake District, I hadn’t really done enough, or any for that matter, regarding the route to the top. After a couple of stops to study the map and Wainwright’s Central Fells guidebook I managed to figure out the quickest route up and subsequently hit the right path. If lack of proper research was schoolboy error No. 1 then it was about to be followed by schoolboy error No.2. Falling into the age old trap of relaxing into a steady stride on a good path, feeling my navigational work was done, I proceeded to miss the grassy track heading off at an angle up the bracken-covered hillside. Thankfully something made me realise my error because the next minute, in the light of my head torch, I was reading from my Wainwright “watch for the track slanting up to the left 150 yards beyond the gate.” What track?

It took some back tracking – literally, a blind alley and a large slice of faith in old Wainwright’s instructions but sure enough there it was.

By 7am I was at the summit looking down on Loughrigg Tarn, beyond to Windermere, around to Elterwater and across to Coniston Old Man. Once I’d found my spot, gazed down on the mist clinging to the River Brathay and Elterwater below, set up my tripod, mounted the camera, screwed in the filter holder . . . the mental pain of that early alarm had receded into the distance.

As a footnote to the above, last weekend and last minute, I seized upon another good forecast and another opportunity to be on top of a hill for sunrise. This time it was Sunday morning on Harter Fell, and this time I cheated the system – just a bit. 

Mist settled over Elterwater at sunrise

Firstly I know this hill almost better than any, so virtually no research required. But where I was particularly pleased with myself was the extra hour I managed to gain in my favour by virtue of daylight saving and the clocks going back, meaning the 4.30am alarm call was of course effectively 5.30am. Timing is everything, but then so is time. The key is to master the first and just deal with the second 😁

Kentmere Reservoir and Ill Bell from Harter Fell at sunrise
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1 thought on “The Dawn Shoot”

  1. Loving the pics Andy.
    How right you are- ‘Timing is everything, but then so is time. The key is to master the first and just deal with the second’

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