Summer, such as it's been, is coming to an end. This weekend saw us pass the equinox, and now the hours of darkness will outnumber the hours of daylight until the 21st of March 2013. For the first time since last winter, we awake to a white frost on the grass. The skies are clear blue and there is not a breath of wind.
Wanting to make the most of the calm and still conditions, we decide that a trip to the National Trust's Tarn Hows is in order. It is still a little early in the autumn for the leaves to display their final bursts of colour before falling, but the still air should mean that the surface of the tarn is mirror flat making for nice reflections.
Getting there early is the key, once the sun warms the ground sufficiently thermals will start rising and the breeze at ground level will start; we're the second car in the car park.
The reflections on the tarn are, as expected, beautiful. The next problem is keeping Polly, the labrador, out of the water while I capture a few photographs. Another problem to be overcome is the harshness of the light, the day is so clear and so bright the contrast between light and dark is immense. It makes calculating the correct exposure difficult. I try using my hand held light meter, and take an incident reading. Even that seems to be giving me bogus information. I resort to using the histogram on the camera to ensure as much light is captured without losing highlight detail. Such is the range of brightness, it is not possible to capture the full of light without losing either some of the shadows or some of the highlights. I elect to preserve the highlight detail, better to have deep shadows than to have blown out areas of irrecoverable white in the images. I also resort to using either the two and a half or 3 stop neutral density graduated filter, which help to balance the dark reflecting water with the brightly lit landscape.
As we walk around the tarn I stop frequently to capture images, some single shots, others to stitch into larger panoramic images.
Not all photographs are of the reflections, I love the dappled light filtering through the trees onto the forest floor below, especially when it lights up feathery fern leaves or the bright red berries of the rowan tree.
The air is still cool and crisp under the shade of the trees but the sun is climbing higher and its pleasantly warm when standing in the pools of sunlight. As we feel the radiant warmth, so does the ground and the surrounding air. The tops of the trees stir and the reflections on the lake suddenly vanish in a myriad of ripples. Polly can have a swim now.
Tarn Hows sits between Lake Windermere and Coniston. It is a beautiful place, great for picture taking at all times of the year, although we do tend to avoid it in the height of summer. Actually, we tend to avoid the whole of the Lake District in the height of summer, it's just too busy; apart from the weather, it's the main drawback on living on this small, heavily populated island.
As beautiful as Tarn Hows is, the lake is not a natural feature, it is man made, the product of 19th century Victorian landscaping by James Marshall.
Marshall sold the land to a Mrs Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, who in turn, passed the land onto the National Trust thus ensuring its preservation for future generations.
Speaking of future generation, its getting busier now as people arrive to make the most of the fine weather. After a brief break for a sandwich and a flask of coffee, we head of down hill, following the main outflow from the tarn, Tom Gill.
The light filtering through the trees catches the water as it cascades down the hillside. We stop frequently so I can set up the tripod and try to capture what I imagine in my minds eye.
Eventually after a number of stops we reach Yew Tree Tarn, and a rather camera shy fisherman. He turns his back whenever I lift my camera to take a picture. He would have made a good subject but I respect his privacy and we head back up towards Tarn Hows and the car.
It's still early afternoon, we've even got time to try a different location.....
...to be continued next time blog readers.