The last few weeks of 2017 were spent with a paintbrush in hand rather than a camera. You were more likely to find me up a step ladder than on top of a Fell or Hill. Add to that Christmas and New Year which were spent with family and friends (Eating too much, drinking too much and building lots of Lego), meant I had a break from photography for about six weeks.
Over Christmas I got comfortable in the house and struggled to get out of bed before 7am. Lethargy had set in and the thought of going out with the camera for a sunrise felt like just too much effort. I needed to break the spell.
I’m sure I'm not unique in feeling like this. I’m also sure that this feeling isn't exclusively to photographers. I should imagine when you take a break from almost any hobby its hard to get back into it.
I hadn't fallen out of love with photography, but I didn't have any urge to take any pictures. I spent a lot of time during my ‘break’ looking at images online made by the people I follow on social media, the high standard of which didn't help. Seeing these images only emphasised what I was missing. We had snow, and thick frosts in parts of the Peak District on days when, if I'm honest I could have made the effort, but didn’t.
Along with lethargy, self doubt had started to creep in. I was happier than ever with my work in 2017, but could I replicate or even better it in 2018? What if last year was more to do with luck with the conditions than any skill with the camera? What if my luck runs out? Again more pressure I really didn't need.
I knew that a speculative shoot wouldn't quite cut it for me, I needed a reason to get out there, whatever the weather. I needed a mountain or lake….or both.
So last weekend I made the 2.5 hour journey north to Cumbria. The weather forecast was for calm, clear conditions, but since when were weather forecasts to be relied upon? I had just a couple of days (or to be more specific 2 sunrises and 2 sunsets if you live by Golden Hours) to see if I could find that spark what photographers sometimes call their ‘phojo’. I had accepted that I wasn't going to find it sitting behind my desk, so I put myself smack bang in the middle of some of the most spectacular scenery England has to offer.
I used to aim to bring back a certain number of images from such trips, but this time I abandoned all thought of targets, either in terms of the quantity or quality of images made. Its unrealistic (down to variables outside of your control) and just adds to pressure. I just wanted to take some pictures.
I didn't have a plan so far as locations were concerned, but I did take the opportunity to catch up with a fellow photographer, and local, Stuart McGlennon. Stuart is based in the Western reaches of the National Park and has produced some stunning work in just a short space of time. Sometimes deciding where to shoot is a minefield, especially when your spoiled for choice like in the Lakes. What if I chose to shoot on the shores of Derwent Water only to find out theres a full on inversion over Ullswater? I decided to offload this responsibility on to Stuart and a grand job he did to.
Stuart elected to shoot at the remains of the Roman Fort on the Hardknott Pass for sunset on the Saturday, and then from Catbells (near Keswick) on Sunday morning. On both occasions we were rewarded with great light.
The rest of Sunday was spent exploring the Langdale Valley in exceptional weather. I didn't see a cloud on Sunday, or indeed Monday until I reached Manchester on the M6.
I didn't get any magical mist or snow on this trip, but the Sunday night was bitterly cold meaning I woke to a harsh frost. Clear skies again, but an opportunity to shoot at a place I hadn't been to for ages, and in very different conditions, and if all else failed, I would have a very nice walk making notes for another time.
I am happy to share some of the images from this trip, although it was never intended to form the basis of a Blog. Theres a mix of styles and subjects. From wide vistas (my usually staple) to more intimate scenes in the frost. There are some images that I would call ‘fillers’, the type of image I wouldn't usually share, but I like them and that was half the point of this blog. Most of us start taking photographs because its something we enjoy. We take images of things that appeal to us. When other feelings or thoughts enter our head it starts to get complicated and thats when we invent reasons not to shoot, or start to shoot to please others. I understand thats unavoidable for professionals, but for amateurs like me it doesn't have to be that way.
I found my Phojo last weekend and can’t wait for my next opportunity to get out with the camera. Whatever happens in 2018 I'm going o enjoy it.