England – The Lake District

The English Lake District has long been associated with tourism. Since the earliest days, visitors have strived to convey the images from their minds’ eye to others. Some in words as with the Lake Poets, some by painting including Turner and Constable, and as the process developed more latterly with photography. George Abraham and his sons were perhaps the earliest photographers of renown in the area (circa 1887). They recorded landscapes and mountaineering images, some of which can be seen in their old premises, now the George Fisher store in Keswick.

Tourism is now the primary source of income to the area, but it is not difficult to escape the crowds in pursuit of images to take home with you.

When to go

Traditionally summer is the season to visit the Lakes; it conjures up for many images of lakeside strolls, picnics, mountain walks, and scenic drives. That may not be how you want to see it as a photographer. By all means you can visit in the summer but if you do you will need to get up EARLY and be out LATE. If visiting in summer take advantage of what the season has to offer, visit the local shows such as Ambleside Sports, the Lowther Horse Trials, take in the attractions such as Muncaster Castle with its Owl centre, ride The L’al Ratty and visit the South Lakes Wild Animal Park at Dalton. Time it right and you can even have a day out at the races. Distant views in the summer are often obscured by haze, but this helps to reduce flare and glare from the early morning and late evening sun. Ideally you will want to visit outside the main tourist season, i.e. Easter to October. The visitors are fewer, the roads less congested, parking easier to find and accommodation cheaper. The colours in the landscape are also more appealing to the eye.

Where to stay

As a tourist destination, and outside the main holiday season, you have an almost unlimited choice of places to stay, campsites, caravans, hostels, B&B’s, inns, hotels and self-catering cottages / houses / apartments. You should be able to find something to suit your budget. Central locations are the most desirable as they make visiting the outlying spots easier. Or decide on a location you want to concentrate on and choose something close by. Start by looking here.

How to get there

The Lake District is readily accessible by road, rail and bus routes. Sadly, as with many spots these days, you need to drive if you want to make the most of your visit. If you want to be as green as possible there are alternatives.

The closest international airport is Manchester, where car hire is available.

What to take

Camera gear will be as always; take the most versatile gear you have. The landscape lends itself to both wide and long lens views. You will need a tripod, filters and something to help protect your camera from the elements.

Clothing needs to be appropriate for the time of year, but bank on needing waterpoof jackets and over-trousers.

Travel insurance and camera insurance are recommended.

What to photograph

You will be lost for choice, though you will need to tailor your photography for the weather conditions.

When the light is good

Ideal conditions are still and clear with some cloud to enhance the sky, and then you get the chance of mirror calm reflections in the lakes and tarns the area is famed for. When changeable you have the opportunity to catch incredible light, though you will need to be prepared for a drenching. Any time you see snow on the hills you need to make the most of it, as it is a rarity these days. If it is a still night after a day of rain, expect early morning mist.

When the light is bad

When it’s overcast and raining, think laterally and beyond the waterfalls; look for details in the land. Try some shots of the towns and villages with reflections in water on the pavement, and head to the lesser known coastal spots. Locate some of the smaller churches; try out the likes of Holehird Gardens, Levens Hall and Dalemain House.

Use the chance to sample one of the many tearooms, or find a cosy pub and give your lenses and filters a good cleaning.

Personal lowlights

Walking up a hill for sunrise, and it does not happen.

Getting up at 3:00 AM in the summer to catch first light.

Battling the road with tourists on public holidays.


Recommended reading

  • Memoirs of a Fellwanderer by Alfred and Betty Wainwright
  • on Lower Lakeland Fells by Bob Allen
  • Lakeland High Tarns by John Drews
  • The Soldier’s Return by Melvyn Bragg (fiction)
  • OS Explorer Active Maps

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