What’s behind an image? As a photographer it’s something I ask myself a lot, it’s how I learn. I do it with both my own images and those taken by others. The gear they used, the techniques, all the little intricacies that will make or break a photo.
The image at the top is one which I took for an exhibition last year. It wasn’t the image I had set out to take but in its own right, it’s a tribute to overcoming adversary. For a long time, I've had an idea of an image of the sun rising over Helvellyn and its surrounding hills. In order to get the lighting necessary, it needs to happen early in the morning between November and February while the sun is still low on the horizon.
With some time on my hands and the smallest of weather windows I packed my bag. As always, I tried my best to keep the weight to a minimum but still having enough options should the plan change. Years of climbing have prepared me for this and I stripped everything down to the bare minimum. Evidently, I stripped things down to well and left my tent pegs behind but that’s for later in the story.
Later that evening, I hopped off the bus in a drizzly Patterdale and began making my way up the hill. I wasn’t in a rush, after all, I had all night, but was keen to find a decent spot to pitch my tent before the weather deteriorated anymore. The forecast for the morning was one of sunshine so I was optimistic for my shoot.
As I got higher up the fell the wind picked up and the rain got heavier, I retreated further into my hood. The walking wasn’t difficult and the weight of my rucksack helped steady me against the occasional strong gust. Pretty standard really!
I reached the top in thick cloud and heavy rain. I knew that cold quickly in conditions like that so I quickly set to work pitching my one-man tent. Scrambling to hold on to my tent, to prevent it blowing away, I came to the horrible discovery that I only had 5 pegs. At least one swear word was uttered.
I pegged down the 4 corners and stuck in the 5th for good measure. My poor tent stood limply, it’s fly flapping in the wind. It was hardly the palace I had been looking forward to and more a sight from the end of a festival. Never the less, I crawled in. Being the resourceful photographer that I am, I set my tripod up over my head which kept the material from hitting me in the face. Warm and dry, I settled down for a noisy nights sleep.
I awoke in the morning to clouds flying past my tent. The rain had stopped and the sun was indeed out albeit in between the banks of cloud. Unfortunately, the only clouds that weren’t moving were the ones obscuring my views. Head held low and my tail between my legs I packed up my wet tent and measly selection of pegs and began making my way down.
As I marched off the hill, a little bit frustrated, I looked up just in time to see the view in the picture open up before me. Unfortunately, before I could even say “ooh, that's nice” it was gone again. I quickly set up my camera and put it on a 10-second timer. As soon as the cloud would clear, I’d hit the button and run. It took about eight attempts but in the end, I walked away with a photo I was happy with.
Above is pretty much everything that I took with me that day, bar the clothes on my back and the boots on my feet. I've always approached packing with the mindset of less is more, mostly because I'm not the biggest of builds. It felt lovely and light until I put all the camera kit into it, but, we live and learn. Afterall, what doesn't kill us or give us knee problems only makes us stronger!