Winter in the Peak District
A selection of photos and written musings from a short visit back to my home in the Peak District.
My long awaited half term holiday had finally arrived and I was desperate for some fresh air, some freedom and the chance to go back home, see my family, touch base with good friends and also (once again) be in the familiar surroundings I know so well and love.
Prior to boarding the train, at Rotterdam Centraal station and embarking on the six hour train journey from my home in the Netherlands, back to my home in the UK. My phone was buzzing frantically with alerts and notifications from the BBC and Sky News about what the weather was going to be like during my visit. Soon enough the alerts began warning me and probably the rest of the UK about the imminent arrival of the 'Beast from the East' and later during the week, its collision with the fast approaching 'Storm Emma'.
While sitting waiting... I wondered what was in store?
As predicted, the storm did hit and it certainly left its mark, with strong winds, bitterly cold temperatures of around -4 in the day and then even colder temperatures and conditions during the night.
Add to that a severe and biting wind chill, together with large amounts of drifting snow, the scene was set for a pretty amazing wintry scene throughout the week. Something that was increasingly inviting and appealing.
Winter in the Peaks
The Peak District always seems to get its fair share of dramatic weather and when it arrives it can be very impressive. Due to its proximity and upland elevations, it always means that when the severe weather closes in, it will undoubtedly leave a beautiful landscape and mood for any aspiring photographer to go out and enjoy.
During the five days at home, I already had a lot planned, but during the moments of free time and relative freedom. I was keen to just get outside, enjoy walking some of the many country footpaths and attempt to capture and create some long lasting memories through my images.
Capturing this enchanting landscape
Growing up here and returning fairly regularly always means that I have a pretty unique connection with this impressive landscape. So much so that I love nothing more than wandering and exploring the landscape on foot, by bike or using the car. When time allows there is simply nothing better than just getting out and taking a snapshot of this naturally beautiful part of the United Kingdom.
Once back home, there are many popular locations for me to visit, some over and over again and many wonderful hidden gems, even I didn't know existed. That further adds to the appeal, as I not only love discovering and then capturing something new, but I also really enjoy visiting those places I have been to several times before.
As the snow fell rapidly and then accumulated all around, the winding country roads soon became treacherous with large amounts of snow and ice settling on the already cold tarmacked surfaces.
As a result, the driving and walking conditions were challenging to say the least. So, it was vitally important when venturing out on the road or trail, to be well prepared and to follow a carefully planned route.
With many of country lanes in this area having regularly occurring uphill and downhill sections. Together with the added excitement of icy and cold conditions, it was inevitable the car would get stuck. So, pushing it clear of the ice and then negotiating further steep climbs, was all part of the adventure and experience of being out in such conditions.
Thankfully, I was out with others, so pushing wasn't something I needed to do on my own. I also didn't encounter too many problems, but there was just a few.
Shooting in the Snow
I'm not a photographer, by any means, I just enjoy taking photographs. To satisfy my own amateur interest in photography I have a few pieces of equipment, that I have collected over the years.
Where possible, I try to invest where I can and of course, if money allows me too. As a result, it is what it is and I do what I can. I try to learn and develop my skill level as I go along, continually learning from my mistakes.
I follow my own style and principles and attempt to take images as I see them and always seeking ways to improve my style and skills of editing, with each shot I take.
I do enjoy it, but time doesn't always allow me to get out and shoot. I have a full time job and commitment to that means that time to get out and just take photographs is really limited.
With that, I personally feel that photography is really changing and it is becoming more and more of an editing game, as opposed to people actually learning to become a better photographer, through developing a keen eye for creativity.
Besides attempting to capture my own images. I also really love looking at others images and I'm always keen to see how people capture and create their own unique images.
Unfortunately, nowadays it is fair to suggest with so many cameras and smartphones available out there, it appears that everyone sees themselves as a photographer. And with the addition of millions of editing tools and apps, you can certainly create an alternative reality for yourself and other to believe.
I suppose it could be argued that I follow suit, but I'm always keen to state 'I'm not a photographer' and stay humble in my approach.
Nevertheless, it still appears that many folk, continue to follow along the same old path and create things that have already been done or copied a million times before.
On this excursion I was armed only with my trusty Samsung Smartphone and my Samsung DSLR camera. I like them and they are both very easy to use. I don't have the latest equipment, I can barely fully understand what I have. With a keen eye, they both deliver a really great image. One that certainly helps satisfy everything that I would like to achieve and indeed understand about the equipment I'm using.
These conditions were challenging. The cold is not good on the camera and of course the person behind the camera too. So much so, that I also carried my trusty lens caps, a hood and micro fibre wipes with me at all times.
These certainly helped. Continually keeping the camera lens clean, when the snow was frequently falling or when I was simply moving from one location to the next. In the past I have learnt that have a huge splodge on the lens is never a good thing.
When shooting, I have become increasingly more and more confident to shoot my snow images in RAW. Whether that is right or wrong, with the experts out there. I'm not so sure, but it has certainly become something I have chosen to do. Shooting in the snow can be tricky, with the increased amounts of bright reflection and challenging light always in the scene.
As a result, setting the camera setting to RAW allows me to shoot more confidently and in turn allows me to balance the colour correction and exposure the best way I can. On completion it then allows me to go into the editing process, with ease and added confidence. In the hope of developing something I like.
The best places to shoot?
The Peak District has many amazing places to visit and capture great images. In fact there is something worth capturing almost around every corner. Of course, it is inevitable you will come across the places where the 'world and his wife' continually visit. In the hope of capturing the same images as everyone else has already created. Taken from the same angle and using the same preset. Sorry, they simply all look the same.
Anyway, I do try my best not to fall into that category and following the crowd is just not my thing. When gathering my material I really like to capture the scene as it is, with minimal amounts of editing. I also really like to capture locations that are not so popular, off the beaten track and yet to be discovered by the masses.
The chosen route led me from my home towards Cheddleton, a small village close to the bigger market town of Leek. It is a nice route filled with undulating hills, moorland landscapes and small woodland coppices. I really like it and with the addition of heavy snow showers, it really brought this interesting landscape to life. Creating a picture postcard scene.
I chose the car as it is the only way to get around, so I weave my way between the showers and try to avoid being stuck on some of the steeper hills, that pose an impressive climb. On route I pass through small villages and hamlets that are only made up from a few houses and usually central village farm. With livestock gathering out in the fields, you cannot help but think how difficult this life is, especially at this time of the year. As the farmers do there very best to feed and replenish their stock.
Venturing on, I pass through the village of Ipstones, which lies in the beautiful remote moorland landscape of the Staffordshire Moorlands and is positioned right on the edge of the glorious Peak District National Park. These are great places, that allow for a variety of great country shots. Where the essence of country life meets and mingles with a stunning natural landscape for all to admire and enjoy. So much so that I love capturing animals and life in the landscape, as well as my fascination with trees.
As you will see from my Instagram feed @garethmate I always tend to capture landscapes, but continually have a real interest in everything country. I love nature, but am definitely a country boy at heart. I enjoy my fair share of the city, but it is safe to say that I do really enjoy coming back home and feeling in touch with my surroundings once more.
To round off this like excursion there is nothing better than finishing the day with a visit to a country pub or one of the many cafes that are dotted all around. We end up in one of my favourite places, that being the Cheddleton Old School Tea Rooms, which is located up a steep hill in the village of Cheddleton. It is a fine place, with great food. I often opt for the all day breakfast and a large mug of tea, but on this visit I couldn't help but indulged in one of their finest Steak and Ale Pies. It was definitely a perfect end to a morning exploring this wonderful and unique place.
Thanks for reading.