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35mm | f/11 | 20s | ISO 100

Where and when?

Ullswater in the Lake District, September 2019.

The background story

This was taken during what would turn out to be my last dedicated photography trip for some time as the COVID pandemic would soon kick in and put a halt on travel. It was the final leg of a journey that had seen me travel down from Glen Coe a few days before.


During my time in the lakes the weather had been OK – generally dry but nothing in the way of stunning light. As I settled in for my final evening I had an eye on the forecast and it was indicating that there would be a reasonable chance of mist during sunrise.

The boathouse on Ullswater is a classic location but one that I had never photographed before and with it being on the water it seemed to be the ideal location if the mist materialised. So I did something I don’t often do when it comes to landscape photography: make a firm decision on a location and commit to it!

How it came together

I left my B&B before dawn and drove the half hour or so to Pooley Bridge. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the forecast was accurate – there was mist – but if anything there was too much. Landscape photographers are rarely satisfied.

As the sun came up it struggled to penetrate the scene but right towards the end of golden hour it started to break through. The mist began to thin and the boathouse was bathed in morning light. It was a very still day and the water was already providing great reflections but I decided to use a longer exposure of twenty seconds to emphasise the effect.

Composing was tricky due to the lack of foreground interest and so I attempted to balance the boathouse on one side with the fells on the other. The parting mist and barely visible boats added elements to the middle of the frame.

Why is it a favourite?

Much like the Loch Clair shot I wrote about, this image had a fair degree of luck – good and bad. By preparing in advance I was able to hedge my bets and put myself in a great spot to make the most of any mist. But if it hadn’t had cleared at the last minute it would have been a very different and less effective scene.

The shot was made all the more challenging by the high water level; my movement was restricted to a foot or so either side which meant I had to really consider the best focal length. Trying to balance the different elements from an essentially fixed position was tough but a lesson in precision and compromise.

On another day I would have loved for the mist to have parted earlier and for the water to be lower so as to reveal the jetty leading from the boathouse. But for a first attempt I am very pleased with the result and it serves as a reminder that even when you get what you want, you don’t always get what you want.


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