Saturday 18 July 2009


High summer in The White Peak, and its a relief that after the dire summers of the last two years the wildlife seems none the worse for wear. In my, admittedly limited, experience it seems insect colonies that were down to low levels last summer have bounced back impressively, with birds and plants are doing well too. The weather this year has been a succession of hot, dry spells interspersed with wet, cold periods, rather than the mild but dull and very wet summers of the last two years, or the hot and dry of previous years. Looking at temperature graphs for the last few hundred years, it looks like the ragged sawtooth's interminable rise might be in a regressive pattern for the next decade. This winter was certainly a little more like 'winters used to be', and the wildlife seems to be benefiting. Of course the concern is what happens after our brief reprieve period...

I've been experimenting a little with white background work to produce some design-ready nature images. There's a fair degree of faff and extra equipment required, but the resultant images ceratinly have their uses. Here's a comparison of The Peak's two native Orchids of the genus Epipactis - the Dark-red and Broad-leaved Helleborines.

Traditionally this is regarded as a difficult time of year for the landscape photographer, with the sun high in the sky for much of the day, throwing harsh blue light onto a predominantly green landscape. Although I tend to be immersed in nature photography at this time of year, The Peak has more to offer than many landscapes in summer. Drifts of Cottongrass already add shimmering silver strips to the moors, whilst Bell Heather is just coming into flower on south-facing slopes. Pretty soon it'll be joined by the more widespead Ling and the moors will be at their most spectacular. Its not all uniform green in the White Peak either. Haymaking breaks the fields into a patchworks of yellow and green as early as May, and carries on 'til late July when the most ecologically important fields, under stewardship schemes, are left to seed before mowing. Autumn's colour might seem a way off yet, but the straw yellow of drying grasses are caused by the same process and can be just as photogenic. My favourite landscape photo of the last month has been up on Kinder. Mindful of the fact I'll be away for the peak of the Heather season this year, I teamed up with my boy Cofe for an evening shoot on the western edge of the plateau.

Tuesday 7 July 2009


Lots of little things have gone on since my last post. Nothing big, but no lack of interest either. We had a week in the Outer Hebrides at the start of June, which didn't disappoint. Despite taking a car-full of camera gear, I really got into using my Ricoh compact on this trip.

A lot of the time I was sketching with a view to returning with more serious gear if the weather cooperated, but having seen the quality it can produce it also meant I could my binos round my neck, D300 + 300mm over my shoulder, Ricoh in pocket and be ready for landscapes or wildlife without needing a bag.

Getting back to The Peak, I've kept using it for sketching out locations in marginal weather. Attempts to return for a proper go haven't always worked, what with the weather, the midges, and the fact that when you get down to it, it can be damn near impossible to improve on a photo, even when its one of your own. There are a lot of subtle factors which you rarely take into account as being crucial when deconstructing photos, so its always instructional to try and repeat a shot. If nothing else it'll give you an appreciation of how much the landscape changes in a week or so.
Climbing-wise, I've surprised myself in getting into limestone more than ever, and bolted lime at that! The motivation is easy; in a few weeks I'm off to Mont Blanc's Grand Capucin with a strong team, and I need to get fitter. I've done a lot of trad lime, and enjoyed it all, but the combination of uncomfortable holds, uninspiring lines and arbitrary bolting of Peak sport has always seemed a particularly joyless challenge. I can trace part of this change in attitude back to a conversation I had with Pat Littlejohn whilst taking a minibus of foreigners down to Craig Dorys. Discussing some of the piles of choss he'd climbed over the years, he explained that he has never viewed poor rock as a detrimental quality, but just simply as a fact of the route. It can add to the character, or it can detract, but in itself it just is. Whether, to a climber, it is a problem, is something foisted on it entirely by the climber's preconceived notions of quality.

I really liked this philosophy, and it ties in well with the zen approach I mentioned in an earlier post. I've never had a problem viewing loose rock as interest, so on the Peak lime this year I've been trying to put notions of good and bad out of my head, and simply see what there is to learn. I always like learning, and along with the dose of variety its enough to keep me happy. So far it seems to be working; I managed to actually work a route over several sessions at a grade harder than I've done before (a lowly 7c) and, when it came to it, got a lot of satisfaction from the redpoint. I was surprised to find it really does feel easier (and a lot better!) when you do it. Now if I could just get my head round working stuff a bit better...