on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Sport of Waterborn Photography

Full Steam Ahead

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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During the week after the Meeting of Minds conference, myself, Erin Babnik, Len Metcalf, Paul Arthur and David Unsworth spent a few days in Borrowdale to discover some of the beauty of area (and of the whisky, beer and food on offer).

On Wednesday, Mark Littlejohn left a message to say “I’ve organised a boat trip for you if you’re interested!” to which we all replied with a resounding “Yes please!” and so turned up at Glenridding at 1:30pm for the 2pm cruise.

As you’ve probably seen from the pictures that Mark has included with his article, the Ullswater Steamers are quite beautiful things in their own right and we spent the first few minutes ooh’ing and ah’ing at the boat itself. It wasn’t long until the boat set off on its way down toward Howtown though and so also began Mark’s stream of seemingly omniscient knowledge of Ullswater and its surroundings.

Capturing images from a moving boat isn’t my normal style of landscape photography, to say the least. First of all I’m normally operating a large format camera and secondly I’m taking about 10 to 30 minutes on each picture. In this case I was using my Sony A7R2 with a Canon 100-400mm Mark II on a Metabones adapter and as we started off and passing out of Cherry Holm I was taking a photo every minute or so.

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It was once we came up to Silver Point that things started to get interesting though. Mark’s intimate knowledge of the conditions at different times of year meant that he knew we were in for a treat.

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As the late winter light, only six degrees above the horizon, skimmed across the bank of Birkfell it started to pick out small groups of birch trees. The contrast between these and the blue shadows of the unlit trees was astonishingly beautiful.

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What we didn’t quite realise is that Mark Littlejohn has some sort of telepathic link with the pilot of the boat and as we passed into this confluence of light and landscape the boat slowed down and shifted towards the bank. The following three photographs, and many more, were taken between 14:53 and 14:55.

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The 100-400 focal length was superb although all but the close up of the trees were taken between 100 and 200 and I could have done with a little wider at a couple of points. A 70-200 would have been almost perfect.

I have to say that the experience of producing photographs at such a pace, of being forced to instinctively compose and recompose, was extraordinarily powerful. This sense of flow, of being embedded in the moment was something I could find strangely addictive.

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Alas, the two minutes only last a couple of minutes and the pilot started to make up for a little bit of lost time. The views were far from over, though; as we passed various part of the lake we saw many more potential images from small boatsheds to more lakeside trees.

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One of the more interesting aspects of the boat ride was watching the play of light and reflection on on the wake.

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The 100-400 wasn’t the best to capture these effects but my friend Paul Arthur had a 16-35 on his Sony and although he missed many potential photographs because of this, his wake photograph, in particular, is quite beautiful.

So a big thank you to Mark for introducing us to the sport of steamer based photography. It was so much fun that I started Ebay searches for ‘Passenger Boat’ although I haven’t told Charlotte about this one yet.



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