on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

A Little Piece of Eden

Both literally and metaphorically

Keith Beven

Keith Beven is Emeritus Professor of Hydrology at Lancaster University where he has worked for over 30 years. He has published many academic papers and books on the study and computer modelling of hydrological processes. Since the 1990s he has used mostly 120 film cameras, from 6x6 to 6x17, and more recently Fuji X cameras when travelling light.

He has recently produced a second book of images of water called “Panta Rhei – Everything Flows” in support of the charity WaterAid that can be ordered from his website.


To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. ~Elliott Erwitt
Since I've been on the boats I've seen loads. I've seen a perfect winter shot that just needs the right amount of snow, the right light… ~Mark Littlejohn1
The camera sees more than the eye, so why not make use of it? ~Edward Weston

It is often said that photography is all about the light and being in the right place to take advantage of the light. While we do not normally have much control over the light on a landscape, being in the right place implies something about learning how to see the photographic possibilities at a place and the potential for the right light that may not always be apparent at the first visit.

More than 25 years ago, I was lucky enough to find a house in the upper Eden Valley in Cumbria, the part known as Mallerstang. This was just a year or so after buying my first medium format camera (a Mamiya 6).
When travelling, we may not always have the luxury of returning for a second visit (but it is a common theme in photographic books about Iceland, for example, that the photographer has made multiple visits over many years or, in some cases, even gone to live there). For some places, we may be able to revisit many times and experience directly many of the possibilities. Mark Littlejohn has expressed this well in the quotation above with respect to the many times he has worked on the Ullswater ferry boats. This article is about learning how to see in that way at a little piece of Eden, a place that might be completely overlooked by passers-by.

More than 25 years ago, I was lucky enough to find a house in the upper Eden Valley in Cumbria, the part known as Mallerstang. This was just a year or so after buying my first medium format camera (a Mamiya 6). Mallerstang was a perfect place to explore with the new camera2. But, throughout those 25 years and the transition from film to digital, I have found myself coming back again and again to a small reach upstream of the bridge to Shoregill, where the river tumbles over a short series of low, moss-covered, limestone rock steps. A general view of this river's reach in winter is shown below. The rock steps are in the foreground, with a variety of boulders projecting from the surface at all but the highest flows further downstream. Upstream of the steps is a pool, not really deep enough to swim in, but there, the water flows more slowly, reflecting the colours of the sky and the shadows of the surrounding trees.

Clear winter light on
A little piece of Eden
Glows intensely blue3

Eden At Shoregill In Winter

River Eden at Shoregill, looking downstream in winter 2021

It is a little piece of Eden for the photographer, both literally and metaphorically, that nearly always yields an interesting image or two; images that change with the state of the river and the way in which the direction and quality of the light interact with the caustics and reflected sky pools and land pools formed as the water flows over the steps or around the boulders4.

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