Last year (2014) I did my very first solo wild camp. You can read about my experience here. Ever since that trip, I have been hooked. Wild camping allows you to fill your photography boots to the very brim; shooting sunset, dusk, night, dawn & sunrise in one glorious session. Free from the pressures of day to day life, you can pack your bags and head out in to the wilderness (or as near as you can find) and truly enjoy nature and your surroundings.
Whilst planning my camp, I had a small dilemma. I could go to a location that I know well and have photographed before or I could take a risk and try somewhere new. In an ideal world, I would have time to scout lots of new locations, choosing one at a later date. Unfortunately time is not a luxury I have. I decided to take a risk and try a new location in the hope of adding some variety to my portfolio.
What do I take in to consideration when planning a wildcamp photography outing?
- Popularity. Is the location a popular walk? If so, I will avoid as there is a good chance others will also be camping, not to mention dog walkers, fell runners, hikers and fellow photographers.
- Weather. Check, compare, then check again. Make sure you are prepared for cold, wet weather & make sure you don’t over prepare for warm weather i.e. taking too many layers.
- Accessibility. I have a lot of gear, do I really want to hike 4 hours to a spot? Yes! Just make sure the weather is on your side & tell somebody where you are going.
- Are there enough flat areas? Google Earth will help with this. Most of the time there will be a flat ledge big enough to accommodate a small tent.
- The view. In an ideal world, I want to camp on a summit or a ridge running North-South. This way I can shoot the sunset, wake up, turn around and shoot the sunrise, all from the comfort of my tent. A location with a good panoramic view is ideal to get the most out of a wild camp photo outing.
- Kit. What do I need & what don’t I really need? Of course, I would love to take my big pillow, all my lenses, beer, a good selection of food, my laptop, a nice chair… I usually save this sort of packing for when I am staying at a campsite, which is also a brilliant way to get stuck in to Landscape Photography. For a wild camp, pack light… as light as possible. If you are lucky enough to be in the position where you need to buy new kit, don’t scrimp. £100 is CRAZY money for a camping mat until you pack it in your rucksack, unpack, inflate and have the best nights sleep of your life. All of this from something that weighs 50 grams and is the size of a can of lager. Apply this logic to your tent and sleeping bag as these are the bulky items that will ruin your hike if you get them wrong.
Below you can see a map of my route and I have marked my camping spot. The walk was very easy to navigate and not too challenging. It gains good height over a relatively short distance; perfect for a wild camp. By looking at the map, you can see my thinking when choosing this location. 360º panoramic views including views of Ullswater & Hellvelyn. This hike took me approximately 1 hour with a fully laden rucksack.
Open Space Web-Map builder Code
The Entire Contents of My Lowepro Rover Pro 45 AW Bag (Links at the bottom)
- Canon 5D MK III
- Canon 24-70L
- Canon 70-200L
- Camera Filters (Lee, Heliopan, Hitech)
- Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Tripod with 498RC2 Ball Head – **I have updated this with a much better Head
- Lens Cloth
- Vango Banshee 200 Tent
- Thermarest Neoair X-Lite Mat
- Mammut Air Pillow
- Vango Trail Lite 240 Sleeping Bag
- Insulated Jacket, Hat & Thermal Longjohns
- Leatherman Skeletool
- OS Map & Compass
- Garmin Etrex 30 GPS
- Head Torch
- Whiskey,Water, Food, Gas, Pans, Tooth Brush, Tooth Paste.
I also had a change of clothes, deodorant & my Zeiss 21mm Lens in my car.
Once I had reached the top, finding a camping spot was easy. The summit of Place Fell has no shortage of flat areas, however with wild camping, ideally you want to be away from & out of view of the trail. Whilst setting up my tent the quality of the light was getting better and better. I placed my pegs in a hurry, anxious to get the camera out. I headed back to the summit, just 3 minutes away, desperately looking for a composition. The evening light was magical, golden, warm and ever so slightly defused by the mist hovering over the hills to the west. I knew the light would fade fast and there was one ‘stand-out’ composition; the summit trig point. The foreground was bathed in this glorious evening light with the background beautifully softened by the building mist, all held together with the footpath leading your eye past the tarn, over the hills and across to Ullswater in the distance. As soon as I took this photo, I knew it was a keeper.
The air was so still with not a breath of wind, the only sound I could hear was the birds and the geese from the lake 500 feet below. As I fired up the stove, that familiar smell of burning gas brought memories of childhood camping trips flooding back. The sun had set and the sky was burning red, there was only one photograph I wanted at this point.
I have only done a handful of wild camping trips, but every time I do, I make a point of capturing the scene to remind myself and show others how utterly peaceful & inspirational it can be to stay out in the wilderness. The image above is a blend of 2 images. The first image was taken at dusk, however the ambient light was too strong for the glow of my measly little head torch, so I had to wait about 40 minutes for the light to drop, only then could I capture the glow of my tent, illuminated by the head torch. All I do then is stack the images in Photoshop and carefully mask the tent. If I had a flash gun I would have been able to get this in one shot, unfortunately I don’t think this is an essential item.
The Next Morning
I had a reasonable sleep, although I wish I had chosen a more level spot, rather than choosing a camp site entirely based on the view. My Thermarest worked a treat. Incredibly comfortable and very warm considering how small and lightweight it is. I was awake before dawn and the moonlight was illuminating the landscape. I could not believe my eyes when I unzipped the tent to see that I was above the most amazing cloud inversion. I had to capture this in an image as my video camera would not pick it up and I was not sure how long it would last. (Perhaps somebody can explain the colour temperature differences between the glow from Glenridding & the glow from Patterdale.)
I decided to head back to the summit to plan my next move. By now, dawn was breaking. I opted for the long lens, anything wider and there was a chance of losing the majesty of the cloud inversion. The view to the east would have otherwise been rather bland, but with a burning sunrise and a glorious cloud inversion, the scene was transformed.
As the sun broke, I headed back towards camp to take a final photograph looking towards Kirkstone Pass. The valley was still engulfed by low cloud and the light was crisp, allowing for a clean, sharp image.
After this image was taken, I sat. I sat and enjoyed the warm sunshine, the stillness, the silence. Any noise from below was now muffled by the cloud. It was so nice to escape life. No phone signal, no internet, no work. Whilst sitting, doing nothing at all, 2 dear stag passed a few meters below me; Perfect. I was finished for the morning. I packed up camp, hiked back to the car and had breakfast with a friend whom I arranged to meet in Keswick. Roll on the next trip!
For more info check out my Kit Blog, but here is a summery of kit used:
Canon 5D MK III
Zeiss Distagon 21mm Lens
Canon 24-70L f2.8
Canon 70-200L f4 (None-IS)
Garmin Fenix 3 (For navigation)
LowePro Filter Pouch
Lee Foundation Filter Holder
A Range of Nisi Filters
A Heliopan 105mm Polariser
A 105mm Attachment Ring for it to fit on to my Holder
HotShoe Bubble Level (Love this)
A Waterproof Camera Cover always comes in handy
As Does my Leatherman Skeletool
I Always Take a Head Torch