It was a day that I had been looking forward to for a very long time so I was relieved that the rain had stayed away as I drove through the deserted streets of Bowness-on-Windermere.
It was 05:30 and I was here to collect Tom Peters aka PhotoNinja, one of my closest YouTube buddies who was up in the Lake District for the week. We planned to head out together to shoot the sunrise. Fat chance of that but at least it was dry.
You could not hope to meet a nicer bloke. Tom really is a lovely guy, too cool for school and a very talented photographer. Look at his images and it’s hard to accept that he’s only been shooting for a few years.
Tom lives in Bude in Cornwall, just up the coast from my mum. This is only the second time that we’ve met but there is already a comfortable familiarity between us. That’s one of the great things about YouTube, relationships are formed quickly when you watch someone week in, week out.
It’s easy to think that James Burns is my oldest YouTube buddy but that dubious honour falls to Tom who found a video that I shot at Boscastle (where my mum lives), a location that he had visited only a few weeks before.
When we arrive at the Pelter Bridge car park it’s pitch black and empty. Landscape photographers always get the pick of the best parking spots.
We wait for about 15 minutes until Simon Burn arrives in his hire car. Simon splits his time between the UK and Canada and is in the area for the vloggers meet up a couple of days earlier at Derwent Water.
Simon is a professional travel and lifestyle photographer. When it comes to landscapes he swears he is just as much an amateur as the rest of us. This we take with a pinch of salt, he’s just too bloody good, but he has been accepted into the ‘gang’ with open arms. This has pleased me a great deal. I was Simon’s first ever subscriber and remain a huge fan.
We take the short climb to the path above Rydal Water chatting as we go. Sunrise comes and goes without any drama so we decide to head down to the water’s edge. No one seems too bothered about the photography. As is usually the case when we meet we’re happy just to catch up.
After a while James Burns arrives. I’d already received a message from James telling me that he’d slept in and would late.
James is one of my closest YouTube mates. We’ve met up a few times now and speak at least once a week on Facebook messenger.
James is a superb photographer who has carved out a real niche for himself on YouTube hiking in the Lake District and shooting the fells with his trusty telephoto lens.
It is easy to become friends with someone if you have a shared passion but when you have three that friendship is inevitable. We are a perfect example of how YouTube brings people together. The community that is growing up around amateur landscape photography on YouTube really is something special and it’s great to be a part of it.
Eventually we make our way to Rydal Caves. It is still early and we have the place to ourselves. I try a shot looking out of the caves but it doesn’t really work. The dynamic range is just too great, even when I bracket my exposures.
By this stage the banter is in full swing. Tom is singled out for most of the ‘leg pulling’ because of his pink tripod but he takes it in the spirit it is intended. It’s another example of just how familiar we are with each other despite this being the first time that we’ve all been together.
From the caves we take the path to Loughrigg Terrace that runs around the side of Loughrigg Fell over looking Grasmere.
As we go James is on form spotting compositions that the rest if us don’t see. This time it’s the line of the path that we’ve just walked leading off into the distance.
Simon too has spotted something, his years of experience taking over. Tom and I just look at each other, what have they seen that we haven’t?
Simon is a fascinating guy. In my opinion he is one of the best photographers on YouTube. His images are superb and the quality of his videos is right up there with the very best. Despite this he still has a relatively small following on YouTube. We joked that he must be the worst at SEO (search engine optimisation, the writing of titles, descriptions and tags that we all need to do to ensure people can find our videos) but I am sure it is only a matter of time before his channel takes off.
As we follow the path on to the terrace the view of Grasmere starts to open up. Tom and Simon are suitably impressed but I assure them that the view is even better the higher up we climb. I have chosen this route deliberately; it is one of my favourites and the rewards are high for relatively little effort.
And so we begin the climb. After a short while it becomes obvious that my 2 weeks in bed with a virus has done nothing to help my fitness. I find it tough going. If I am honest I am not fully recovered.
As we climb we all stop at different points determined to find something different from the others. I hold out the longest fully aware that my favourite vantage point is just before we start to loose sight of the lake. It seems poignant to stop at the point where my best mate’s ashes are scattered but that is another story for another time.
It’s about 11:00 by the time we reach the summit. It has taken us 5 hours to get to the top; that has to be some sort of record.
Tom gets straight to it shooting a pano close to the summit. True to form James is waving his telephoto in the direction of the Langdale Pikes. With all the wind and rain about my gear is staying safely tucked away in my bag. Simon seems happy to take it all in but eventually opts to join James.
After a while I lead them down from the summit to the view of Loughrigg Tarn. I manage a quick shot but the rain is blowing in from the Langdales and I have to keep wiping water droplets from my filters.
After a while Tom and I return to the summit. It isn’t long before we are joined by Simon but James is no where to be seen. Aware that we should probably make a move we have a vote to see who should be dispatched to find James. Tom looses by 2 votes to 1, the disadvantage of being the youngest in the group.
And he is the youngest by a considerable margin. At just 30 Tom is one of the youngest in the community, landscape photography traditionally being an old man’s sport. It’s difficult when you are hurtling towards 50 at breath taking speed not to envy Tom: charismatic, bags of talent and his best years still ahead of him. Good luck to you fella.
Eventually we are reunited and start to make our way down. On the way we stop at a dead tree. Tom has unfinished business here and the other 2 decide to show the youngster how it’s done. I am happy to sit back and let them get on with it, content with the images that I’ve managed to bag already.
That is the last time the cameras are out. We make our way back to the cars chatting as we go.
Tom seems to have had a good day as I drop him back at the place in Bowness that he has rented for the week with his partner. I look forward to seeing him again soon, most likely the next time I am down visiting my mum.
Landscape photography is commonly a solitary pursuit. I for one certainly take my best images when I am on my own and am able to focus on what I am doing.
But I have come to realize that for the amateur photography is supposed to be fun and nothing is more fun than messing about with your mates!
Chris – September 2018
Tom Peters is an amateur landscape photographer based in Bude in Cornwall. He divides his time photographing the north Cornish coast and Dartmoor. Check out his YouTube channel.
Simon Burn is a professional lifestyle and travel photographer based in Canada and the UK. Simon says when it comes to landscape photography he’s just as much an amateur as the rest of us – yeah right, nice try Simon! Check out his YouTube channel.
James Burns is an amateur landscape photographer, fell walker and YouTube hatstand. He shoots mostly in the Lake District and occasionally in his home county of Yorkshire. Check out his YouTube channel.