Regaining my Confidence

After nearly a month when it seemed like nothing I tried worked out my confidence has been pretty low. This week I decided to play to my strengths right when the Lake District is looking her best.

Ullswater in the Lake District viewed from the road that passes the Duke of Portland Boathouse

Sunday 27th October 2019

The weather forecast looked promising this morning so I rose early.

Exactly 2 years ago today I took one of my most successful images. I decided to head to Loughrigg Fell to see if I could improve upon it.

Unfortunately the forecast was wrong.

Instead of being clear, dry and still it was overcast, wet and windy. I got soaked and returned empty handed.

Worst of all I aggravated an old back injury in the process.

In landscape photography there are failures and then there are abject disasters!

Monday 28th

My back was still sore this morning and so I was forced to take the day off.

I spent the day doing exercises to loosen the muscles in my back and swallowing anti-inflammatories.

The day off gave me time to think and to reflect on how things were going. After a bit of soul-searching I came to the conclusion that I am seriously lacking in confidence.

I have not been producing the level of work that I would like and this has caused me to question whether or not I have what it takes to be successful in this field.

That much was obvious but what could I do about it?

In the end I could only come up with one solution. To play to my strengths.

As a photographer my approach is to work a scene over many months or even years, returning time after time in order to perfect my composition or in the hope of better conditions.

And so I hatched a plan.

Tuesday 29th

After a day on the sidelines I was keen to get back out with my camera.

My plan was to revisit two locations that I know well with the aim of improving on shots that I had taken previously.

First up was the Duke of Portland Boathouse on Ullswater.

In the past I felt that the primary subject (the boathouse itself) was too small in the frame and that I had shot too far too the right, thus not showing enough of the front of the boathouse.

Ullswater in the Lake District viewed from the road that passes the Duke of Portland Boathouse
I returned to the Duke of Portland boathouse for the first time in 18 months to get this classic shot looking south west along Ullswater.

✓ – Beautiful autumn colours, perfect reflections and even some low cloud in the background. It is hard to imagine better conditions for this scene

✓ – Significantly better composition than previous attempts; the boathouse is larger in the frame and the front is more visible

✕ – The railings at the front of the boathouse are a little too orange, next time ease off on the polariser a little!

Once I had finished at the boathouse I headed for Aira Force.

I wanted to get the classic shot of the waterfall from the viewing platform and to make the most of the autumn colours.

When I arrived I was a little disappointed to find that the colour was not as developed as I would have liked.

No matter. Nothing that a little liberal use of the HSL sliders in Lightroom cannot fix!

Aira Force waterfall near Ullswater
I shot a little wider than usual at Aira Force this week in order to make the most of the autumn colours which were more developed higher up in the canopy.

✓ – Wider composition makes the most of the autumn colours high up in the canopy above

✓ – The waterfall is almost a secondary subject after the tree which has more visual weight in the scene

✕ – The autumn colours are not as developed as I would have liked, particularly around the bottom of the waterfall

Wednesday 30th

Today I got to spend the day with Sander Groenendijk who was visiting from the Netherlands.

Sander had hired me for a 1-2-1 and asked that I find a specific view of Loughrigg Tarn from Loughrigg Fell.

I collected him from the YHA in Borrowdale at 05:00 this morning and drove through the blackness  to Grasmere.

We then climbed up to the summit of Loughrigg Fell before dropping down to the view point that I have located a few weeks ago.

To some this might seem like an awful lot of effort but boy was it worth it!

Loughrigg Tarn viewed from Loughrigg Fell in the heart of the Lake District National Park
I certainly would never have taken this shot if Sander had not asked me to find this view point

✓ – Wonderful combination of frosty fields and autumn colours; teal and orange is a classic combination!

✓ – Nice simple composition focuses on the tarn and the hills in the distance

✕ – Next time I return I would like to experiment with a wider composition that includes Elterwater to the right of the tarn

I had a really wonderful morning with Sander. He is a fascinating guy and great fun to chat to.

I have really enjoyed all of the 1-2-1s I have had so far since going full-time. It is great to share my passion for the Lake District and for photography with others.

In the New Year I would like to focus on promoting this side of my business.

Thursday 31st

This morning I headed for Tarn Hows. I wanted to try and get the classic shot overlooking the tarn from hill to the south east.

It is not a composition that I have tried before and inevitably I wasn’t happy with the shot. So I cut my losses and headed down to the tarn and my favourite composition.

It was another beautiful, still, clear morning and the reflections on the tarn were as good as I have seen then.

This was playing to my strengths. I was in a location I know well in near perfect conditions. This is what all the hard work has been for.

Tarn Hows near Hawkshead in the Lake District National Park
I have stood in this exact spot many times before but never when conditions have been quite this good!

✓ – Perfect reflections create a mirror image of the pine trees

✓ – The rising sun has illuminated the trunks of the pine trees perfectly making them pop! They really grab the viewers attention.

✓ – Bright sky will not be to everyone’s taste but for me it compliments the scene perfectly; are more ‘interesting’ sky would compete for attention drawing focus away from the primary subject

Friday 1st November

The weather was not great today but with 4 good images in the bag the pressure was off.

I chose to spend the day in the office getting ready for my first paid workshop tomorrow on Holme Fell.

Saturday 2nd November

This morning was my first ever paid workshop with my good friend and fellow YouTube photographer James Burns.

James and I spent a wonderful morning on Holme Fell with Wajid, Andy, Ajit and David.

The forecast for this morning was mixed and I was expecting rain. However, we could not have been more lucky with the weather. Not only was it dry but at times we also had some gorgeous light!

Holme Fell looking out across the reservoir towards the Langdales
James and I had some superb conditions for our workshop on Holme Fell on Saturday.

Because we have such different approaches to photography James and I worked well as a team. I took everyone through the composition that I had research thoroughly and James spent time sharing how he picks out details in the landscape.

As usual the feedback that James and I received was extremely encouraging. It was such a success that we have agreed to run more workshops in the new year.

Landscape photographer James Burns sharing how he picks out details in the landscape whilst on a workshop on Holme Fell in the Lake District
James shares with Wajid how he uses a telephoto lens to pick out details in the landscape

After weeks when nothing seemed to go right finally I feel as though things are starting to come together.

My approach to photography seems to have paid off right at the point when the Lake District is looking its very best.

I have produced four images that I am very proud of. They are a good representation of my ability as a photographer.

I can feel my confidence starting to return. 🙂

16 thoughts on “Regaining my Confidence”

  1. Well done for getting your mojo back. Remember there will always be ups and downs. I’m currently having a week of dull skies and flat light in the Lakes. No drama, extended scouting mission. One glimpse of sun on loughrigg yesterday seen from the back of Blelham Tarn was quite nice. Keep trying new places and enjoy the roller coast ride you are on.

    1. Nooo! Are you here this week Steve? I must have got my dates mixed up. Bugger! Would have loved to have met up for a coffee. My apologies. Not heading down south until tomorrow.

      1. No worries Chris, just got in from another wet day’s scouting. Did manage a couple of shots across Ullswater, which is a first for me. Also popped into the Glenridding Galley to see what they had on display. Some good stuff, and some mediocre stuff. James Bell’s second book is definitely on the Christmas list. Have a good trip down south – we are heading home tomorrow (Friday) via daughter’s place to see our granddaughters. Maybe meet up on next visit to the Lakes.

  2. Oh Chris mate, no! Don’t let your confidence slip. I’m sure some of it will be the sudden pressure that you are creating images because you have to as well as because you love doing it. I read or heard a long time ago “Create the images that you want to create and share them far and wide. Somewhere there will be a market for them”. Do what you do best sir, and keep getting the word on the street. Also I had a look at your website today – get a series of autumn group workshop dates on there fella. Last week and this, the Lakes will be awash with UK pros running their autumn workshops, so get in on the act. If it wasn’t for the fact that I live in Dorset, I’d be running back to back workshops up there for as long as I could. I’ve found that it takes time to fill places, so the longer you advertise them for the better chance you have of filling them.

    1. Hi Huw, yeah my confidence has been slipping. Read enough comments saying you are not good enough and you start to believe them! 🙂 I am about to start pulling together my workshops for next year. I know what you mean about UK pros, you couldn’t move for them up here a couple of weeks ago! 🙂

  3. Absolute cracking images from Wednesday and Saturday Chris, love them. Glad to hear your confidence is coming back. I think we tend to lose it when we look at what others are doing and then compare. Not a good thing to do. Don’t put all your efforts into becoming a better photographer, but a better salesperson. Without sales, it doesn’t matter how good we are 🙂

    1. You are so right mate. It’s not how good a photographer I am that counts. It’ll be my ability to put together products that other people want to buy that will make the difference. 🙂

  4. Glad you’re feeling better about your photography. You make beautiful images. I would definitely sign up for one of your 1 to 1s if we didn’t have an ocean between us. (You’d probably enjoy being in so much better shape than me too)

    1. Thanks Theresa – I dunno about being in better shape. I weighed myself just after I went full-time. I had no idea numbers went that high! 🙂

  5. Hola Chris! That stone bridge at Aira Force – delightful. Great location with that tree adding some nice texture. I was curious about where you needed to set up for that image. Seems you’re like close to the edge, so no opportunity to get the whole arch of the bridge?
    I agree with your thoughts on the Tarn Hows image. The contrast provided by the clear skies against the top of the pines works well. Plus that wonderful side light on the bark and reflection, nice composition! The boathouse image looks even better on your website than your IG feed, I think.
    Excellent week, really enjoyed and look forward to watching the video of your great week. Hope your back in feeling better. Miguel

    1. Thanks mate – I’ve seen your comment on my latest video so I know that hasn’t answered these questions. Autumn is pretty much over here now. How is it looking in NY?

      1. Thanks Chris. We’re done for the most part but nice dark rust colors closing out 2019 among the naked branches. Winter closing in.

  6. Glad to see you coming out of the funk Chris and some great images there. I fully agree with the approach of revisiting the same location. Even when you just take the four variants of season and add in 365 possibilities for weather you are never going to see the same scene twice . Not only that it’s somewhere are are already mentally comfortable so you can put all your energy into your images. 😀😀

  7. Glad to see you coming out of the funk Chris and some great images there. I fully agree with the approach of revisiting the same location. Even when you just take the four variants of season and add in 365 possibilities for weather you are never going to see the same scene twice . Not only that it’s somewhere are are already mentally comfortable so you can put all your energy into your images. 😀

    1. Excellent point Chris – I know it’s been done before but I still think the ‘four seasons’ project is something that all photographers should have a crack at.

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