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Light in the Langdales - part 1 of 1 2 3 4 5 6

by Paul Gallagher Published 01/04/2009


Paul Gallagher -Landscape photographer

The cover image from this issue is one of Paul Gallagher's most sublime pieces of landscape and was greatly admired by the visitors at Focus on Imaging, along with some of the most respected landscape photographers around. It was an obvious choice for the front cover of our monochrome special and so we asked Paul to describe its making in detail.

If you want even more inspiration from Paul's work, his recently published book, Aspects of Expression, is available from all good bookshops. To see more of Paul's work visit Ed.

"...forget the tools and think of the tones and if you are connected to your original experience it will soon appear before you..."

As a landscape photographer I gain great pleasure in being out in the wilds and soaking up the elements and the surroundings I am working in. The location is a very important part of this and the Lake District, although somewhat too busy sometimes, is beautiful even when it rains, which is why it has been written about and photographed for many years. After considering the location for a visit, the next thing I do, almost by default, is check the weather.

I do this to avoid days where I know I am going to be drowned by a torrent of rain, but also can gain some understanding of the light.


In my opinion, an understanding of light and how it models and sculpts the landscape it interacts with, is a skill that must be grasped to become consummate at one's craft. When I say this I do not mean that I only go out in fine conditions nor do I mean I go out regardless of the light. I need to have an understanding of where the light will be and what weather it will be pushing through before it hits the ground.

On this particular day I headed into that Lakes knowing that the conditions would be changeable and I was hoping to get some of the best weather for landscape photography, which is being there just before or just after the storm. As I entered the Langdale Valley the sky was mostly bright, with the occasional cloud and it was about 8am. From where the sun was rising this winter morning, I knew that it would never actually get very high in the sky and I would be rewarded most of the day with a low sun the long shadows that help sculpt the landscape.

The vantage point I chose was in the depths of the valley in Great Langdale (grid reference NY308066). I stopped at this point because I could see into the throat of the valley and had an excellent view of the Langdale Pikes to the right, including Harrison Stickle, and Pike o' Stickle and the shadowed flanks of Oak Howe to the left.

I set my camera up literally next to the road and just managed to get the lens to fit over the top of the dry-stone wall. As I set up my Ebony 5x4 I knew instinctively I would fit a standard 150mm Schneider lens which would capture what I had visualised and then I began the wait until the light was exactly what I wanted.

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1st Published 01/04/2009
last update 18/07/2022 16:31:45

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:45 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022