I'm one of those unfortunate people who have a birthday in January. For years I've cursed this as everyone is still hungover from Christmas, and frankly don't want to be concerned with such frivolity. Being a photographer has slowly changed my opinion of January, and winter as a whole. Instead of seeing endless days of cold weather, I see limitless opportunities for frosty landscapes and those cool, blue tones as the sun hangs forever low in the sky. I've always been in love with the spring and autumn, but it's taken a while to fall for winter.
My dear wife-to-be Rachel treated me to a weekend in the Peak District at the end of January, nestled in the heart of the white peaks, down near my childhood haunts of Dovedale. When we left, there was little snow in Birmingham, but as we drove closer, the snow appeared. The night before we arrived, 6 inches had fallen and lay like a fresh blanket over the landscape, with snow still falling, rushing towards the windscreen in the dark, looking like we'd entered warp speed along the winding country roads.
Traveling is not only about the images, but the experience. As our Skoda struggled up the icy roads on the way to our B&B, we quickly realised that attempting to navigate such a road late into a freezing night would be impossible. Soon, with canceled reservations, we precariously slid along the local pub, only to be met with an open fire, great company and whisky late into the night.
Snow has a way of making everything new. Places I was already familiar with changed completely, everything was different. On the Saturday, after missing the sunrise due to too much good cheer the night before, we set off on a walk towards Thor's Cave, crunching our boots into the frozen snow, making satisfying and savoured sounds. The route was muddy, and typically we took an unexpected detour, closely watched by flocks of sheep, and muttering a occasional hello to fellow walkers. I was trying out my Lee Circular Polariser for the first time. I've been planning on buying one for a while, and really I'm not sure why I left it so long, as it gives far more power over an image in the initial capture stage, rather than relying on post, which is something I'm trying to change.
In the evening, we took a trip out to Curbar Edge, not a place I've been before. One of the downfalls of snow, is that it obscures the easiest way up to the top of hills. We walked back and forth in snow that went up to my thigh (not that hard as I'm absurdly short), freezing my walking trousers and ensuring I felt eternally grateful for my waterproof and sturdy Brasher boots. Eventually we rejoined the route and wandered along the edge, witnessing the light changing as the sun descended. As is sometimes the case on clear afternoons, the light on the opposite side to the sunset was more interesting. The warm tones contrasting with the cool blues and white of the snow. Hints of the hidden heathland peeped through the white stuff, appearing like tangled balls of yarn. There was a sense of fun that only snow can bring. These two snowmen were there when we arrived, holding hands triumphantly. By the time we returned, someone had build a snowdog, making the snow-family complete.
Day two was slow to begin. On the Saturday night we made friends with the local pub owner and his pals, and ended up participating in a lock-in till 3:30am. It was an unforgettable night, but of course, a sunrise was off the cards. I don't really mind this, I prefer to let life unfold and plans to change and reform however life demands. Trading a sunrise for forging friendships and connections feels like a worthy trade indeed. After checking out, we headed up to the Hope Valley. The snow was still around, and I wanted to see how Mam Tor looked in such weather. However, we needed to take a detour to Sheffield, and of course Google Maps took us the most logical route. Snow, ice and logic are not compatible. As we pulled round and passed Stanage Edge, I did not recognise it even though I've been there several times. The snow transformed the landscape, and conditions were awful. The road wound up and it soon became apparent that cars were unable to pass, especially not our little Skoda. We reserved down and descended into a crosswind that whipped up the powdered snow, throwing it across the road, creating drifts and reducing visibility. I stood in it's path, feeling the force of nature, and a group of walkers wandered passed. As they entered the heart of the blizzard, one the team who was lagging, huddled in against the wind and broke into a run towards his pals. This is probably my favourite image of the whole weekend.
To end the day before heading home, we took a trip out to Bamford Edge. Unfortunately I had underestimated how icy the road would be, and as we approached the top, we passed a couple stuck on the ice and mud. After a lot of pushing we managed to get them back on the road, but consequently had to reserve back down the hill, much to the annoyance of several 4x4 drivers who had no issue coming up. I grabbed the shot below quickly before our embarrassing descent!
We ended up back at Stanage Edge to watch another clean and bright sunset and moonrise, witnessing the light change from cool blue to warm yellow. The Peak District is fast becoming one of my favourite places in the UK. It's close to home, full of diversity and always seem to provide great photo opportunities. Hoping to return in the spring and summer and explore the landscape in full bloom. Until then, I'm glad I got to experience it in the snow, wearing it's winter jacket, showing the full ferocity of nature's beauty and wrath.