How to Photograph the Cumbria Way
The Lake District in England has long been attracting visitors to the county of Cumbria, with the Cumbria Way now acting as a main attraction for walkers and photographers alike.
This wasn’t always the case, however. In the 1970s, The Ramblers Association realised that the majority of the walkers and visitors were concentrating on hot spots within the county so decided to construct the ‘Cumbria Way’ trail.
Now Cumbria’s longest path, it starts in the south of the county near the sands of Morecambe Bay, heading slowly north through arguably some of the finest scenery to be found in the Lake District National Park before completing its course at the county capital – the City of Carlisle.
The Cumbria Way can be walked in sections, a day at a time over several months, or all in one go in under a week. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it offers numerous opportunities for landscape photography along its route.
In this article, we’ll look at how to make the most out of a photography trip to this beautiful corner of the world.
Landscape photography equipment
What equipment you choose to photograph the Cumbria Way with really depends on whether you decide to walk and photograph the entire route in one undertaking or if you choose to visit separate locations on several visits.
If you plan to attempt the former, you will need to carry a large amount of non-photographic items (especially if you plan to camp en route), which may make your space for photography gear limited.
Having walked the track numerous times, I would suggest that you limit your camera gear to a single camera body, a standard zoom lens (24-105 is ideal), and a small selection of filters and accessories.
Personally, I find that a circular polarising filter and a 6x Neutral Density filter are all that I really need nowadays for most scenarios, but some photographers still prefer to use ND graduated filters to help control the exposure within a scene.
If you are planning to walk the complete Cumbria Way in one extended trip, camping is a great way to be able to sleep en route and also ensures that you are on location for dawn and dusk, which is perfect for photography.
Alternatively, the Cumbria Way can offer some great photographic opportunities based around single-day walks or even single-location visits.
The benefit of approaching the trail this way is that it is possible to plan your visits for agreeable weather or the best time of the day and light.
Another bonus is that you will not need to carry as much non-photographic gear, meaning more room for extra photography equipment!
A tripod is an accessory that I always carry for landscape photography. Although it is not strictly essential, I like the restriction it places on my own photography and the fact that it slows down the compositional process.
Read more: 8 Best Lenses for Landscape Photography
Weather on the Cumbria Way
It should be remembered that the weather can be very changeable in the Lake District, and you should ensure that you, and your camera, are prepared for a sudden downpour!
Keep your camera handy and be prepared for the unexpected on the Cumbria Way, as the weather and conditions are always changeable.
You may get a brief break in some storm clouds, like this moment when the light illuminates the Mickleden and surrounding Langdale mountains.
Read more: How to Photograph Landscapes in the Rain
Best Photography Locations on the Cumbria Way
My six personal favourite locations (following the route from south to north as recommended by the Ramblers Association) are as follows:
Not only the third largest of the Lake District’s waters, Coniston Water is also known for being the location for the fateful world water speed record attempt by Donald Campbell and his Bluebird K7 jet-propelled hydroplane vessel back in 1967.
Nowadays, Coniston Water is a lot calmer with the majority of boats being yachts and steamers, making it the ideal location to capture some iconic Lakeland scenes.
Dawn or dusk can provide perfect conditions for mirror-like reflections on the lake with the added bonus opportunity of early morning mist during the spring and summer months.
This is an understandably popular spot with landscape photographers and especially beautiful during the autumn months.
This peaceful and picturesque tarn was actually once three separate tarns, which were joined to form the stretch of water that everyone enjoys photographing now.
Read more: How to Improve Your Lake Photography
The Langstrath Valley
The Langstrath Valley is possibly my favorite location not only along the Cumbria Way but also in the entire Lake District National Park.
The Langstrath Valley also happens to be the largest uninhabited valley in England and probably one of the most tranquil stretches of the Cumbria Way.
It receives far less human traffic than any of the other areas but still boasting a landscape that must truly be considered as one of the most spectacular in England – if not the entire British Isles.
Dalt Wood is arguably one of the finest examples of woodland to be found anywhere in the National Park.
During the autumn months it is easy to find numerous varieties of fungi to photograph, growing on both living and dead hosts.
Here the Cumbria Way also passes near the open remnants of a slate quarry and the occasional cave, offering a different kind of photographic opportunity.
I always recommend taking a polariser filter to woodland as it will help to reduce any reflections on the foliage ensuring that your images have natural, rich colours.
Derwentwater probably needs little introduction, and for this reason is one of the busiest locations along the Cumbria Way.
There is good reason why it is so popular, as there is no denying that it is extremely photogenic whatever the weather or the season for the year.
I would recommend taking public transport or walking if visiting during the summer months as the small surrounding roads were really not designed for modern-day traffic.
Derwentwater can get very busy so early starts or late afternoons are always recommended to achieve people free shots (the actual lake itself can get busy!).
However, I always enjoy shooting long exposures at Derwentwater which allows you to not only be creative with your photography but also helps to eliminate people from your frame.
Read more: Black and White Landscape Photography Guide
The northern stretch of the Cumbria Way receives far fewer visitors than the earlier stages of the walk, perhaps understandably as it is far more remote and harder to access.
Named after the nearby Great Lingy Hill, this hut began life as a simple shooting box but is now maintained as a simple mountain shelter for anyone who may require emergency protection in poor weather or visibility.
While it is not exactly a luxurious spot to spend the night, it does happen to be extremely photogenic!
Whatever camera gear you decide to carry, and however you decide to walk the Cumbria Way, you can be sure to photograph some of the most beautiful landscapes to be found in Northern England.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for other photographic details, as there are more than just grand vistas to photograph along the Way! There may be opportunities for macro or wildlife photography if you get lucky.