Cumbria gets more than its fair share of rain, which helps to create the landscape of ‘The Lakes’. Sometimes there can be no avoiding the elements, and it’s on these occasions I look for a location that works better in bad weather than in good.
Devoke (pronounced ‘Duvvock’) is one of the most remote locations I visit in the Lake District, but is easy to get to. The journey itself, following the road over Birker Fell, can be breathtaking as it climbs over 800ft across the National Park. It can be accessed from the road linking the Duddon Valley with Eskdale. From Eskdale Green head towards Hardknott Pass and at the King George IV pub continue straight on, signposted Ulpha and Broughton. Just under 3 miles away there is roadside parking where you will see a road to the left towards Stanley Ghyll and a bridleway track to the right, which is signposted Devoke Water. Once parked, it is just a short walk along an easily identifiable path until you reach the shores of the Tarn.
Once you’re there it’s a compositional playground. On the eastern shores of the tarn sits an old boathouse. This makes a lovely subject to photograph facing to the west (using it as foreground), or from the opposite shore where the cone-like summit of Pike How makes an excellent background. It is easy to walk around the tarn. There are plenty of interesting, lichen-covered rocks and boulders to investigate and tumbledown drystone walls. The tarn is on the higher reaches of Birker Fell and being on the western flanks of the Park it’s not so sheltered from the winds.
This location can be photographed at sunrise or sunset, but I think it looks best when the weather is at its worst. Late autumn can be especially good here, when the dying bracken contrasts well with the grey, looming skies. Ensure you have plenty of warm, waterproof clothing and good boots or wellies. Most cameras these days have an element of water resistance but it’s a good idea to pack a rain cover and plenty of lens cloths. Also, choose the lens that gives you the most flexibility. You don’t want to be swapping and changing lenses if the weather is bad. There’s also a saying in these parts: ‘If you don’t like the weather you’re getting, just wait five minutes, it will soon change.
Try something different
Don’t rush here; take your time to seek out compositions and to try out different styles and techniques. This location is as perfect for contrasty monochromatic conversions as it is for crazy long exposures, and as ideal for traditional painterly landscapes as for close-up, lichen-covered rock micro landscapes.
While in the area don’t forget to explore other places such as the Duddon and Eskdale valleys, which are rich with potential, from the cascading waters beneath Birks Bridge to the ancient (and surprisingly well preserved) Roman Fort at Hardknott. These are also some of the less-photographed locations, so if you are trying to stand out from the crowd, here’s your chance.
- Wideangle lens This location has a ‘big’ feel to it, despite its diminutive size. You will want to try to cram as much in as possible – whether it’s an impressive big sky or just an interesting rock you found that provides a rich foreground, a wider angle will help you squeeze it all in.
- Filters and tripod Long-exposure techniques work well here, so a solid tripod and ND filter like a Lee Big Stopper can be useful. It’s also handy to have a few grad filters in your bag to help balance exposures if the sky is particularly brighter than the foreground.