A good photograph is knowing where to stand - Ansel Adams

Blea Tarn, Cumbria
Sunday, 05 April 2009 19:43

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Blea Tarn, Cumbria

Blea Tarn is one of the most accessible Lakeland tarns, with access from a reasonably well kept road mere metres away, and a pay and display car park metres from that. Surrounded as it is by fells and forest, it still seems to retain an air of the remote however, and signs of roads and houses are largely hidden from view. For these reasons and more, Blea Tarn has become a popular site for photographers, and if you don't get up early you'll likely not be the only photographer there.

An early start on a still day will not only spare you the possibility of a crowd, but will also reward you with mirror-like reflections from the waters of the tarn. The nearby fells will be reflected well in the still waters, and the stoney shore will provide you with foreground interest for more interesting compositions. Blea Tarn is a location that shows a very different side in different seasons and conditions, so don't just assume that the summer months are the best time to visit.

Given it's popularity, there is always the danger of cliché at a location such as this, and you'll have to survey the scene carefully and deliberately to find originality in it. True originality is something that is extremely difficult to achieve in landscape photography, and you'll find it especially difficult in a location that graces so many calendars and coffee table books. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try of course... An alternative viewpoint might bring results, as might a visit in winter when fair weather photographers have packed up their tripods and gone home.

In terms of recommended equipment, the standard landscape photography fare will serve you just fine. A wide angle lens and tripod, as well as a polariser and graduated neutral density filter will probably cover all eventualities. There were a number of species of waterfowl in the tarn itself on my last visit, so you way want to take a telephoto lens if you are so inclined. Additionally, some waterfalls in the Langdale area might mean you'll want to pack a standard neutral density filter to blur the motion of the water, but you could also improvise with your polariser to achieve a longer exposure.

There are a couple of hotels and a campsite within walking distance of the tarn, though be sure to allow extra time to negotiate the steep roads and paths from Great Langdale to Blea Tarn. I stayed in the National Trust campsite at Great Langdale, and aside from some rather determined snoring (at 1pm, no less) from some of the other residents, I found it to be excellent value. Alternatively, there is the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale, though as usual I can only personally vouch for the bar!

I have also spent a night wild camping in the area, though I hasten to add not around Blea Tarn itself, which is designated an SSSI. I've heard of people wild camping next to Blea Tarn, but given it's status this seems to me to be rather irresponsible, and would expect to be moved along pretty quickly. On that occation I chose the nearby Lingmoor Fell expecting a good early morning view over Elter Water and Windermere, though my plan was foiled as I awoke with my overnight lodgings blanketed by cloud.

You should also note that there are a number of waterfalls in the area of the that are worth a visit if time allows. Dungeon Ghyll Force is a short walk away from the hotels of the same name, and can be reached via the car park at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, as can the waterfalls of Stickle Ghyll. Check the general area of OS Grid Ref NY29106 before heading off.

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I am on a constant lookout for new and interesting locations. If you know of a potentially photogenic location you'd like to see included in the guide, please let me know.

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