Photography walk in the Peak District

Castlon Man Tor Circular 8 scaled 1 1

As a professional photographer and owner of a very busy branding and website agency, family time is precious to me. I’m lucky to be blessed with 3 amazing kids and time absolutely flies by with them – two are now teenagers! So it was amazing to spend the day with my eldest, Lola on a photography walk in the Peak District, Derbyshire in July.

Lola had just finished her GCSEs so the idea was put out there as a way to get out her with me and get some fresh air in one of my favourite places – the Peak District national park.

Lola has been out on photoshoot with me before and quite enjoys taking snaps. It was also an opportunity to explore some new places for me so I brought along my camera with the idea that I might get some compositional ideas.

The photography walk

We spent the evening before looking at various walks within the national park. Eventually narrowing it down to about 3 options, we settled on the Castleton & Mam Tor Circular. A medium difficulty walk, at around 6 miles long.

I was especially interesting in this route because I had never experience Cave Dale. The walk starts at the Castleton Visitor Centre, taking you through the pretty village before passing through a narrow opening on the public bridleway into the stunning dry limestone valley of Cave Dale. As we climbed we turned around and the views are stunning, Hope Valley and Lose Hill and in particular the view of the Norman Fortress, Peveril Castle. This is a definite revisit for me – ideally in the snow.

When we stopped for a break (you need to) I was able to take some decent handheld photographs. With the depth of the images not classed as infinity, using f9 enabled me to keep most if not all of the view in focus, ISO of 200 and a shutter speed of 320th second meant I didn’t need a tripod.

Despite being in July, the height of the valley meant the sun didn’t flood it with light, leaving some interesting light and shadows. As a peak district landscape, this isn’t one of the classic views, but it’s natural beauty is as stunning as any. Lola stopped and took some shots on her small camera and iPhone as well. Once you get to the top you have a nice gentle walk towards Mam Tor.

This was the real challenge of the photography walk. After crossing the road, and climbing phase one of the ascent, we stopped for another break. It doesn’t look that far to get to the top, but at 517m high, Mam Tor is the one of the highest peaks in Derbyshire, sitting on the ‘border’ of the Dark Peak and the White Peak which means you get some fantastic views of the limestone parts of the National Park.

At this point it was very hot – suncream is a must by the way. But we made it to the top and the Trig Point and I was glad I was only carry one camera and lens!

It was hammered a the top – being a very popular location for walkers and landscape photography. I took a couple of snaps, but really Mam Tor is a sunrise location, and superb for cloud inversions if the weather conditions right.

The walk down the Great Ridge provides more views of Hope Valley to Stanage Edge in the distance, and Edale on the left.

As we strolled down the path, through the gate and eventually we arrived at the lowest point of the ridge, a crossroads of footpaths and a stonemarker known as Hollins Cross. Fun fact, Hollins Cross was was also the traditional route from Castleton to Edale.

It’s at this point we turned right, and we were greeted by a fork. We took the left hand fork down the hill through the bracken and more photo opportunities. The route meanders down the hill over some quite difficult terrain, and eventually we ended up back in Castleton, a pub, with a well deserved pint and chat over how much fun that was.

All in all, we had a fab day on our photography walk. Maybe we could have chosen and less exhaustive walk, but it goes to show as a photographer, you don’t need the full kit to get some stunning images and as a dad you can involve your kids in something they wouldn’t usually do. And I think this is key – I took my Sony AR7, Canon 24-70 lens, a spare battery, food, water and suncream. We were prepared and had two fully charged phones on us.

I don’t particularly mind shooting with the sun at its zenith either. Yes the light isn’t as interesting, but it does mean you can use a small aperture and fast shutter speed. I suppose it comes down to what you’re looking to achieve.

The route we found was on the Visit Peak District, and I downloaded the ViewRanger app – which was amazing to help navigate the area.

Peak District Art Prints

You can view more of my Peak District Photography here – all of which is available as art prints.

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