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Karen Frenkel - The elusive Peak District Winter

PUBLISHED: 14:34 28 April 2010 | UPDATED: 14:58 20 February 2013

Stile on Millstone Edge

Stile on Millstone Edge

Photographer Karen Frenkel shares her delight in our county's landscape under snow.

I love snow and still get excited when the first flurries blow in from across the valley, but there's no doubt that even in the relatively short 14 years I've been living in North Derbyshire, there has been a change. When I first moved here my neighbour informed me that winters weren't how they used to be. Apparently it wasn't a 'proper' winter unless our house was buried in a giant drift and tunnels had to be dug to escape. She had even moved two houses down the hill to escape the icy winds and drifting. She's right though, heavy snowfalls together with endless cold frosty days seem few and far between nowadays. When we do get snow it's usually late afternoon or overnight, which causes chaos at rush hour, but by lunchtime it has turned to mush leaving the landscape a blotchy mess. We do seem to be getting softer now and less experienced at dealing with the cold, especially when it comes to driving. There's panic if there's more than a few centimetres of snow on the road.

As a landscape photographer, trying to beat the melting snow becomes a frantic activity. It entails dashing around like a mad thing in the early morning, braving icy roads or climbing higher and higher up hillsides to capture the more pristine views which are still sub-zero. I still enjoy it though. There's nothing quite like a clear snowy day to recharge your batteries and blow off the cobwebs. Here I've selected a few images to illustrate the different scenes we can still sometimes get at this time of year, if we're lucky. I hope you enjoy them, but if you can, it's even better to wrap up, get out and revel in our next snowfall while it lasts - it's the best therapy there is and getting increasingly rare round these parts!

Stile on Millstone Edge
Millstone Edge is a great place to be on a cold snowy day. It's easy to get to and high enough to keep the snow fresh just that bit longer. You also get wonderful views down the Hope Valley and across to Higger Tor. I'm always attracted to this stile which makes a useful foreground together with the moorland grasses.

Sunset on Higger Tor
This is probably one of the coldest afternoons I've ever spent waiting for the light. There were signs of a promising sunset so I braved the Ringinglow road to Higger Tor and climbed up to these boulders overlooking the Hope Valley. The sun was behind a bank of cloud but I could see a break appearing. An hour later with an increasingly strengthening northerly wind the sun emerged to light up the boulders and give a fantastic warm glow to the scene before it set completely. My jaws were so frozen that when I got back to the car, starving hungry, I couldn't even eat my Pringles which were lying on the back seat!

Iced grasses in Padley Gorge
A snowy day in February 2007 but as usual it wasn't to last. I had to work quickly to capture this rapidly melting twinkling ice sculpture but needed to set up my long lens and tripod before the sun moved and cast it in shadow. A few moments later the light had gone and the magic was lost.

Icy boulders in Padley Gorge
If it's frosty but miserable I concentrate on detail shots like this one. It was extremely icy and slippery as I tried to set up my tripod amongst these boulders in Padley Brook. I was using slow Velvia 50 ASA film, and with the low light had a long shutter speed of 20 seconds which recorded the moving water as a silky blur. A bright patch in the sky lit up the ice on the boulders just for a short while.

Winter sunrise over Little Hucklow
After returning home late at night from a disappointingly snowless New Year in Scotland (and with bronchitis), I woke to see a pink glow through the curtains from this wonderful snowy sunrise. Knowing it wouldn't last I rushed outside in my dressing gown and hurriedly set up my camera and tripod in the freezing temperatures. Just a few minutes later the sky faded as the sun rose. I had to use a grey grad filter to balance the tonal range, but no coloured filters were used. Nature is colourful enough if you're there to witness it. Shivering but satisfied that I had captured something, I returned to my sick bed.

Morning mist over Eyam
Driving along Bretton Edge one morning in January, I spotted a layer of low-lying mist hanging over Eyam, with the hills popping out above. Using a long lens, I zoomed in on the hillocks to give a Chinese watercolour effect. Mist, like snow can fool your camera into under-exposing and so an exposure compensation of +1 was needed.

Sheep near Litton in winter
I often head for Litton when it snows as the wonderful dry stone walls and field patterns really stand out. On this occasion, my favourite models were eager to be photographed and came running towards me (cupboard love I expect). The late afternoon sun cast them in a lovely light so I turned my camera to them instead of the walls. In summer with plenty of food around they are not interested, and I have to rustle bags or make baa-ing noises to get them in position!

Millstones at Lawrencefield
In winter, these abandoned millstones, which were quarried from nearby Bolehill, look like giant polo mints. Here, they are stacked up ready to be carried away along the little railway which ran alongside. By 1860 the industry went into rapid decline as cheaper French imports and new roller mills came in, resulting in many just being left where they were made, some only half finished. The surrounding silver birch woodland is also spectacular in the snow.


Wind patterns along The Great Ridge
On high, exposed places you often get amazing patterns sculpted out by the wind across the snow. Here we can see how the prevailing westerly wind has formed these, picked out by the shadows from the side-lighting of the morning sun. If the sun was directly behind me the image would be flat and boring. It's for this reason that I usually plan trips to capture side or back-lighting.


Snowy trees at Millstone Edge
This was an unusual treat - a fantastic, sunny, frosty snowy day where the snow kept on the trees all day. It gave you a real 'good to be alive' feeling which injects you with energy. This time I didn't have to dash around like a mad thing but could wander gently through this winter wonderland. I hope we get more days like this. The only down-side was that the battery on my medium format film camera went flat with the cold and my spare didn't work either. Luckily I had my Nikon D70 with me as well or I would have been very frustrated.











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