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Mist in Derbyshire - stunning photographs and top tips for photographers

PUBLISHED: 09:21 01 December 2014

Some of the houses stand out in the mist on the edge of Curbar, seen from high up on Curbar Edge.

Some of the houses stand out in the mist on the edge of Curbar, seen from high up on Curbar Edge.

Robert Falconer

Robert Falconer takes his camera out and about in the county to record the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and offer some useful tips for photographers

Standing on a rocky edge looking across a fog-filled valley to the distant hills can be a breathtaking experience. As you watch, it almost feels as if the fog is alive, moving to and fro, sometimes rising to the edge of rocks before falling back into the valley like a changing tide. Buildings and trees suddenly emerge and then, just as rapidly, are once more lost in the hazy cloud. Then, as the sun and temperature rise, the mist and fog gradually fade away and you can’t quite remember what it looked like.

The changing colours of the trees are not the only signs that autumn is on the way, and as the nights grow colder the chance of just such an atmospheric dawn increases, especially in those county valleys with major rivers running through such as the Derwent and the Wye.

Fog-filled valleys or ‘cloud inversions’ can be a very common sight from August right through to the end of the year and they offer amazing opportunities for landscape photographers. However, there are a few pitfalls that are worth considering for anyone trying to capture the ‘master’ shot.

A tree stands out against an atmospheric background on Dethick Common one frosty January morning.A tree stands out against an atmospheric background on Dethick Common one frosty January morning.

There are many types of mist and fog that occur in our landscape. Fog can be quite dense, creating a solid white mass, either filling our valleys and leaving the high ground clear or the opposite when it sits on the hills like a tablecloth.

When the valleys are fog-filled, a high vantage point under the clear sky can make an impressive picture, but going in too close when trying to photograph can leave you with a large part of your picture very white, featureless and lacking a strong composition. In this situation it can be a good idea to go wide and include an interesting foreground such as weathered rocks to form a base to the picture.

Shooting around the edges of the fog can also be a good idea. Recognisable objects such as trees will then loom out of the fog to give effective focal points in the atmospheric setting. Using a long lens around the edge of the fog can make subjects like trees more dominant and enables you to focus on a small area of the view.

The spire of Edensor church can just be seen above the mist in Chatsworth Park.The spire of Edensor church can just be seen above the mist in Chatsworth Park.

Most of the time the fog will have vanished by mid-morning, but on some occasions it can stay all day and as the sun moves around, the scene can look completely different later in the day. Shooting towards the sun as it appears will backlight the fog and give a very pictorial effect.

Some excellent places in the county from which to view cloud inversions when they occur are Mam Tor, Higger Tor, Millstone Edge and Curbar Edge.

You can decide that instead of basking in the sun above the fog, you are going to descend to where it is much darker and with low visibility. The fog totally changes the appearance of familiar places when just parts of the landscape are visible. Trees can make good subjects, as they loom into view and will recede into the background the further away they are. Photographs become almost monochromatic, giving great opportunities for you to take abstracts and simple compositions.

A misty view from Great Longstone Edge.A misty view from Great Longstone Edge.

Unfortunately, as well as being a great subject to photograph, fog can also make travel very difficult, and I often prefer mist as a subject. The resulting image with just a thin layer of very localised mist can be both mysterious and magical. More details in the landscape are visible but you still capture atmosphere. Sometimes mist can dance just above the surface of a river or weave its way between the trees creating shafts of light. You have to work fast though, as it vanishes much faster than fog.

Mist and fog can appear almost anywhere from the highest points of the county to our back gardens in towns and villages. The next time they occur I hope you will be inspired to capture with your lens the shapes and beauty that they create.

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