Closing in on Scale Force

Not much in the way of hill based adventures to talk about recently, due to endless Lake District sunshine and blue skies (yes, really!) making hillwalking and photography conditions not particularly dramatic.

So thought I’d give a more detailed view of one of my favourite Lake District locations that isn’t on top of a mountain – Scale Force.

It’s the type of location you’d get tourists flocking to in their droves, except it’s in a hidden little corner, a good 40 minute walk from the nearest car park, and to get to the main fall is a bit of a scramble up about 10ft of rock which can be tricky when wet.

All this of course means it’s usually nice and quiet. You’ll probably bump into a few other people along the way, but there never seem to be crowds, and not everyone climbs up to the main cascade.

Scale Force is situated at the south western corner of Crummock Water, between it and Buttermere, with the nearest car park in Buttermere village.

At a height of 120ft it’s the largest single drop waterfall in the Lake District. Well that’s what Wiki says anyway, I’ve never measured it 😉

This is the view of the main fall from the top of rock slab, you can see how the ravine narrows in as you get closer.

This can often cause problems with shooting the damn thing, as the narrowness of the ravine means spray from the waterfall gets blown down constantly as soon as there is any breeze whatsoever. Because it’s a dark little corner (I honestly don’t know if it ever gets any direct sunlight – if anyone knows I’d be interested to hear) shutter speeds are quite long, so you just end up with a lens full of spray and often it’s not even worth making the effort.

The narrowness of the ravine does help sometimes, as it traps fallen leaves and branches which can often make for useful foreground interest. Or just get in the way 😉

Once you’ve athletically vaulted (slipped, stumbled, dropped your tripod, banged your polariser, not a euphemism) all the main obstacles, the last section below the main cascade is pretty clear. This is where it’s usually nigh on impossible to get any photos due to spray, so happily on this occasion I was able to get in close with some record shots, just to show how the ravine really narrows in.

The water level can make a massive difference to the shots you’re able to achieve – different rocks appear, or disappear, things get washed away, so compositionally Scale Force is always different.

And so it’s a different challenge. The mountains may never change compositionally but the light falling on them does, and this is often what I compose around.

At Scale Force, with the light being constant, I tend to compose around the water levels instead.

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4 Responses to Closing in on Scale Force

  1. Derek Fogg says:

    On my recent visit only managed to get images at lower fall. I did not even know the upper fall was accessible which is a good job as I would properly have damaged my gear or myself. Great location and on my visit no one in sight but very wet approach to falls from Buttermere eventhough it had beeen reasonably dry.
    You have some great images here and nice to have at least seen what the upper falls look like

  2. Claire says:

    That’s lovely. I want to go there. Beautiful writing and imagery. Makes a nice change 😉

  3. Stewart says:

    Thanks Derek and yep it can be a bit tricky, especially with gear and when it’s wet. People have slipped and hurt themselves badly there in the past.

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