Photographing the Peak District National Park with tips and advice on how to capture autumn colours
Autumn colours in the Peak District
Autumn magically transforms the look of any landscape as it brings with it a bright array of vivid warm oranges, reds and yellows. For nature it’s a time where leaves and flowers start to die off, but for a photographer, it’s a time where landscapes actually come to life. Here are some of the top photo spots for autumn colours in the Peak District with helpful tips and inspirational images by PhotoHounder James Grant.
Waterfalls in the Peak District
Whilst the Peak District isn’t overly blessed with waterfalls, there are some lovely examples that are perfect for autumn shoots. Lumsdale near Matlock is the perfect location for experimenting with capturing cascading water surrounded by bright green mosses and leaves in all shades of orange.
Padley Gorge is definitely a go-to location for autumn photography in the Peak District. It’s a great spot for those who would like to combine both water and woodland into one trip. You’ll find rich vivid beech leaves with a small cascade making it a good spot to focus on smaller details.
From the road you’d be hard pushed to see or hear this waterfall as it’s located in a big hollow. However Swallet Falls is one of the Peak District’s mightiest and most impressive waterfalls. The waterfall comes from a tiny stream and suddenly drops off the rock face and forms a huge cascade before running underground towards Eyam. This is always a rewarding spot and is particularly so after heavy rainfall.
Another great autumn waterfall spot is Wyming Brook with spectacular cascades and rushing streams. This is a lesser known photo spot in the Peak District and it’s quite likely you’ll have the place to yourself.
Top tips for photographing waterfalls:
- Use a polariser to cut glare from water and leaves.
- Check the progress of autumn foliage falling throughout the season as it varies year to year. The first week of November is usually the prime time when there are just enough leaves left on trees but plenty of fresh leaves on the ground.
- Take rubber boots (wellies) to get into the water for more unique compositions and angles.
Woodlands in the Peak District
Birch Trees are always a great subject, particularly in autumn. The white trunks contrast well against the fiery orange leaves, especially during a sunset such as this first shot below on Stanton Moor near the Nine Ladies Stone Circle.
This stunning larch-lined avenue is not to be missed in autumn. You’ll find it nestled in amongst some Canadian Fir trees above Derwent Reservoir on the path to Nether Hey. Ladybower and the surrounding Derwent Valley is such an awesome place in autumn which the plethora of native and non-native trees enclosing the valley, turning colour at different times of the season.
Once you’ve explored the cascades and babbling brooks at Padley Gorge there’s a vast area of woodland awaiting. If the day started with mist over the valleys early in the morning head into the woodland afterwards to capture rays of dreamy light between the trees as the sun rises higher in the sky.
Top tips for photographing woodlands:
- Keep focal lengths to 35mm and above so trees don’t become distorted and you can compress the scene.
- Try to place a tree trunk on each side of the image to act as bookmarks to stop your viewer’s eyes wandering out of the picture.
- Looks for shapes to draw people through the image or repetition to simplify the image.
- Watch and observe how the trees turn day by day and use social media to gauge too. The best of autumn can be over within a week and if you have a windy day the leaves get knocked right off the tree and it’s goodbye autumn for another year!
Autumn Mists in the Peak District
Mam Tor may be one of the most iconic photo spots in the Peak District but it is the ever changing seasons, weather and conditions that mean that no visit is ever the same as the last. Autumn signifies the start of mist season; cooler nights often help dawn mists form in the valleys. Mam Tor Gate is the perfect location to capture rolling mists across the Edale and Hope valleys with the gate as the main focus and the path drawing your eye across the ridge.
Curbar Edge is a top location in the Peak District for autumn shots. The gritstone edges are the highest and the most impressive out of the local trinity which also include Baslow Edge and Froggatt Edge. It doesn’t disappoint with abandoned millstones, pinnacle-like rock formations, wild deer and elevated views, often over a mist-filled Derwent Valley. Sunrise overlooking Derwent Valley is perfect for capturing autumn mists, the river Derwent being the main contributor to this.
Top tips for capturing autumn mists:
- Wait for cool clear nights as this is the most common time mists will start to form in valleys.
- Look for bodies of water as the moisture helps the mist develop.
Grand Vistas in the Peak District
When it comes to photographing grand vistas, Froggatt Edge is sometimes overlooked, but at the height of autumn the trees below the edge become a fiery spectacle not to be missed. This is a top photo spot for capturing an autumn sunset.
Birchen Edge is the last of the eastern edges horseshoe and is close to the market town of Chesterfield. It is smaller than the neighbouring edges but provides interesting viewpoints. Nelson’s monument does not mark the summit but is the most prominent location along the edge and makes a good focal point. Beneath the edge is a canopy of birch trees which provide a visual treat in autumn.
Chatsworth House is a fantastic place to explore some top autumn spots in the Peak District. The estate has such a plethora of different trees that you could spend many photo sessions here in autumn months. This avenue of trees can be found on one of the private roads leading from the main house.
Top tips for photographing grand vistas in the Peak District:
- Use a combination of observation and social media to time when the leaves are at their best.
- Include as much of the autumn colour in your photo as possible without detracting from the other features of the area. Ensure compositions still remain strong.
PhotoHounder James Grant is an award winning Peak District landscape photographer. James runs group and one-to-one photo tours and workshops in and around the Peak District. Discover more top photo spots for autumn colours in James’ PhotoHound Guide to the Peak District .