Capturing winter: Breathtaking photos of the Lake District

Close your eyes and picture winter, what do you see? We see incredible, ever-changing light, golden landscapes, brooding lakes and a surprisingly understated beauty. To capture the essence of winter, we sent photographer Daniel Casson into the heart of a Cumbrian snowstorm. Daniel lives a life we aspire to, walking and photographing Britain’s landscapes. His images of the Lake District’s frost touched forests, mist-clad mountains and snow-capped peaks are so evocative you can almost feel the wind on your face.

Day 1

Started: Sheffield
Ended: Kendal
Via: Wasdale Head
Stayed: The Punch Bowl Inn

I started out from Sheffield at 5am and an hour later I ran into a snowstorm. I was hopeful for pictures of the freshly snow-capped mountains. Luckily, as we approached Windermere, the weather cleared.

It was still early and I could see that the sun would come up beautifully from behind the hills on the far side of the lake, so I braced myself and made the climb. As the sun rose I knew I’d made the right decision; the light perfectly contrasted the bright snow and darker valleys.

The clouds were getting heavy again, it gave the mountains a rich tone and a real moodiness. I rounded one corner and I saw six peaks all lined up, the light catching the snow but under thick cloud. I immediately saw why this is known as the most beautiful place in the Lake District, the mountains have a looming, imposing quality. I try to capture everything in a photo; the feel of the air, the sense of the place, even the smell of it in a way.

Day 2

Started: Kendal
Ended: Penrith
Via: Buttermere
Stayed: Greenah Bed & Breakfast

I headed over to Loughrigg Fell, which I really wanted to shoot, to catch the golden morning there. The Fell welcomed me with amazing views. The first thing I saw was the dramatic shot across the tarn, with the house almost hidden in the trees. I remember thinking that whoever lived there was pretty lucky to see that view every day.

With sunset due in a few hours I travelled to Buttermere. The clouds gave a flat light which meant I could capture the more rugged, dramatic aspects of the landscape. The weather had improved, the light was warm and golden and the unfamiliar route opened up great views.

I got a very warm welcome from Marjorie at Greenah Bed & Breakfast, the fire was already roaring and there was homemade cake and a good cup of tea.

Day 3

Started: Penrith 
Ended: Sheffield 
Via: Keswick 
Stayed: Greenah Bed & Breakfast

Day three held Ullswater, Aira Force waterfall and Whinlatter Forest. I was confident that the weather would make those locations look even more dramatic. A highlight was the woodland, the altitude and heavy rainfall which meant the forest was shrouded in great clouds of mist. The whole area had a brooding, moody vibe, with the ghostly trees contrasting with the dark foreground.

When we arrived at the pier the rain was heavy and the whole place had a dark, oppressive feel. I don’t usually filter the sky so heavily, but I tweaked this a lot in editing to try and communicate that sense of menace.

The winter landscapes of the Lakes had already given me some amazing views yet I knew I hadn’t seen it all.

An unforgettable moment

When the sun climbed from behind the mountains at Rydal Water I was waiting in exactly the right spot. I could already see the finished work in my mind and I love it when the light and the landscape all conspire to set it up perfectly for me.

About Sawday’s

Sawday’s was born in 1990 from a passion for genuine connection with inspiring people and places. Our founder, Alastair Sawday’s early life as a wandering guide and small-scale champion of the special slowly grew into a company of people infused with his enquiring, restless spirit. Now, many years after those initial trips, we’re setting out again, taking you deeper into familiar landscapes and opening up some exciting new ones with the launch of our Curious Guides and Journeys.