Driving Ambition: Photographing the Peak District

Ape were recently challenged by Mazda to realise and fulfil a true driving ambition. A combination of doing something you’ve always wanted to do, in a suitable vehicle. Naturally, Mazda provided the latter: a 2018 Mazda CX-5, a superb mid-size SUV. And Ape, the idea: photographing the Peak District.

The Peak District National Park has some of the foremost locations for landscape photography in the UK. With cavernous valleys, stunning ravines and sweeping views, you’re almost spoiled for choice, but we’ve always wanted to capture some of its iconic locations. Below, you’ll find a list of our top 5, alongside a selection of photographs we took en route.

Winnats Pass, Hope Valley

A vast limestone gorge with craggy rocks – equally impressive when viewed from the top or the winding road below – Winnats Pass is best accessed from the village of Castleton. The natural leading lines make for a great photo, and some of the best we’ve seen have been during snowier climates.

Be warned: during the summer months, it’s a hive of activity with tourists. And as such, plenty of traffic. So we’d recommend getting up there early for sunrise, to get a clean, car-free shot of the pass. Our preference would be a shot from the top looking down, but if you’re feeling really adventurous a drone shot will look mightily impressive, giving the frame better context.

Post code: S33 8WN

Chrome Hill & Parkhouse Hill, Earl Sterndale

Once a coral reef hundreds of millions of years ago, its staggered shape is truly unique and will deliver stunning photographs whatever your ability. Head to the village of Earl Sterndale, near Buxton, and you’ll unearth a rugged yet seriously handsome part of the Peak District National Park.

Our advice would be to place a person at the tip of the peak (be careful) to give the shot context of the vast scale. Again, arriving for sunrise or sunset will earn you some spectacular images.

Post code: SK17 0BU

‘The Trinicle’, Saddleworth Moor, Greater Manchester

Expansive, dramatic moorland with distant reservoirs, Saddleworth Moor is picture perfect, with leading lines and natural frames. Hike from Dovestone Reservoir to “The Trinicle”, keeping the latter it in the foreground for context.

It’s definitely a bit of a hike, but nothing you can’t handle and the reward for your efforts is definitely worth it. Located just a 50 minute drive from the centre of Manchester, it’s a popular spot with city dwellers, but not a place where you’ll have to worry about cars in your shot.

Post code: OL3 7NN

The Great Ridge, Mam Tor

Looking out over Mam Tor at sunset

You won’t win any prizes for a unique shot here as Mam Tor, which provides a classic shot of its Great Ridge’s gate and fence, is frequently photographed. But for good reason; this iconic shot is stunning, and just so happens to be a short walk from its conveniently located car park at Mam Nick.

Mam Tor has to be one of the most iconic parts of the Peak District, with the “classic” shot being the Great Ridge’s gate and fence, with the sweeping landscape of Mam Tor and the famous path leading on.

The easiest and most direct place to park for shooting here would be Mam Nick’s aforementioned car park, as from there it’s just a short (but steep) walk straight up to the summit.

Post code: S33 8WA

Ladybower Reservoir, Bamford – Derwent Valley

Ladybower – located in the Upper Derwent Valley reservoirs near Bamford – has a variety of shots on offer, and another location that you needn’t hike for hours to get great photos.

Being one of the Upper Derwent Valley reservoirs, this part of the Peak District is positively brimming with artistic potential for photographers. There’s Ladybower’s famous plughole, the reflection of the sunken viaduct on the still water, not to mention the masses of woodland surrounding the trio of reservoirs.

Post code: S33 0AQ

Achieving Your Driving Ambition

For many of these views we recommend arriving early for the first “golden hour” at sunrise, and a chance of catching the atmospheric morning mist. Or conversely, the “golden hour” before sunset. The early morning option tends to see less crowds.

We’d also recommend a solid, sturdy tripod for long exposures – dial down that ISO to up the quality, and shoot at F11. Try a Neutral Density (ND) filter to reduce the amount of light passing through the camera lens without changing the colour of the scene. They are especially useful in bright light conditions to help prevent overexposure. And, of course, a camera capable of capturing the scene in a quality RAW file, in case you need to make any subtle edits in Lightroom.

Finally, you’ll need some good quality walking boots, and the right clothing to deal with the elements. And last but not least: the right vehicle. We were most pleased with the Mazda CX-5, with its KODO Design ethos, Soul Red Crystal Metallic colour, and spacious, human-centric cabin. It was quiet, well built and superbly comfortable. Perfect for the long drive around the Peak District, and suitably sized to dodge sheep, cattle grids and load up with all your camera gear to follow your driving ambition.


A paid partnership with Mazda UK

Chris Beastall

Chris is the Founder and Editor of Ape to Gentleman. His interests lie in men's style, male grooming and leading a better lifestyle - through minimalist, basic and clean design.