Seeing the Light

Carmen Norman shares illuminating photo stories from her coverage of two charity light events in the Lake District


This series of images comes from two events held on fells in the UK's Lake District last year - the Catbells Festival of Light (near Keswick) and Striding Edge by Torchlight (at Helvellyn, near Glenridding). Catbells Festival of Light was held in April 2016 to raise money for the victims of the earthquake that devastated Nepal in 2015. Around 500 people took part, heading up the fell in the dark and carrying head torches to light the spine of Catbells mountain to create a light spectacle.      
The annual event of Striding Edge by Torchlight was a smaller-scale event to raise money for the local Mountain Rescue team. It took place on a cold and windy but clear night in November 2016, with 50 people taking up the challenge.      
Lakeland Mountain Guides, the organizers, wanted to record the events from as many angles as possible and were looking for local photographers to volunteer to shoot the spectacles. As I am a resident of nearby Bassenthwaite, I was more than happy to respond to the request to donate my time to support these causes. The images were then sold to raise money for the charities, generating a further £1000. They were also used to promote future events on social media.      
For both events I was in radio contact with the team leaders, so I could talk to them about where to direct lights and about any gaps in the chain of lights. I had to hike some distance with all of my gear, but it was worth it to find a good vantage point. On both of the shoots I got myself into position long before the walkers started to make their way up, and was shooting for about three hours.


1 Catbells
Carmen used her Nikon D810 and 24-70mm f/2.8 for this shot. Using a zoom lens enabled her to reframe the scenes as the lights appeared and the action unfolded


2 Striding edge approach
the biggest challenge was carrying gear up the fell to get in position. in both locations, Carmen had to hike some distance across tricky terrain

Spinal snap
On the night of the Catbells Festival of Light I was shooting from Walla Crag, a fell on the other side of Derwent Water from Catbells. The weather wasn't on our side, as it was drizzling for the first half of the evening. I was positioned directly opposite the ridge and this enabled me to shoot the entire spine. I wanted to reveal the shape of the spine of Catbells with the walkers' lights, while showing the fells behind, too. I also wanted to capture the reflections of these lights in Derwent Water. I used a 24-70mm lens to take my images of the people partying on the summit, to get closer to the action and to see details of the lights. An exposure of 30 seconds smoothed the water. For me, this image captures the colours and excitement of the whole event, and sums up what it was like to be there and to be a part of it. It was a truly memorable experience.

"I wanted to reveal the shape of the spine of Catbells with the walkers' lights, and also to capture the reflections of these lights in Derwent Water"

For Striding Edge by Torchlight I was shooting from the ridge opposite. The first snow had arrived on Helvellyn and I wanted to capture the walkers' lights (about 50 of them) as they reached the middle of the icy ridge, ensuring I caught their torch reflections in Red Tarn below. It was a relatively clear night so it was important to be able to capture the walkers on the edge, the stars in the sky and the newly fallen snow on the ridge. I had a Nikon D810 with a 20mm lens, which was set up and left to continuously shoot for the evening. The images were then made into a stop-motion video of the event, which was a very effective way of capturing the whole thing.      
It was fun to see the lights start to appear, and then to see the line of lights getting longer and longer. As it takes a lot of organization by Lakeland Mountain Guides, it was important to get a shot for them, no matter what conditions came up.


3 Striding edge
the 20mm lens Carmen used at striding edge enabled her to include the ridgeline, its reflection and the starlit sky

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