Stewart Smith is a professional landscape photographer based in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria. The Lake District’s spectacular peaks, valleys and dramatic weather regularly take your breath away. As part of our celebration of Britain, we’re featuring some of the wonderfully talented people that do their best to capture its beauty for all to enjoy. Here we share a tea with Stewart to celebrate his work and understand why the Lake District is so special to him.
“You can complete a walk along a gnarly mountain ridge, summit a hill with amazing views, meander along a placid lake shore, or ramble rolling countryside, all in one day”
How did you first come to enjoy the outdoors?
I’d have been out and about before I could even walk, as my parents would be out walking the hills most weekends. My earliest hill memories are from about the age of four onwards, with the very first being an exceptional blue bird day up Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran. That exalted top of the world feeling (despite it not being the biggest mountain in the world) really stuck with me, and it’s the one that always drives you back, the impetus you need to keep climbing. In a way it’s the feeling you’re always chasing, except I’m now chasing accompanying images as well. On the way you create new memories on new hills, and it’s self-perpetuating.
When did you start photographing the Lake District?
Not until (relatively) recently. I went travelling around Australia after university in 2002 and at that point hadn’t taken any interest in photography, although my dad always had a camera on the hills. I started snapping away, enough people told me they liked the results, and I started from there. Returning home to Cumbria with the Lake District on my doorstep was the ideal place to take it further. Of course I didn’t just immediately become a photographer, but I started spending more time in the outdoors again, teaching myself, learning the craft…. and somehow it became a full time career.
What is it about the Lake District that inspires your work?
It’s a wonderfully diverse area of interest for such a small geographical area. Whatever your style of landscape photography, it’s all here. It’s always been home to me, so I find a certain affinity for the area and comfort within it, which of course helps when photographing it. You can complete a walk along a gnarly mountain ridge, summit a hill with amazing views, meander along a placid lake shore, or ramble rolling countryside, all within a day.
What is your favourite walk through the peaks?
If I had to choose one particular route that gives you everything, it would be an ascent of Scafell via Upper Eskdale and Great Moss. A trip incorporating a rocky ravine, crystal clear waterfalls, an emergence into the surprisingly open space of Great Moss, and then some (very) mild scrambling up crag and gully on to the summit.
What is your favourite season in the Lake District?
If I was a passive participant in the scenery, then autumn in the Lakes is unbeatable for sheer beauty – it even looks magnificent in the rain! However winter just pips it for me, as long as we get one. Even our relatively small hills can be a serious mountain proposition, and the accompanying weather is unbeatable for dramatic landscape photography.
To see more of Stewart’s work visit www.stewartsmithphotography.co.uk