Aysgarth Autumn Retrospective

We had been hoping to go ahead with our Aysgarth workshop last weekend but after discussing at length how we might run it a couple of weeks ago, we decided to postpone our remaining two 2020 workshops and start afresh in 2021 as it would have been tricky for us to deliver the workshop in the way that we would want. Looking at the news now it’s probably just as well as, although North Yorkshire is still currently in Tier 1, it would have meant some participants travelling from higher tier areas to attend the workshop which is allowed but isn’t advisable and we wouldn’t have wanted to ask people to do that.

So, once again, instead of a workshop here’s a look back at some of our autumn visits to Aysgarth and West Burton in the past…

Setting up below Lower Aysgarth Falls in October 2019

After meeting up in West Burton and a hike across the meadows, with a stop somewhere en route to photograph a barn or some autumnal scenery, depending on the light, we generally head right to the bottom of the lower falls at Aysgarth for our first proper waterfall photography stop. Here we can clamber out onto the rocky river bed and photograph the amazing stepped falls from below.

A very high River Ure in October 2017

At least that’s usually the case – in 2017 the river level was so high that we were confined to a very narrow ledge at the bottom of the path down the river bank! It was very dramatic though – and also very loud so we didn’t stay here very long before heading back to the path and the viewpoint above the lower falls…

Peaty water in Lower Aysgarth Falls in October 2016

The top step of the lower falls is always very dramatic whatever the level of the river and almost always has a striped orange/brown hue from the peaty water.

Photographing the zig-zag shape of the Lower Falls in October 2019

The zig-zag shape of Lower Aysgarth Falls makes a great subject so it’s always nice to see how our workshop participants interpret it.

Lower Aysgarth Falls, October 2019

Whilst the steps of the lower falls from the bottom viewpoint always work best when the River Ure is in a peaceful mood and the river level is lower, it seems to work the other way round at Upper Aysgarth Falls – which is nice as there’s always something that looks at its best when we visit!

Low water at Upper Aysgarth Falls in October 2015

In 2015, we’d not had much rain for a while and the river was at one of the lowest levels we’ve seen it on the workshop, so the upper falls was reduced to a few individual small cascades in the middle of the river – fine if you had a longer lens to hand!

Tricky light at Upper Aysgarth Falls in October 2016

In 2016 there was more water in the upper falls making it more interesting, though the river wasn’t at its highest by any means. It looks like we had some tricky backlighting that day too – though some areas of the falls in open shade were still easy enough to photograph.

Upper Aysgarth Falls in October 2014

Back in 2014 we has a good river level with colourful peaty water, great diffused light and a nice hint of autumn colour so we spent a bit more time at the Upper Falls on that occasion!

Our walk back from Aysgarth to West Burton via a different route involves a break from waterfalls with some intentional camera movement work in the woods and a stop at some lovely old barns a few meadows away from the village before arriving at what I always think is the highlight of the workshop (as it’s my favourite waterfall!) – the lovely West Burton Falls (or Cauldron Force). Matt on our very first Aysgarth workshop in 2011 had fun with some very long exposure shots here (see the featured image, top). The only thing we can predict about West Burton Falls is that it’ll probably be different to our last visit – there’s always something new to find in the shapes and swirls in the beck below it.

West Burton Waterfall in October 2019

Last year’s visit was a rather wet day and the falls looked quite dramatic with a touch of autumn foliage around the cascade and plenty of interest in the fast flowing stream in front of it.

A gentler West Burton Waterfall in October 2015

The visit in 2015 saw a lower level in the beck and a much calmer West Burton Falls, more suited to closer portraits of the waterfall itself as well as setting it in its surroundings. I think I prefer it in this mood, where the mossy rock is visible behind the white water, but whatever mood West Burton Falls is in on my next visit I’ll just be happy to see it after missing out this year! Hopefully that will be on an Aysgarth workshop in 2021

2 thoughts on “Aysgarth Autumn Retrospective

  1. Post 1st lockdown I travelled to West Burton waterfall. Set my tripod up with camera, cable release and lens with big stopper then started taking some pictures. 2 couples came and crossed the stream then stripped off and started swimming. Took no notice of me, my genre is landscape not glamour so left. A first 40 yrs of photography. Maybe I should have done glamour?


    1. Ha, an interesting take on exposure! We’ve not had an Aysgarth workshop where it’s been warm enough for swimming – but we ran a Stainforth Waterfalls and Peaks workshop on a blisteringly hot summer’s day a few years back and Stainforth Force was absolutely crammed full of people!


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