Heather & Sunrise Photography - Stiperstones Nature Reserve

Geoff Moore on Sat 29 July 2017

  • Image Title: Heather & Sunrise Photography - Stiperstones
  • Pentax K-1 Camera used:
  • Pentax DFA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens used:
  • 105mm Focal length:
  • f/5.6 Aperture:
  • 1/190 Exposure time:
  • 100 ISO:

Photographing Heather at the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve, The Devil's Chair & Sunrise

Clear skies and a foggy dawn were predicted for our adventures to the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve, our 01:00am start from Worcester through Shropshire to the Stiperstones had both mark and I talking about the clear skies above us and the potential for a foggy sunrise that was promised by the Metoffice. 

Previous research and into the location had turned up photos suggesting the the quartzite rock formations of the Stiperstones granted extensive views across boggy moorland and hill heather. Should the clear skies and foggy sunrise not materialise then at least we should have some decent views we mused. Setting off from Worcester, the skies were clear and the stars above where twinkling against the deep blue of the mid summer night.

Only an hour later, we pulled up at the Carpark for a short hike up the Stiperstones Hill to the interestingly named Devils Chair rock formation. The sky was crystal clear but being mid summer the morning light was already starting to build. At this time of year you are limited in what I could capture from an Astrophotography perspective, as the true darkness of night is only available for a couple of hours, still, the soft blue light of near dawn was beautifully picked up by the purple heather that was in full bloom and made for stunning experience, when combined with the scent of the heather and wild flowers. A gentle but cool breeze was most welcome as we clambered up on to the rocky out cropping that is known locally as the Devils Chair more on that below...

Twilight Heather
  • Image Title: Twilight Heather
  • Canon 7d Mark2 Camera used:
  • Sigma Super Wide II 24mm 2.8 Lens used:
  • 24mm Focal length:
  • f/8.0 Aperture:
  • 180 Sec Exposure time:
  • 3200 ISO:

The Devil's Chair

According to myth and legend that surrounds the stipperstones, the rocks of the Devil's Chair were brought there by the Devil himself whilst apparently travelling across Britain from Ireland, why you might ask? Well, the Devil was actually planning to use his load of stones to fill in the valley on the other side of the Stiperstones, which is known as Hell's Gutter. Growing weary from the journey he decided to rest, no doubt to ponder on the beauty of the landscape and the extensive views. Feeling refreshed he got up after sitting on the highest rock of the Stiperstones, his apron strings snapped and the rocks held within tumbled out. Instead of picking them up, the Devil left the rocks scattered all over the ridge  - and the legend has it that you can smell the hellfire brimstone on them in hot weather. But wait there is more....

On the longest night of the year

On the longest night of the year, according to legend, he sits on his chair and summons all his local followers - witches and evil spirits, mainly - and they choose their king for the year. If you are a believer in such things perhaps avoiding the area on Friday, 21 December 2018 might be a wise choice, less you become wanting of the title Evil King.

Finger Rock
  • Image Title: Finger Rock
  • Pentax K-1 Camera used:
  • Pentax DFA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens used:
  • 45mm Focal length:
  • f/11 Aperture:
  • 1/10 Exposure time:
  • 100 ISO:

Back to the Photography Adventure

The path up to Devils chair is fairly straightforward, just keep heading upwards to the massive rock formation that sits on top of the hill above the car park. If your intention is to climb up on top of the Devil's chair then that is a little more challenging!

The views from it are simply stunning and well worth the effort as the position provides panoramic views over the Shropshire countryside in all directions with remnants of old mines like Snailbeach still visible. Small but historically significant traces of mining can still be seen although most have now blended into the landscape

If you do decide to climb up and on to the rocks Its worth noting that care should be taken, especially if carrying camera equipment, as the stones can get very slippy and are very sharp, snags will easily tear loose clothing and a slip could see you do your self some serious harm and will almost certainly damage your camera beyond economical repair.

Camera insurance should always be considered, If isolation is your thing then again this might not be the location for you, as you will also most undoubtedly bump into other photographers and happy hill walkers.

Geology of the Stiperstones

The Stiperstones are actually made up of a unique rock - Stiperstones Quartzite - which emerges from the ground to form its distinctive rocky crest. When the ridge was first formed it is thought to have been covered by softer rock, which has weathered away over many thousands of years. The ridge itself has been shaped most recently by the action of ice and frost shattering on the rock during the last ice age. This has created the tors that line the top of the ridge that make this site so recognisable from the surrounding countryside.

Rocky Sunrise

Clambering over the rocks at the Stiperstones offers a variety of angles and compositions to photography the heather and sunrise from. One particular composition took my eye, as the glare of the morning sun breached the horizon and illuminated the heather and moorland, dipping behind the rocks allowed for a composition that would have otherwise risked the dreaded lens flare. Shooting in the direction of the morning sun, the shadow cast by the quartzite rocks shaded my lens, this I particularly liked, due to the juxtaposition offered between the hard and soft elements in the final composition.

Rocky Sunrise
  • Image Title: Rocky Sunrise
  • Canon 7d Mark2 Camera used:
  • Pentax DFA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens used:
  • 28mm Focal length:
  • f/11 Aperture:
  • 1/10 Exposure time:
  • 100 ISO:

Shooting into the Sun

As the sun rose higher in to the sky its light started to soften as it became obscured by mid level cloud now hanging above us, this allowed me to then capture the heather moorland in a stunningly soft and warm back light that really allowed the blues and pink hues of the heather to stand out against the ruddy browns and reads of the moorland grasses. The warmth of the sun and subtle  scent of the grasses made for a magical few moments. Shooting into the sun is one of those photographic rules that you should break every once in a while. On reflection this has become one of my favourite images from this adventure.

Moorland Heather
  • Image Title: Moorland Heather
  • Pentax K-1 Camera used:
  • Pentax DFA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens used:
  • 28mm Focal length:
  • f/11 Aperture:
  • 1/20 Exposure time:
  • 100 ISO:

Final Thoughts

The Stiperstones offer the photographer a varied selection of photography, from Astrophotography, Landscape Photography and Macro Photography in addition they are also easily accessible. Their position within the landscape grants them exposure to the weather so the images taken from this location will change on a weekly basis. This variety is really a plus point. If you are local to the area and you enjoy a gentle walk then this is a highly recommend visit.

How to get here

Enter your starting location on the box provided under the map to see the route from your starting location to Stiperstones, Shropshire UK

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