Over Owler Tor

Heather season is fully under way. For that reason I have been trying to get out as much as possible and one of my best evenings of late was on Over Owler Tor for sunset.

I had been out the previous evening on Millstone Edge and that was a pretty decent evening despite the poor forecast. However, I was to be very well rewarded for heading out to Over Owler Tor again the next evening. All day it had been sunny and cloudy but the forecast didn’t look brilliantly promising for the evening, however looking out the window I knew it was worth a punt and set off. I’m lucky in the fact I can be on location within 30 minutes.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Over Owler Tor is a small gritstone outcrop above Surprise View car park and hosts a variety of gritstone outcrops including Mother Cap and the lesser known Beehive. Within short walking distance is Surprise View itself and Millstone Edge. You have great views down the Hope Valley and looking the other way over towards Carl Wark and Higger Tor.

Over Owler Tor and the surrounding areas is also perhaps the best area in the Peak District for heather. This little section of moorland gets ravished by the purple flower every single year and is a popular spot for photographer’s. Strange then, on a Saturday, almost at prime time for heather with decent light, I had Over Owler Tor to myself for the most part, with Robert Stevens joining me for the last 20 minutes after being on Millstone Edge himself.

I had actually arrived in plenty of time in case there was only going to be the early light which gave me a little time to scout out opportunities. I popped up for a quick reccy the evening before and after not being up for at least four years I had forgotten how good this spot actually is. I still felt I knew the area well but it was good to get myself reacquainted with the area, I’m not quite sure how four years goes so quickly! The last time I shot sunset up here too, it was a clear sky so I was more than looking forward to some clouds with good light.

My first shot is a classic view from Over Owler Tor with this gritstone formation featuring in many shots. Behind it you can see Hathersage Moor, Carl Wark and then Higger Tor. To the left is Stanage Edge. The heather is looking good here and this was my first break of light. I had set up here first as if there was one shot this evening I wanted it was this, so I snapped away and got a few shots while the light was good.

Over Owler Tor Sunset - Peak District Photography

Over Owler Tor Sunset – Peak District Photography

I moved around and another shot I wanted to re-do is a shot of the Beehive. When I first started photography I went up here on a cold winters morning and oblivious to the area I took a very similar composition to the portrait shot below with stormy light and frost down in the Derwent Valley. It’s a shot I’m still proud of but I now wanted one with a surrounding of the purple heather. Since then, the Beehive has been shot many times and most people call it this. Maybe I gave it its nickname, maybe it’s always been called that because it’s so obvious. Who knows?

Anyway, I really liked clouds at this point, sort of wrapping their shape around the top of the formation:

The Beehive Sunset - Peak District Photography

The Beehive Sunset – Peak District Photography

The next shot is a landscape version from a little later on, the clouds weren’t as good but the light a little richer. You can see Mother Cap in the distance.

The Beehive and Mother Cap Sunset - Peak District Photography

The Beehive and Mother Cap Sunset – Peak District Photography

This next shot is of Mother Cap. This gritstone formation is huge and can be seen from miles around. Unfortunately, people have seen fit to graffiti on the formation and I really don’t get what people get out of doing so. Anyway, the clouds were great at this point, creating a lot of drama behind the formation while it was also surrounded by a field of heather. I spent quite a bit of time trying to get this shot as it’s probably more suited to sunrise. I worked around, trying to find a spot where the profile of Mother Cap looked good while not getting my shadow in frame:

Mother Cap - Peak District Photography

Mother Cap – Peak District Photography

Keeping an eye out for other photographer’s potentially going to nick my spot, I spent a little time just below the summit of Over Owler Tor. I was being rewarded with some nice side lighting in between the passing clouds. I could see a photographer down below on Millstone Edge and while shooting he came up and greeted me. His name was Robert Stevens and someone I had known a short while through Facebook and he has some pretty decent mountain pictures. It appeared two mountain photographer’s weren’t too bothered about battling out poor conditions for the chance of a great sunset.

The first shot you can see a climber just on the top of Over Owler Tor and in the second the light was so rich and I couldn’t help but shoot into the sun:

Over Owler Tor - Peak District Photography

Over Owler Tor – Peak District Photography

Over Owler Tor - Peak District Photography

Over Owler Tor – Peak District Photography

Finally, after running around like a mad man for the previous hour snapping away I made my way back up to my original spot and joined Robert to capture the final light of the day. The clouds were pretty awesome and before the sun dropped into a bank of cloud the light was really rich. I made the following two compositions. I think I prefer the second one with the light hitting the rocks and heather really nicely.

Over Owler Tor Sunset - Peak District Photography

Over Owler Tor Sunset – Peak District Photography

Over Owler Tor Sunset - Peak District Photography

Over Owler Tor Sunset – Peak District Photography

I’m glad I went up after a busy day. I was well rewarded and think next year I won’t need to return for the heather and I can focus on some of the other locations. Thanks for reading and looking as always.

Don’t forget you can buy prints of any of these images by sending me an email and some of my favourites will be uploaded to my Peak District Photography gallery.


  1. Andy Keeble August 20, 2016 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Another really well written and informative post mate, not to mention the excellent images!

    I have a question re the Heather and that is, when does the “season” end as I want to pay a visit before the blooms fade.


    • James Grant August 20, 2016 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Hi Andy. Thanks for the comment. It’s really hard to say as this year in my opinion it was late coming out. It’s almost at its peak right now so I imagine it’ll last until the 1st September slowly dying off after that.

      • Andy Keeble August 20, 2016 at 12:37 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the info mate, it’s always nice to get that sort of information “from the horses mouth”! Time to plan a visit using your excellent book then!?

        Please pass on my best wishes to Sarah and I hope things have improved for you both since we spoke last. ?

  2. James August 20, 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Had to pop over and say exceptional images here James, some of the best I have seen from this location. Well Done!

    And as controversy as it is, my favorite of them is all is the one shooting into the sun 🙂

    Makes me want to visit!

    • James Grant August 20, 2016 at 11:57 am - Reply

      Thanks James. I really appreciate it! I do like a good shooting into the sun image myself too and so do a lot of my viewers. They often do the best but I also think there’s a time and place for them 🙂

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