Rising high above the Somerset Levels, historic Glastonbury Tor is visible from up to 20 miles away on a clear day. It’s a reasonably easy walk to the top of this 500ft [152m] hill, with pedestrian access to the site from the north east via Stone Down Lane, or the south west from Wellhouse Lane.
Car parking is a nightmare. The local authority and the National Trust prevent it in the adjacent lanes, so your only option is to park in Glastonbury and walk, or catch the shuttle bus. The lanes around the Tor are a haunt for car thieves. Do not leave any camera kit in your car if you do decide to risk parking in the nearby lanes.
When you have a hill that is the highest for miles around, there is a temptation to climb to the top and shoot the view – but here’s the thing: Glastonbury Tor and St Michael’s Church are the subject. The best views are actually to be had from the south across the Somerset Levels looking back to the Tor. Look for Butleigh Road, Cow Bridge Road, Street Drove and Middle Drove where you will have excellent views across the Levels and the River Brue.
Another excellent viewpoint, although at first it doesn’t look too promising, is Wearyall Hill. Car parking is very limited here but the walk up the hill, with the view back to the Tor on a misty morning, is memorable and well worth it. Having photographed Glastonbury Tor at sunrise, take time to go and have a look at the remains of Glastonbury Abbey as well.
Glastonbury Tor – shooting advice
For me, Glastonbury Tor is an early morning location. Owing to its proximity to the low-lying and very damp Somerset Levels, if there is mist to be had it will be at this time of day. Try to work out your angles so that you are shooting into the sun with the Tor silhouetted. Backlit, the mist will look much better.
The church and the hill can look a bit ordinary if you are not careful. This is one of those subjects that works by being a part of the overall landscape, rather than the main subject. Of course, there are close-ups to be had, with perhaps a long lens. I also think that a moon rising from the unique Somerset landscape plays an important part in placing the Tor and its church.
Make the most of the situation
Apart from Wearyall Hill and a handful of hills that are much further away, you will find yourself down in the mist. Try to make the most of the situation. It is nice to have a higher vantage point, but the chances are you will find yourself in the low-lying fields, so use what is around you to help tell your story.
Food and lodging
There are plenty of places to eat, including some excellent vegetarian and health-food cafés in the town centre.
There is also plenty of accommodation in the town and the surrounding area, including everything from Premier Inn and Travelodge hotels to farmhouse B&Bs. Unfortunately, I can’t make a recommendation as I live close enough to shoot Glastonbury without requiring an overnight stay.
A moderate wideangle lens, 28mm or 35mm, is useful for misty morning images. Alternatively, a good-quality, mid-range zoom, such as a 24-70mm f/2.8, will give you excellent results. However, for a bit of drama in the mist, especially with a rising sun, you may wish to go for something a bit longer, such as a 70-200mm zoom.
The Somerset Levels is a low-lying and very damp landscape. Wellies will be essential, but if you are in the market for a new pair, don’t skimp. Good-quality thermal wellies will keep you and your feet happy. Cold, damp feet are not ideal for a morning spent shooting the Tor.
An Ordnance Survey map of the area is essential. Follow the footpaths rather than wander aimlessly through the fields. The alternative is to download the part of the map you need from the OS website and print it on an A4 sheet. Mark possible locations and shooting angles the night before you head out.
Jeremy Walker is an award-winning professional photographer and Nikon Ambassador specialising in location photography. Visit www.jeremywalker.co.uk