All Weather Photography
Updated: Jan 29
July has brought a lot of things with it, sweltering heat, Lightning & Storms, a rare instance of mist in the middle of a heatwave ! It's been a funny old month.
Rather than an instructional blog I thought I'd simply tell you about my exploits this month as it's been a strange one.
July is usually a pretty poor month for me, it's hot and usually clear and neither of which are handy for landscape photography so I tend to take a bit of time to recharge the batteries and do some much needed other things that I have been putting off for months.
That said there are usually a few summer storms floating around in July and these are what I tend to go all out for.
July started hot, not just a little bit hot but scorching hot. Hotter in fact than the long hot summer of 76 and I hadn't been out for a little while. Everyday while at work when the clouds were looking good it would get to 5 o'clock and they would disappear quick as a flash almost as if they knew the best way to frustrate a landscape photographer.
It was on such a weekend that it started to show signs of being a little different though, the heat was still there, around 30 degrees at the time and I was leaving it as late as possible in the evening to walk my dog so he could be as cool as conditions allowed.
While walking him on top of Canford Heath I noticed the Purbecks in the distance had a small amount of thick cloud very low just behind them, but nothing very exciting.
The cloud however looked as if it was getting thicker and was low enough to just be kissing the top of the Purbecks and the more I watched it the more I could see it creeping forward and over them.
It was 8.30 pm now and the Purbecks are around a 30 minute drive from me but I knew something special was about to happen so I grabbed the dog and rushed back home to get the camera and raced towards the Purbecks with the photo hound in the back wondering why his walk had been cut short so quickly.
I got to the top of the purbecks and it was thick sea mist and you couldn't see hardly anything in front of you which was not really what I wanted for a photo situation so I raced to another spot I know that sits on a large hill just in front of the Purbecks.
To get to this spot you have to climb up a hill full of ferns and brambles and because I had rushed out so quick to get here in time I was still in shorts and T-shirt rather than my usual sturdy photography clothing.
This was going to hurt and I knew it, but time wasn't on my side as the sun was going down and was very close to setting.
I raced through the path with my legs getting cut to ribbons by the brambles trying to tell myself it would be worth it by the time I got to the top.
At this point I don't mind saying, even I thought I was crazy and the photo dog looked at me with a blank expression as if to confirm the fact.
The photo dog had now made it to the top of the hill and was woofing like crazy which meant either someone was already at the top and had the same idea as me or that the fog was indeed swirling down the hill as I had hoped.
Much puffing and panting later and with legs that looked like they had been painted red I reached the top and what a site was there to greet me.
The mist had started to roll down the hill like a giant waterfall and the setting sun was casting light right over it giving it beautiful colours and tones and there was no one else here which made it even sweeter.
There was still a good portion of the surrounding area which was visible but the mist was moving quickly and consuming everything in its path.
Shortly after the two above pictures were taken the mist covered everything in its path and the temperature had dropped by ten degrees and the mist hugged the ground closely giving me views right over the top of it but with the colours of the sunset reflecting off it nicely.
I was overjoyed to have caught it all unfolding as it happened so fast and for once I actually gave myself some credit for being so quick to get the venue when I realised what was happening especially as it seemed no one else had caught it. It would have been so easy to just dismiss it and stay at home, but boy am I glad I didn't.
One of the pictures went on to be featured in The Times which was a really nice touch and a fitting reward for putting in some serious effort, it made the walk up the hill with my legs getting cut to pieces well worth it, although it didn't quite make up for the walk back down !
So July had actually produced something special for me and I felt that I had fed the beast for a short while which was something, a week later the papers were full of news that storms were heading this way and I eagerly tracked them online willing them to head towards England.
As usual with these news items they blow them out of all proportion all tell you that sky Armageddon is about to happen and then very little does.
The storm was due to hit the coast around 6pm and I didn't finish work till 5pm and it takes me an hour to get home so it was going to be close.
I take my dog everywhere with me but for lightning shots he had to be safely tucked up in his bed at home, far too precious to risk, so going straight from work wasn't an option.
As the seconds ticked down to 5pm I grabbed my kit and was off like a greyhound out of the traps eager to get in front of the storm.
I finally got home and it was raining hard and I flicked on the lightning tracker and it was pretty disappointing I have to say, not that many strikes and it had taken a big swerve and was heading down towards Portsmouth & Worthing. They were a further hour from me and by the time I got there the storm would have passed.
To say I was fed up was an understatement, these opportunities are so few and far between that missing just one feels like a hammer blow.
After the anti climax I decided to just have the rest of the evening in and do some much needed housework but after 5 minutes of sitting on the settee my eyes had different ideas and promptly closed and I ended up fast asleep till around 10 o'clock.
When I woke up I wondered what I had missed, after a few texts to fellow photographers it seemed I hadn't missed anything and the sleep had been a very welcome bonus.
I looked at the lightning map once again just to check and saw a mass of lightning just off the coast of France and heading in this general direction. I kept my eye on it till it was roughly half way across the channel and then raced off to Bournemouth Pier. The scanner was showing the lightning was striking just a fraction over half way now but I could clearly see the lightning striking and I rushed down to the beach front and got the camera ready.
Exposing for lightning is tricky at the best of times but trying to do it with the bright lights of the pier as well was causing all sorts of headaches.
As a general guide for camera settings for lightning strikes I would say start off with around F8, ISO 320 and a shutter speed around 20 seconds while using Bulb mode but this isn't a standard setting as such, it will all depend on how close the lightning is, how bright the strikes are and how much ambient light there is in the shot but it's a good base to start from and make adjustments.
After a few missed strikes I had just about got my settings dialled in and then the heavens opened so I made a run for it under the pier. It only lasted for around ten minutes and then became largely clear other than a few rain spots so I took up position again and waited, the strikes were ferocious and right above the pier.
The lightning perfectly matched the colours of the blue neon lights of Bournemouth Pier which made for a really pleasing image.
I ended up catching around 20 strikes which I was quite pleased with although I cursed myself for not getting more compositions rather than just at the pier.
The heavens opened once again and I decided I had enough pictures so I headed back to the car to go home.
The rain got harder and harder and even turned to giant hailstones at one point. I was now home and as I looked out the window at the storm raging overhead I thought theres still time to get a few more here so I set the camera up pointing out the window at the large water tower in Tower Park, Poole and clicked away at the strikes and managed to get a few more.
It was now the early hours of the morning and I needed to get to sleep before work but I decided I had to have a look at a few of my pictures and get some sent off to the press.
I generally don't send my pictures into the newspaper unless they are weather related as thats what they seem to really like and use.
By the time I was done it was nearly time for work and I was shattered but I had to go in anyway after no sleep and do a full days work.
The pictures ended up being used by the Daily Mail & The Sun which made all the hard work worthwhile and strangely enough, the bogey month of July had produced the goods once again.
With rain comes the possibility of good light afterwards, In fact most dramatic shots are usually after a period of bad weather so I'm never one to shy away from it.
Another weekend and another downpour, it was a typical pattern that seems to happen, you wait all week while working looking at fantastic light and wishing you were out photographing it only for the weekend to come and it totally disappears and leaves you with grey drizzly rain.
This weekend looked slightly different though, the forecast said there would be periods of sun with the rain and that meant great light and the possibility of a rainbow, I was bang up for some of that.
While staring out of the window watching grey intently looking for the slightest change and getting very bored and frustrated until a small bit of definition caught my eye in the clouds followed by just the tiniest patch of blue.
This was what I had been waiting for and I grabbed my kit and the photo dog and rushed out the door heading towards a church I have been shooting for a while but this year it had a corn field in front of it and I had the idea of the corn field being lit up with big heavy clouds in the background.
As I drove towards it I started to wonder if I had made a mistake as the rain was getting harder but I pushed on regardless.
I got to the field and sat in the car waiting for a break in the weather while the photo dog was itching to get outside and splash around in the rain.
The rain was still heavy but there was a small break clearing nicely so I took up position in the field under the cover of an umbrella with the lines of the tractor pushing towards the church, it was as if the composition had been made for a photographer.
The photo dog excitedly charged up and down the corn rows while I waited for the sun to come through the gap and then as if on cue it pushed through the cloud giving fantastic illumination over the field and the church and I took my shots.
This lasted for roughly 3 minutes then the sun went back behind the clouds and the whole scene went flat dull but I had got what I had come for and once again just through putting in a little extra effort and taking a chance.
Well, that brings me pretty much bang up to date, a failed trip to Somerset on Saturday which didn't give me the shot I was really after sadly and then Sunday morning was again a let down with mist expected but failed to show so I decided a day at home catching up was best, it was raining heavily once again and didn't really look like it would produce the goods.
Out of the blue there was a brief moment of intense light and I rushed to the back of the house to check if there was a rainbow and it didn't disappoint !
Stretching above the water tower in Poole at Tower Park was an intense and beautiful rainbow arching into the sky.
I knew I couldn't get to a location in time so I grabbed the camera and caught it over the water tower.
It's not an image that everyone will like but I was pleased with it simply because I have a fondness for the large water tower as it's my daily view.
I shot several pictures from the inside of the house then grabbed my kit and ran outside to get better composition with some of the heather that was on the heath but alas the rainbow had faded as quickly as it started but I was still very pleased with the final image.
It might seem an odd choice to not include the full arch of the rainbow but this was a personal choice as I really wanted to feature the water tower in the image at a reasonable size rather than just a tiny part of the image where it would simply be lost. I liked how the light was intensely on the tower and the rainbow was at its brightest at this point.
I took several other exposures to include much more of the rainbow but they didn't have anywhere near the impact of this composition.
So there you have it, that was July. Usually one of my least favourite months yet it really did produce some nice images for me that I was happy with and nice to have a bit of press coverage too.
Hope you're all getting out and taking plenty.
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