Photographing The New Forest
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Hello again everyone, How have you all been ?
I've recently had a major change in direction and have become far less interested in Dorset having shot the vast majority of it for the past ten years and needed fresh landscapes to really enjoy my photography again.
I love Dorset with a passion but theres only so long you can keep going to the same old places and couple this with the absolute explosion of photographers here now and the constant clashing of tripods along the coast and I was in much need of some peace and quiet again.
Wales has been my favoured destination to get away from it all and I have had a few trips there but its not somewhere I can just nip down the road too before or after work so I needed somewhere closer to home.
Wiltshire was an option and I had been spending a fair bit of time there but again it didn't really tick the box of being close enough on a work day and it would be reserved for weekends.
The obvious choice was Hampshire & the New Forest.
I've not really spent much time in the New forest which is odd as its right on my doorstep but I've previously found it less exciting to shoot than other venues which were closer by.
It just didn't excite me that much and thats what I really needed in order to get my teeth into an area, There was however an exception, Mist.
Mist has always been a favourite subject in my landscape photography and I loved the feel it gives to a photo, plus the limitless formations it can come in.
The chance to capture some nice light falling on it or indeed shoot into the light with some beautiful hazy mornings and then everyones favourite, the low laying cloud inversions that sit a foot or two from the ground like an inland sea washing over everything with the odd tree standing proud through the mist, I wanted some of that.
I knew several areas that were capable of producing misty mornings but of course they were popular and I really wanted to explore new areas rather than get the same shot everyone goes for.
Evenings after work were spent driving to new areas and going for long walks with the faithful photo dog which he seemed to think was the best thing ever !
Several areas were found that all looked very promising provided the right conditions came along, some good high areas along with valley type plains.
I also found several areas with ponds which could prove fruitful in the coming autumn months.
So I was now all set, I knew where I was going and what I was shooting, I just needed the conditions in order to get the shots I wanted.
September was a strong possibility for these conditions as temperatures start to drop, there is usually some rainfall and the humidity levels fluctuate, all things I was looking for.
It was potentially a bit early to hope for this but the weather this year has been a law to itself and anything could happen.
The start of September gave me an opportunity as all the elements started to come together, There was very low wind, high humidity, clear sky and a sudden drop in temperature forecast for the following day and i eagerly packed the kit up ready for a chance at it.
I set an early morning alarm and went to bed full of anticipation and the chance of a nice misty morning.
The area I was visiting was a valley with high points on both sides and a perfect mist trap, I was conscious however that we had a lack of rain in recent times and this might be a factor in how the morning panned out.
As the alarm gave its brutal screaming wake up call I looked out the window and it was indeed clear and looked good.
A quick shower to get ready as I would be going straight into work after the shoot and I was off, much to the dogs disgust who wanted to stay asleep for at least a few more hours rather than be dragged out of bed at 4.45am, i cant say i blame him.
The wind was at a really low level and all seemed good, a quick stop for some much needed coffee and I was on my way. I passed by Rockford common and saw a few photographers pulled up ready for the morning ahead and they had obviously had the same idea about conditions as me and I raced on deep into the forest.
Confidence was high and as i pulled into the car park it was shattered, there wasn't a single trace of mist there.
I was gutted having made the extra effort to do a super early start then to do a days work on top and not have a result but as we all know thats how landscape photography goes sometimes.
I decided not to waste the time and check out a few more areas but sadly there was nothing, i thought well at least if some light comes i could get a few shots right ?
Wrong, the weathermen had told a lie and the clear forecast became a cloud monster which erupted just before the sun came up and meant zero colour and zero light, never mind at least the doggy enjoyed his walking unsanctioned dip in every pond he could find !
Undeterred I decided to go out for more location hunting after work and found a couple of promising areas.
The weather conditions looked good for the next day so I set about doing the same routine, up at 4.45 and then a shoot before work.
Again everything looked good and to my delight there was some mist in my chosen area and I was keen to get to a high vantage point so I raced off into the forest only to find from my chosen point the mist was far less impressive so i hurried back to the original area and walked deep into the location where the small amount of mist had congregated.
There was very little light but I was encouraged by the way the New Forest looked under this blanket of beauty.
I took several shots and just as the sun was coming up the mist burned away leaving me slightly frustrated but still encouraged. Some nice light was now falling on the area and although it was devoid of mist now some nice shots were still available so I took them before having to call it a day and head into work.
Two days of being up at 4.45 and then a full days work plus evening shoots were taking their toll on this old boy now and coffee was my best friend that day to keep me going, it was consumed in litres not cups !
The weather was looking decidedly mist free for the following week except Thursday which showed real promise and I couldnt wait for it to come around.
As always I spent the evenings looking for new areas for future shoots but kept finding myself back at the same location I had found the mist at the other day, I really liked it and knew it had potential to produce the goods.
Thursdays forecast just kept getting better & better, 3 mph wind, 95% humidity and it was going to rain on Wednesday ! clear skies Thursday morning, This was what I had been waiting for.
I had been debating going to the other side of the misty area as I felt it offered me a better option to shoot the landscape I was after but I hadn't had a chance to check it out during the day but I was keen to get a different shot the the others I had taken last week.
This could lead to something epic, but it could also lead to a disaster and be a poor area to shoot from and I battled with my mind over night, take the safe shot ? or go all out for the unknown.
By the time the morning rolled around I was in favour of the unknown and as I pulled up to the known spot it looked good, really good. There was a beautiful low layer of mist sitting tantalisingly over the landscape. I should have stopped there and taken the safe shot but I raced off for the unknown area full of expectation. I parked up and almost ran all the way there much to the dogs amusement.
When I got there it just didnt look right, i mean there was mist etc but it just wasnt the shot I wanted and it was rapidly getting to sunrise time and colour was already in the sky and I knew id made the wrong decision and I raced back to the car in order to go to the original spot.
At this point the hound wondered what on earth was going on and figured it was some sort of chase game and promptly ran as fast as he could in a circle to evade capture !
When I finally got him and dragged him back to the car the sun had already started to come up and I knew I had blown my chance, I was fuming.
I eventually got to the car park and as I raced to get to the area I wanted to shoot my heart sank, there was another photographer there shooting already. I looked around for another vantage point when heard a OI OI shout coming from his direction, It was my good friend Paul Haynes and suddenly just like that the shot was back on.
I hadn't seen Paul for a long while and we had a good catch up while enjoying some beautiful light and mist together, I got some shots that I was really happy with but Paul showed me what I had missed while I was out trying to get to the new area and I knew I had messed up, he had caught some breathtaking shots.
Another evening out searching followed and this time I was looking around forest areas for spots where the light fell nicely as a back up for mornings where there no mist.
The New Forest had really started to capture my imagination and interest by now, I was seeing things I previously hadn't noticed and I was finding shots all around by changing how I approached things.
My enthusiasm was at an all time high for it now and I couldn't wait to get out more, something that had been lacking of late.
The next morning looked like a repeat of the conditions but to a slightly lessor degree so I decided I would still go for it, I was up early and eagerly driving to the New Forest once again before work hoping for misty goodness.
The New Forest then decided to kick me firmly in the unmentionables as it was mist free, alas no shots were taken and an extra long dog walk was had.
This cycle followed for another couple of trips and was exceptionally frustrating, all the conditions were there for it but it just didn't happen.
The forecast once again became less than favourable for morning missions so I decided to concentrate on evenings when it looked fruitful and on location scouting when it didn't.
A trip to one of the better known areas of the New Forest, Rhinefield Ornamental Drive one evening produced some lovely light on the trees and a bridge and I was happy with pictures that came out of it, I was glad to be putting in this extra effort when the rewards came but my real desire was mist, in fact I was a total mist addict.
The freedom of the New Forest was liberating, I was no longer having to share space with others all trying to shoot the same thing, the sense of solitude was fantastic and the wildlife was simply at another level.
On several occasions while doing evening location hunts I was treated to deer & stags, the usual New Forest ponies & cows, badgers and pigs ! It was fantastic, I had never felt quite so at home and it was a real eye opener.
I have never been a huge fan of photographing wildlife, my real passion was landscape photography but I have to say I spent a few fantastic evenings watching these magnificent creatures and even managed a few pictures too, it was simply wonderful.
My thoughts returned to the misty mornings that I craved and when conditions looked good again I was fully ready to take advantage of it.
This time I had explored the back area of the plain that I had been shooting and I had found some really good high areas overlooking the area that the mist tended to pool up in.
As the alarm kicked in once again on a work morning I went into auto pilot and raced off to the New Forest keen as mustard.
After a fairly long walk through winding paths and lots of mist I arrived at my location, it looked good.
As the sun was coming up I intended to shoot towards it capturing small clumps of trees and low rolling mist and then as the light came i would turn 90 degrees to face the favoured area and catch the light clipping the trees and falling on to the landscape.
The shots into the light were pretty good and what I intended them to be and I couldn't wait till the light struck the other area.
Just before this happened the mist started really rising and consuming everything and the area to my left was actually becoming covered.
No longer were there trees poking through mist, they were completely engulfed by it. All around was covered in a sea of mist and even the highest points were no longer visible, once again the New Forest had kicked me in the knackers.
I was about a mile plus away from the car and knew that it would be futile to try and get to another area now so instead the dog got yet another good walk and spent the morning barking at the mist and hearing his echo resonate all around much to his amusement.
Another evening rolled around and I went looking for more evening light on trees and I wasn't dissapointed, I love this style of photography and I dont really see that many people doing it so it was very refreshing and something I will be keen to do more of in the future.
Well that just about brings me up to date with the first couple of weeks of September, Im off to Pembrokeshire for a week shortly so The New Forest will have to wait till October when im hoping to get some fantastic autumn colours on the trees and if im very lucky, some more mist.
As always, Happy shooting.
A video on shooting morning mist in the New Forest.