February 2020 As It Happened
This is an account of February as it happened, the good, the bad and the highs & lows of a landscape photographer.
Everything is shown, warts & all, the bad pictures, the good pictures to give you a true reflection of how life is out there.
February 1st Saturday
The weather forecast had been looking hopeful for Saturday all week right up until Friday when both days took a turn for the worse !
This is often the case, glorious weather all week but then come the chance to get out on the weekend and it all turns bad, Frustrating.
There was three different forecasts showing on the various apps I used, the most trusted one said cloudy to start with the possibility of some breaks in the clouds according to the other.
I felt Saturday offered my best chance and decided morning would be worth a go just in case but I have to admit I wasn't holding out much hope.
As Saturday morning came around I looked outside and there was a bit of drizzle in the air and mainly thick dark cloud so not exactly great but I figured I could go anyway and do a few long exposures to try out the new Kase filters and see what happened.
I settled on Swanage seafront for the location choice as there were some great old weathered groynes that lead into the water and are perfect for long exposures, plus there are many other areas to go at if the weather looked like it might play ball.
I decided to have a look near the pier end first and as I got out of the car in the dark and wandered down towards the seafront for a look I was not filled with much confidence.
I found a small area that looked like it could offer a nice long exposure potential just down a flight of concrete steps.
I put my foot on the first step and bang I went down the rest of them on my backside straight into the sea.
The dreaded red seaweed was covering the steps but I couldn't see it in the dark and paid dearly for it.
The fall had knocked the wind right out of me and I had gashed my leg and hand and had badly landed on my shoulder and ribs too, not a great start.
I pulled myself out of the water as quickly as possible and tried to get back up the ultra slippery stairs which was almost impossible but I finally made it too safety.
I sat down and knew I was in a bad state and should get home but I didn't want to miss out if anything happened so I dragged myself round to the other beach and proceeded to do some long exposures as the moody clouds rolled around, it really wasn't worth it frankly !
After deciding to go there was a brief moment where the light finally broke through and I decided I would take a trip to Gad Cliff to see if I could get something.
I took the walk up the steep hill and wondered what the hell I was thinking as my leg was throbbing and I was soaking wet from the waist down but I really didn't want to miss my chance to get a shot.
By the time I got to the top of the hill it had started to go clear (typical) so I made my way down the hill to Pondfield cove where I tried to make use of the golden light coming through but in truth it was a bit too late and the shot was not what I was after.
At this point the adrenaline had stopped and I was suddenly very aware that the pain was becoming very real and I needed to get home.
I got there and removed my clothes and it was not a pretty sight, and the wounds looked pretty bad too !
My leg was a mess and that put paid to the rest of the weekend sadly as I could barely move for most of it. I was desperately hoping it would right itself by next weekend but potentially I might well have put myself out of action for the future :(
At this point I just wanted too say a little warning to everyone about safety on the coast, Im very experienced with walking along these areas and I know the dangers of red seaweed all too well and avoid it at all costs usually but this time I hadn't seen it and it could have potentially cost me dearly.
If my head had struck the concrete steps chances are I would have drowned and that really brought home the safety aspect of these trips we make and the fact that If I had been with someone then potentially I would have had a safety net for this, so all of you please take extra care on the coast and think about going with someone, safety in numbers people.
February 5th, Wednesday
I decided I would do a quick trip before work as conditions looked favourable.
I had to go somewhere very close to work as the sunrise was at 7.38 but I needed to be in work by 8.30 am absolute latest and realistically 8.20 am which didn't leave a lot of time so the only option was the New Forest really.
Forecast looked good for the possibility of misty conditions but as I drove down to my favoured spot there was absolutely none so I diverted to Mogshade pond which was quite a bit further away.
In all fairness sunrise was quite nice but I didn't find a shot that I wanted so I waited for the light to hit and watched the clock frantically.
I had to leave by roughly 8.00 am in order to be at work and it killed me that this was the time the light started to hit just right.
No shots were taken sadly and it was a very frustrating morning as I drove to work looking at everything lit up in golden morning light.
The reality was I would have to wait roughly another two weeks before I could do morning shoots unless it was ultra close to work, and this is what I intended to do tomorrow as potential fog & mist was forecast ! Fingers crossed. The weekend was also shaping up quite nicely too so excitement was high.
February 6th, Thursday
I had managed to sneak another morning in before work with a location much closer this time and the forecast was for fog & mist, perfect !.
As I looked out of the window when I got up there was indeed fog but the wind was also blowing harder than predicted but I had a hunch that some of the valleys in the New Forest would hold the mist for a little longer so I headed off.
There wasn't a lot of mist around in my favoured areas so I went a bit off route and found some, I took a panoramic image of the pools of mist with the layers of forest poking out from them as the sun came up and it looked pretty reasonable.
I had a couple of other shots as the light hit on the frost but I wasn't 100% happy with them so they ended up in the bin but I was pleased the extra effort had finally been rewarded.
It shaped up to be a lovely morning but once again I had to cut it short in order to get into work on time, I knew this wouldn't last and soon I would have enough time in the mornings to capitalise on the gorgeous light here.
February 11th, Saturday
The forecast for Saturday had been good all week up until Friday night, a sadly reoccurring theme here.
Saturday morning was now set to be overcast and gloomy and despite being desperate to go I decided I would get some jobs out of the way first thing and wait it out till the better weather came, This turned out to be a good call as Saturday morning was a gradual increase from dark to grey and I hadn't missed out on anything.
Around 11 O'Clock the grey was showing signs of clearing so I headed out to Swyre Head keen to see if I could catch some nice light or the change from grey to clear.
As I arrived at the top of Swyre head the light did come out to play but it went from grey to clear in minutes and I didn't really get anything that I was happy with at all so I decided to follow the very changeable weather down to Abbottsbury in the hope of better light.
This turned out to be a nightmare as the wind had got up and made it unshootable from the top of the hill, my back up plan was to go to Portland instead but the strength of the wind had put paid to that one so I raced back to Kimmeridge Bay where it was going quite clear but the wind was substantially lower.
The plan was sound, except one tiny detail. As soon as I got there the sun went behind a bank of cloud and that was that, it once again faded to a darker shade of grey and I went home full of disappointment once again, I wondered when I would finally catch a break this year.
Sundays forecast was exceptionally grim, storm Ciara was due to hit and that meant 70 mph winds and heavy rain all day.
Normally in high wind I would be at the coast trying to catch some nice big waves from the safety of the long lens but this storm was a different animal and thoughts of safety came first.
Again this was the right decision as Sunday turned out to be a horrific day, non stop sideways rain and ultra high wind battered the UK, for once I was happy not to be out.
The rest of the week the forecast was much the same, high winds & rain which would put paid to any early morning forest visits sadly, Frustrating.
February 15th, Saturday
The weekend was a complete write off from the look of things, after getting over storm Ciara we were set to be hit with storm Dennis on Saturday & Sunday and this meant 60 mph winds again and non stop rain, now as keen as I was to be out sadly the weather put paid to it and morning trips for the foreseeable future were out too, again frustration kicked in as despite being willing, the weather was making things unsafe.
Then it happened, a small window appeared in the weather forecast which said that it would be rain free from 8-11am Saturday morning.
I decided if I wasn't able to get out and shoot this weekend then this small window could at least give me some decent big wave shots of Storm Dennis doing its thing.
Saturday morning came around and I looked out of the window, it looked gloomy and wet and the wind was high, I wasn't sure I wanted to do the 90 mile round trip to Portland but I forced myself to go knowing it was my only chance for the weekend.
As I pulled up into the car park around 7am there was a small hint of a gap and tiny bit of colour forming, I wasn't in any real rush as I wasn't expecting anything to happen anyway so I casually wandered over to the crane section of the beach and then the gap widened just a fraction and then there was light !
I couldn't get the gear out fast enough and despite the sea making life very difficult by throwing big waves dangerously close to shooting positions I was able to get a couple of shots I was happy with before the gap closed up again and vanished back into the heavy tones of grey.
I was absolutely ecstatic as I was fairly certain nothing would have happened at sunrise so it just goes to show, effort equals reward, and I obviously can't predict a sunrise !
I was pretty happy with these and whilst I spent a few hours there chasing the big waves it was these shots that were absolutely better than any of the others.
Hoping that the storms will start to calm down but the forecast for the week looked unsettled to say the least !
Sunday I was expecting a social engagement which got cancelled at the last minute which was just as well as I was struck down with that most serious of illness, man flu !
Sunday was spent blowing my nose and googling coronavirus symptoms instead of shooting which was probably just as well as it looked rubbish out, but around 3 o'clock it started changing and looked rather nice but I didn't feel well enough to go out so sadly I watched a glorious sunset kick off outside, that's the breaks though.
February 18th, Tuesday
The forecast was showing a possible chance of a reasonable sunrise, all be it a very windy one so I decided to go for a pre work trip.
The alarm sounded its battle cry at 5.30 am and it suddenly didn't seem such a good idea but a quick look outside and I have to say, it looked quite reasonable so I charged down to the New Forest as it was close enough to work to still be able to make it on time.
As I was driving that sickening feeling of seeing it all go very clear was realised once again and the thought that I had probably just thrown away a couple of extra hours in bed became a distinct possibility.
True to form I got to my chosen location and the sky was clear bar the odd few wisps of high level cloud.
I knew they would go pink but in reality it just wouldn't work for the scene in front of me and I didn't even get the camera out, instead choosing to let the dog have the time of his life on a decent walk with plenty of mud and ponds, at least one of us was happy.
I hoped I might get some nice light on the trees on the way to work but it just never really happened. The forecast for the rest of the week and the weekend looked like solid rain so I was gutted to miss a chance but you have to be in it to win it I told myself.
February 19th, Wednesday
Talk about a gluten for punishment ! Well two days on the trot saw me getting up early to go to the New Forest again.
The forecast had looked rubbish all day but I just had a feeling it would go and decided to take the gamble and head out.
Looking out of the window at 5.30 and to be honest it really didn't look good but I knew the weekend weather wasn't looking too promising so I went anyway.
As I was travelling down to Hampshire there was a small gap appearing on the horizon and the lower clouds were just starting to catch a bit of red.
I arrived at my location and wandered over, I knew it was about to all go off big time, the only downside was that the New Forest doesn't really lend itself well to sunrise or sunset pictures unless there are other elements like mist, it always looks better with nice light on trees rather than colourful sky's in my opinion.
The exception to this is when nicely reflected in a small pond, which as it happens is where I had gone.
I had an idea for a long 5-6 shot panorama of this area but in truth its very bland other than 4-5 trees which all flow nicely in size order but I knew in reality this shot would be much better later in the year when the sun was rising behind these trees rather than too the right but I couldn't really get anywhere else with my limited time so it would have to do.
The clouds started to colour up through the gap and it was a very intense magenta colour which almost didn't look real and I took my shot but in truth I wasn't really happy with it, The scene just didn't excite me, and the composition I wanted couldn't be achieved until later in the year. This was a hard reminder that a great sky doesn't make a great picture.
Still, it was nice to be out for a reasonable sunrise again even if I didn't get the image I was after.
The above shot was how I had to shoot it in order to get the colourful sky in, but I didn't like it.
The below show was the composition I actually wanted but as you can see it doesn't include all the colour either, the reality was the shot would be better suited for later in the year and also preferably would be no wind so I could get the tree reflections in the pond.
A much more pleasing angle for this shot I feel, but the lack of colour and reflection meant I would be going back again to try and get this shot in optimum conditions hopefully.
Better to chase a shot till you're happy with it than accept something that didn't complete the vision you had for it.
February 21st, Friday
An unexpected change in the weather forecast made Friday morning look viable, There was going to be some decent high level clouds around but also some low & mid range cloud but there was a possibility even if it was a bit of a gamble but I decided to take it as the weekend was looking like a write off sadly.
I decided to head to Knowlton Church as I could make it into work from here and still be in time to shoot sunrise.
As I was driving down there was a small gap opening up and I could see some small red glow starting on the clouds, it was almost a mirror of Wednesdays conditions and looked like it might well all go off.
I got set up and it was still pre sunrise but the clouds started to colour up and I took my shot and almost as soon as I had it was like someone switched off the colour as it almost instantly disappeared as a thicker bank of cloud came in, very frustrating as it really did look like it was about to be one of those really special sunrises where the contrast of reds & blues would light up the sky.
The image wasn't going to be a keeper sadly but it was worth going out for and again I was pleased with myself for making the right call to go.
My enthusiasm was really taking hold again and I felt my landscape photography mojo was coming back with a vengeance and my number of trips was going up so everything was pointing in the right way, I just needed the conditions and I knew they would come if I kept focus and kept putting in the effort.
February 22nd, Saturday
The forecast looked horrific and I didn't even bother going out in the morning and to be fair that was the right call as it was rain and high winds.
Towards the afternoon the cloud started to open up a fair bit and the odd pocket of light would come through so I decided I would go out after all for the sunset.
As I drove to Kimmeridge bay the inevitable happened and the light vanished and the clouds tuned to grey with absolutely zero definition in them.
The chance of getting a shot was zero really but I stayed for a few hours just to mess about with some long exposures but I wasn't really enjoying myself and the images were seriously boring so I called time on it and went home long before sunset.
February 25th, Tuesday
Forecast looked like it had potential so it was back down to Knowlton Church again for sunrise as it was close to work.
Sunrise was actually quite reasonable with plenty of colour but with a large gap it made exposing for it all a nightmare and I wasn't prepared to bracket and exposure blend so I pretty much gave up on it, the crowning moment was when a dog walker came and deliberately stood in front of where I was shooting even if I moved they then moved in front, Im all for sharing spaces with people but this man was being very deliberate about it.
February 26th, Wednesday
Temperatures had been forecast for -3 this morning and I was hoping for a nice decent frost so it was back to Knowlton yet again but the frost simply didn't happen, it was far too wet but boy was it cold !
The wind was howling and just as the sunrise was about to happen the same dog walker from yesterday turned up and proceeded to plonk himself right in front of the shot once again.
I kept my cool but inside I was itching to say something.
Sunrise was again reasonable but I had better in the past so I didn't bother shooting.
February 29th, Saturday
Saturday wasn't really going to be a days shooting to myself as I was doing a workshop and the clients get my full attention so I wasn't expecting to get anything much in terms of pictures but might sneak the odd one in if everyone was happy and getting their images.
For the forth weekend running there had been a named storm forecast, Storm Jorge was on its way and was hell bent on ruining the workshop with rain and super high winds but we were ready to defy storm Jorge and go out and make the best of things.
The weather had got in the way far too much this month and had been super frustrating but we were determined it wouldn't stop us and we would have a fantastic weekend.
The workshop went ahead and the weather whilst challenging with the high winds actually gave us some superb conditions on the Saturday and there were great moments of light and everyone managed to get some exceptional pictures and have a great time.
I didn't shoot myself on the day as it was a fairly large group but I did manage to get my camera out on the Sundays workshop but that falls into Marches blog.
So February was an exceptionally brutal month, four major storms in four consecutive weekends and in reality I had grafted very hard and got little reward for it but the images I did like were from putting in that bit of extra effort during mornings before work or going out in very rough conditions so for that I was happy but in terms of good useable images it was only really two I was happy with.
Tough start to the year but hopefully March would present more opportunity and much better conditions.
As always, Happy shooting.