• Daniel Wretham

Landscape Photography Blog, June 2020

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

This is an account of the trials of a landscape photographer during June 2020, the highs & the lows, everything there to give you a true reflection of how it is.

June started much as May had finished, full of blue sky, not a single cloud and very warm temperatures, exactly the last thing a landscape photographer wanted to see.

There was however hope on the horizon, Wednesday the 3rd was forecast for cloud & rain with potential for thunder and maybe even some rainbows !

Wednesday the 3rd of June

The forecast was very changeable throughout the day and I kept a close eye on it but in reality I knew it would be a gamble.

I had decided to go to Old Harry Rocks as the sun was coming up right in front of it and on the weather radar it appeared to be right on the edge of the cloud.

A shrill 2.45 alarm call cut through me like a hot knife through butter and I looked outside to see pretty much cloud with the odd gap, it didn't look great I have to say but I was going to go for it regardless as I had been stuck in for a good few days and I needed my outdoor fix.

Walking down to Old Harry Rocks there was a very small gap and a tiny bit of colour there and things looked better than I thought they would but as soon as I got there the gap seemed to close up and and all colour disappeared from view, annoying.

I waited it out till sunrise and never even saw the sun come up at all it just got slightly lighter and this was not the start I wanted to the month.

Huge rain clouds were coming in from behind me and I made the decision to head back to the car park confident I wouldn't be missing anything, lady luck was actually with me on this one as I got about a few hundred yards from the car and the rain started and boy did it come down on the drive home.

Roads were overflowing with water and the plants and countryside got a much needed drenching after so many days of hot weather

The rest of the day was spent in the hope that there would be some sun & rain together so rainbow hunting could happen but it just wasn't to be as the cloud remained far too thick for the light to come through.

Thursday the 4th of June

The forecast had a really high humidity level for a certain area but the wind was a little too high for a proper cloud inversion I felt, but there really was a good chance of something occurring so I decided I would start the morning in North Dorset chasing some mist or potential fog, either one would work for me.

Upon hearing the 3 am battle cry however all plans went out of the window, the wind was just too much and I felt the chance of any mist was minimal so but the coast looked quite reasonable so I made a mad dash to Portland to try my luck.

Portland is around 45 miles from me so its not a decision I take lightly but it seemed the best of a bad lot really, when I got there the wind was howling and the cloud cover looked fairly thick but there was a gap coming into view so I might get lucky.

I set up my composition looking towards Portland Bill lighthouse with the sunrise directly behind and started the waiting game.

Portland was rather strangely completely devoid of people, probably due to the daft time needed to be up for sunrise but it was a welcome relief for me frankly.

Some colour was starting to show behind me but I really wanted to stay put with my shot that I had in my head but it wasn't looking to exciting and the colour behind me kept irritating me like a mosquito bite and eventually I just had to scratch it and rushed over to another composition to try and capitalise on it.

As soon as I got there the colour started to fade typically and worse still it was now lighting up behind me where I had already been, I rushed back to my original spot and recomposed but the colour in the sky just wasn't working for the shot and I kicked myself that I had messed around rather than just waiting and trusting my gut.

In all fairness it wasn't a fantastic sunrise so I hadn't missed out too much but my indecisiveness had absolutely cost me a shot.

I decided to give it a few minutes for the sun to clear the cloud bank and cast golden light on to the lighthouse in order to salvage something.

I set up my position and waited and as expected the light came out from behind the clouds and cast its golden glow on Portland Bill lighthouse, I took the shot and it was ok but nothing special, I doubt I would keep it as frankly I have better shots from the same position, it felt like I was just going through the motions a bit.

Portland Bill Lighthouse
Id shot it in better conditions, but a last gasp save maybe

It was a bit too windy to photograph the thrift that was blooming and the light was right behind which would have caused shadow issues so I called it a day and drove the long painful journey home when you know you didn't really bag anything.

Sunset was looking more and more interesting so I decided to take a drive to Sturminster mill which is a solid 40 minute run for me, some really angry clouds were building and sunset looked like it could have be really nice.

I got to my chosen venue only to find a barrier over the front and a sign saying closed due to Covid-19 which was a nightmare as only a few days earlier it was open, im pretty sure the owners just wanted to stop any crowds which is fair enough I guess but I was pretty annoyed having driven that far for nothing and seeing good sunset about to happen.

I tried to get somewhere of interest but it just didn't happen and I had to watch amazing light from the car while driving home after a very frustrating evening.

Friday the 5th of June

I didn't get up for sunrise, conditions just weren't that inspiring really and the lure of a warm bed and a lay in were too much to resist, although the dog made sure the lay in wasn't too long as he wanted his walkies.

The day was looking quite overcast and windy but there was pockets of light breaking through which was the sort of shooting I really enjoyed if you went to the right places to capitalise on it.

I had a chat with my good friend Tim Monaghan who was also itching to get out and we decided to meet up while socially distancing and go and shoot an old barn in Dorset that has a lifting field towards the end that I felt would be perfect for capturing some rolling light along its flanks.

We walked down the field and both found suitably different compositions about 60 yards from each other to be safe and to ensure we both got very different takes on the main subject, the barn.

Light was rolling around nicely and a few pictures were taken then off to the left a huge weather system came into view, this meant only one thing, we were going to get very wet.

We had the option to rush back to the car and stay dry or wait it out in the rain, I had a waterproof jacket with me so I was up for the wait, Tim however didn't and was in shorts to boot but decided to handle it like an absolute boss and stood there getting soaked to the skin ! You legend !

When the rain finally stopped the light came back into play and I watched as it rolled across the flanks of the hill like gods own torch shining light across it.

I waited for just the right moment and took my shot, I knew right there and then I had something special that I would be really pleased with.

I decided to get home and have a look at it to see if it was as nice as I hoped and I wasn't disappointed, Probably my favourite shot of the year to date.

Sixpenny Handley Dutch Barn
Light at the dutch barn, finally a keeper

I was ecstatic with the picture and uploaded it onto Instagram, my elation was short lived as the following days saw at least 8 different people go and take the identical shot which was seriously disappointing, but what can you do ?

The silver lining is this that this picture went on to win Fotospeeds #FSPrintMonday competition on Twitter which I was over the moon with as it was my first time entering it !

Cant ask for a better outcome than that ! Thank you Fotospeed !

I headed out in the evening in search of more golden light and had found a nice composition of Knowlton church but it was from a serious distance away and I wasn't sure the 400 mm would cut it so I went to have a look and find out.

As suspected the 400 mm was falling a little short of the mark even in portrait panorama stitch mode and the wind was relentless making sharp pictures impossible despite ramping up the ISO it just wasn't happening.

I called got a day and headed for home with a brand new location to go at on another day.

Saturday the 7th of June

Mist was again forecast and I was super excited, I knew exactly were I was heading but also knew this area rarely receives much mist so I had a back up plan of another area in mind just in case.

I was up at 2.45 am and boy was it a struggle but I eagerly headed out to my chosen venue, there was mist but not a great deal so I decided to drive to my back up choice about 10 miles away only to be greated by thick fog, a real pea souper.

I wasn't sure quite what to do, risk waiting it out for the fog to burn away ? or turn back to my original choice and try there, I decided on the later and went for it, when I got there the mist had got even more sparse and panic set in, I still had time to drive back to my back up venue but it was going to be close !

I rushed down there and the fog had got even worse, I had spent half the morning driving round to several locations only to find no shots were on, I was really frustrated.

I decided to wait it out at a valley in the hope it would clear when the sun came out, and wait I did for what seemed like an age and finally the light hit and cleared out the fog a bit giving me an opportunity to grab a wide panorama of this misty vista.

melbury folds
light & mist, maybe a keeper ?

I wasn't sure if I liked the end picture but it was as best as I could get on the day so I decided to sit on it for a while and see if I changed my mind.

I went out again just before sunset in an attempt to explore the new composition of Knowlton church, there was some seriously interesting weather occurring, lots of rain clouds and light out so it seemed I was in with a good chance.

I took a pano with the 400 mm lens but I just wasn't feeling it and decided to bin the shot off, I could see Horton Tower in the distance and it was lit up with the low evening sun so I raced down there to get another pano of this from the roadside.

I have to say I was really pleased with the result, the low sun gave the colours and incredible saturation and while some will think its just the edit it really wasn't it was like this and looked so incredibly vibrant and lush.

Horton Tower
Horton Tower Panorama 16:9 ratio

I decided a 16:9 crop suited it best having originally gone for a 2:1.

The final result was this and I was super happy to have got it in those conditions.

Monday the 8th of June

I decided to go back to the barn for sunrise as it was coming up right in front of it.

The morning was pretty clear with some cloud behind me, but clear would work for this location I thought but was proved wrong as the it just looked way to bland and needed a dramatic sky if it was going to work, I shot a few but it just wasn't looking that good.

Dutch Barn Sunrise
2:1 Panorama But it just looked to bland and boring sadly

I was going to wait for the sun to clip the horizon and shoot it with a sun star but It just didn't really work so I decided to call it a day and took a shot of the crop lines looking the other way as the light hit which worked well but still wasn't a keeper, again a disappointing morning considering all the effort I was going too but I kept reminding myself that I wouldn't get anything sat at home.

lead lines
Not a keeper, destined for the bin

Its times like these where you do question things though, the effort SHOULD be worth the reward but it rarely is, this is why we treasure those rare times where it actually all goes right and you finally get rewarded, I felt I was due a reward, don't get me wrong id had some decent shots recently but mornings hadn't been that kind and I had been really going full on with it and it had taken its toll on me.

I headed out in the evening as it looked like it might be quite good but only a couple of miles into the journey I knew I wasn't feeling right and needed sleep so I simply turned around and went home rather than push myself and risk a problem, the sky looked good at sunset but I didn't care, I needed the rest and my body was telling me that.

Tuesday the 9th of June

Again mist was looking likely or potentially fog which my gut was telling me would be the most likely outcome so an alarm was set and this time I had a back up plan for the fog, if my landscape choice shot wasn't on I would head into the nearby forest and hope to catch some misty woodland or better yet some rays of light coming through the canopy.

Once again all this went out the window as I woke up Tuesday morning and I set off to North Dorset only to be informed by my good friend Martin Dolan that there was no mist there and I should abort the trip right away.

Its worth pointing out here that I network with a few others for exactly this reason, we all know each other well and are all trusted friends committed to helping each other and getting better pictures, if we all go to different venues and its not looking good the others will let you know what their choice is like and if you should change direction and head there.

It works really well and Im super grateful to this bunch of great friends.

I decided to divert to Horton tower as that area was showing a little bit of mist, it teased like a mistress as it rose and fell along the flanks of the tower before sunrise.

One minute there was nothing then back it came engulfing the tower, what I really needed was the morning sunrise to come up and cast its golden light on the tower but it just never happened and the mist finally called it a day and left at which point the light finally came but it wasn't the shot I had been chasing so hard so I decided to divert elsewhere in search of better conditions, while driving to my venue if choice I came across a beautiful lone tree with some stunning curving tractor tracks in the wheat, topped off with a large foggy cloud right behind it, it was as if someone had said what would a landscape photographer ask for in a perfect scene, and there it was served up in front of me so not one to miss an opportunity I took my shot and was instantly happy that I had rescued the morning.

I think the image might be a bit of a marmite image but for me it really worked and was one I was super happy to have captured. The tree was in perfect isolation and it made me think about the current situation with Covid 19 and it seemed a very fitting tittle, Isolation.

Lone Tree

I drove further on to see if there were any other opportunities awaiting and came to an old favourite, a tree lined avenue that was beautifully regimental in its appearance as it echoed into the distance.

The trees were just starting to get a bit of glow on them from the morning sun which was nicely defused by the fog and they had a lovely field of wheat growing alongside them, again the scene had just been presented to me on a plate and I made the most of it.

Im not 100% with the shot yet but I'm leaning towards liking it more than not but again I will sit on this one and see if its a keeper over the next week or so.

Moor Crichel
Spring Echoes

After I bagged these two the sun was starting to get a bit too bright and while there was a chance of getting some more possible shots I chose to just enjoy the moment for a bit then head home.

I had pushed hard over the past few days and once again I was feeling it, The next few days looked a bit poor on the weather front so I decided to stay home and recharge the batteries as well as catch up on so more jobs.

Some pretty severe weather was heading for Dorset, flash floods and lots of rain according to the weather but Thursday afternoon could possibly bring some rainbows with it so I would be back to it then.

Thursday the 12th of June

The morning looked horrible so I took advantage and had a lay in to energise myself a bit more and went in to work to sort out a few bits, just as I finished I came out to see a monster weather system approaching and cursed my luck that I hadn't brought the camera with me, The forecast was sun and rain which meant as soon as I got home and got my camera I would be heading to Corfe Castle, my own personal nemesis.

I have been chasing full arch rainbow over Corfe Castle for five years now and still not got lucky, to make matters worse an amazing shot of it had just been captured by my good friend Rachel Baker which was on one hand devastating to me as I had worked so hard for that shot but on the flip side I was absolutely over the moon for Rachel as she really puts her time in for Landscape photography and thoroughly deserved such an amazing shot.

Unfortunately and rather predictably I stood in the rain getting soaked but the rainbow never came, just a really hazy sky, I just couldn't crack it at this place sadly !

I waited around for quite a while but it was fairly obvious nothing was going to happen so I called time on it and went home.

The evening looked like it had a bit more potential so I decided to go out again and went local to White mill bridge as the sun was setting behind it.

When I got there some nice high level cloud was present and it looked like it could happen.

I surveyed the scene in front of me and one thing really bothered me, a big branch had beached itself right in front of the bridge and had all manor of weed and gunge hanging from it and it looked really unsightly so I decided to wade out and remove it for not only the benefit of my shot but also the benefit of the river itself.

It took a while to get it out and I managed to get a boot full of water for my trouble ! But the scene looked much better now so it was worth it.

Sadly the clouds did that all too familiar thing where they go clear right above you but a small bank of cloud blocks the light from the horizon killing your chances, I knew it wasn't going to happen but like a glutton for punishment I waited it out to the bitter end.

Two trips and I hadn't taken a single shot on either of them, Frustrating but I kept telling myself I wouldn't get any shots staying at home and sometimes you just have to take the gamble, win some lose some.

The weather over the next few days was taking a nasty turn, lots of wind and rain so again I decided to catch up on some print orders which had gone mad for June for some reason.

Saturday the 13th of June

3 am cried out the alarm clock, get up GET UP ! I really didn't want to, I had a look outside and it looked quite reasonable, some decent cloud and with clear patches in it too so I dragged myself out and headed out to my chosen venue.

Pretty much all the way there it had looked good up until I arrived and the clouds all disappeared except one large bank of low cloud on the horizon, it wasn't what I wanted for this shot.

Sunrise was an hour away and I decided to just stay and watch for a while rather than dragging all the gear on the long walk to where I wanted to shoot from.

Things didn't improve sadly and about 10 minutes before sunrise I decided to call time on it and go home.

I was at the very height of frustration, I just couldn't seem to catch a break at the moment and after checking in with several others it seemed they were having much better conditions this morning which just made it worse and I cursed my choice of venue vowing not to return there for a while.

I had been revisiting the same few spots constantly recently trying to get the exact shot I wanted from them and to be honest it had all got a bit stale so I decided I would start heading out further away to some new stomping grounds, still within Dorsets boundaries, but for that I would need the weather on my side so it might have to take a back seat for the week.

The coast was really calling me back but I was desperate to avoid this for anything other than sunrise in order to avoid coming into contact with people but there were very few place that the sun was still coming up over the water and I guessed other landscape photographers would be flocking to these too so I had a look at my little black book of locations and decided to try inland for the next few days around west Dorset instead just to keep it fresh, but as with anything conditions would ultimately dictate where I ended up.

While out scouting the late evening light became quite good and as I was driving home via Corfe Castle I couldn't resit stopping off to capture it.

I was pleased with the final shot, a 6 image panorama but the reality was I had shot it better before so this image wouldn't end up in the gallery but it was still nice however to get some decent light.

Corfe Castle
Nice light, but I had it better already

Sunday the 14th of June

I decided not to bother with sunrise as conditions just didn't look that great to be honest but I decided to have a scout about at a local venue looking for new compositions and checking out areas of interest.

While out shooting some nice side light on Corfe Castle I noticed a decent bank of cloud behind me which looked like it had real potential to light up, however it wasn't really in a position to be shot from where I was so I carried on with the side light but I wasn't really happy with the shot as it just lacked the impact of other angles.

Corfe Castle
Great light but that was about it

I couldn't get the bank of cloud out of my head and there was only 10 minutes till sunset and I needed to get somewhere that I could capture it with a nice composition, but there wasn't anything really special close by other than the river Frome at Wareham, it wasn't ideal but it was all I could get too so I made a mad dash to get there.

My original thought was to try and find a composition of the church there but when I arrived there it just wasn't in line with the cloud bank so I had to settle for a bridge with another small church in the background.

The sky was going to kick off and I could see the clouds starting to turn, I composed for a standard shot then decided to do a panorama of it too so I could make the most of the sky.

I was fairly pleased with how it turned out but the funny thing was I just wasn't that interested in shooting big sunsets anymore, I much preferred shooting the light before it.

When I first got into landscape photography many years ago its all I wanted to shoot yet time had changed me and my tastes, funny how things change.

Don't get me wrong, I will continue to shoot them but I just enjoyed them less than I used to.

River Frome, Wareham
Sunset over the river Frome

Monday the 15th of June

The forecast was set for mist, and I knew exactly where I was headed.

Corfe Castle is without doubt shot to death and there's very few new shots you can do from there really but I had scouted a new composition for it that I thought might work, but it was at real range, the 400 mm might only just about cope in panorama format.

The alarm sounded and I excitedly looked outside, there was mist and the shot was on, there was just one problem with this shot I had to walk through a cow field to get to it, only a short distance but enough to make me really panic about it.

When I got there around 4 am the cows were thank fully fast asleep and further over the field so I raced through it and into the safety of a fenced off field.

Corfe looked kind of murky and the shot I wanted was heavily reliant on light coming from the side onto the castle and in truth I wasn't sure I was going to get it.

Sunrise happened further round to my right and in all fairness it was quite nice but the position I was shooting from didn't lend itself to anything so I stuck with my original plan and kept to the castle shot.

At this time I was joined by the legend that is Mark Bauer and as we shot we both had a catch up, Mark had elected to shoot from the other side of the field where the cows were and we both shared our panic over them !

While Mark was shooting, a cow decided to take an interest in him and picked up speed, Mark decided quickly to change fields at which point the cow decided to charge at him and he jumped into the same field I was in, this it appeared had woken the beast in the others and they all came over and started mooing right at the wall and we both wondered if cows could jump walls because the seemed pretty keen to get to us.

The escape route was now completely cut off by angry cows and we looked around for another exit and found one further down the hill, I asked Mark if he could run fast because I wasn't going to be slow if they came through !