Landscape Photography Blog, August 2020
This is an account of a landscape photographers trials and tribulations during August 2020, it shows the highs and lows and gives an honest account of my landscape photography during this time
So August was here and for another month I was again on furlough from work which meant more landscape photography could happen, I had mixed feelings about this as I needed and wanted to be back at work earning some money but at the same time I was enjoying being able to get out more and the mornings were finally drawing in a bit so it wasn't quite so much of a strain as it was in June at the height of solstice.
Monday the 3rd of August
I hadn't managed to get out on the weekend, mainly due to the weather we were having, it was either very hot and clear or cloudy and raining but I was itching to go.
Last month had been a real hard grind as the weather reports had constantly been wrong and I hoped this month would be far more accurate so I could get a few decent images under my belt.
August traditionally had been a funny month, the weather was usually pretty unsettled but this brought the chances of a few storms maybe as well as a heatwave so I knew I had to make use of any chances that came my way as I feared they would be few and far between this month.
The forecast said there would be some high level and mid level cloud around in the morning so I decided to head down to Swanage as I hadn't been there for a long while and just fancied it.
I wanted top concentrate on the western end of the bay looking across to the rising sun as I had shot most of the other areas many times and needed fresh views.
I woke up to what can only be described as 50/50 conditions, there was low cloud and a small bit of high cloud floating about so I decided to go for it but in the 30 minute drive to Swanage it all started changing and that familiar feeling of it all going wrong was back, not the way I wanted to start off August frankly.
The low level cloud was now blocking the area the sun came up in, and it was the only low level cloud there, right where I didn't need it and the high level cloud had all but vanished, pretty much the worst case scenario.
I wandered down the shore of Swanage looking for a decent composition and knew there was a couple of old jetty's but they were concrete and not as photogenic as gnarly old wooden ones so I kept walking until I got to Peveril Point which is a rocky point with some big ladies that stretch out into the water but it just looked really uninspiring and I decided to head back to the jetty area.
The more I looked at it the less I liked it and to be fair nothing was going to happen with the sky so I called it a day and decided to head home, not even taking a shot which really sucked.
Tuesday the 4th of August
The forecast looked much better for Tuesday with low winds, good high level cloud and some high humidity in a couple of areas so there was a chance of mist.
The forecast changed several times throughout the day so I decided my best chance of mist would be at a river rather than open ground which was patchy on the forecast.
Sturminster Mill was the chosen venue but this in itself presented a problem, the sun comes up in front of the mill at this time of year so the shot wouldn't be about the pretty colours, it was all about first light hitting the mill with hopefully some mist on the surrounding areas.
As I drove down for sunrise I went past a couple of areas that had some decent mist patches and I started to feel a bit more confident that something might happen.
As I neared the mill I was greeted to some mist billowing out from the river over the bridge and I was super happy that I might get a decent shot.
It was around 40 minutes till sunrise and the field behind the mill had a great layer of low level mist just hanging above it and it looked fantastic, I made the decision to go to the roadside and shoot across it with the 400 mm lens rather than standing right in it and possibly disrupting it, plus I wanted this angle as it gave the best view of the mist, my one concern was that the mist would burn off before the sun hit the mill.
Around 10 minutes before sunrise the clouds behind me started to catch and some great colour formed, not that I could do anything about it as there simply wasn't a composition available that looked any good, and it wasn't what I was after anyway but all the same it was lovely to watch and I knew a few people somewhere were getting very lucky if they had this in their frame right now.
The mist would rise and fall like a teasing mistress sometimes engulfing the mill and other times leaving it completely clear.
I took a few shots and it looked ok but not amazing, it needed the light to really make the shot work I felt.
The first bit of light struck the trees and it looked great but these were out of frame and I watched absolutely captivated as it worked its way down the tree line teasing me more and more as it got closer to the mill.
I had framed up a composition to allow the curve of the river to be my natural leading line to the mill at the far end of it and the mist rolled off the river bank onto the water so it looked pretty dam good.
The light was only halfway down the tree line now but I could see the mist was starting to get thinner so I took the chance to grab a shot before it disappeared and that's when disaster struck, My camera decided to have a lens error at go into shutdown mode, I waited for it to reboot and watched the miss getting thinner, HURRY UP I screamed in a slightly more abusive and colourful word choice.
It finally rebooted and I went to take the shot and exactly the same thing happened again, so it was out with the battery in the old faithful "Switch it off and on again" method which again failed so the lens was removed and replaced with another which did exactly the same thing.
At this point I was ready to chuck the dam camera in the river but I persevered and it suddenly came back to life and I took my shot.
A few minutes after the shot the mist had all but vanished so I was glad I hadn't waited for the light to strike the mill as I would have missed it.
The shot looked good and I was really pleased with it
Sure it would have been nicer with more light in the frame but overall I felt it was a really nice image which showed a good contrast between light & shadow areas.
I stayed for a bit longer to take pictures as the mill caught the light but the lack of mist made it a little bit less interesting so in the end I called it a day and went home happy that I had nailed my first picture in August.
Friday the 7th of August
Misty conditions were on the cards in the New forest so I decided I would have a trip down there and check out some new areas.
I found a lovely little valley that had some lone trees poking out from the base of it surrounded by heather as the banks dropped down and I thought it looked like an area that could well hold a decent amount of mist in the mornings so this was the target.
I got up and it didn't really look that great but I headed off anyway full of expectations that that the New forest would be everything I've dreamed of, deluded fool !
I arrived and in all fairness it didn't look half bad, the valley was indeed full of mist and I wandered over to have a look, the only problem was the trees were actually below the mist line as the valley had really filled up so I was essentially left with a blanket of mist and very little in the way of features so it was going to be quite a bland shot unless the mist cleared at all.
I waited and watched and as the sun came up I hoped it would burn the mist off a little revealing a wealth of golden features underneath but it just didn't happen.
It was almost as if someone turned the mist off with a switch, one minute it was there and the next it was gone.
I was absolutely gutted as I knew a golden opportunity had slipped through my fingers and I had only myself to blame. The trouble with finding new locations is you are yet to know how they will react in certain weather situations, which was part of the chase I guess but its incredibly frustrating when you are presented with good conditions but can't capitalise on them.
Sure I could stick to the same tried and trusted safe shots like 99% of people do but if you don't go and search out new gold nuggets then you will only ever be the same as everyone else, and that's something I really don't want to be.
The shot was ok but was binned off in the end as it just wasn't that interesting and plans made for later in the week, but it wasn't looking good.
Saturday the 8th of August
I had decided to head to the beach in Poole as weather was looking pretty poor so I wanted to stay local so I wouldn't have wasted too much time if it didn't pay off.
Sunrise was looking pretty clear from the house window but I was up and went anyway.
Now I arrived at the beach at around 4.30 and too my shock it was absolutely swarming with people who had either arrived early or camped overnight (Illegally) to secure a good beach spot.
This was my idea of hell and I tried to find an out of the way location to avoid it all.
A large bank of cloud started to roll in where the sunrise was going to happen and I knew it was all over before it started and to be honest I didn't mind too much as I had enough of people all around me and asking the same stupid question of what are you taking a picture of, the reply of a Rhino wasn't met with any laughter by most.
Bournemouth and Poole beaches had got out of hand during furlough and the current heatwave and thousands of people had descended on them from hundreds of miles away and they were now no go zones and I vowed not to go back till the safety of Winter.
Monday the 10th of August
I had decided to stay well out of the way over the weekend as the heatwave was bringing way too many people and everywhere was heaving with tourists swarming like flies round poo, it was horrible.
Monday soon came round and the forecast said a decent amount of high level cloud would be around and there was a slight potential for mist along some of the river stretches so I made a plan to go down to the Dorset Stour in Blandford and shoot a small half bridge where the sun was coming up just behind it.
I arrived at the venue in question and the weathermen had done their usual fine job and got it completely wrong again and my heart sank as it looked almost clear in the area I wanted to shoot but with heavy un-forecast low cloud on the horizon, I almost gave up there and then on the spot.
I was here though so I thought id wait it out and see if anything occurred, it didn't !
My only hope was that the golden morning light would illuminate some of the trees or the bridges and I might be able to nail something, again it didn't.
I was rapidly becoming an expert in going out and not even getting the camera out these days, it was very frustrating when you get up super early and it just wasn't worth it, couple that with doing it several times in a row and you soon start to get annoyed by it all.
I took myself home and just tried to forget about it all.
Sunset rolled around and it was actually looking pretty reasonable so I grabbed the gear and the dog and headed to to Knowlton church which was nice and close to where I live.
I arrived with about 20 minutes to spare and the sky looked pretty good so I got a couple of pictures and was pleased I had actually gone out but the pictures weren't anything special really but it was just nice to finally see a nice sky when I had the camera.
Tuesday the 11th of August
Mist was again looking likely and I knew exactly where I was headed for it, but I won't say where this is as I've been chasing a shot there for a long time and have no wish too see numerous others all decided they now want to get it as well.
I drove past Wimborne on my way to the venue and the Minster looked really good, lots of mist rolling around and no one there in the spot either and I wondered if I should stop and shoot that instead.
I figured id sooner get the shot I really wanted so I drove on past the minster to my venue which was a further 12 miles or so from it, disaster there was hardly any mist there so in blind panic I decided to head back to Wimborne Minster and get that shot.
As I pulled up to the lay by my heart sank as two people were in the gap and there was no other area to take the shot from so I turned the car round and headed back from where I was in the hope I could find something.
In short I drove around for about 2 hours looking for just one shot but didn't take a thing, the little mist there was had turned to haze and it was just pretty uninspiring, even the forest looked of no interest and yet again I went home without taking the camera out of the bag.
At this point I was really feeling low about my landscape photography, the elements had just been brutal so far this month and I was 11 days in with just one decent image to show for all the hard work.
The heatwave continued to be savage and I could only really go out in the mornings as I wasn't prepared to take my dog out into the sunset high temperatures or the crowds that were out too.
I decided to give myself a couple of days off from it as in all fairness it had got to me and I thought better to regroup and miss a couple of days rather than keep pushing for little reward.
The weather was pretty much clear blue sky and no signs of mist anyway so I didn't think id be missing out on too much.
Friday the 14th 0f August
Not really a shooting day but I spent the time scouting out a few new spots in the New Forest, The heather was really starting to peak and I wanted to be ready with a few new location choices just in case conditions looked good.
Some interesting areas were found and noted for future use.
Monday the 17th of August
I had taken a good few days out of photography mainly due to the poor weather, it was either a heatwave or a monsoon so just hadn't been any real chances to go.
I had made use of the time by doing some decent walks in the New forest to try and find a few new locations to shoot, as it happened I had found several with what I felt was decent potential, All I needed now was the weather.
Forecast had changed every 30 minutes on Sunday night and it was looking good, then bad, then good again and so on until I had to go to bed so an alarm was set.
I woke up and checked the weather apps, they all said low cloud and frankly looked awful but there was decent mist potential.
I had a look out the window and it was clear with a hint of high level cloud and nothing like what the apps were saying so I checked the weather for my area and again it said 100% low level cloud which just wasn't the case, this got me fired up so I woke up the hound much to his annoyance and dragged him out with the promise of a New forest trip.
As I drove towards the New forest the clear sky I had been seeing was noticeably getting darker and cloudier and I knew that the gamble wasn't going to pay off.
I got there and could have screamed as what looked perfect was now frankly awful and not even worth shooting.
The dog had other ideas and wanted the decent walk id promised him so we decided to hike to the top of a high point and hope to get above the mist and try and salvage something.
The mist by now had turned more to fog and even when I got to the top of the hill there was no visibility. The shot I had come for was off so I decided the best plan of attack was to get some areas of tree cover with the fog between them, as I descended down the hill the fog turned to murk and just looked rubbish.
In the end I gave up and went home, once again it had turned into a disaster and I was going home without any pictures, this was turning out to be the theme of the month sadly.
Tuesday the 18th of August
Again the weather had stopped play for the morning and I was itching to get out, by the time the evening came round it was showing signs of potential with some nice cloud about but I decided to stick local as it had been so changeable so I took a trip down to White Mill bridge in the hope the sky might do something interesting.
Everything was looking pretty positive, there sky had a good level of nice cloud in it and there was a gap where the sun was due to set so I got set up and composed a shot using the reed bed as a framing line and the bridge as the main focal point with the sun setting behind it.
I took a couple of shots while I was waiting for sunset and its just as well that I did as the signs of promise quickly vanished as the gap closed and out of nowhere the high level cloud disappeared and was replaced by low level heavy breeding cloud, but not the sort that makes a good moody shot, the sort that kills any light and chances.
While not a keeper the image I did get before sunset wasn't too bad
Thursday the 20th of August
Morning finally had some nicer weather due, nothing spectacular in terms of conditions but at least it wouldn't be raining or super windy so again a trip to the New Forest was planned to a handful of the new spots I had found.
The sky was fairly clear other than a bank of cloud where the sun was going to come up but I knew it would clear it fairly quickly and hopefully cast some nice golden light on the heather as it did, at least that was the plan.
I framed up a shot of a lone tree and some heather leading towards it and waited, it seemed to take forever for the light to come out from behind the bank of cloud but eventually it did and it was well, lack lustre.
There was just nothing exciting about it and again I wasn't feeling the shot so I killed it there and then and went off in pursuit of better locations more suited to the light.
I tried several different areas and didn't really find anything exciting so called it a day and went home for a well earned coffee and a chance to reflect on what was going on this month and why I was having such poor results.
The overriding factor had been poor weather and conditions and while I could have taken a shot and made it look "OK" I didn't want to settle for ok and wanted it to be special so I didn't mind too much not getting the shot if they weren't up to the quality of what I wanted but inside I was starting to feel pressure from myself as I was in a real rut and struggling to get out of it.
The forest can be a real cruel mistress, it can be all too easy when presented with nice misty conditions and it brings atmosphere to shots in almost any direction but without it you have to work and work for decent shots. Constant location scouting, a degree of luck from the weather and some grit and determination to keep going and put the failures behind you but learn from them.
At this point I must admit I fancied a trip to the coast, Seascape photography is by far easier and you can rock up, shoot some nice foreground with a wave trail in almost any conditions and come away with nice pictures, but its not a challenge like the forest is so I decided to keep with it and increase my efforts.
Friday the 21st of August
Some seriously windy conditions were in effect again and frankly it didn't look very worthwhile going out but I decided I would take the hound to the New Forest again as he really enjoyed it and I would have a look for a few more spots taking the camera just in case.
The reality was it was just too windy to take any shots even with the ISO ramped right up I was getting camera shake so again it turned into a morning of exploration rather than landscape photography and a good ten miles were walked trying to find those elusive nuggets for future trips, in all fairness there was some nice light at some points as it travelled across the flanks of the New forest plains but shooting it was almost impossible as the wind was around 40 mph plus.
I did take one or two pictures but they were either not that sharp due to the wind or frankly not that good so they were binned off.
Saturday the 22nd of August
The weather once again was terrible, high winds and heavy rain with thick dark cloud all around, pretty much the last thing you wanted to shoot in but the forecast said later on it would be turning a bit less cloudy.
I sat watching the weather and looking at the cloud and rain on the radar and decided that it might actually be worth going in the hope that some big light would come out with the backdrop of dark ominous cloud.
I had found a nice old lone dead tree that looked out to some rolling hills covered in heather and the light would be on the side of it or behind it depending on how long I was there.
I pulled up and it didn't look very nice, the wind had got up and it was raining so the hound got his waterproof coat on much to his disgust and I got into mine and went out into the elements.
I had to question my decision here as it was super windy and raining and I really didn't want to be out in it at all but the thought of the lone tree with light on it kept me going.
I arrived at the destination and it looked grim, I got fully set up ready just in case the light came and put a dog poo bag over the camera to keep it dry during the rain.
Nothing was happening other than jet black sky and the hound was bored so I threw him a stick to pass the time and keep him happy, while this was going on I just caught sight of what id been waiting for, a small beam of light broke through and was travelling across the flanks of the heathland, come on and strike the tree I begged.
The beam fizzled out before it hit the tree but then came another and another and while they weren't quite on the area I needed them I could see I was in with a real chance of it happening so I patiently waited it out for at least a good hour getting teased as its came ever closer then BAM out of the blue a beam came right over the top onto the tree and foreground while the background remained in the shadows with a covering of thick rain cloud.
As soon as I hit the shutter I knew I had got what I wanted and checked back to make sure the focus was spot on and nothing was over exposed, nailed it.
I was absolutely elated that I had finally been rewarded after constant trips out for nothing, it had all come together and I loved the image.
I guess this will be a bit of a marmite shot in that you will either love it or hate it but id say its defiantly a landscape photographers shots as they will appreciate the time and effort it required to get it not to mention standing in the rain for hours.
I felt relief wash over me and the cloud started to clear a little bit, I took a few more pictures but it just wasn't the same, the sky had now turned blue again in places and the mood was nowhere near as good.
A small and faint rainbow came out and while it looked nice it just wasn't as good as the earlier shot with the dark sky so I was super pleased I had made the decision to go and trusted my gut this time.
On the way back I took another opportunity to grab a panorama of some nice light on another lone tree with some nice rolling heather but it wasn't really a keeper I didn't feel, I was far more excited about the dead tree picture
Monday the 24th of August
A venture out in the morning in hope of more conditions like the last trip was in order but as I drove out towards the New forest things quickly became obvious I want going to be that lucky, the heavy brooding cloud of earlier was starting to break up which was allowing light through but without the sky being menacing it just wouldn't have the same effect so it was going to be another location scouting session but as I was was out looking I came across a beautiful cottage with a big plain of heather in front of it, light was pouring onto it all and if I framed it right the little bit of brooding sky that was left would make it look quite moody.
The finished picture actually resonated with me but i'm sure its not going to be a popular one with anyone else but I just liked the traditional old English feel to the cottage even though it was modern coupled with the heather and the sky and it just worked for me.
The composition was very much governed by the elements that were present, for example the cottage has a very modern garage next to it which wasn't in keeping with the theme of the picture so I had to compose without it in, I would have also liked to have more sky in the picture but just above this it was clear so it had to be as it was in order to get the effect of the picture, Like I said I was happy with it but don't expect it to be popular.
White and Magenta is such a beautiful colour combination and then contrasting colours of magenta & green really just tie it all together for me.
This was to be the only picture I took that day as the sky opened up and the New forest in clear bright conditions just isn't the best thing to shoot frankly so after a few more location checks I was off home again.
Several named storms struck the UK over the next few days so I was firmly staying at home and the waiting game started and cabin fever set in, I needed to be out but the weather was making me a prisoner with its high winds and heavy rain but hope was on the horizon, there might be some better weather just around the corner and an close watch was kept on the weather reports.
Wednesday the 26th of August
I hadn't planned to go out to be honest as the weather was looking pretty grim out there but I went for a walk with my dog a couple of hours before sunset and on the way home the weather started changing, there was some big heavy cloud which looked nice and menacing but some small gaps allowing golden light through so a pitstop on the way home was needed.
I was just round the corner from Horton tower and although I had shot it to death it was close and I fancied it with good light on it rather than the traditional sunset/sunrise shots you see of it all the time.
When I arrived there was a really nice thick dark cloud right behind the tower, all I needed now was a good bit of light to fall across it and after about ten minutes of waiting it came out and lit up the tower against a dark backdrop and I was pretty pleased with the shot.
It wouldn't be a keeper as in all fairness I had shot it better before but it was really nice to finally get some nice conditions to shoot in.
I decided to hang around till sunset as the sky was changing very rapidly and it looked like there might be a chance of it all going off.
I was facing the wrong way for sunset but my hunch was the light would fall nicely on the clouds behind the tower and hopefully give them a bit of colour and look quite effective as it was much clearer in the direction the sun was setting but cloudy behind it.
As the seconds ticked away I could see a large cloud coming towards the tower that was starting to catch the light but it was too far round and would be out of shot but if I repositioned myself then then I would lose the composition of the pathway and the shot just wouldn't look as effective.
It was agonising watching the cloud slowly move through and it started to fade in colour as it was reaching the tower so a slight reposition meant I could just get the corner of it in shot.
Again the shot was ok but I had it better so it wouldn't be a keeper but it was lovely to watch and I was pleased I had stayed out to see it.
Thursday the 27th of August
The forecast was looking good for the morning along the coast so I made plans and went to bed full of anticipation for what the sunrise might bring.
The alarm sounded and I hurried to look out the window and it was not good, big thick cloud and zero chance of the sun breaking through so the trip was abandoned but I was wide awake now and struggled to get back to sleep, around 5.20 I decided to have another look outside and it was completely different, cloud now breaking up and I could see a faint red glow in the distance, I cursed myself for not going and grabbed the camera and legged it out to Holes bay which was my closest chance to shoot towards the sunrise.
As I got there the cloud was starting to light up and it all looked like it was going to go off big time, well for about a minute anyway then it just stopped, no fading, no clouding over just stopped like someone had flicked a switch.
I had only taken about three pictures and in all fairness they were all pretty poor so they were binned off and a swift return home.
Saturday the 29th of August
I had recently been playing around with time-lapse photography and had really got into it and the conditions on Saturday evening were really quite nice so I decided on going back to Horton tower yet again so I could try and get a shot i've wanted for years with the last of the light creeping up the tower as the sun was setting and while I was waiting I could take a couple of time-lapse's of the tower.
I know I am very guilty of constantly returning to this place and over shooting it and you are probably very bored by seeing pictures from here but Horton tower is a really special place to me and I simply love spending time there and know it will eventually yield the shot I'm after if I kept at it.
I spent most of the late afternoon shooting time-lapses and frankly had a great time doing it, there was a lot of cloud and it really helped for the motion on these as it was pretty breezy too.
It also allowed for some nice light to pop in and out on the tower making the time lapses all the more interesting.
As sunset came around the cloud grew darker behind the tower and the light poured over it while creeping up as the sun was setting, this is exactly what I had been after and a shot was taken with light halfway up the tower and I have to say I was really pleased with the final result. I took a very short time-lapse of this happening too so you can see in real time how it was
Hopefully you will agree that this very short time-lapse shows just how spectacular the light really was.
Sunday the 30th of August
Conditions looked a bit poor to be fair and I wasn't sure anything would be worth shooting so I decided to stay local and head to Knowlton Church on the off chance that there maybe some nice sunrise to be had.
I arrived and I knew that it just wasn't going to happen, it was pretty clear and just the odd bit of cloud except for where the sun was coming up and it would block any chance of colour so rather than take up time shooting for nothing I decided to do more time-lapses and just experiment a bit and video some other bits and pieces.
I had got quite into videography and it was a very steep learning curve to be fair and whereas landscape photography I feel very at home with and can make instant adjustments in a split second to nail the shot i'm after it was all very different with videography but I was really enjoying learning something new and relished the challenge that it brought with it.
Monday the 31st of August
Conditions looked much the same as the day before so I decided to do the same thing and head off in search of more time lapses at Knowlton Church.
It was very cloudy and didn't look like too much would happen but around ten minutes before sunrise there was a flicker of hope as some cloud started to catch the colour a bit and unfolded to a fairly nice glow, but again it was very short lived and I took a shot and a brief time-lapse but it was nothing I hadn't already got with a better shot so it was binned off in favour of better results.
Short Time-lapse of sunrise at Knowlton Church
Thats pretty much where my month stopped and it had been a really hard one again, so much effort had gone in for very little result, mainly due to the poor weather and even worse weather forecasting by the scourge of all evil, weathermen.
The dream was also over for full time landscape photography as I was now returning to work after a long period of furlough and I had mixed feelings about it, on one hand I was pleased to be going back to a routine and some much needed regular cash but at the same time I would miss the freedom it had given me and the chance to get out so much more than before, but alas all good things must come to an end.
With September just round the corner and the threat of Covid 19 being far less I had decided to return to doing workshops and was heavily booked for September which meant my own personal shooting time would be absolutely minimal and I would have to make every moment count when I could.
Print of the month for September will be sunset at Durdle Door, You can take advantage of the special discounted rate by clicking HERE.
As always, thanks for reading and happy shooting
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