This is an account of a landscape photographer during December 2020, the good the bad and the downright ugly.
Lets not mince words, the year had been awful, Covid 19 restrictions had played havoc with landscape photographers up n down the country and had caused frustrations beyond belief.
The experience of being locked down for months at a time had taken its toll but had also strengthened the resolve to enjoy every last available minute in the pursuit of light.
November had resulted in a mini lockdown which while not as strong as the early lockdowns was still enough to cause issues with going anywhere further than "Local".
I had traditionally always done a weeks landscape photography in October somewhere special, a new area each year, Wales, Scotland, The lake district etc.... Somewhere to really explore and look forward too, and I had missed it this year due to restrictions so I was feeling extra frustrated so I decided I would make December count and really go for it and try and get some decent images to make up for it in my home county of Dorset.
My first trip of the month would be a surprise for me as the weather was frankly shocking, heavy rain, dark cloud and very very windy, far rom perfect conditions to be fair.
I kept staring out of the window hoping to see a change but it wasn't coming, again frustration set in and I paced around the house like a caged animal desperate to be free from the confines of its prison, and then someone unlocked the door.....
A small break in the cloud saw some nice light pour through and that was all the signal I needed to grab my bag and head for the coast, the area I fancied was Chapmans Pool.
I wanted to do a video here for quite a while as the sun sets right in front of Chapmans Pool at this time of year, but I wasn't after pretty sunset colours, I saw the dark clouds and the gap and just knew I wanted to shoot light on the flanks of the cliffs.
I raced across the fields from the car park and could see there was no light now but the gap was still there and the sun would be through it shortly so I rushed to get set up and as if by magic the second I was set up the light poured through the gap and gave me some stunning colour all over the flanks as I had hoped for.
I couldn't believe my luck and a day that had looked so hopeless was now giving me such amazing conditions and I happily snapped away and recorded the whole session which you can see by clicking HERE or at the bottom of this page.
I got a picture I was really happy with and decided to wait it out in the same spot till sunset, which didn't look as though it was going to be as good but you just never know.
The thick dark cloud started to build and to be fair there looked like no chance of anything happening until about ten minutes to sunset and a small band of pink started to appear on the dark cloud, and then it grew bigger and bigger.
Before I knew it there was a full on pink sunset going on in front of me and I laughed with glee and snapped away like a madman !
To have been treated to not only fantastic light but also a great sunset was just amazing and I was absolutely elated that I had been out to capture it.
Once again not listening to the weather men had proved to be a good idea and to go with your gut instinct, I ended up with two images I really liked.
St Oswalds Bay
I was buzzing to have got a decent set of images from Chapmans Pool and was ultra keen to get out again but I really wanted to get back to the coast, and more importantly down to sea level for some good old fashioned seascapes.
It had been a long while since I had been to St Oswalds bay and I have to say I really fancied it, The chance to get to sea level again and with plenty of big rocks sticking out of the water it offered a really good chance to get something nice as long as the weather played ball.
The weekend brought with it some very changeable weather but there was a fairly decent possibility of some decent high level cloud so I was ultra keen to go and have a bash.
The walk down to St Oswalds bay is a bit of a tricky one at this time of year as the path has eroded away in a lot of places and it had been very wet for the past few weeks which meant it was going to be very muddy and slippery due to the high volume of traffic and clay in the soil so care would have to be taken.
I made the scramble down the path and all went without incident and was greeted with a completely deserted beach and the solitude I love so much, the session was already a winner.
Conditions looked really good with some decent high level cloud floating about and I was super excited at the possibility of getting another decent shoot under my belt.
There was no thick cloud around which was perfect but there was around 2 hours to go till sunset so a lot could change and I didn't count my chickens just yet.
I started off shooting down the length of the bay as the golden light was coming from the side right onto it and it looked really tasty.
The idea was to get a bit of water movement as it crashed over the rocks in front of me so a slightly slower shutter speed of around a half a second was used to good effect.
The tide was pretty unpredictable and there were some small waves and then around every seventh wave it would be a really large one which was exactly what I was after.
The only real issue with this shot was my positioning, I was effectively perched on a couple of rocks and my tripod was doing something similar which made life very difficult but I pushed past it as I wanted to get the shot.
Many waves later and I felt I had several decent shots to choose from, all the same composition but all with different water splashes so I decided to move in preparation for the coming sunset.
I chose a position based on safety rather than composition as the sea was becoming increasingly rough and I wasn't really fancying getting a soaking or worse still, into danger so a sensible decision was taken to stay quite far back from the water to avoid any danger but It wasn't quite the composition I wanted, I tried a few different spots but they each felt quite vulnerable and I wasn't prepared to risk it so I went back to the first spot I had chosen and got set up ready for the sunset.
It was now about 30 minutes to sunset and I wanted the sun to have gone down rather than trying to take shots with a big fiery ball in the centre of the frame blowing out all my highlights.
While I was waiting there was a large thick cloud starting to form on the horizon and I had that horrible sinking feeling that the shoot might well go horribly wrong but I looked up at the high level was all still there so I thought that the light might well still catch on it so I stayed put.
I tried to get a few close up pictures of the rocks with the waves crashing over them but in truth none of the pictures were that good so I just decided to wait it out till the sun had gone down.
As the sun went below the horizon I hardly dared to breathe as I waited for the first signs of colour.
Its a horrible wait but then it started happening, a small bit of pink & peach tone started to form in the highest clouds and it gradually worked its way down to the cloud bank and gave me some beautiful colours to get the seascape I was after.
I took quite a few pictures, again all the same just different water patterns and length of shutter speed to allow different effects.
I had a scan back through my pictures and knew I had got what I wanted and packed up a happy man, it had been a really good and enjoyable session and once again I was fortunate enough to capture it all on video which you can see by clicking HERE or at the bottom of the page.
I hope you like the picture, it felt good to do a seascape again and I was pleased with the results.
I really was in full on Jurassic Coast mode and I wanted to be back there again so I decided that a nice sideline shot of the Pulpit Rock at Portland would be a decent target to go for.
It was a pretty hazy day so I wanted to be fairly close to my subject so Pulpit rock fitted the bill nicely.
Again there was high level cloud forecast and confidence was high so I took the drive down to Portland while keeping close on on the sky.
The light was glorious when I got out of the car, but that's about as long as it lasted because as soon as I walked towards the rock it all went behind a thick cloud and that slow sinking feeling washed over me, not to worry I told myself as there was plenty of time for the cloud to move.
I was recording this session again so I thought I would get a few pieces to camera done while I was waiting which turned out to be a good move.
Another photographer moved in next to me and was almost clashing tripods and despite giving him the look he didn't get the hint and move further away.
I continued trying to vlog and do pieces to camera but every time I did he and his girlfriend would start talking and of course the microphone picked up everything, I would patiently wait for them to stop talking and start again only for them to start talking again, it was beyond frustrating but there was nothing I could do short of kicking the pair of them off the ledge into the sea but thought better of that as murder charges tend to ruin the day.
I waited it out and watched person after person climb up pulpit rock right in my frame and knew I couldn't do anything about it but it wasn't improving my mood in the least.
The thick cloud was moving but I wasn't sure it was moving fast enough and wasn't sure it would clear in time for sunset, it was a nail biting waiting game.
I kept myself amused with thoughts of how I could dispose of the two noisy photographers that were annoying me and occasionally let out a maniacal cackle which seemed to slightly nerve them, can't think why ?!
The cloud hadn't shifted fully but I knew that a bit of light would come through as the sun set and keenly got ready for it, I guessed it would be about 5 minutes away.
Much to my joy and amusement the photographer to my left packed his gear away the second the sun hit the horizon and I wondered why he would do that as he was about to miss all the colour, but maybe he was moving ? I didn't know and didn't care frankly as they had wound me up so much.
As he scuttled off the sky started to show signs of change and I hurried to finish up my vlog and do some pieces to camera while also shooting to get the scene.
After 5 mins or so it lit up and looked fantastic and I nailed the picture I wanted and felt relief wash over me.
It really had been a session from hell right up to that point and I questioned whether I should be allowed to be round people after my dark thoughts (Joke) but shrugged it off and got on with enjoying the sunset.
I was pretty pleased with the pictures I had and although I didn't get the side lit one I wanted the end result was enough to keep me happy and I felt like I was on a bit of a role having managed to get decent results on the last three sessions, confidence was high and I couldn't wait for the next one, only mother nature had different plans for me.
You can see this video by clicking HERE or watch it at the bottom of the page.
I was really keen to get back down to Kimmeridge bay as it had been a long time since I was there and I wanted to get a video from it if possible.
Kimmeridge presented me with the perfect day for it, ultra low tide, gorgeous light, high level cloud etc, just the sort of conditions you would want.
I wanted to get a sunset shot of it so that was what I was going to hold out for, whilst the light was nice it just wasn't doing anything for me from the angle of which I was set up.
The bay was eerily still and calm, and there was hardly anyone about but it looked really good and like it was all going to go off, I was super confident and felt like I couldn't put a foot wrong at the moment, boy how wrong I was.
With around half an hour till sunset a really large flat grey cloud moved in covering the sun and with it taking my chances of a decent shot away with it, I was gutted.
It had looked perfect and I really believed it was all going to go off but in the space of five minutes those hopes were totally dashed.
I wanted revenge and decided to go again the next day back to Kimmeridge, I wont bore you by typing the same as above but it literally happened in exactly the same way, it was like groundhog day as I watched thick cloud come into play in the last half an hour.
Kimmeridge had been so good to me in the past but now it was flexing its muscle and letting me know very clearly that it was in charge and I wasn't going to have a decent sunset unless it said so.
I came home fed up but not giving up and knew id be back to once again challenge Kimmeridge bay to a battle of wills and conditions.
I fancied a sunrise and I hadn't been to Winspit bottom for a while so I decided it was time and booked in a early morning sunrise session on the next decent looking day.
The forecast was for high level cloud and I wanted some of that !
I got so carried away with watching the weather I completely forgot to check the tide times.
I woke up and rushed to look out of the window to see if the shot was on, it was ! in fact it looked amazing, high level cloud everywhere and I couldn't get out of the door fast enough ! I just knew it was all going to go off.
I walked down the long trail to Winspit full of excitement as the sky was already showing signs of colour an hour before sunrise.
As I arrived at the cliff top and looked down I realised I had made a major error, I had forgot to check the tide and it was now high tide and frankly Winspit isn't the best location in high tide, it has far more to shoot when its low.
I assessed the situation and was left with two options, shoot from the cliff edge or go down to the sea area and stand high up on the rocks, this is what I chose to do.
I could have stayed at sea level right at the back but the tide was pushing hard and while I was quite happy to get wet feet I wasn't so happy that the swell was quite rough and decided to stick to the safer option of being on the rocks.
The tide was coming in hard and smashed against the rocks cause foam to fly everywhere and I hurried to get set up, The sky was looking amazing, lighting up more every minute.
The sun was rising directly in front of Winspit but shooting towards it would have looked a bit boring to be fair so I opted instead to shoot the more interesting composition of foreground and rocky outcrop to the left of the bay, hoping to still pick up colour but also the benefit of having sunrise light pour over the rocks and bounce off.
I took several shots and knew I had a couple I was happy with, I looked behind me and the other cliff was lighting up and some decent cloud colour was present so I did a complete 180 and faced the cliff and nailed another picture complete with a wave trail that gave it some foreground interest as in reality there wasn't much there.
I decided that as the colour was going I was going to go back up the cliff in order to shoot across the bay and capture the golden morning light falling across the dramatic stone that lined the cliff walls all along the Jurassic coast.
I rushed round and got set up and nailed a couple of pictures and just like that the light went behind a cloud and it all stopped, I was ultra happy with myself for making the move when I did as it had scored me a decent bonus shot.
I had a review through my pictures and knew I had some that I was really happy with, again this session was recorded but wont come out until early January next year on YouTube, or on this blog next month.
While I think of it I've added a new section to this website to keep all my videos together so you can go and have a look at them or possibly if you're thinking of visiting one of these venues then they might help you, you can see it by clicking HERE.
I sat down after the session and just chilled out, watching the morning unfold, I didn't have a care in the world and for once it was easy to forget the horrific Covid 19 situation that was ravaging the country and infant the whole world.
I do love taking time out to just reflect on the morning like this and remember to just watch and enjoy the environment around me, it truly is a special moment when you do this.
My mind wandering was interrupted buy a group of friendly fisherman who had come down to fish for bass at Winspit and after exchanging socially distance pleasantries I headed back to the car, still buzzing and a smile so big it looked like I had slept with a coat hanger in my mouth, These were the good times.
Hot off the back of my Winspit trip I decided to follow the weather for the weekend as it was a fairly mixed bag and much of the venues near me were going to be dark and grey cloud but there was some interesting conditions forecast down at West Bay.
West bay was a funny venue for me, I loved the cliffs there but I hated how busy it was and I wondered if I was out of my mind to consider going on a weekend when I knew it would be blatantly busy.
I had one thought going through my head, golden light on those sandstone cliffs would look sublime, and the sun was going to set right in front of them, it was all I needed to grab the bag and head West in pursuit of gold.
West Bay is around an hours drive for me and I was going on a complete gamble, the light might not be there as the weather forecast was all over the place but I knew I wanted to take the chance and go there, plus in all fairness I missed the old girl and felt I hadn't gone there in ages, so today she was going to get a visit.
I arrived to some mixed conditions, cloud to my right and clearish to my left, the other way round would have been a lot better.
Shortly after getting there and getting set up some gorgeous light hit the cliffs and I was all over it right away getting a few pictures.
Usually I start of doing a few bits to camera at this stage but didn't want to miss the chance of getting a few shots so it would have to wait.
The light was on off for around thirty minutes and I knew I had some decent images so again I was well happy but the plan was low golden light at sunset so I hoped I would have just enough luck left to nail some shots later.
I started doing my usual bits to camera which became increasingly difficult as people would come up and ask what I was doing all the way through it even interrupting while I was recording.
Im a pretty tolerant guy and usually very friendly to everyone but after the tenth time of being interrupted my patience was wearing thin and I was unusually abrupt with a couple which seemed to send out the message of leave me alone, I felt a little bit bad about it afterwards but at the same time they could clearly see I was talking to to the camera and had not enough manners to wait till id finished so I brushed it off and took on the grumpy old man persona for the rest if the session which seemed to work quite well and interruptions became less frequent, well from people anyway.
Seagulls were all around the jetty I was standing on and I'm pretty sure they all conspired to squark and make maximum noise just as I was finishing a sentence ! The swines !
In the end I saw the funny side of it and carried on regardless, which seemed to make the seagulls even more determined to annoy me and if it wasn't by swarming it would be to dive bomb the shots, just watch the video to see what I mean (Video out mid January on YouTube or HERE.)
The light had been flat for about an hour now and the cloud had started to get thicker and it wasn't looking great to be fair.
There was however a gap on the horizon and I hoped as the sun set it would come through this gap and hopefully cast its golden tones onto the cliffs at West Bay and give me the shot I was after.
The sun & cloud teased relentlessly right up to sunset and although it didn't come through the gap it did it with no real weight behind it and the cliffs barely glowed up at all, the shots weren't a patch on the earlier light so they were abandoned and instead I used a couple of shots from earlier in the session and a large panorama from the same time.
I was really pleased with the final images and happy that I had got there when I did otherwise I would have gone home without any shots.
The forecast was pretty ropey but there were some possible chances for sunrise so I decided to keep really local and somewhere without a long walk to minimise the damage of the sun not showing so a session at Lake Pier in Poole was chosen.
I woke up to some moody looking sky and in truth it didn't look great but I decided to go anyway as it was close to home and minimal effort required, just a small dent in the valuable sleep time !
I arrived and looked out and knew that the reality was it was going to be pretty poor as the cloud bank was just too thick, I waited it out till sunrise but never even got the gear out, a lack lustre sunrise happened and basically got a bit of a lighter shade of grey, hardly inspiring so I headed home for a much needed coffee & a snooze.
As evening rolled around it was a similar situation, could go either way so a return to Lake Pier was in order just in case, long and short of it nothing happened and it was pretty poor so no pictures were taken and a drive home empty handed was had.
This was the harsh reality I was used to, it was very easy to become complacent due to the strong success that the month had brought so far.
Landscape photography is a cruel mistress sometimes but I've learned not to worry about it because mother nature has a habit of addressing old scores and rewarding you when you least expect it.
I had a few more successful shoots in December but Im going to hold these over till next month as we have gone into lockdown once again and that means I won't be able to get out at all so there will be videos coming from Swyre Head, Houns Tout & a fantastic winter shoot at White Mill Bridge next month, plus a couple of others of which I'm going to keep under wraps so you have something to look forward too.
So all that remains is to say I hope you all stay safe during this testing time and wish you all a very happy new year and thank each & every one of you for your support in 2020.
Print of the month for January will be Jurassic Light, I thought the rainbow was very apt during this time of lockdown and gave a little ray of hope and a nod to the NHS.
You can view this special deal by clicking HERE