One word, Lockdown.
Just when we thought we were past all of this it rears its ugly head again and landscape photographers all over the country felt that sinking feeling of despair washing over them once again.
December the 31st saw the UK plunged into yet another soul destroying lockdown and the end of landscape photography for at least the foreseeable future.
Im not going to lie, this hit me hard and it wasn't going to be easy to get through, as it stands I haven't even been out locally in January as I just am stuck in purgatory once again over the rules of can we go out ? If so then how far etc, this viscous circle of wonder that goes round and round in our heads over and over again till it drives you mad.
I had been really enjoying my landscape photography, more than ever in fact. I had got out at every opportunity in 2020 as the lockdowns had really made me see just how much I valued it, not just for the joy of being out and taking pictures but for the effect it had on my mental health and general well being, I needed it.
Lockdown 3 was meant to be a serious one, no going out at all for recreation but then the rules changed and got flexed, well more like bent in two to be fair.
The rules stated we could go out for "exercise" for an unlimited amount of time, but only once a day and it was hinted at that you couldn't drive to a location, it had to start and end on foot.
This presented me with a chance to still go out with the camera to the heath right behind my house, but in truth I didn't want to, I just wasn't fond of the area and not matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get excited about shooting somewhere that is vastly featureless.
I was torn, I wrestled with my mind over and over again but ended up just staying home as had been ordered.
At this point I started to see others were going out, the rule flexing had started.
It soon became clear that your interpretations of the rules would be your pass to get out, or not depending on your view point.
Little by little the cracks appeared and even our own Prime Minister was off on a cycle 8 miles from his house and this was apparently absolutely acceptable.
The NAA announced that they had checked with the government and fishing was allowed.
This raised question after question for me, if they were allowed to drive to a lake or river with a mountain of gear then surely a landscape photographer was allowed to do the same ?
The question of what is a fair distance became the focal point next, 5 miles ? maybe 10 ? what about 15 or 20 ? There were no answers, just your own interpretation and the possibility of meeting a police officer who had a different view on the subject and now the over zealous covid marshals, it was confusing indeed.
I had seen several landscape photographers that had driven distances of over 30 miles for shot and frankly I felt that was taking the piss a bit too far.
I went backwards and forwards with it trying to rationalise and justify things in my own head, I wanted to get out so bad but I didn't want to bring the wrath of other landscape photographers down on me as it seemed this was a hot topic of debate in recent times.
My own personal take on it was if someone wanted to go out on their own with the camera and tripod, not coming into contact with anyone else at a remote location, usually at a time when most others were still in bed then what's the harm ? I really couldn't see any ?
After all they were not only doing their daily exercise but they were preserving their mental health too.
The problem came with the distance, how far could you go ? what was acceptable ? what could you get a fine for ? There was no definitive answer no matter how hard I searched.
The rules simply stated you couldn't go out unless it was for a few select reasons, so it blew my previous theories out of the water, one there were so many contradictions.
Exercise was fine, you could do that but then you read in the news that people were getting fines dished out by police and marshals at a huge rate, I read somewhere that over 42,000 fines were issued for some extremely minor reasons in many case.
Now just to be absolutely clear here I support the police 100% for blatant rule breaking such as gatherings and parties etc, but I did think some of the fines issued were very questionable.
Again this all swirled round inside my head and I didn't know if I could or couldn't go so I stayed home and drove myself crazy, over thinking every last issue.
It was now mid January and I still hadn't even been out to the local heath, I just didn't know what to do.
Most of the general public seemed to be out in force and it seemed business as usual so was I the only one missing out ?
This fuelled more questions and the thought of missing out fuelled a larger desire to go but for some reason I still didn't.
The whole situation was just making my mental health even worse and this was lessened to a degree by taking long walks over the heath without the camera just to try and keep a degree of sanity and in the end I told myself I would do a shoot on the heath IF there was some nice frosty mornings.
This I was quite happy could easily be justified, If I walked out of my back garden I was on the heath so no travelling was needed, I would also be on my own and not seeing anyone else so all I needed was the weather.
It rained for two weeks solid.....
I had missed my chances to go out earlier in the month as I tried to do the right thing and stick to the rules, then tried to decipher them to see if I could go but drew a blank as everything was so unclear.
Meanwhile I had seen other photographers who had been much more decisive get some great pictures from earlier in the month and I wished I had gone myself, but it was too late.
I was angry at myself for not being decisive, i was angry at the lack of guidelines from the government leaving us all standing there wondering if we could go or not, I was generally angry at everything frankly and this was the start of the slow gradual decline which will effect so many people during lockdown.
Even now writing this I'm still confused over the whole thing, but I had now decided that I would be able to go out should conditions come up and I felt that 10 miles was a fair radius if I went in the morning before anyone else was out and about.
Weekends were out as it was utter bedlam in even the very quietest of spots and I wanted no part of that.
Towards the end of the month I finally decided to go out to a local spot within 5 miles, conditions looked a bit 50/50 but I went as I just needed to get out and when I got there it was just jam packed full of people "exercising" it was frankly horrible, no one was social distancing and the screams of kids filled the air like a cutting blow to the head.
I simply hated it so turned around and went home within 5 minutes of getting there and vowed to never go out for an evening again during lockdown.
So I was stuck in, falling deeper into a state of poor wellbeing, but going out was having the same effect when it was packed with people so I now felt like I was in a no win situation.
Bottom line is I didn't go out in January, I missed an entire month due to indecisiveness and poor weather and wanting to do the right thing, was it worth it ? I still don't know ?
Ive never been more confused about it all so i'm sorry there's not a blog full of pictures this month but I thought it was far more important to document how I felt during this lockdown and reach out to people in a similar situation and say, its ok you're not alone in your thoughts.
Lockdowns may well be the answer to controlling the Covid virus but the toll they take on people mentally is absolutely staggering and shouldn't be under estimated.
Nor should information be, or in this case lack of it.
Want people to obey the rules ? then make it clearer, give exact and specific guidelines then everyone knows what they can and can't do instead of leaving everyone to make a judgement call, then penalising them if it didn't fit in with your own view.
We all get by the best we can in these situations so don't criticise others who deal with things differently to you, you don't know what they're going through, their 5 mile drive to do some landscape photography might have enraged you, but frankly it might have saved their life so please think before you throw shade at other peoples actions.
Its been said many times, but lets all just be a bit kinder to each other. Even smiles sometimes hide a world of hurt and despair.
I guess the bottom line here is while we all still have our health then life is still good and we should all be thankful for it.
Print of the month will be Old Harry Rocks printed on Platinum Baryta Paper, to grab a bargain click HERE
Well that all got a bit deep, so on a lighter note here are my YouTube videos for the month, all were recorded before lockdown in case you're wondering.
If you watch just one of these videos then make it this one, it was a simply stunning sunrise on the Jurassic coast at Winspit.
Chasing Golden Light at West Bay, Dorset
Shooting long lens panoramas at Swyre Head
A round up of 2020 and how my year went with my top 12 pictures and the stories behind them
One of the last sunrises I filmed before lockdown, this time its from Houns Tout overlooking Chapmans Pool
You can see all my videos now in one convenient place by clicking HERE