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Landscape Photography Blog, July 2020

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

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

July I was hoping would start better than June had ended, which for the past two weeks had been a real poor one for me despite the flying start.

I was still furloughed for July till further notice so it meant I would be able to do a few more trips than normal which was a result but in truth I really wanted to get back to work.

Bills were piling up and I like a routine in my life where possible.

This month I really wanted to get out to some venues that I hadn't visited much, I had fallen into the trap of focusing on two or three places and therefore over shooting them constantly and it had all got a bit stale, trouble was I knew exactly what I wanted from each of them and until I got it I didn't want to stop but it was causing me less enjoyment to keep revisiting the same old places.

The other problem had been the weather, it just wasn't playing ball for the shots I wanted further afield and I didn't want to risk driving 150 mile plus round trips on a 50/50 so I was stuck in a viscous circle to a degree.

Thursday the 2nd of July

So having just gone on a rant about wanting to go further away and visit new venues I found myself in a quandary, according to the forecast there was a decent chance of sunrise in just one area, and you've guessed it I've shot it to death.....

I had the option, stay in bed and not get anything or go out to somewhere I've shot before purely because the weather was there, I decided to go.

The month wasn't starting as I wanted it to and I had a feeling it would probably get worse too.

I headed to the old barn at Sixpenny Handley and the nice looking conditions I had spied on the way down were starting to clear exactly where the sun was coming up, bugger !

I got a bit of sunset colour but again it just wasn't the shot I wanted so it was binned off, Behind me there was some mist which looked far more appealing and the area in front of me was starting to go clear so I decided to walk down to the misty area, as I did so I watched it disappear in literally minutes, I looked behind me and the sunrise was now kicking off ! typical.

I couldn't get back to the barn in time to capture it so for some random reason I decided I would drive and look for an area where the light would fall on and look nice.

I found a wildly out of control field with waist height wet grass in but I was convinced there would be a good angle at the end of it, it was a public space so I was allowed onto it and as I took my first step into the long grass I found out it was absolutely soaking wet with dew but I figured I was in now so keep going.

I wasn't wearing my waterproofs just my regular walking trousers and I could feel them getting soaking wet and it was coming through, it felt horrible and cold !

water was now inside my boots now too and my feet squelched as I walked and it was really uncomfortable but it would all be worth it when I reached the ridge line in front of me I kept telling myself.

The light was now getting really good and I speeded up as best as I could and made it to the ridge, I was gutted, it looked rubbish and just didn't give me the view I wanted.

I stood there dejected and soaking wet from just above the waist down wondering what on earth I had been thinking as golden light smashed into the landscape everywhere but where I was, frustrating.

Dejected I walked back through the grass to get to the car, I honestly don't think I could have been any wetter if I had waded through a river, I mean I was absolutely drenched and as passing cars went past I got the look of "He's clearly not all there" which didn't add to my mood at all.

The things we do !

I drove home hoping to spot something on route but there was nothing there and the light faded as big cloud banks moved in, complete disaster.

The evening rolled round and it looked like the light was going to be pretty good so I decided to go to a nicely tree lined road in the hope of a decent bit of golden light on it.

As I arrived it looked perfect, golden light all over the trees, a field of golden crops basking in the light ! Bingo this is exactly what I wanted to shoot, one problem a load of car enthusiasts were parked in the middle of the road across both lanes taking pictures of their cars so I couldn't shoot the angle I wanted, honestly I couldn't catch a break it felt like.

I tried to find a new angle further up to avoid the car guys but they were in shot for most of it, I really wanted to scream !

After careful positioning I found an able that worked and took the shot and I have to say I really liked it, not the usual way this place is shot from and that made it nicer somehow.

I also took a large pano which again I felt worked well and with golden light on it but would be interested to hear if you like these and which one you feel works better ?

Moor Crichel trees
3:1 huge pano
Moor Critchel
The standard ratio, which do you like best ?

I couldn't really do anything further here so I decided to have a look elsewhere on the way back and swung past Knowlton Church which was absolutely packed with around 15 cars there so I got out of there as fast as possible, I was left with only one choice, Horton tower.

I really didn't want to shoot the tower again as I had practically lived there during June chasing a shot but I have to say it did look nice bathed in light so I gave in and took another pano of this place, I must have hundreds by now.

Horton Tower Panorama
Horton Tower bathed in gold (Panorama)

It came out well and was a decent picture but it wasn't much different to the others I've got from it already.

I called it a day and headed home, didn't even stay for sunset and to be fair didn't look like I missed much anyway.

Friday the 3rd of July

The weather for Friday morning looked pretty poor, there was one election though, North Dorset.

It was showing signs of being misty start, low wind, high humidity, dew point movement etc....

It was the only place that looked like it might do anything so a 3 am alarm was set and I got my head down.

The alarm felt like it sounded as soon as I had gone to sleep but I got myself up and had a look outside, it was fairly clear with a few rogue clouds passing over.

I headed down to North Dorset and as I drove through Wimborne there was some mist there which was always a good indicator.

I got to North Dorset and the weather forecast simply couldn't have got it more wrong, it was blowing a gale and there was absolutely no mist, weather men were suddenly top of my hate list !

I decided the only thing I could do was race back to Wimborne to try and catch the mist there, I made it to eye bridge and the river was strangely devoid of mist and the surrounding fields had she but I just couldn't get a decent angle on it so I rushed down to white mill bridge just as the sky went mad, only to find the only point that I could shoot it from was full of my worst nightmare, cows.

At this point I had enough and just threw in the towel and went home, the month was indeed getting off to a terrible start and I was gutted.

The conditions over the next few days was going to be heavy rain and high winds and in a way I was happy as I didn't want to go out on the weekends as everywhere was going to be super busy so I decided to take a couple of days out, regroup and identify areas I really wanted to shoot when conditions allowed.

The only chance of decent weather would be sunset on Sunday so would keep an eye on the weather for then and hope for the best.

Monday the 6th of July

Sunrise forecast looked like it might be pretty nice but there was a little too much low cloud forecast so it was a bit of a gamble, I decided however to take it and set a 2.45 am alarm for a trip back to Old Harry Rocks.

Old Harry has been very unkind to me recently and after three trips there I still hadn't come back with an image I liked so I was really hoping this would be the day that all that would change.

As the alarm went off I eagerly looked out of the window and was greeted with pretty much clear sky and then a large bank of low level cloud where the sun was coming up but there were the odd few gaps so I decided I would go as I was up now anyway.

The deers were out in force this morning and as I drove to Old Harry Rocks several tried their best to jump in front of the car but fortunately I was travelling at a sensible speed and managed to avoid their best kamikaze attempts.

When I pulled up at the car park it looked like it might be ok, the cloud bank had a gap opening up at the bottom of it and I hurried down the mile or so walk to Old Harry Rocks.

I got there and there was roughly 45 minutes till sunrise and it changed so many times in the run up to it that I just wasn't sure which way it was going to go.

Eventually with about 5 minutes to sunrise the colour started to come, it wasn't great but it was something but I knew in my heart of hearts that it wouldn't be the dramatic shot I really wanted.

Sunrise at Old Harry Rocks
Sunrise at Old Harry, but nothing special

I took a few from the arms of Old Harry then moved further round to the sweeping edge and grabbed a couple from there, they were OK shots but nothing special and I already knew I wouldn't be keeping them.

The one hope I had was that once the sun cleared the cloud bank it would hopefully cast some golden light on the pinnacles behind Old Harry Rocks so I decided to wait it out till then in the hope it could salvage the morning for me.

After what seemed like an age but was in reality only 30 minutes the sun cleared the cloud bank and golden light did indeed shine on the pinnacles and I got to work trying my best to capture it.

I had a walk further up and shot the spiked pinnacle on its own too and was actually pretty happy with the shot as there was some nice wild flowers in the foreground too which made things interesting and with the sea heavily polarised it gave extra impact to the spike.

Old harry Rocks Pinnacles
Light on the Pinnacle spike

Tuesday the 7th of July

Finally there was some hope on the horizon for heading West, I had been gagging to get down there again for ages and do some venues that I hadn't shot to death.

Colmers hill was high on that list and I really wanted a good covering of mist to make the shot, wind speed was 2 mph, humidity 93% and a decent dew point drop so I felt there was a very good chance of getting it.

The 2.30 alarm call had me up like a rocket and looking out of the window, it was pretty clear and no signs of mist here but then the forecast said the same so I went with it.

Colmers Hill is about an hours drive from me so I had been trying to catch it in these conditions rather than drive down for a wasted trip as had happened recently.

On there way down there, there is usually a couple of indicators on the way that let you know if you will get lucky with mist, sadly it seemed none of them were here today and as I got closer I knew the weathermen had got it badly wrong yet again.

I arrived and true to form there was zero mist and worse still it was completely clear except, you guessed it a large cloud bank in front of where the sun was coming up, pretty much the last thing I wanted.

I climbed up the hill to take position in the hope that something might happen, the wind was certainly a lot higher than the forecast 2 mph I can tell you.

I had met up with a good friend for this shoot (Socially distanced of course) and as we sat on the top of the hill drinking a coffee (Something awesome about a sunrise coffee isn't there ?) and talking about our distain for weathermen something happened.

There was a very small sign of a change in colour along the cloud bank, then a bit more, and a little bit more just getting a tiny bit redder and we leapt into action.

To cut a long story short the cloud eventually lit up quite nicely with some nice red & orange tones and we both worked fast to make the most of it.

I opted for a 7 shot pano to include the famous hill and the now glowing skyline.

Almost as quickly as it started it was over, like someone flicked off a light switch and the colour faded.

I had got the shot but it was quite a hazy morning and the colours had been quite muted so I wasn't sure how it would turn out.

The cloud bank was preventing any light from coming through but I knew it would clear this and a frantic drive around ensued to find a location on the other side of the hill to be in position for when this happened.

Several locations were found but they were too close to the hill or I didn't like the composition so I missed what had probably been the best light of the morning but I had noted several new areas of which to try in the future for it.

When I got my shots back and had a look I was pretty unimpressed to be fair, again they were ok given the conditions but weren't anything super special.

A 3:1 panorama was worked up and I would decide later or not if it was going to be a keeper or not, I also cut it down to a 2:1 panorama as well to be more focused on things, not sure which I prefer yet ?

The weather forecast for the next 2 days was rubbish, really rainy and murky so I gave myself a couple of days off from it all in order to catch up.

Colmers Hill Sunrise
2:1 Panorama of Colmers Hill
Colmers Hill Sunrise
3:1 Panorama of Colmers Hill

Friday the 10th of July

After a couple of days break I was raring to go again and the weather showed some signs of improving but that said the forecasts had been way off the mark recently for some reason.

I decided on a return to Old Harry Rocks again as the sun was moving round and would soon be out of shot for this so I wanted to make the most of it while the shot was still on.

The more I watched the weather reports the more they changed, in the end I decided I would just get up and go no matter what, as it happened when the 3 am alarm went off and I looked outside it seemed pretty reasonable. Plenty of cloud and gaps, it could quite possibly all happen so I grabbed my kit and headed out.

Old Harry rocks is around a 40 minute drive from me and whilst on this journey I watched the sky changing so rapidly that I just knew it was all going from great to rubbish in the space of 30 minutes but I was there now so I decided to go ahead with it.

During the 20 minute walk to Old Harry Rocks it went from bad to write off completely as a huge bank of thick heavy low cloud moved in right in front of where the sun was coming up, once again the weather had defeated me at this location, it really was turning into a nemesis of mine and I was starting to resent it a lot.

I stuck around to see what happened and you wouldn't know the sun had come up as it progressed from black to dark grey, it was now about 30 minutes since the sun came up and I was all but ready to go home without even taking a shot.

There was a small gap opening up which would potentially allow the sun to come through it so I decided to wait a bit longer and framed up a shot of the famous pinnacles.

After a while nice golden light came pouring through onto them and with thick black cloud behind it looked quite effective but again I knew I had it better already so wouldn't be keeping it.

I turned my attention to Old Harry Rocks itself and as expected the light came and I got a chance and took it but while it looked quite dramatic the picture just wasn't working for me and it went in the bin.

Saturday the 11th of July

The forecast was for completely clear sky in the morning and this isn't something I would usually consider going out for but there was one shot I knew it could work for.

Abbotsbury had a fantastic viewpoint across the coastline towards Portland and made all the more special as it has a small chapel nesting on top of a large hill leading off to nicely contoured views which If i was right would show various levels of light hitting it as the sun would be coming up from the side, that was the plan anyway.

An early morning look out the window revealed it was as expected very very clear so the shot was on and I drove down to Abbotsbury full of excitement and expectation.

As I arrived it became apparent that the 6 mph winds that were forecast were very wrong, it was more like 30 mph !.

The reason I was back here was for a large panoramic image as I had shot it many times on a 3:2 ratio but this scene is just begging for some wide format images.

The wind would mean shooting would be very difficult with the 400 mm as every single vibration would show up and in low light this would be amplified.

I found an area that offered me a little bit of cover from the wind and ramped up the ISO to cope with it.

One thing I just couldn't get my head round was just how cold it was, the wind was bitter ! despite being around 8 degrees when I was on the hill right in the teeth of the wind then it was vastly below that, I had to wear gloves at one point and a woolly hate, it was July for goodness sake JULY ! and in the height of British summer I'm wearing hat and gloves ! Crazy, you just couldn't make it up.

I watched as the sun came up and couldn't wait for it to strike the hill with the chapel on which seemed to take a painstakingly long time to happen but it had a nice red orange glow being cast across the land but it had to clear the large ridge first.

Little by little the distant higher hills started to get light on them and looked beautiful, the light teased its way across the flanks of the landscape until finally it struck the chapel and hill it sits on, I took my shot which was a large 8 image panorama and felt confident I had got what I wanted.

I checked each shot to make sure it was sharp and one was slightly off so the exercise was repeated until everything was bang on and I was happy.

I was pretty pleased with how the image turned out to be fair and it got a place in the portfolio, finally a win.

St Catherines Chapel
3:1 ratio panorama of St Catherines Chapel
Abbotsbury Viewpoint
2:1 Panorama to give a more focused view

I hadn't planned on going out in the evening as it looked fairly clear but the light did look nice and I wracked my brains for a location that would suit it well.

There were limited places that I felt I could get a good picture from but there was one location which I had been keeping secret for a good few years despite constantly getting asked where it was (You only need to go out and look)

It was a small but very picturesque church that had various crops in a field adjacent to it and this year it happened to be golden corn.

The sun would be just a tad further round for side lighting which worked in my favour as it would hopefully illuminate the church and the field in front for me.

I raced off full of hope and arrived at my destination, the field had perfect lines leading down to the church, I just needed the light to work and I was sure there would be a decent shot there.

The sun went behind pretty much the only cloud that was there which seemed to take an age to clear as I patiently waited but it was about to come out the other side and I sat there poised like a cobra ready to strike the instant it did.

Eventually the wait was over and golden warm light hit the church and the field in front of me and I took my shot, I knew it was good as soon as I reviewed it, the scene was just perfect and the picture was simply showing that.

I took the first shot as 3:2 ratio shot which worked really well and was my favourite of the bunch.

Golden light strikes the church and field

I decided to also take a portrait version as the lead lines were beautiful and a 3:1 Panorama as well for good measure but the 3:2 ratio was by far my favourite and the stand out image, plus it had the best light of all of them.

3:1 Panorama, possibly losing the focus of the church
Portrait orientation of the church and lead lines

I had chosen to heavily focus on the church with a fairly wide aperture in order to blur the corn field lead lines so your eye naturally focused on the church.

This image could have been an ideal candidate to focus stack to get everything pin sharp but then I don't think it would have quite the same effect and I was happy I had gone the right way ultimately.

The 3:2 would have a place in the gallery but I wasn't going to keep the other two but it was a lovely evening all the same and I was pleased.

Sunday the 12th of July

Finally the forecast looked promising, there was a fairly decent chance of mist and I couldn't wait ! There was however one problem, it was only forecast in one area that I could find and it was a bit 50/50 at that but it would do for me and I was going to go get it !.

Sunday morning came round and I walked to into the garden, there were no signs of mist and the wind was a lot higher than forecast, my heart sank and I thought it might well be another blow out.

I looked across from where I live to the Purbeck's and couldn't see anything and in truth I sat there debating if I should go or not, to the point I was now going to be late if it did happen.

Finally I gave myself the kick up the backside I needed and went for it anyway and to my surprise there was some small pockets of mist on the journey out and when I arrived at my location I was in for even more of a surprise as there was a good amount of low level mist about.

I was now in panic mode to get somewhere decent to shoot from as the sun was starting to come up and I still had a decent walk in front of me and I cursed my earlier indecisiveness in costing me valuable time.

I finally got to a location that looked reasonable and took some pictures but they just weren't grabbing me like I wanted them too, mainly due to poor location choice on my part.

I felt the only way to get something from the shoot was to shoot the opposite way with the light coming from behind me waiting for it to hit the tree line and hope the mist didn't burn off before this happened.

I set up ready for my shot and after an age the light hit and I got a nice panorama of the trees in the mist and the pressure was slightly off now I had one in the bag.

Family Trees 2:1 Panorama
The Heath Awakes
AS the sun came up the shadows revealed themselves
Lone Tree
First Light on Lone Tree

I hunted around for some other compositions but I had either shot them before or they just didn't look right so none were really keepers I felt, but a morning spent in mist is to be cherished anyway so I had a decent morning despite only coming away with one picture.

The weather was about to turn for the next few days so I feared I might not be able to get out much.

Monday the 13th of July

As expected there weather was pretty dismal but there was a chance of some sun coming through at sunset around Portland area, this is a 100 mile round trip for me and it was a real slim chance but if it went, it would really go in these conditions so I decided to take the gamble.

As I got down there the heavens opened and rain poured down and thick low level cloud came in, this however was exactly as it had been forecast so I hoped they had got it equally right that the light would come.

I sat in the car watching and hoping that something would happen and at one point the rain stopped and a small gap appeared on the horizon and I started to get excited that it might actually happen, it didn't !

The rain came back even harder and that was the end of it, 100 mile round trip just to sit on the car, very frustrating but that life sometimes. I wasn't the only one, several friends had also seen the forecast and thought it might happen and had gone to similar areas only for us all to be disappointed, but better to try and fail than to not try at all.

Wednesday the 15th of July

There had been heavy rain through the night and forecasts were pointing to some more misty potential and as I discussed it with several friends we all felt it was worth a shot and we all went to very different locations in order to see if it was good and let the others know.

In short all three of us had a massive fail as all there was, was a huge black cloud bank that looked rubbish, absolutely zero mist and again for the second session running I didn't even take the camera out of the bag.

It was an incredibly frustrating time to be putting in this much effort and I felt not really being rewarded but morale was kept high as messages were exchanged with friends all laughing at our fails and comedy gold that shall remain unspoken was joked about between us all ! Good times.

The rest of the day was spent going to view an area which I had got a commission for and as I planned out areas to shoot for future I became excited at a new project and saw heaps of potential, but more of that in the coming months.

The weather again was poor and for the next few days again so the gear was cleaned and stored ready for the next outing, even if I wasn't sure when that would be.

As it happened I ended up going out that night for sunset, out of nowhere a large gap opened up and I raced to a local spot on a lake in the hope that I might get lucky but in short I didn't and the gap closed as quickly as it had opened, at least for once I was only 2 minutes from home so not a great loss.

Thursday the 16th of July

The forecast again looked like it could well all go off so I decided to once again make a return to Old Harry Rocks to try and nail the shot I was after before it was too late and the sun was out of position.

I awoke to another day of thick low level cloud and the weathermen's complete wrong prediction, but decided to head out just in case but halfway there I could see the bank of cloud was just too thick so rather than drag myself and a heavy back pack all the way to Old Harry Rocks I decided to divert to Swanage so I could literally just step out of the car to my chosen area IF something happened.

I waited patiently for sunrise to come, 45 minutes in fact as I had got there quite early but it soon became clear that the cloud bank was going to stop all signs of colour and the fact the sea had absolutely no swell to it told me I wasn't going to get a picture and I didn't even bother getting the camera out of the bag.

I was so furious with the weather forecasts, they had constantly got it wrong this month and it was beyond irritating as well as very costly in terms of travel and also early starts which wrecked me for the day.

As evening rolled around it was clear and so I took a wander down to Corfe Castle not to shoot but more to just enjoy the light across it, I did take the gear but didn't take any pictures that were anything special but it was nice to watch all the same.

Friday the 17th of July

The Forecast said there was high potential for mist so I decided once again to head West to Colmers Hill in search of a shot I had been chasing but so far failed to get.

I had a disastrous start in the morning and ended up leaving late due to one thing or another so I had to give the car some stick on the way down there and attempt to break the land speed record (In all seriousness don't speed, no picture is worth it)

Signals were good as I drove down, big pockets of mist were in all the usual places and confidence was high.

That is until I got to Colmers hill and there was nothing, just a small this strip of mist in the valley and totally not worth the 100 mile round trip, I was absolutely gutted.

I walked up the hill and had a look, took a couple of shots but just knew it wasn't the shot I wanted so I came down again and tried to look for a better vantage point from across the valley but I couldn't find one so instead I decided to drive towards home and see if I could capitalise on some of the misty areas Id seen on the drive down.

I tried several areas but while misty, they just didn't look good, things like pylons right in the middle etc So I just had enough at that point and drove hone via the forest which was now also devoid of mist.

I got home and threw the gear in the corner in disgust, I was just about at the end of my weather at the moment, so much effort was going in and very little reward was forthcoming.

I don't know what I had done to deserve such bad luck but Karma it seemed had it in for me and I doubt she was going to let up anytime soon.

There was possible hope on the horizon, A shot I had been chasing in Portland looked like it could be on for sunset with some nice high cloud forecast but the reality was I didn't trust the weathermen at the moment so was taking it with a pinch of salt but would keep an eye out just in case.

I watched all day and there did seem decent potential so in the end I decided to take the gamble and head down to Portland, looking good till about halfway there and that familiar sun blocking cloud bank came into view and I knew id made the wrong choice.

I was almost there so I decided to carry on anyway just in case, this was the second big mistake of the night.

It was a Friday evening and the place was a tourist hotspot so it was absolutely rammed, which is pretty much my worst nightmare.

People drinking and generally being loud and obnoxious is hardly the relaxing photography experience I wanted but I did want that shot so decided to stick it out.

I gave up counting the number of times people would come up and ask what are you photographing, whilst looking over a gorgeous view, I had to bite my tongue not to call them stupid frankly or say something sarcastic instead, either way it drove me mad and I kicked myself for going there on a weekend.

The cloud bank moved in and blocked all chances of sunset colour, I stuck it out to the bitter end anyway, not even sure why ? I just figured id had such a shocking week I might just get lucky but of course I didn't.

Saturday the 18th of July

The forecast was for mist in the morning, low wind and really high 97% humidity and I knew exactly where I was heading, a venue I had visited a few times before and had good results with mist only this time I would be trying a new area that I had scoped out previously.

Essentially it was a hill that poked out of the top of the mist every time I had seen it there so I intended to climb up it and be able to shoot sunrise and trees poking through.

As I drove down there was a distinct lack of mist in the usual spots and that sickening feeling was back that I was about to draw another blank.

As I pulled up to the lay by my worst fears were confirmed, the mist was there but it was patchy and weak, not the usual epic standards and again the weathermen were cursed and cussed.

I started to walk out to the hill and encountered a big problem, bog like conditions in front of me were now stopping me gaining access to the hill, these weren't here when I walked out before and it was the middle of summer so I couldn't understand why they had suddenly appeared now, but either way they were messing up my plan big time.

I knew I wouldn't be able to get to the hill so I rushed back to the car and frantically drove round to the otherwise of the heath hoping to get light on the mist.

The sun was starting to come up and gorgeous red clouds started glowing but I wasn't even out of the car, everywhere I went looked rubbish and I was running out of time.

Eventually I gave up and decided to head to the River Frome which I knew had mist on as I went past it in the morning, I would have missed the sunrise cloud explosion and it would have been out of shot anyway but the afterglow would still be there.

As if to confirm my suspicions I bumped into my mate jack already set up on the spot shooting, I jumped in next to him maintaining a decent social distance.

Nice enough but I had it better so it was binned

There was still a bit of colour there and mist but as I shot it I knew i had it way better in the past and just didn't see the point in taking the same shot again, only not as good so I said my goodbyes to jack and hurried off in search of something else.

After a while I came to a misty field and with a church tower popping out above it, the sun was coming up and I knew that one side would catch the light so I chucked on the 400 mm and waited for it praying the mist wouldn't disappear before the light came.

Eventually the light struck the tower and moved down inch by inch and I got the shot but the mist was now far less than just ten minutes ago, the shot was ok but not amazing and I cursed yet another shocking morning and wondered when I would finally catch a break.

As good as it got on the day, maybe a keeper

Dorset was a real struggle at the minute as I had very limited options of where to shoot due to trying to avoid the whole world who descended on its beaches each evening, even if it had been snow they would be there.

Also there had been many of the usual coastal car parks completely blocked off by large heavy boulders when the Covid crisis first struck, but yet they were still in place making parking impossible presumably too stop camper vans parking up there, despite the fact you could go and get a haircut for example and restrictions had been really lifted.

It was either the councils or the locals and either way Id had enough of it and not being able to park anywhere or to have venues that were closing their gates or parking at 8 o clock making sunsets impossible to shoot.

It pretty much left me with inland venues only and I really had exhausted most of them so I was finding location choice pretty tough at the minute too.

Evening rolled round and there was some good high level cloud so I decided on a whim to go and see if the heather was blooming yet at a local favourite place as I had seen it at several other locations already and it would look great with a nice colourful sunset.

What had looked amazing turned to utter crap and the sky went dark and the heather was non existent and once again I ended up taking no pictures and coming home thoroughly dejected.

I had put so much effort in this month and really not got the rewards I should have and I was now in a bad place with my photography and starting to resent it so I knew I needed to take a break from it for a while.

Sundays forecast was for really heavy nasty rain which meant it was the perfect time and the following week looked mainly clear but all with low humidity so I doubted I would miss much so a break was perfectly timed, with the exception of the commission I was working on as that had to continue no matter what really.

Sunday the 19th of July

I had given myself the morning off, to be fair it was a good call as it was just drizzle and grey cloud so I hadn't missed much and I had no plans to go out for the foreseeable future that was until around 6 pm when I couldn't help but notice the cloud outside and the odd spell of light coming through it.

I agonised about if I should go out or not, I was feeling pretty wounded of late with all the fails and I just couldn't take another one but equally I didn't want to miss out if it was all going to be good.

after an hour plus of debating I pulled myself together and decided to get out and go for it and what will be will be.

I decided on going to Chapmans pool but this wasn't without its problems, a recent change in the car park rules meant that it would now be closed and locked at 10 pm rather than open all night as it had always been, I figured Chapmans pool could be walked to between 15-20 minutes for the spot I wanted to be at and sunset was at 9.12 pm so it meant I could shoot a decent amount of time after sunset in case there was a decent glow of colour to be had.

I got to the car park and wandered down to my first choice of location which only took 12 minutes so I figured I would be pretty safe but then the light was right in front of me so I took a walk about another ten minutes down the track to an area that was getting the light on it from the side, my kind of shot.

I had to wait for the light to strike the areas I wanted to shoot which as usual seemed to take an age, There was a lovely detailed cliff edge with a large dip rising to another hill which had a house block on it which looked rather nice as it caught the light so I framed it up and waited, and waited some more.

I was very conscious of wanting to get back to my chosen sunset spot which was about ten minutes away as the clouds were really starting to look quite nice and I felt there was a good chance of something happening so I really needed the light to come for this shot quickly.

As if by magic it came out at that moment and struck the cliff and the hill behind it and I took my shot, it looked decent and I rushed back off to my chosen spot to await sunset.

There was a gap on the horizon then some menacing dark cloud above it so chances were this was all going to go off and I was full of anticipation, I REALLY needed this.

The sun was right in the gap so it made exposing for the shot very tricky so I decided to wait till it had gone down behind the cliff to make life easier but just before it did I was going to try and catch it right on the edge to give me a decent sunstar.

The wait was painfully slow, I could almost hear the tick tock in my head of time passing but eventually it just started to kiss the lip of the cliff and I took my shot just catching the sunstar.

It looked reasonable but would have to wait till I got home to be sure.

Sunstar at Chapmans Pool

As the sun went down behind the cliff I lined up for a panorama shot which again looked decent but when I got it home I would ultimately decide against the panorama and crop it down to a 3:2 ratio which was a huge file size and very detailed.

The two pictures are both very similar but the second one is by far the better image in my opinion.

Both images needed a lot of desaturating as the sky was simply on fire and colours were so bright and vivid that they almost didn't look real and needed to be muted somewhat to make the picture believable.

Sunset was over really quickly, a maximum of 3-4 minutes id say and I was absolutely ecstatic to have been here for it and hopefully nailed a picture, like I said I really needed this and just like that all the feelings of doubt and lack of enjoyment faded away into obscurity and I wondered why I had even been thinking them.

My favourite of the two, finally a keeper

Landscape photography can be a really fickle thing, its very easy to get demoralised with it all when things aren't going your way and the fact so many factors had been against me recently with weather and car park closures or indeed venue closures had made it an especially tough time but constant effort had finally equalled reward and I was on cloud 9 once again.

All it took was decent conditions and being out there.

Tuesday the 22nd of July

The weather forecast was predicting a bit of mist around the New Forest area and I hadn't been down there in a while so I thought, why not and an alarm was set for the morning.

I peeked out of the window and it didn't look very appetising to be fair, clear sky and not much else.

As I headed out there was a noticeable lack of mist anywhere on the journey and when I got to my destination there was absolutely none, and this place always had mist !

The weathermen had been absolutely terrible recently and I cursed them yet again and and waited for the sun to come up to hopefully get some nice light on the trees.

I shot for around 30 minutes and just wasn't getting anything that I liked really, the forest is an entirely different animal to shooting anything else frankly and to get it right required a lot of perfect conditions, intimate knowledge of the area and to a degree some luck, all of which I was lacking today.

I decided instead to have a decent look round at a few areas to see how the heather was progressing and see if I could find anything else for the future, a couple of nuggets were found and stored for a return visit in the future.

As the evening rolled round I had been keeping an eye on the forecast as there was a decent chance of high level cloud, in fact it was forecasting around 96% high level and no other cloud which meant it had the potential to light up like a Christmas tree !

A quick text was put in to my good friend Rhonda in Portland to see what the sky was doing there and pictures quickly came back, such help is invaluable when making decision to go a long way for a shot.

It looked good and I decided to head down to get the heights shot I had been chasing.

Upon arriving it was disappointingly clear in front of the area I wanted to shoot but further to the left there was a decent bank of high level cloud which would light up but not for the shot I was after so a decision had to be made.

My options were limited as time was ticking away and sunset was in roughly 40 minutes, I could go to Portland Bill and probably get a decent shot but it was an area I had shot to death, but I hadn't done a decent panorama there so that was an option or to drive further on to Abbotsbury and shoot with the light behind me.

Due to the time factor I ended up opting for Portland Bill, as soon as I pulled up I just knew it was going to be good, there was a decent amount of high level cloud drifting right behind the lighthouse and sunset was minutes away so I found a nice long range comp and set up ready to shoot a panorama.

The cloud was actually to the left of where the sun was setting but I just knew it would catch still and as I watched it slowly changing to beautiful peach hues tinged with orange I was once again in a happy place and I took my shot and I was pretty pleased with the outcome.

I ended up going with a 16:9 ratio crop on this one despite originally shooting it with a 2:1 crop in mind, the 16:9 just suited it so much better and showed off the best of what was framed while losing the lower part which just wasn't as interesting to be fair.

Portland Bill Lighthouse Panorama

Thursday the 23rd of July

I was on a high from my last two shoots and once again opportunity presented itself the following morning, high level cloud was forecast again and I knew where I would be heading, Old Harry Rocks.

This shot had been my nemesis for a while, I really wanted a sunrise shot from one of the arms of it looking across to the main structure of the rock and to have the floral foreground of wild flowers that grow in abundance here.

As you will know from reading the blog I had been very unlucky with this for a while and had made many trips all without success and it had started to get to me.

I knew in my heart of hearts that if I didn't get it this time I was going to have to walk away from the location for a while, partly because the sun would be moving too far round and partly for my sanity as it was driving me crazy.

While old harry isn't an especially long walk, its always a lot harder when you come back from it knowing you didn't get a shot, your back pack somehow becomes a lot heavier and the walk seems that much further.

The alarm went off and I had almost zero sleep and I felt like death warmed up but I rushed straight to the window to look outside, there was some high level cloud but nothing like what had been forecast but there was potential so I got myself sorted and headed out.

As I pulled into the car park of Old Harry rocks I looked across and could see a lot of mid level cloud but there was a distinct glow already and sunrise was over an hour away so my hopes went up a lot.

I charged down the path fully laden with gear to cover all scenarios that might be thrown at me and did the walk in double quick time, and there wasn't a soul there which was perfect !

I set up on one of the arms which reaches out and watched the wild flowers giving the occasional sway in the almost non existent breeze, confidence was high.

The minutes painfully ticked by as I waited to sunrise and eventually with about 20 minutes to go the colour started really coming, I composed a shot with the flowers in the foreground and had to adjust my ISO to get a faster shutter speed as the breeze had picked up slightly and I didn't want to get any movement on them which would be hard as it was still quite low light.

The sky was now lit up with gorgeous reds and oranges and looked fantastic, I took my shot and checked it all, there was still some flower movement so I opted to go slightly higher in my ISO and wider aperture to focus stack the image which seemed to do the trick.

Sunrise at Old Harry Rocks

I have to say I was very pleased with how the image turned out but had to desaturate the sky quite heavily as it ha looked so intense, but relief now washed over me that I could finally put this shot to bed and all the trips back n forth had finally been worth it.

This specific area only really offered one shot so once I was happy it was in the bag I moved over to the sweeping curve of the cliffs just as the sun was coming up and composed a shot to allow the foreground to swing round from the right to left and the curve take you fully into the scene, it really does lend itself well to composition here and the banks were lined with some wild flowers too which all added to the shot.

The sky was very dramatic now and I took my shot just as the sun was breaching the horizon and checked it through and it looked good, I felt that buzz once again and all of the failed trips there melted away as I knew I had got what I wanted.

The sweeping curves of Old Harry Rocks

Once again the image required heavy desaturation as the sunrise was just so intense and vibrant but I was happy with the balance of the shot and it would be another keeper, it had been a great morning so far but it wasn't done yet.

As the sun was coming up the light would strike across the pinnacles just behind me in a matter of minutes so I recomposed a shot with the wild flowers in the foreground and the pinnacles just behind.

There was quite a bit of breeze now so once again I opted for a slightly higher ISO speed of 200 and chose to focus stack the image as I wanted to shoot fairly wide open in order to get the faster shutter speed I needed rather than shoot narrow and get it all in focus but at the cost of a slower shutter speed.

After a few minutes the sun was on the rocks and just catching the very tips of the flowers and it was the most incredible shade of orange and gold.

The rocks looked like nothing I've ever seen before as the white chalk surface turned completely gold and I took a video of them which I was glad of as I didn't think anyone would believe the colour of them if I just took a picture, instead they would assume it had been heavily edited which really wasn't the case.

The light had done the trick and no real editing was required other than the usual contrast and sharpening plus to merge the foreground and background images for front to back sharpness.

Gold on the Pinnacles

The scene was very vibrant and I decided to keep it exactly as it had been rather than trying to mute it and I was pleased with the results, the flowers flowed neatly into the scene and everything all looked in good focus thanks to the focus stacking of the two images.

I stayed for a while longer but the gorgeous light that had been there faded as the sun went behind the clouds so I packed up and headed for home, the walk back now was not even a bother as I knew I had several images in the bag and had finally laid my Old Harry Rocks demons to rest, it had been an epic morning and I was walking on air.

At this time I looked back over the month and it had without doubt been a gruelling one as summer often is but through continued effort and not giving up and of course a little bit of luck I had nailed shots that I was really pleased with on my last 3 out of 4 trips out which was absolutely needed at this time and it boosted the dwindling confidence levels right back to the top.

Sunday the 26th of July

There was high level cloud forecast again for Sunday but I didn't really hold out much hope as the forecast had been beyond awful for the past month but looking on the cloud radar it seemed that Portland would get a decent amount, clear outside had high level listed at 90% and nothing else, I had to go really it would have been madness not to.

I woke up and there was low cloud all around, not a sniff of high level but I figured Portland was 50 miles from here so it could all be very different and decided to go.

The idea was to get a decent sunrise looking down the coastline with Portland Bill Lighthouse heavily in the foreground.

I got to Portland and surprise surprise the weathermen had made a total balls up of it for the millionth time this month and it was full of low level cloud, basically a waste of time and money yet again.

The 4 mph forecast wind was about 20 mph and it was pretty uncomfortable, but there was a slight gap which meant something might happen.

The shot I wanted wasn't on and the only real shot that was I had done so many times I just didn't want to do it again so I decided to face the other direction and hope the sun came through the gap and lit up everything in front of me, it was about all I could do to rescue the day.

Just as the sun was about to come up a family of four idiots decided to come and stand right in front of my composition despite seeing me shooting for the one brief moment the light came through totally ruining the picture.

I packed up in disgust and left only for the family to say, lovely morning for pictures eh ? I gave it to them both barrels and stomped off, I was just not in the mood for it.

I know as landscape photographers we have to share it with everyone and we have no more right than anyone else to be on a landscape but a bit of common sense and decency goes a long way and when people can see you taking a picture then deliberately move in front of you, well they're just asking for it frankly and they sure got it that morning.

I had a look at the Portland heights shot on the way back but it just wasn't on, there was no light coming across and thick cloud, not what I wanted.

At this point I could have waited it out and maybe got something but I was fairly sure it wouldn't clear for around an hour or so and the light would just be too hard by then so I called it quits and headed home, fuming at idiots and weathermen.

Monday the 27th of July

I had taken the morning off from photography and caught up on some bits and in all fairness the evening looked pretty poor, and true to form some large heavy cloud came into view.

I decided on a decent walk instead of shooting but then made a last minute decision to take the camera as well just in case.

I was going to head to St Aldhelm's Chapel as it was a decent walk and I liked the view from the end of there headland, While driving up there was nothing but thick dark cloud that is until I got to a high hill and looked over towards the coastline, there was a huge patch of clear and high level cloud just coming in, I couldn't get the kit on fast enough and raced down the track hoping for a bit of light to come through and with a big angry cloud background it would be perfect !

Its a very long walk down to the chapel and I was going as fast as I could as I could see the whole thing lit up from the distance for the whole walk, I finally got there and it looked amazing, I reached for the camera gear and bang, off went the light as a cloud went in front of the sun, I could have screamed and nearly did.

It was just not my day today and I cursed the fact I hadn't left just 5 minutes earlier where I could have got a fantastic picture.

Sunset was rapidly approaching and while the main path of light was blocked there was some high level cloud floating about in the remains of the thick heavy low level stuff which looked like it might catch.

As it happened it did catch and while it wasn't spectacular it was certainly not to bad and I was pleased with the finished image so it had been a worthwhile trip, even if it was short and unexpected.

St Aldhelms Chapel
Sunset at the Chapel

Wednesday the 29th of July

Talk about confusing, three different weather apps, three wildly different forecasts.

One said no sun and lots of cloud, one said completely clear with absolutely zero cloud of any form, and the other showed a mix of cloud and sun, I mean these were national weathermen and they couldn't even get close to each others predictions ?

Thank god I didn't look at the terrible BBC weather app as that would have probably been saying snow !

I kept a close eye on all three throughout the evening and they were all still saying the same things as earlier so I really didn't know what to do for the best ?

My gut feeling was it was going to be clear, and there was one area spotted that had potential for mist, but it was a complete gamble frankly.

I woke up at 4 am and looked outside, it was as expected, clear but not really showing much in the way of mist, I decided to head to Wimborne Minster for a roadside shot that was close to a river so if anywhere was going to have mist then this was it.

As I got closer to it I could see there was mist and the shot could be on but then realised there was already two people set up an hour and twenty minutes before sunrise there in the gap which meant no more room and I had to abandon it, there was Eyebridge just round the corner and yes there would be mist but I just hated that shot and instead went for a drive out to Knowlton Church which again I have shot to death but it gave me 360 degree views and the thought was if no cloud appeared then I could reposition and get the light hitting it, but it was still going to be boring overshot Knowlton !

When I arrived there was actually a strip of high level cloud that would catch so my spirits rose a little.

Trying to find an area here that hasn't been shot is impossible, its just all been covered and done again and again by everyone and as I wandered around I just couldn't see anything I liked but the sky was getting pinker, in the end I took a couple of half hearted images which soon made me realise my heart just wasn't in this shot at this location so I packed up and went off searching for something more interesting, like drying paint.

A couple of small churches were found on my drive out which all had potential in the right conditions so they were noted and put on the list for future visits.

The light was again getting a bit too harsh so I called it quits and headed home wondering if this was my last trip of the month or if I would manage to get out tomorrow, it looked interesting and possible mist potential ! In fact the evening had potential too so I would keep a close eye on things throughout the day and maybe try and get the chapel shot again with light.

As the evening rolled around it started to look very positive, the sky was full of high level cloud and I really fancied another crack at St Aldhelm's Chapel, plus I really enjoyed the long walk there and back.

As I pulled up to the car park there was a rather unexpected bank of cloud appeared on the horizon and I just knew it would end up blocking the sunset.

I took the long walk down there and sure enough after a few minutes of light the cloud went just past the sun and caused all the light to go, my only hope was that some of the high level cloud would catch at sunset.

This sadly didn't happen as around 5 minutes before sunset it all just disappeared, it was incredibly frustrating but it happens so often I have just got used to it and accepted it for what it was, a decent enjoyable walk (Just wished I hadn't lugged all my heavy camera gear down there)

Thursday the 30th of July

This was going to be the big one according to the weathermen, there was going to be mist galore and I couldn't wait !

After all mist is pretty much my favourite thing to shoot, a suitable plan was made to get to a high vantage point in the Dorset countryside and an alarm was set, the excitement was real.

I woke up in the morning and checked the forecast, they all pointed to a misty start and I looked out of the window and it seemed clear as day, but I decided to go anyway as the area I live in doesn't get much mist.

On the drive down to my location though it was very clear that the weathermen had once again been smoking crack and dreamed up the forecast, the only mist was some tiny small pockets lurking around, nothing that would make a decent picture, The location I had gone too would only really work with mist too so it was a bit of a lost cause.

In all fairness sunrise was quite nice and I wished I was somewhere else in order to capitalise on it but reality was I just wasn't.

I tried a couple of other locations and it just wasn't happening and went home vowing to run over any weathermen I saw on the way home, I mean the had been wrong non stop this month.

Sadly for me this is where the month ended for me as the next few days brought a heatwave and nothing but clear sky, a real landscape photography killer.

With the high temperatures as well I wasn't going to risk taking my dog out on hikes etc so I stayed home for a few days well earned rest instead and caught up on stuff.

The month had been a real mixed bag again, a real rollercoaster of a month as the summer months often are, I had put in a massive effort and had very little reward and I have to say all the early starts really didn't seem worth it but this in my opinion is one of the toughest months of the year to get decent pictures and its not uncommon for me to only go a handful of times in July which is probably what I should have done but this hadn't been helped by the non stop errors from the weather forecast.

I had also spent far too long chasing individual shots, completely blinkered by them but I had eventually got them I guess so maybe it was worth it ? Either way I couldn't shake the feeling I could have had a more rounded month if I had gone to a few more locations.

August was just around the corner and again it can be a bit of a hit and miss month but we shall see what it brings !

Print of the month this month is Dorset mist at sunrise and is a real favourite of mine.

Dorset Landscape Prints
Dorset Misty Sunrise

Dorset misty sunrise

If you would like to take advantage of this print of the month special offer, please click HERE

Until the next time, Happy shooting

Daniel Wretham


Landscape photography blog

Landscape Photography Blog

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