• Daniel Wretham

Landscape Photography Blog, July 2020

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

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.

Old Harry Rocks Sunrise
Better but not a keeper

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.