Landscape Photography Blog, May 2021
Hi Everyone, let me first start off with an apology.
Last month I missed out doing a blog, this is the first time this has happened since I started doing them and I thought long and hard about it.
The reason for missing it was simple, I just had hardly been out at all, my time was being taken up constantly with work and when I did manage to get out in rare occasions the weather had been especially bad and nothing had come of it so I really didn't want to write a long boring blog about nothing, despite it reflecting exactly how it had been.
On top of that as you will know from my March blog I was struggling a bit with motivation as well and couple that with the fact that everyone still seemed to be off work and their chosen destination had been Dorset it meant that I was having to shoot in places that were absolutely crowded and I really didn't enjoy that so instead of fighting it I chose to simply have a break and I felt all the better for it.
May had traditionally always been one of my favourite months, Spring would be in full swing and the baron forests of winter would be coming alive with green foliage and wonderful wild flowers and I simply couldn't wait to get out and get some of that.
Bluebell season would be in full swing in May and that was something I lived for every year, I can't describe quite how much I enjoyed shooting these precious bluebells and the feeling of tranquility it gives me so I was going all in.
Over the past few years I had got to know a lot of different bluebell forests so I certainly wasn't short of options but again I really wanted to avoid the heavily shot ones.
Micheldever woods is probably one of the best bluebell forests for miles around but it is ultra well known and sees a lot of attention so it was struck off the list for the time being.
Instead I chose to go to a small and intimate forest in Dorset that receives almost no attention from other photographers or general public.
It wasn't full of nice slender beach trees, more a mixture of trees and that alone gave it character and made it very challenging to shoot but equally enjoyable.
In late April I had made several trips to this forest to check on the progress of the bluebells and it was starting to look really good, the green leafs were all over the forest floor and big carpets were going to happen.
I had photographed this forest several times before and really did like it, I felt a personal bond towards it, a bit like home really.
I fully expected the bluebells to be really taking hold in early May so I went for a drive down to have another check on it, but what I saw simply broke my heart and to a large degree my spirit too.
The once beautiful woodland area had been forested the day before and bulldozers had smashed through everything, cutting down trees and dumping them all across the bluebells which were now crushed beneath the tracks of the bulldozers.
I simply couldn't get my head around it, why on earth had they done this ? it made no sense ?
The forest was in good condition previously and the trees weren't in danger of falling down so what could possibly be the reason for it.
I was beyond angry that this innocent forest could be treated with such disdain and disrespect. The once beautiful carpets of bluebells were no more, blue and green areas peppered the muddy waste land that it had become, like a massacre with victims laying everywhere beyond help, Devastated did not even cover it.
The forest would never be the same again, it had been utterly destroyed and was now littered with branches and cut trees piled up where the bluebells once proudly stood.
My quest would have to move on to other woods as this one was now done so I checked out another forest I knew well and again this seemed to be blooming nicely but a new blight on the landscape had appeared, a deer spotting tower.
This made me slightly nervous as it meant that people would indeed be visiting the area which is quite off the radar.
I decided to shoot it the next day as it was quite windy but the wind was due to drop in the morning so it seemed a better plan.
On this particular area its located on a hillside and the sun comes up in front of it and gives the bluebells that beautiful look when bathed in golden light, I couldn't wait !
The morning alarm went off and I drove the 20 or so miles to my chosen area, something was bothering me and I couldn't quite put my finger on why but I made my way into the forest and looked around for a composition, it was about 40 minutes till sunrise and the scene needed the light to be effective.
It was a particularly cold morning, I had not felt one this cold for a while so I decided I would retreat back to the car for 30 minutes rather than stand in the cold waiting for the light.
As I did so I noticed a truck drive past me and eyeball the car, then it drove on but a couple of minutes later it was back, then did the same thing again.
This made me get a little nervous as it looked very much like they were casing the car to see what was inside (but dark enough they couldn't see me).
On the last pass it made it stopped about 200 yards up the road and two men got out armed with shotguns and this sent me into overdrive.
They went into the forest I had just been stood in and that was enough to make me get out of there and quickly.
Now I don't believe these men meant me any harm but I do believe they were illegal poachers out at that time in the morning probably hunting deer, but either way I didn't want to be around shotguns in anyway, and the thought of confronting two men armed with shotguns wasn't very appealing either so I left for home feeling very dejected.
Bluebell season had got off to a shockingly bad start and thats when the nagging doubt starts to creep in and with it the loss of motivation.
I had an ace in the hole though, another forest I knew which had an excellent spread of bluebells and this would be my back up, It was a forest that wasn't well known and was a bit out in the sticks so I felt confident it would serve up exactly what I needed so I made a trip down there to see what it was doing.
The bluebells here seemed like they were a couple of weeks behind everywhere else and despite green leaves everywhere there was very few bluebells actually out so I made a note to give it more time and return later to get the full benefit of it.
I had seen some other people had found this once secret forest and like a tidal wave more and more had in turn been given the location, again it was a hammer blow and this once quiet forest was now receiving a lot of attention.
Once upon a time you wouldn't have seen anyone there but now it was quite common to have 5-10 other people, not my idea of enjoyable landscape photography.
I decided to take a gamble and leave it alone for a few weeks to let others have their fill and then hopefully swoop in when it was in peak season.
When the time came wouldn't you know it but it was overcast and pouring with rain, not the most ideal conditions but I wanted to check on progress anyway so I made the trip in the hope that a little bit of light might come through if there was a break in the clouds and also knowing most other people would avoid shooting these conditions so I might get the place to myself.
As I entered the wood it was indeed in full bloom and looked beautiful, but I cant help but wish it was bathed in golden light but the lack of light did give me one advantage, The bluebells would be much easier to shoot and wouldn't be bleached out by direct sunlight plus I could bring out a little more contrast in post processing which would hopefully give me a nice result.
I took a good few shots every time the rain stopped but really knew I was missing the light and after a few hours of waiting it became clear it wasn't going to get any better so I called it a day and headed home, as soon as I got there a small patch of blue sky started forming and it got bigger and bigger and light poured through and I cursed my luck that I had left, only one thing for it, race back down there at once !
I got there and of course the cloud had closed up again as mother nature played her cruel game of cat & mouse with me but I was determined to wait this time as the sky was getting odd patches in it.
I set up my shots, composed the frame and then waited, I could almost hear the tick tock of my watch running through me like a baseline waiting for the fleeting moment of light to come, then it hit, on the complete opposite side of the forest so I quickly tried to recompose a shot to capture it and it went, this went on for the next 20 minutes, chasing light patches that would last mere seconds, it just wasn't working.
I decided it best just to be ready for the shot I wanted and to wait until the light came to me, after about 20 minutes wait it did exactly that and the bluebells in front of me came alive with vibrant colour and I nailed my shot and felt relief wash over me.
I got several more shots with this method and could now relax a bit, I decided to film some footage with the drone for a vlog and the light really came out to play then and gave me the best display of the day and I foolishly carried on with the drone and thought id take more pictures after but as quickly as it started it was gone and that was the last I saw of light that day so I packed up and headed for home, pleased that I had pushed myself to go out and had finally been rewarded.
It was hardly my best ever shots, far from it but it was an incredibly enjoyable place to be, the bluebell forest full of singing birds and gently swaying visions in blue and violet, it was exactly what I needed, Ill leave a link to the video at the bottom of the page.
I had pretty much had my fill of bluebells already, or more the chasing masses who were so competitive about it all.
I decided instead I would check out a few new areas looking for potential wild garlic areas as I really wanted to get a decent shot of them this year.
Several days scouting had turned up some interesting areas but they were not ready to shoot yet, again much like the bluebells they seemed to be around two weeks behind this year probably down to the cold snaps we had suffered at the start of spring.
I already knew a cracking forest which wasn't too far from my home but I had shot it before so that one was put on the back burner as an emergency location.
Of the others I found though none of them really stacked up to my first choice location, they were good but not epic and I really wanted epic !
I was itching to shoot them but the flowers just weren't quite there yet and it was painful waiting for them to all come out, the weather wasn't helping either as it seemed to be raining constantly or super windy, growing conditions and shooting conditions just didn't seem to align.
I decided to revisit my first choice forest and it didn't look half bad to be fair, it certainly didn't have the same covering of wild garlic as last year but it was nice and warranted shooting.
I did a mixture of shots from overcast rain conditions to some light coming through the trees, again the pictures weren't fantastic but they were ok and I had scratched an itch.
Again this session can be seen on the videos at the bottom of the page.
For my next trip out I decided to go for sunset at the Dragons teeth in bramble bay, there was some heavy storm clouds about and magnificent light coming through so I grabbed the camera and the dog and headed down.
The whole journey was filled with spectacular light and a dark and moody cloud system going over head, I couldn't wait to get there but sods law was in full effect and as soon as I arrived the light went, never mind I thought I will wait until sunset and get a picture then.
Wait I did, for three hours with it all looking good right up until ten minutes before sunset and it just went clear, no warning just a sudden clear spell leaving me up the proverbial creek and defiantly without a paddle !
I didn't even take a shot so it felt like a wasted trip but at least the photo dog enjoyed himself splashing around in the shallows and getting into mischief and mud !
I had been really keen to go to the coast again but had been avoiding it with all the attention it had received from the furloughed masses but with sunrise now being almost 5am I felt a morning trip would see little or no one else there other than dedicated landscape photographers.
There are only a few places that offer sun over the water at this time of year and these would be the places I would expect to receive most attention from the growing numbers of landscape photographers in Dorset.
As much as I wanted to go to one of them I decided to give it a miss and look for somewhere that was far less likely to receive as much attention.
I decided on a location but the weather wasn't going to be on my side, it seemed that for the next four days Dorset was going to be battered with heavy rain and very high winds and in reality shooting would be near enough impossible.
After four days of this I was itching to get out but the weather had been relentless and It was now Saturday and I hadn't been out and I could see the weekend passing by without a much needed fix of landscape photography.
Sundays forecast looked dismal, yet more rain & wind and all the weather apps seemed to be in agreement so I decided I would have a much needed lay in instead.
Around 4 am I was awoken by the wet nose of the dog in my face as he was in urgent need of a trip outside so as I went down stairs in a bleary eyed state and looked outside I could barely believe my eyes, there was absolutely zero wind and the sky had broken up nicely with some heavy cloud to the north of where the sun would come up but with a nice gap directly above it.
I was on it in an instant and grabbed the bag and jumped in the car with no idea where I was going to go.
It had to be somewhere close as the sun was going to rise in an hour and the colour would be starting in even less time of around 20 minutes or so.
I had very limited options of where I could get to in such a short space of time so I decided to go local to Holes Bay in Poole Harbour.
Its not the most attractive of locations but it does have some really old weathered boats that have a real charm about them and it was close enough to get to in time so off I went full of anticipation.
As I did the short walk from the car down to pylon point I could see the sky was starting to glow up already and red & magenta hues were starting to fill the sky, it was all about to go off and I couldn't get set up fast enough !
There really is only a handful of compositions available here due to the large amount of pylons & houses that interfere in the shots so you have to face east in order to get anything without them and that meant there really was only two reasonable compositions.
I took my shots and then just sat back and watched the sunrise unfolding, it was spectacular and the sky lit up like a fireball, I got the drone out and managed to get some nice arial footage of it happening.
It was a very short sunrise and then there was a bit of light afterwards so I got a couple more pictures of the boats with good side light on them but then in a flash the light was gone and the cloud that had been to the North swamped the sun and killed off all light, I wasn't worried I had got what I needed and went home a very happy man.
This session can be seen on video at the bottom of the page.
I had a couple more trips out trying to catch a bit of light at another area but it just didn't happen so i'll write more about that next month as I intend to keep chasing it till I get it.
This blog is a special one for me as its my 100th blog post since I started doing this all those years ago, Im so grateful to each and everyone of you who reads these and supports me in them. Words can't express my gratitude, Thank you all.
This months Print of the month is of Dorsets most famous barn as light sweeps across the landscape, grab yourself a special offer bargain by clicking HERE
As always, Happy shooting.