Landscape Photography Blog, October 2020
This is an account of the good and bad times during October for a landscape photographer.
All the mistakes laid bare for you to see and hopefully more highs than lows.
September had been a gruelling month and I knew October was going to be even harder as I was now back to full time work after having a period of furlough from work.
Time was now the enemy and I was going to be seriously short of it, back to being a weekend warrior and the odd trip before work, but even these were getting too short to do it before I had to leave for work so the pressure was really on.
Thursday the 1st of October
A pre work trip was on the cards as it looked like there could be some mist forming in the New forest so I set an early alarm hoping to capitalise on it.
I woke up and looked outside, it didn't look great but I told myself it would be better in the forest so it would be worth going so I headed off with the hound to visit one of his favourite spots.
The drive down was not helping to reassure me as the usual misty hot spots were completely devoid of it and I cursed the weathermen once again who seemed to have it in for me.
I arrived at my chosen location and there was nothing, it actually looked beyond terrible so I decided it was pointless chasing something that wasn't there and took the dog off for a long walk which he was over the moon about.
I decided to head into work an hour early as I had plenty to do and really needed to crack on with it, as I poured my first coffee of the day and felt the surge of life running through me I looked outside and the clouds were clearing and the light was starting to come through, I was livid, now I was in work I couldn't very well leave again so I just looked the other way and got on with my day vowing to add a weatherman dartboard to the office.
This was really not the start I wanted for October, Its traditionally one of the very best months as there is so much autumn colour about and potentially amazing conditions.
Never mind I thought, i'll get something on the weekend instead.
I then looked at the forecast and was in for a devastating blow, it was solid rain on both days and all thoughts of a trip looked like they were completely out as storm Alex was due to hit the UK, I just couldn't believe the poor luck I was having this year, surely it had to end soon right ?
Wednesday the 7th of October
I had been unable to go for a good few days and now I was a week into the month with only one trip out due to a combination of poor weather and social commitments so I was absolutely gagging to get out.
The first chance I got was forecast to be a completely clear morning, typical ! but with wind and low humidity so now chance of mist, I didn't care I was going to go anyway as I just needed to get out.
I only have a couple of viable options to go to on the way to work as time is so short, the New Forest, Knowlton Church or Horton Tower.
I didn't fancy the forest for some reason and I had shot Knowlton the week before so I settled on Horton tower and hoped that the weather gods would be kind.
The alarm went off at 5.30 which was actually quite comfortable now we were getting the later sunrises and I looked outside, there was a little high level cloud swirling around and I have to admit, it looked quite viable so I jumped in the shower and got myself ready and headed down the ultra familiar roads to Horton Tower with the dog in tow.
I arrived around 45 minutes before sunrise and it was really looking quite good, a small gap and lots of high level cloud so I assessed the situation and made a decision where to shoot from, I was very limited as there are fields to the left & right of the path and both contained sheep, while access was allowed via a footpath I had my dog with me and even though he was on a lead I didn't want to risk going in a field full of sheep and upsetting them so I was eft with shooting from the path which was fine by me as the nice lead line was perfect for the tower.
Colour was starting on the horizon and it really did seem like it was all going to go off, it was quite a bit to the left of the tower but with a wide angle lens on it would easily be in shot and if the colour spread over a bit as I expected it to then it meant I would have an easier job to expose it as the sun would be just out of shot with any luck.
The morning unfolded and the sky exploded with spectacular colour and I happily snapped away, To expose this shot is a nightmare as the tower comes up right by the horizon so using grads wasn't as clear cut as normal.
The option of an exposure blend was appealing but I really hate doing this but shots were bracketed just in case I had too.
As it happened I didn't, the dynamic range of the camera was doing its magic and there was enough detail to pull out the shadows and mute the highlights just enough for it all to work out as it had looked.
The image will appear to be very saturated, despite giving it a major desaturate in post but you will be able to see the conditions on the day as I recorded a video of it all and it appears on my new YouTube channel HERE.
After the initial sunrise I raced to the other end of the tower to try and get some morning light on it and the sun cam up but the sky cleared and the scene just wasn't holding enough interest in it to make it worthwhile for me.
The light quickly faded and with it so did my chances of another shot so I called it a day and packed up and headed into work feeling very relieved and pleased that I had finally got out and had some nice conditions.
I could have added a lot more enhancements to this picture by revealing more shadow detail but I wanted it to reflect the real scene and the fact it was fairly dark on the ground & the tower so its left as it is.
Friday the 9th of October
After a couple of rainy days there was hope on the horizon as it looked like there could be some mist so I decided to do a New forest trip before work to see if I could get some decent conditions.
I looked outside at 5 am and as I hoped for there was mist ! I grabbed a shower and got ready and had another look and there was nothing, it had just completely vanished in 15 minutes !
I decided I was up so I would grab a coffee and looked outside again, the mist was back !
I was in the car in a flash and heading towards the New Forest and when I arrived it looked quite reasonable, good misty patches but it was moving through quite fast so there was going to be only a few chances to catch a shot as the mist would rise and fall.
I found a nice lone tree on top of a hill and had a wander round it trying to find the best angle, the problem was if I shot it with the sunrise in the background the angle didn't suit the tree, but if I shot it without the sunrise then the picture wasn't as effective.
In the end I decided the best way to talk it was with a panorama but only shooting the edge of the sunrise just to show some colour but with the added advantage that when the light came it would be on the tree, and that was what I was really waiting for.
The New forest is a beautiful place but I don't feel it lends itself well to sunrise or sunset photography, I always think it looks at its best with light instead but hopefully I would be able to capture a combination of both of them.
The light started to come and I watched it creeping down the flanks of the highest hill, the mist however was quite low now so I prayed for it to rise up a bit and as if on demand it did and started rolling down a high hill, I took my shot which was a 8 image panorama and I have to say I was really pleased with the end result, not a classic shot by any means but it was a shot that I had planned and executed and it had come out as I had hoped so I was well pleased.
At this point a local farmer decided to open fire with a shotgun to I guess scare birds off his land, what it did do was scare the life out of my dog who became distraught and panicked, along with several new forest ponies who started charging about in panic.
My dog has always been my first priority and I decided to quickly get him out of the situation and back to the safety of the car which was gutting as the light had just started to get seriously good and the mist as well but his welfare was far more important so the trip ended early and I headed into work but noted a new vantage point on the way back to the car that would offer a future shot potentially when the light fell on it in the morning.
It was earmarked for a future trip when misty conditions next looked likely.
Saturday the 10th of October
Saturday morning had all the potential for a misty morning and the forecast look good so I decided to head up to North Dorset for sunrise to make the most of it.
The drive down was lacking the usual signs of mist and halfway there I knew id been hoodwinked by the weathermen again and it was going to be rubbish.
As I pulled up to the area it was confirmed that indeed the weathermen had told a pack of lies and were probably watching now and laughing saying we got him again !
Sunrise was only about 45 minutes away so I needed a change of venue and the nearest place I could think of was Knowlton Church, Now I really didn't want to go there as I had shot it loads the previous month but it really felt like it was my only option so I reluctantly headed in that direction.
In all fairness Sunrise was pretty nice and I got a few nice pictures and had the place to myself but did I really need yet another Knowlton Church shot ? not really.
I decided instead to head down to the New forest in the hopes of good light and when I got there it looked pretty nice but quickly changed before I could get much in the way of shots so I called time on it and headed home after a decent look round a new area.
I decided to recharge the batteries and then headed out to chase some moody light in the countryside, I won't go into to much on here as I made a vlog of the day which will be out as you're reading this I suspect on my YouTube channel, but it was a good day ;) (Video live on November 1st at 9.00 am)
Sunday the 11th of October
The forecast looked like there could be a reasonable sunrise on Saturday so I decided to head down to Portland to nail a specific shot I've been chasing.
Rather unsurprisingly when I got there conditions resembled nothing like the forecast and I should have known better than to trust the weathermen, but I was here now and I would have to make the most of it.
The wind was around 20 mph and frankly really uncomfortable to be in plus it was really cold and I already wasn't enjoying the trip which is the whole reason for going which then put the thought in my head and before the sun had even come up I wanted to go which just put me in the complete wrong frame of mind to be shooting.
I had a stern word with myself and thought at the very least i'll wait till the sun comes up and throws some light on the lighthouse and get a shot, it wasn't the shot I was after but the sunrise was fairly lack lustre and this shot really required a good sunrise to make it work so instead I turned myself to a different angle that enabled me to catch first light on the lighthouse instead.
I went home with a real lack of enthusiasm which tuned out to be a huge mistake, the light got suburb as I was halfway back and I missed it but my heart really hadn't been in it this morning so in reality I deserved to miss it.
I wanted to go out for sunset with renewed enthusiasm so I had a look at the weather and it seemed like some decent moody storm clouds were about so I thought a long overdue visit to the coast was in order, I had really missed it frankly.
The location of choice was Broad Bench at Kimmeridge as I hadn't been for a long time and sunset coincided with low tide so the walk round would be a safe, but long one.
My back ached from carrying all the gear all the way to Broad Bench having had to rock hop for most of the way and when I finally got there I was ready for a sit down.
This is the point my moody sky floated off and a huge clear front replaced it, it was seriously not what I needed and the evening looked like it would be an epic fail.
I decided to wait and watch for a while and see what developed, which as it happens was not a lot.
The writing was on the wall, sunset was going to be a write off.
I looked behind me to try and get a bigger picture of what was going on with the weather and saw a decent cloud system rolling through so I headed back to Charnell beach to hopefully intercept it just as sunrise set, The sun would be setting behind me so I was hoping the cloud would catch the light and colour up.
The walk round was full of anticipation and everything was starting to fall into place as I got there, First off there was gorgeous light bathing the entire coastline in gold & red and it looked amazing but then the light faded off the foreground and instead turned its attention to the cloud system above which started to colour up and just kept going, it really was looking epic and I rushed around getting as much as I could in the way of shots whilst trying to avoid the irritating family who kept insisting they jump in front of the camera no matter where you pointed it, We have a name for those people but I can't say it here.
The colour just got more and more intense and the cloud glowed and so did the cliffs as well, it really was one of the most stunning sunsets to watch that Ive seen in such a long time.
So that was the weekend, Deffo a keeper with the shots from Charnel as I was really pleased with all of them !
Saturday the 17th of October
Saturday morning had epic sunrise written all over it if you believed the weathermen, which I didn't as they had got it consistently wrong recently, enough to drive me mad to be fair, I mean how many times can they get it wrong and still keep a job ?
I decided to head west to Portland with the hope of getting a nice seascape shot as the sun came up, I had loved being back at the coast the week before and really wanted to get back there again so I decided to take the Vlogging gear too just in case it all went off.
As I arrived in the car park it was very clear that the weathermen had got me yet again and its looked bad, really bad !
I decided to set up on one of the ledges as it gave me scope to shoot both directions, as the sun was coming up and then spin round to catch the light on Portland Bill if it were to happen.
I wanted a decent sunrise so bad but I just knew it wasn't going to happen, the cloud was just too thick and colour just wouldn't take to it, there was however one chance, There was a nice gap that the sun could hopefully come through and cast its light on Portland Bill, I chose to put all my eggs in one basket and move ion over to get this should it happen.
There were several other photographers there and they all looked at me like I was mad, in all fairness it probably looked that way. Moving from "Pole Position" just before the sunrise and facing the wrong direction which frankly looked terrible and just grey cloud.
One of them in fact quickly jumped in the spot I had just vacated and joked that I was about to miss it all, I was pretty sure I wasn't but for different reasons.
I must admit there was a brief moment when a small bit of colour came into play and I wondered If I had made an error but it really wasn't all that good and I knew the light would make a better shot if it would just come through the gap.
I waited patiently and willed it to happen and as I watched the sun creeping up to the gap and come through and cast gorgeous golden light on Portland Bill and I quickly nailed a few shots, the other photographers oblivious to what was going on behind them.
This type of shooting is exactly what I love to do and what was even better was the fact that I had caught it all on video too, You will see from my reaction that i'm absolutely over the moon to have called it right and taken the chance. (Vlog airs on November 8th at 9.00 am on YouTube)
I ended up switching position one final time and getting shot looking back at Portland Bill but still with the light, it really was an amazing morning and I was ecstatic that I had got it right and earned some decent images.
The rest of Saturday & Sunday was a write off as I had Workshops to do but I wasn't worried, I was really pleased with my images from the morning.
Speaking of mornings they had really started drawing in now and sunrise trips before work were now sadly impossible really so I would once again be reduced to being a weekend warrior only.
The run up to the weekend was horrific, work was off the scale and I barely had a moment to think about what I was going to do on the weekend and when I finally got to look at the weather on Friday night it was like a knife through my heart as it was two days of rain & high wind, just what I didn't want.
Typically the weathermen actually got this right and Saturday was a complete write off, I never even ventured out such was the severity of the conditions.
I pinned all my hopes on Sunday morning where there was a brief window of rain free coast but at the cost of high winds.
Sunday the 25th of October
I was being super indecisive, The weather was all over the place and I just couldn't make a decision where to go frankly.
I looked at the weather for most of the evening and after hours of studying it all I was still none the wiser, I had managed to short list it down to a couple of places.
The plan was to go coastal for sunrise and from there maybe head down to the New Forest for a chance to catch Autumn in full swing if the high winds hadn't blown off all the leaves.
I awoke to the horrible sound of rain pounding on the window and instantly wrote the morning off without even looking outside, the sound was enough to tell me I wasn't going to enjoy it so some much needed sleep would be had instead.
A few hours later I awoke and it looked pretty reasonable with some light coming through and some dark stormy clouds rolling around, I grabbed the kit and was off heading to the New Forest.
I had been driving about 5 minutes when the heavens absolutely opened and it tipped down with rain so hard the roads became flooded as the drains just couldn't keep up with the volume of water coming down.
I thought about abandoning the trip there and then but something told me to keep going so I headed for a drive round to see if anywhere looked inspiring, so far it really didn't.
The New forest has a habit of changing colours about a week to two weeks after everywhere else and when I got there there wasn't too much colour change going on with most of it but after hunting for around an hour I came across an area that had some nice colour going on and also a very flooded river which was now covering a lot of the bank and the bases of the tress so it looked quite effective.
As if on demand the light came out and gave me a beautiful autumnal shot that I was pleased with.
Pretty much as soon as I had taken this the heavens opened again and showed no signs of stopping so I reluctantly packed up and headed back to the sanctuary of the car, I was soaked !
Almost as soon as I had got to the car it stopped, bit late now I thought ! so I decided to move on in further search of more colours, this is where it all started going a bit wrong.
I went to drive through Rhinefield drive and the amount of people was absolutely mind blowing, cars were just abandoned on either side of the road making it utter chaos to get through, this short maybe 2 mile stretch took me 45 minutes just to get from one end to the other and lets just say i'm not the most tolerant or people person so it left me with just one option, get the hell out of there.
I headed home and as I was on route a huge rainbow came out, I couldn't get anywhere safe to pull over and as soon as I did and rushed to the nearest decent composition and got the camera out getting another soaking it vanished, this was the last straw for me so I headed home in disgust.
When I arrived home I was still really keen to go somewhere, and the coast was calling so I decided to head to Kimmeridge bay, conditions looked reasonable with moody clouds and dappled light, that will do me !
I got to the Kimmeridge entrance and paid the extortionate £5 to go on the "Toll road" and arrived at the bay, the wind was absolutely crazy and made it totally unshootable, even the windsurfers were staying out of the water as it seemed to rough so I turned round and drove straight back out again, certain that the lady on the gate would give me my £5 back as I had been no more than three minutes, needless to say she wouldn't and tried to tell me it was the law she couldn't issue a refund ! I was in no mood to argue so I just left and decided I would head to some inland forest in the hope of some colour and some vastly reduced wind speeds.
I ended up in a forest just round the corner from my house and I wondered why I didn't visit there more often, two minutes into the walk I realised why, People, People everywhere ! and on top of that the forest just didn't look any good anyway, that was why I never went there but it was a move of shear desperation frankly.
I abruptly left and went to a nearby heath but by now the clouds had moved in and killed off any chance of light so I just decided it had been a horrible day and the best thing I could do was to head home and just forget about it, all in all a proper rubbish weekend.
The whole month had been really hit or miss to be fair and even though there was a few days left to go I knew it was my last shot of the month as the weather was just being diabolical to be frank, nothing could be done I just had to sit it out and hope that November would maybe bring some better conditions but I knew in my heart that it probably wouldn't as November can be an extra cruel month.
Print of the month special offer for November will be The Fleet, You can see more details HERE
As always, Happy shooting
Here are my YouTube Vlogs for the month as well, I would be really grateful if you would consider subscribing or giving them a like or share etc..
Shooting Cutt Mill on the Dorset River Stour, Chasing mist & light
Shooting the New Forest in Hampshire, Misty morning
Epic sunrise at Knowlton Church, Dorset
Amazing sunrise at Horton Tower