• Daniel Wretham

Landscape Photography Blog, September 2020

This is an account of the good and bad times during September for a landscape photographer.

All the mistakes laid bare for you to see and hopefully more highs than lows.


September had rolled around and I had a new issue to deal with, Furlough was now over and I was going to be back working full time, this meant my recent amount of trips was going to be vastly reduced.

A change in tactic was called for, rather than going mornings only to avoid the crowds I was going to have to bite the bullet and go in the evenings which was going to be hard as I was generally finished work at about six and at the time of writing the sun was setting at 19.52 and that time would only reduce by the end of the month, getting to a location in time was going to be really tough, but not impossible.


I also decided I would do one morning a week before work, which meant a 4.30 am alarm call and a day of hard slog in the office afterwards, if I could push it to two days I would but I knew it would be tricky.


Then of course there was the weekends, I planned to go as much as I could over them but I had been booked heavily for workshops which meant I would really struggle this month for time to take pictures.


Wednesday the 2nd of September


The forecast was showing some real signs of promise for once, but I had fallen for that old trick numerous times before so I spent as much time as possible checking every app to give me a better picture of what was likely to happen.


I felt there was a very good chance of mist and I could get to the New Forest before work so a trip was planned and a 4.30 am alarm was set.

When the alarm sounded it pulled me out of the deepest of sleeps and I had to say it wasn't nice but I eagerly looked outside to see what the weather was doing, it was pretty clear with the odd few clouds about and you could see there was a bit of mist out there, but I knew it would be way better in certain areas of the forest.


The hound seemed to wonder why he was being dragged out of his bed at this god awful hour and even the promise of treats didn't make him look any happier, although he still ate them under protest.

We headed down to the New Forest and when the hound realised where he was he suddenly perked up and rushed out of the car eager to sniff every square inch of the heathland.


It was looking pretty decent to be fair, there was going to be a fairly nice sunrise but the composition I wanted to try didn't really face in this direction so I was going to have to miss out on that but my plan was to wait until the light hit the heather and hope it did so before the mist burnt away exposing the sweeping path.

I was flying a bit blind as I hadn't seen the comp I wanted in misty conditions, just during the day while walking round so I was hoping that it would look good.


I got to my spot and it didn't look too bad but after framing up I wasn't sure, I wanted to be a bit tighter and lower on the path but every time I did so I would lose all the colour in the sky so i had to make a bit of a compromise but ultimately I was happy with the shot and was really pleased to get an image under my belt this early in the month, especially after last months terrible luck.

New Forest Sunrise
Sunrise Over New Forest Mist

This shot was a bit of an all or nothing shot, there was no other immediate compositions available so as soon as I was happy I had it I quickly walked across the bottom of the valley trying to get to my next spot but the mist was already starting to clear a bit so I had to get a move on and rushed off hoping I would make it in time.


Another pathway leading down into the valley and a nice rolling hill full of heather was the target and I made it in time to still have some colour in the sky and also a reasonable amount of mist left.

I framed up a shot in portrait orientation from quite low down and it just wasn't working for me so I raised the camera a little higher and it got better but soon switched to landscape orientation and proportionately the image looked much better, flowing nicely from right to left but sadly with less heather detail in shot, again a compromise but I was happy id taken the best shot I could with the conditions, as it happened this was my favourite of the two, I just liked the lead more.

New Forest Mist
New Forest Valley Mist

So I was off and running and I was pleased I had made the effort with the early start as the day soon turned very cloudy and the heavens opened, in fact it looked like it might do that till the weekend so I was fairly certain I had picked the right day to go.


Friday the 4th of September


The weather had been pretty poor in the evenings with rain most days which had thwarted my plans of going out after work but Friday morning had real potential, it would however mean another early start then a full days work.


Misty conditions looked like they might well happen Friday so an alarm was set for 4.30 am and I knew it would be painful if the weather didn't play ball but I felt I didn't really have a choice as it was the only chance this week.

I awoke and looked outside, there was signs of mist and so I grabbed the kit and the hound and headed off to the New forest once again in search of rolling hills and misty atmosphere.


On the drive down there was a couple of good signs with areas looking quite misty but as I headed to the one I had in mind it looked a little disappointing to be fair but I wasn't phased as I had a back up plan and I knew another area that was looking good as I had checked it on the drive in this morning so I quickly hurried back.


The sky was never going to be anything special so I chose to shoot with the light falling on the landscape rather than shooting into it.

Mist was swirling round nicely leaving hill tops and trees exposed from the sea of mist that was shape shifting like a character out of a comic book.

It rolled in and out of valleys and revealed contours only to hide them again a few seconds later, it was fantastic to watch.

I decided on a large panorama taken at 100 mm so I could get the hills in and all the layers as the mist filled them in.

I took a 7 shot panorama and it looked reasonable so I carried on trying to pick out details at around 400 mm but nothing was looking quite as good as the panorama.

I looked around for other compositions but nothing was grabbing my attention so I decided to give the hound a well deserved decent walk instead knowing I had an image in the bag.


I was pretty pleased with how the panorama turned out and settled on a 3:1 ratio for it, It would be a keeper.

The image was quite flat to be fair but that was a true representation of how it was on the day, a little murky but I really liked the finished image and I know this view very well so I was pleased to have a good reminder of it in my gallery.

New Forest Mist
3:1 Panorama, A keeper (New Forest)

The weather was looking terrible for later on tonight with heavy rain forecast so I guessed I would have to wait for the weekend but then I had some news, I would be furloughed for another two weeks.

This was great on the one hand as I would be able to get out and shoot more, but not so great that I had just gone back to work and a routine and now it was going to stop again, as was the money.

I hoped the weather would play ball over the next two weeks as I was determined to get out as much as possible and make the most of this time while I could.


Saturday the 5th of September


The forecast looked promising for Saturday morning, 96% humidity and a max wind speed of 4 mph and a good dew point so mist was on the cards and I planned a visit to North Dorset to try and get some mist in the valleys.

I looked outside and to be fair it didn't look very good at all, more murky than misty but I was up and out anyway in the hope it might look a bit different further north as per the forecast.


The drive down should have told me everything I needed to know really, the usual misty spots were devoid of any and I had that sinking feeling but I persevered just in case then finally there was a small bit of mist of the journey there and hopes grew, that was until I pulled up to my location of choice and there was none, it just looked rubbish and as I got out of the car I knew why, the wind was way faster than 4 mph and once again I had been hoodwinked by the weathermen and their uncanny ability to get it wrong.


There was nothing much worth shooting here without mist so I turned tail and went home hoping to find something en route to make up for the poor morning, but alas it wasn't to be so instead I placed a few more pins in my weatherman voodoo doll and overdosed on coffee to get me going.


Throughout Saturday I couldn't help but notice some decent clouds outside and the odd weather system floating by and not one to miss a chance I decided I would nip out for an early afternoon shoot along the coast.

The plan was to head to Gad Cliff, part of the Tyneham range and get the long lens out in the hope that some nice light and shadow would present itself along the coastline.


When I arrived there a new problem arose, despite the hoards of tourists of which I could deal with I was now presented with my ultimate nemesis, a field full of cows.

I had a choice, either walk straight through them on the footpath or walk right down to Worbarrow Bay and then back up the cliff, a pretty long and hard walk and I didn't fancy it but it was preferable to going through a cow field in all fairness.

In the end I decided to man up and just go through the field and much to my surprise they showed little or no interest in me which is unusual as Im usually a magnet to these walking steam rollers.


I hiked up the top of the hill and stood on the edge of Gad cliff overlooking the mighty Jurassic coastline towards Kimmeridge Bay, I was at home here and this was my style of shooting and I couldn't wait to get started.


Light danced over the flanks of the coastline and I happily snapped away slightly under exposing to emphasise the light as it travelled along.

I switched over to the 400 mm lens and waited for the light to hit Clavell's Tower at Kimmeridge, it seemed to take an age to happen as it slowly teased me by getting close and then stopping.


The wind had really got up now and I was forced to up the ISO to 400 in order to get a shot without camera shake which at this focal length was pretty hard to avoid.

A large cloud went over and put a shadow right behind the tower and I prayed for light to creep up the flanks, It was almost painful watching and waiting for it but then from the left it started on its journey and crept further and further up till the tower was fully illuminated and behind in a dark shadow, it was exactly what I was after and I took my shot and quickly zoomed in to make sure it was sharp, RESULT !


I was super happy with this shot and yet its one that probably won't get much love if I was to put it on social media as its not a pretty sunset full of colour but this image was what personified my style and enjoyment, this was one for me.

I was really happy with the final outcome of this one and it would gain a place in the gallery, plus it had the added bonus that I never see it shot like this so it was a nice fresh image and not yet another rehash of the same tired old shots.

Clavell's Tower
Light at Clavell's Tower

The range was due to close at 8 O'Clock and sunset was at 7.47 pm so I needed to be off and find somewhere else for sunset.

As I was just round the corner from Kimmeridge bay I thought I would take a drive there and just mess around with some ideas I had.

As I arrived the usual over exiteable gatekeeper wasn't on duty so i got a free pass, result ! That was until I saw the sign saying the gate would be looked at 8pm which again didn't really leave me anytime to shoot sunset, well I was here now and there was still some good light moving across so I headed down to the beach.


The main ledge at Kimmeridge has been shot to death but it was close to the car park so I could get back in a hurry in order to make the gate before it was locked.

There was some decent light moving in from the side but a severe lack of cloud so I thought to myself, I haven't done a long exposure in ages so why not do one now.

Golden light poured onto the ledge and I took a shot and it came out pretty nicely and I also did a time-lapse so you could see how nice the ledge looked while side lit and also how when the light went it looked completely different and far less interesting.

Kimmeridge Bay
Golden light at Kimmeridge Bay

I liked the shot but wasn't really sure if I would call it a keeper or not, i'm still sat on the fence with it really so maybe it will make it in, maybe it won't, Always keen to hear your thoughts ?

I hope you enjoy these short time lapses ? This will show you what a difference light makes to your shot and why its important to wait for just the right moment for your shot.


Sunday the 6th of September


The forecast looked a bit rubbish to be fair but it was the weekend so I would force myself to go out anyway but would keep it local so as not to be too disappointed should it be a failure.

I had been working on a small project at Knowlton Church recently so it seemed ideal to visit as it was close to home and I wasn't expecting much to happen.


It looked pretty cloudy on the way there but there was a bit of a gap on the horizon where the sun would be coming up, this did however mean it would be a really hard to expose shot as there was so much contrast in it, in fact it was so much I pretty much gave up trying and instead went to the other side of it in the hope that the clouds behind would catch slightly, they didn't really and it was a fairly uneventful sunrise.


I decided instead to go into the wishing trees area as I had become quite obsessed with all the ribbons and trinkets people had left there, each one to symbolise a dream or a wish or in some cases something much darker, but either way it was very interesting and I had a play around with various shots there to try and through things out of focus and have just one central subject, it was pretty good fun and I was enjoying myself.


The sun was now up but there was some thick cloud the other side and the church suddenly looked very good so I rushed out and took a shot of it nicely illuminated but with a very heavy sky behind it, once again my kind of shot and its turned out pretty well to be fair, That was as eventful as it got that morning so I called it quits and headed home for a much needed coffee or three and some bacon & eggs, love Sundays !


After a fairly calm start to the day all hell broke loose and my computer decided to go into meltdown, usually I wouldn't be too worried as I have always backed up everything but because I had been going so much recently I had about 2 months worth of images sat on the computer that hadn't been backed up as I hadn't had time to go through them and get rid of the bad ones and process the good ones.

The computer simply wouldn't boot up so a frantic search began on the internet looking for any way that I could get into the computer and retrieve my files.


After about 4 hours of trying various things I managed to get into it and started to back up all my images, on to two separate drives which took hours, then did a full system back up which ran over night and I finally went to bed about 2 am, this wasn't good as I was up in 2 and a half hours as the forecast said mist.......


Monday the 7th of September


I awoke to the alarm and checked the computer first and it was still backing up but was almost close to finishing and I was so tempted to stay just so I would know if it had resolved itself or not but I headed out as the lure of mist was too much.


Corfe Castle was the intended location, I've shot it to death but a friend of mine was yet to visit it and I had said I would show them around.

When I got there it seemed pretty poor and not a lot of mist present at all which was a pain as my friend had travelled a reasonable distance on my say so, awkward !

I climbed up West Hill and there was actually some mist swirling around at the back of Corfe Castle so I hoped as the sun came up it would make it increase a little.


A fair few people had the same idea about going to Corfe and it turned into a very social morning seeing a few old faces and a few new ones and meeting some people for the first time with who I had spoken online for a long time which was really nice.


Soon after arrival it seemed the mist decided to clear and I was left with a pretty much plain old shot of the castle although it was a very nice sunrise its just not what you want with Corfe Castle, its all about either mist of light there in my opinion.


I shot a few pictures anyway as the sky really was pretty nice but my heart wasn't in it as I wanted to get back to fix the computer.

I tried a few other spots on the way home in case there was any shots to be had but there really wasn't so I headed for home and spent the next few hours sorting the computer out which seemed to have worked although I did lose a few bits of data but nothing so terrible it couldn't be redone, at least the images were safe and a valuable lesson was taught, don't wait to backup, do it there and then or else you could lose everything.


I looked at my Corfe Castle pictures and the sky was just too much and the images would have needed to be forced a little in order to look reasonable and by doing so I was fairly sure the image would suffer for it so I decided to bin them off rather than push it to the point it looked bad.


Wednesday the 9th of September


The morning looked pretty shabby on the forecast so I didn't bother going out but the evening was showing some reasonable potential so a visit to Chapmans Pool was in order.

When I arrived it was quite clear but I could see a huge cloud building and by the time I had walked from the car park to the area I wanted to shoot the cloud had grown to such huge sizes that it now covered most of the area in front of me.


I waited for the cloud to move through and it did so and the light began to fall on the landscape again but with and hour till sunset I could already see what was going to happen, the dread clear sky syndrome was on the way and true to form after about thirty minutes there wasn't a cloud in the sky and sunset simply was a non event, sure I could have shot it but it just wasn't doing anything for me so instead I called it a day and headed home.


Thursday the 10th of September


I had a workshop booked today from 11 am and the conditions in the morning didn't look fantastic but I knew I wouldn't be able to shoot on the workshop so I decided I would get a cheeky sunrise in somewhere local in the hope it might just be nice.


I decided on my old fallback of Knowlton as it was just handy to be honest, close to home, the dog could run around in a safe enclosed environment and I was still after a specific image from here so it seemed logical to go.


When I arrived I wondered if I had made a bad decision and should have had the much needed extra hours in bed instead, the sky really did look a bit iffy.

What started off as a very cloudy sky started to break up and a small bit of colour came and I snapped off a couple of shots but I knew they would be destined for the bin as I had it better before, If i was going to get the shot I wanted the sky had to be EPIC and nothing less would do, the dog however enjoyed his freedom and played fetch till long after sunrise so it wasn't all bad.


Friday the 11th of September


The forecast was looking good, in fact really good for the morning so I settled on visiting Winspit for Sunrise.

When I awoke and looked outside the sky really didn't match the forecast and it looked distinctly poor but as is so is so often the case I didn't want to miss out so I set off for Winspit and when I got to the car park and had another look it looked even worse.


The wind was pouring in too which was a vast difference from the forecast four MPH wind they said would be happing, I think they missed a two off the front of that estimate.

I felt pretty sure sunrise wasn't going to be good and the walk to windspit is a fairly long one especially with a fully laden back pack so I decided to divert to an easy option which was close by, Swanage beach.


I arrived and looked at a pretty uninspiring scene, I could barely be bothered to set the camera up but did so just in case.

Swanage seemed especially busy this morning with tourists all asking the same question, what am I photographing ? Am I in the way whilst stood in front of the lens or worse still the "Expert" with his point and shoot camera telling you his life story and how to do it.


It all got a bit much and my replies had become jaded and sarcastic and I knew it was time to leave so another trip was chalked up with no results, the month had started so positively and lulled me into a false sense of security and now it was making me pay again.

Never mind the weekend was here which meant extra photographers everywhere and furloughed families deciding that Dorset would be the best place ever to visit with their 12 screaming children and out of control dog, oh the joys !


Saturday the 12th of September


I hadn't gone out for sunrise and in truth it was quite a relief as I had been pushing hard again but as the day wore on the conditions couldn't be ignored, there was some really decent cloud floating about and I decided I would nip out for sunrise so I headed off to an old favourite location that I felt would look great when side lit and with dark brooding clouds behind it.


The journey was one of the most frustrating ones of my life, sat behind several cars that insisted on driving around 20 mph for the entire journey and one that usually took 30 minutes took near an hour and the longer it took the more the cloud was clearing.

By the time I eventually got there the dark heavy cloud had all but gone and the sky was clearing but there was still little bit of high level cloud about and with around an hour to go till sunset it looked like I might still be in luck.


The first picture I took was with the mill bathed in golden low light and the surrounding trees lit up too, it was an image that I really liked although I wished it had a better darker moody sky like earlier but it was as good as I was going to get.

Cutt Mill
Light on the mill

The image was simple, it was just about great tight and that made me really happy, it won't ever be as popular as shooting big sunsets but for me this was the essence of what I like.


The cloud broke up just before sunset and typically it went clear and that was the end of that but there was a ace up the sleeve of mother nature, tomorrow there was mist forecast and I really fancied a return trip to the same location for that.


Sunday the 13th of September


I could barely sleep, I had images of the mill with mist swirling all the way round it, the sluice flowing into the river and big plumes of mist rising off it bring atmosphere and mood and I really wanted it.


I kept looking at the the forecast and it wasn't changing, humidity was right, low wind speed and dew point were all good so I felt super confident.

The alarm finally went off and I had barely slept but it didn't matter, I was super excited and charged up ready to take the mill again.


As I drove down there was a good bit of fog through Beech Avenue and I wondered if I should maybe stop and shoot there, it did look really good.

But I had a plan and I wanted to stick to it, I arrived at the mill around an hour before sunrise which in hindsight was a tad excessive but that's the level of excitement I had about the morning.

It was pitch black but I could make out some nice mist around already and I couldn't wait for some light, I fiddled around with the gear, checking it all over, checking it again and finally after about half an hour there was enough light to see reasonably well.


As I walked the handful of steps from the car to the mill my heart sank, the earlier mist had vanished and it just looked cold and bleak and really uninviting.

I waited around in the hope that the mist might kick up a bit as the sun came up but it just didn't happen and no light was forthcoming either so eventually I gave up and headed home via Beech Avenue.


As I drove down it there was still some fog drifting across it then I saw it, light rays streaking through the trees in a simply wonderful golden saturated tone that just screamed atmosphere.

I couldn't pull over till much further up and I ran back as quick as I could but just like that the light rays vanished and it looked as bleak as the mill had, I cursed myself for having made the wrong choice on location today and made a mental note to do Beech avenue in future.


Monday the 14th of September


The forecast was again showing promise for mist but I felt it would be more likely to be fog as the humidity was almost 100% in places so I decided to head to the forest in the search for some nice trees to shoot on open areas to allow the fog to penetrate the forest.


Little did I know the morning was going to turn out pretty bad, I arrived and to be fair it looked good but as I pulled up I felt my stomach cramp up and got that feeling all landscape photographers dread, in the middle of nowhere and you know you need a loo badly !

Come on, we've all been there......


I had little choice but to drive home as nowhere else en route was open so I dashed off to the call of nature and then leaped back into action and drove back to the forest, it wasn't looking too bad still and I thought I might be able to sneak an image out of it.


As I wandered round nothing was really catching my attention, there were some "OK" scenes, but nothing with personality or interest.

I shot a few bits and pieces but one of them were keepers really, meanwhile I could hear constant emergency service sirens on the road close by and I hoped whatever was going on that people were ok but they just didn't stop, it went on for about 40 minutes so I decided to call it quits only to find out something had dropped out of my pocket in the forest and it was a fairly small item so finding it was going to be the needle in a haystack scenario.


I searched for around an hour but never did find it, instead knowing I would just have to bite the bullet and buy another sadly.


As I got back to the car I could see an unusually large amount of traffic on the road and it was all stationary, it turns out they had closed the road as there was a bad accident further down and it took me an hour plus to get home while stuck behind a school bus full of kids who thought it was the best thing in the world to keep making faces at me in the car behind.

Mildly amusing at first, one hour later and I could have quite happily driven my car into the back of them, tolerance was at an all