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Landscape Photography Blog, March 2020

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

This is an account of March as it happened, the good, the bad and the highs & lows of a landscape photographer. Everything is shown, warts & all, the bad pictures, the good pictures to give you a true reflection of how life is out there.

February had been tough, really tough. Four named storms on four consecutive weekends had caused havoc across the country and made for exceptionally challenging conditions, including not even being able to shoot on many occasions.

March 1st, Sunday

March saw me open my account on day one with a workshop which meant there would be very little if any opportunity to shoot myself as I had clients to cater for and make sure they had an amazing time and got the shots they were after.

Sunday started off at Swanage beach as it was close to the clients hotel and looked like it might produce the goods.

It started off with the odd bit of cloud on the horizon and some drifting through but some bigger more menacing clouds were behind us so it really had the chance of really lighting up.

Rain started to fall and as you know when the sunrise is combined with rain and fast moving storm clouds then there is a chance to really get some good shots.

As expected it lit up nicely and all 7 people on the workshop got some fantastic shots and I managed to sneak one in myself which as it turned out I was really happy with, I had probably missed the best of the light but the clients hadn't which was what really mattered.

Swanage Sunrise
Storm Light at Swanage
Swanage Sunrise
Storm Light at Swanage

The workshop continued through the day in very heavy wind at various locations and we were treated to some beautiful conditions, light, storms, rain, hail, you name it we had it.

I wasn't able to shoot again till far later when we ended up at Durdle door with some serious weather systems moving through the coastline and I took a shot looking down towards Bat Head as the light hit it and the dark brooding clouds moved in, it wasn't a keeper but it was to show the conditions of the day which were pretty awesome !.

Bat Head, Durdle Door
Not a keeper but just look at that stormy sky and light

The forecast for the rest of the week looked fairly flat and cloudy but I would be keeping an eye on it in the hope it would change soon so I could get out again.

March 6th, Friday

The weather had been non stop rain for the first week of March bar Monday when I couldn't get out so I was itching to go by Friday and the weather forecast had finally shown some promise.

The wind was scheduled to be very low, the humidity level was high and the dew point was perfect, all things pointed to a misty morning so I was going to head to the New Forest and hopefully get a nice misty vista.

The alarm went off at 5 am and as always it suddenly seemed a bad idea but a quick look out the window confirmed that mist was indeed present.

The New Forest is about 40 minutes away from me and as I drove it I seemed to be getting further away from the mist but I couldn't turn back as I had work in the morning right after the shoot.

I got to my chosen location and there was some localised pockets of mist but nothing really special and certainly no big vistas, I was gutted especially when I had got up early and knew I had a whole days work in front of me but this is generally the norm sadly.

I hung around for a while and took a couple of pictures then decided to drive to a few other places but nothing was grabbing me so in the end I settled for a decent walk with the doggy and went into work for an early start. The weekend was looking changeable so again the forecast was watched like a hawk looking for a gap to get out.

New Forest Mist
Not a keeper but about as good as it got on the day sadly

As the day unfolded it looked like there would be a possibility of a reasonable sunset so after work I raced to Horton tower and there was big storm clouds with a small gap where the sun would set and it looked pretty good, that was until I got there and of course the gap started to close up, what had looked very good was now just another fade to grey sunset and I went home hoping for better weather on the weekend.

Saturdays forecast looked pretty grey but Sunday was showing some promise.

March 7th, Saturday

Having said I wouldn't go out Saturday the inevitable happened and it suddenly looked like it might be a nice sunset so I made a mad dash to my local spot in Poole at Lake Pier.

I arrived about ten minutes before sunset and almost as soon as I did a large bank of cloud moved across the sun and that was that, I didn't even bother to take any pictures and kicked myself for not going sooner when it looked nice.

March 8th, Sunday

Sundays weather looked a lot more interesting, There was meant to be a fair bit of rain but with sunny spells too, that meant only one thing, I was going rainbow chasing !.

The battlecry of the banshee like alarm clock went off at 5 and I looked out the window and it didn't look too bad, although very windy.

A friend text me and said it was rubbish where he was and he was going back to bed, i'll show him I thought.

I had decided to go to Boscombe Pier as it gave me a few different shots from high up to low down and with a rough sea there was a few interesting breaks & groins scattered around so I would have a good bit of choice.

As I was getting closer it started to look clear overhead, not what I wanted but at least the light would get through onto the pier, that was until yet another huge bank of cloud loomed into view right over where the sun was going to come up.

Plan B was quickly put into place, long exposures of the groynes with a moody sky, only trouble was the wind, it was brutal !

The picture were rubbish and went straight into the bin and my heart really wasn't in it, it just hadn't panned out how I wanted it to and I knew my mate would be smirking that he had made the right call and I hadn't.

I drove home and as I did conditions started to look good, really good so after stopping off for a pit stop I decided to head to the Dragons Teeth at Studland in the hope that a rainbow would appear, There had already been one while I was driving worse luck.

When I got to the Dragons Teeth the sky had cleared quite a bit and there was now small fluffy clouds charging across the sky due to the very high winds.

I was fairly well sheltered so I decided while I was waiting for the rain to come I would mess about with some long exposures, not something I'm usually that keen on but I had a fixed structure in front of me and nice waves crashing into it so it seemed the perfect opportunity really, plus I wanted to kill some time and test out the new 10 stop filter I had got from Kase.

Shooting from the side was giving nice results but climbing on top of the blocks and shooting directly down them looked vastly better so I opted for that and was pleased with the results, the 10 stop Kase filter showed zero colour cast unlike my Lee filters which very much had a blue/purple cast, Very impressed with the neutral tone of the Kase filters.

Dragons Teeth
Dragons Teeth long exposure

So whilst it wasn't what I went for I was pleased with the image all the same.

Rain was due any minute according to the forecast and I was eagerly awaiting a rainbow, The rain started and I composed my shot, got everything set then covered up the camera.

When the rain finally started it was more of a drizzle but got gradually harder and went on for about 30 minutes but I could see the all important clear spot in the distance coming this way which the light would come through and hopefully yield a nice rainbow.

The gap seemed to take an eternity to come into view but when it did gorgeous light poured through it onto the thick grey cloud the other side, any second there would be a rainbow I thought.

But it just didn't happen, not really sure why as it was perfect conditions for it, I checked the forecast again and there was more rain due so I decided to wait it out a bit longer for it and around 40 minutes later a seriously dark cloud appeared on the horizon but it looked different to the last rain cloud.

As it got closer I had a fair idea i knew why, I suspected it was a hail storm and as it got closer the whole scene went ultra dark and the colour of the water seemed to transfer from the usual blue to an almost green colour and I could see in the distance the storm rolling in and whipping up a frenzy across the water.

The wind suddenly got a lot faster and I covered the camera again just in time and then bang I got hit by the hail storm, it was brutal.

High wind and ice pelting you in the face is never pleasant but this seemed extra harsh and I had to hold onto the tripod for dear life as the wind threatened to take it over which hardly ever happens as its an absolute beast and weighs plenty !

After 30 minutes of standing in hail it started to clear and again my hopes were sky high for a rainbow but it just didn't come, frustrating.

I had been standing there for a total of three hours now waiting for a rainbow and it hadn't happened, I had endured to solid soakings and a deeply unpleasant biting wind, I felt I deserved the reward but it just wasn't to be.

The sun was now moving round a bit further so I decided on a change of location to Corfe Castle in search of my unicorn shot, A full arch rainbow of the castle, something I had been chasing for years.

I took up position with the sun behind me and almost an exact repeat of what had previously happened did again.

Two rain storms, two soakings and no rainbow, I was starting to lose the will to live, 2 hours stood in this spot patiently waiting for nothing.

Again the sun position moved further round so I had to as well and there was another rain shower due so despite being fed up I decided to wait it out.

Another shower came in and started to clear and I was in position and ready, then it happened a full arch rainbow started to form but it was so faint it barely even showed up on the picture and is was a hugely frustrating tease at wheat I was craving so much.

It vanished almost as quickly as it started, one more shower was due and I decided to wait it out again and got another soaking for my trouble but no rainbow.

It was now 4 pm and I had been up since 5 am and standing on my feet so I was pretty tired and I hadn't stopped for food so hunger was getting the better of me.

I checked the forecast and it said no more rain and it looked pretty clear so I decided to call time on it and head home.

As I was driving the 30 minutes or so home a big weather front came into view and I knew I had left too early and as soon as I got home my friend sent me a picture of an epic rainbow over their house, I was gutted.

Sunday had been a really brutal day and I had only got one single image I was happy with, luck was just not on my side that day but I hoped I had bagged some karma points for the big efforts that I had put in, payback was due soon I hoped.

Weather for the rest of the week looked rubbish to be fair and there wouldn't be much opportunity to go before work with these poor conditions so the waiting game started and I hoped the forecast would change throughout the week, I had enough of wind and rain frankly.

March 14th, Saturday

The weekend rolled around and I was under pressure as I couldn't go on Sunday as I had social events to attend so Saturday was the only possible day to get some pictures and frankly, it wasn't looking great.

The morning started with heavy rain but I hauled myself out of bed and made myself drive down to Boscombe pier for a repeat of last week.

Rain smashed into the windscreen all the way there but the forecast said it would lift and in all fairness it did, but it left behind a lot of thick grey cloud that was obviously going to interfere with sunrise and without dragging this out, it did.

There was a small window of which some colour appeared over Boscombe pier but it wasn't worth shooting.

About 25 minutes after sunrise the light finally came through and I hung around hoping that a rainbow might form as there was still some rain clouds hanging over Bournemouth but It wasn't to be, Mother nature had given me a firm kick in the unmentionables once again.

I decided to go home, grab some food and then head for Corfe Castle to yet again stand in the rain hoping for a rainbow, my own personal unicorn.

Needless to say the rainbow didn't come once again but I did get some reasonable pictures as the sky went very dark and light swept over the castle, I do love this type of landscape photography.

The wind had been especially high yet again this weekend and I was shooting with a fairly long focal length which caused me a few issues with camera shake even with the ISO ramped right up but I managed to get a handfuls of decent shots of the light & shadow battling it out over Corfe Castle, maybe even a keeper ?

The weather did this for most of the morning but by afternoon a thick grey cloud had all but covered the sky and I knew the game was up so headed home.

Sunday I couldn't go out even if I wanted too and I was relieved to see conditions looked pretty awful outside so I wasn't missing out on much but I was very aware that the sunset was quite possibly going to be good.

True enough it lit up like a Christmas tree and I watched in horror from inside whiles being unable to get out as huge pink clouds blew up all around me and light of epic proportions washed over the landscape, Never mind there will be others I told myself, as if that helped.

Corfe Castle
Storm clouds & light at Corfe Castle, Maybe a keeper ?

Saturday 21st, March

The week had been nothing but poor weather and I hadn't had a chance to get out but there was hope on the horizon with Saturday, the forecast looked good !

As it was officially spring now I was hopeful of better weather and with a 4.30 am start I kind of felt I was due one.

The alarm sounded and I looked out the window and was not impressed, it looked murky and way too cloudy, but I dragged myself out of bed and decided to go anyway as with the current Corona virus situation there could be a lockdown due any minute so I had to make the most of it.

I had decided to return to Boscombe Pier yet again as I wanted to get this shot and had taken it as a challenge as the place constantly seemed to kick me in the privates but in truth I was getting seriously fed up with visiting it again but was sure my persistence would pay off if I kept at it.

As I drove down the all too familiar route all hopes of the clouds clearing seemed to be out and the horizon was fairly thick with cloud cover so anything happening was pretty unlikely.

Sure enough I waited it out and the was the smallest hint of some colour behind the clouds but nothing developed and it just didn't look good so I called it quits and pinned all my hopes on a successful sunset trip instead, the forecast looked reasonable but as I had already seen, they call it wrong more often than right so confidence wasn't at an all time high.

Landscape photography blog
Another one for the bin sadly

Saturday evening was showing signs of being promising but it seemed to be going quite clear up until around 3 pm when there was some decent high level cloud showing.

I decided to join my friend Paul on a trip to Charnel but when we got there it became obvious that the tide was slightly too aggressive to go further round the bay and the cloud had started to get a thicker bank towards the west which would prevent a decent sunset, it just wasn't my month.

We stayed and for a few moments it looked like it could have been nice and about to happen but the inevitable sinking feeling soon came round again and we both knew it just wasn't going to happen.

Still a good catch up with an old friend at the coast was never a bad thing but alas the photo tally was starting to seriously lack this month big time and with clear sky forecast for most of next week the pressure was really on to rescue March.

Monday 23rd, March

Plans of going out through the week looked very likely as there was a vast improvement in the weather for the foreseeable future, then it happened, The course of all our lives was about to change with the announcement that we were going into lockdown for the next three weeks, landscape photography was over.

Now as this all unfolded like a horror story, photography was the last thing on peoples minds as the true scale of Corona virus hit the world.

The realisation that this was possibly the most serious threat to humanity the world had ever seen caused people to deal with it in very different ways.

The vast majority of the country did exactly what they had been told and stayed home to self isolate but of course there's always the odd few who decided to break these rules and put lives at risk, stupidity of the highest order sadly.

There was a silver lining though, the country started to pull together and acts of kindness started to get on a roll and people showed extraordinary kindness to their fellow humans.

The real heres of this world like our NHS staff rose to the crises and despite the danger to themselves they cared for us all and showed people what a real hero looks like, hopefully the world will no longer idolise useless so called celebrities and see the real hero's are these front line NHS staff.

One of the most amazing feelings was standing on my doorstep clapping loudly for all the people who are giving it 100% in the fight against Covid 19 and hearing my neighbours doing the same and the sense of pride was unreal, a small tribute to these amazing people and a lift in community spirit even in the darkest of times.

There are so many people who kept the country turning, from so called "low skilled" jobs like supermarket staff who stayed at work despite the risks to enable the rest of us to eat and that really deserves our gratitude and respect, and hopefully it will realign the perception of these wonderful people as being "Essential".

The government made a call for action for volunteers to help with delivery of medicine etc and overnight over half a million people answered the call to help, again something amazing.

Now in the face of all this horror there was the good nature being shown and deserves respect and support, so as photographers what can you do ?

The planet was reaping the benefits of reduced pollution where it was under lockdown and dare I say it, started to heal itself a little and people took notice and I hope this will stay in the minds of many so they can continue to let it heal.

Self isolation does show you that you don't need a lot of the things you always thought you did so keep it in mind for the future.

Well to start off with please respect the rules and don't go out except for the reasons given by the government as being essential, you will save lives.

I know we're all outdoors people and the temptation is there to just go out quickly, don't.

To the "influencers" on social media, despite the fact I hate this word you all need to lead from the front and encourage your fellow photographers to keep to the rules and stay inside, never has your "influence" been so important.

Above all support the NHS and don't add to their already impossible task by selfish behaviour and stupid risks, stay inside because no picture is worth putting someone at risk.

The sooner we all pull together and beat this then the sooner you will all be out again.

So in summary March had been a terrible month in terms of photography for me and April was unlikely to be any better as we would be facing lockdown for at least half the month but its a small price to pay.

Sunsets and sunrises were watched and enjoyed from the garden or the window each night, and despite not taking pictures I enjoyed them even more and hoped for the day we could all get out again to watch them, you will have a new appreciation for them and everything around you.

Stay safe everyone, and stay inside.

Daniel Wretham

You can read the next instalment of this blog by clicking HERE


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