I’ve been there before. The expectation of a glorious season is around the corner and then follows weeks of rain, flat conditions, endless grey cloud and a limitless lack of atmosphere. The key is to be prepared to travel, follow the conditions when necessary but above all, be out there early in the season if it presents the opportunity so that you can try and take the pressure off yourself if you’ve gone through a long empty summer like I did this year. Of course, the prime directive of lower your expectation is cast aside like a distant memory as the promise of golden light and opportunity fills us like a new horizon born out of every morning.
As I look outside at an autumnal rain shower hammering at my window this morning, I’m reflecting on the fact that somehow I managed to create something in each month during the summer that I was actually happy with. Looking back now I’m not even sure how I managed that given that I set out with purpose to take some images on no more than three or four occasions if that. However after a hopeful weather forecast I decided to get myself up to the Peak District to visit some views while the heather was in bloom and what I got was an additional unexpected treat at sunrise. I timed my arrival almost a little too optimistically and pulled my car over at the side of the road somewhere on the hills above Hathersage. The light was pretty spectacular by anyone’s account, the low layers of mist giving way to a full on pink and purple sunrise. The problem with the Peak District (or should I say the value of the Peak District?) is that it can be pretty featureless across certain views, a landscape stripped of most defining objects, a tundra with a handful of trees dotted around at best.
As I said in last month’s Image Of The Month, the summer of 2015 has totally flattened my spirit some how. Autumn certainly can’t come soon enough. I’m not great in the sun and burn far too easily, I can’t stand biting insects which drive me to distraction and despite having an Infrared option up my sleeve the idea of actually using it had become uninspiring. When I get like this I often seek out a change of scenery and there’s nothing I like more than the peace and tranquility of North Devon so I went down on a whim in the middle of the month.
Although late spring was finished off beautifully with a trip to the Brecon Beacons, June fell somewhat flat for me with the conditions somehow sapping my enthusiasm. This is often the case for many landscape photographers in the summer months of course and even a trip to the Kent coast did little to lift my mood. Inevitably I find landscape photography is linked to my general state of mind and ever earlier starts become wearing ensuring it all feels a lot less enticing.
Once again I find myself way behind on these blog commitments! Writing my May pick of the month towards the end of June really needs to improve, though hopefully you’ll have got something out of my three part Building A Print Legacy mini series which took priority instead. The final product is fantastic but once again the learning journey was significant.
It has to be said, April was a pretty hot month for me, certainly not in terms of weather but in photography prospects. I find it goes like that quite a lot, I have an off month and just as I’m starting to lose a bit of mojo some top conditions play into my hands at the right time. That’s the landscape photographer’s lot at the end of the day and if you can’t take weeks of flat grey skies and be ready when it counts then this game isn’t for you…
I always get into my head that March is a spring month, but the truth is it can feel like a full extension of winter. The expectation that snow and ice has passed and cold short days are replaced by some warmth in the sun are somewhat optimistic and misplaced. As such, March can feel like one of those lean months, it’s neither winter or spring in truth, like the transition from summer to autumn in September, it can be a frustrating “waiting” month for photographers. It was for me again this year.
It turns out February was the best month for me for as long as I can remember, photographically speaking. So much so, it’s incredibly difficult to pick out just one photograph – I have at least six in mind which deliver so I’m going have to go with the one which tells the most story. Stark comparison to a year ago where February was utterly flat – I remember feeling like I’d been shrouded in a dark cloak of depression, waiting for winter to lift. Not this time.
The story of the British winter in 2014 was a series of storms and more water in the south of England than The Amazon River would have been able to supply. It certainly wasn’t what you’d call a traditional or classic winter in any respect. We didn’t see any snow last year in the Midlands so this year I think many photographers were pinning their hopes on a higher proliferation of icy opportunities. Sure enough winter finally showed its hand in the north and across higher ground but once again barely a flake south of the Peak District has been seen. I give Jack Frost 3 out of 10 for effort this year…
December started like a winter month really should with a few sharp frosts and low temperatures, though as always the British weather usually has other ideas up its sleeve and this soon turned into a cloudy, wet, dull and windy spell bringing an end to the sort of conditions most landscape photographers revel in. A single and very short-lived small amount of snow in the latter part of the month wasn’t enough to re-create those magical conditions for me either. I’ve since been enjoying the low light/high ISO capability of the Nikon Df and this signals new possibilities for me as we turn towards 2015 but in truth I’d much rather be out in an icy dawn landscape with the Warwickshire countryside for company.