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.
September is one of those months when it’s neither one season or another. This year in the UK, it stayed exceptionally warm, but while summer was still obviously over, autumn really hadn’t entirely begun. I find months like this very frustrating so I chose to use the early part of the month checking out some possible autumnal locations without having the desire of going out with real purpose to shoot, and with that having a low expectation of getting very much.
August turned out to be a surprisingly good month for photography. When I committed to converting my D800 into a full time 720nm infrared option, I envisaged that the long summer days of July and August would provide all of necessary ingredients to produce some great mono opportunities. Indeed, when I decided to head up to the Peak District during the latter part of August it was to take a closer look at Bolehill Quarry and the potential afforded by the Silver Birch woodland there. Birch makes for spectacular black and white subject matter and I was hoping to find a mix of my favourite trees perhaps with some long dry grasses for good measure. But what really started out as nothing more than a autumnal reconnaissance mission turned into an unexpected full colour landscape quest. I was told that there would be ‘some heather’ but what greeted me was an incredible purple display covering every one of the hills in the whole of the Hathersage area, a very special sight, the likes of which I genuinely hadn’t witnessed before.