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.
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…
November has been one of those transitional months for me. The best tree colour had departed and the weather was neither cold or mild, wet or dry. A bit hum drum really. The month was broken up for me with a sparkling trip to Paris so landscape wise I don’t seem to have got out quite so much as I might have ordinarily planned.
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.
July turned out to be a month with some new gear. I invested in a Fuji X-E2 and 18-55mm f/2.8-f/4 because I wanted something lighter for what I call ‘occasional’ shooting. It certainly has its strengths and weaknesses like any other camera and I’ll put together a separate blog post on this soon enough.
June was a very busy month, especially for infrared work. Our English summer is in full flight and for once it’s wall to wall sunshine and blue skies. That may not be to everyone’s taste for landscape photography but for those who have invested in Infrared capability like I have then there are no better conditions. Although June was a key month for rolling fields of things like poppies there probably wasn’t a better time to produce some high impact black and white images with the right approach.