Rain, rain, go away…

Bratley View (asp100-1951)

Bratley View in full colour

After all the recent horrid weather we’ve been experiencing in the UK, we have finally passed a milestone moment. The annual shortest day of December 21st is now behind us, and summer is well and truly on its way!!

Ok, that seems quite an optimistic statement looking out the window at the quickly gathering storm clouds and darkening skies, but the days are lengthening by a few minutes each day and we’re now a few days into the New Year.

Which reminds me, Happy New Year to you all! I hope 2014 is good for you.

While stormy weather can bring dramatic lighting, and some of my best-selling images were shot in or just after rainfall, I’m sure we all prefer to shoot in the more pleasant conditions of the summer months – or the later summer months when colour palettes warm up and landscapes look ever-more appealing. Even in the summer, when shooting around sunrise as in the featured image here of Bratley View in the New Forest, coats and woolly hats are often required as it can get quite chilly standing around for ages before the sun rises – but it’s only a temporary thing and layers can soon be shed. But then again, I feel fairly naked photographing without my woolly hat regardless of time of day or month of the year!

Looking back at the featured image, despite the tell-tale late summer signs like the warm coloured heather and bracken in the foreground and distant temperature inversion so common during warm days and cool nights, this was taken the day after a period of torrential rain had passed. For several days before, we had all been cowering in our homes trying desperately not to have to go outside and get a soaking.

You can imagine the look on my wife’s face when I said “I think I’ll go and get some sunrise photos in the morning”. Don’t worry, I was also questioning my sanity at this point as I cleaned filters and charged batteries while trying to ignore the rain thundering against the window pane beside me. but, as usual, I had been obsessing over various weather forecasts and the weather front appeared to pass over in the early hours followed by clear skies and then a drop in visibility around sunrise – so pink skies and mist were on the cards.

Thankfully, as my alarm rang and I dragged myself out of bed just after 4am, the Met Office had got it right and the sound of rain had disappeared and there was calm all around. Now despite how much I enjoy shooting a sunrise, there is still a split-second sigh when I realise I do have to actually get up and head out into the world and can’t crawl back under my lovely warm duvet.

If you have read my posts before, you will know that I try to minimise my honey-pot location photography. Each honey-pot becomes famous for good reason, normally some fantastic image from a world-famous photographer which many try to emulate, but I generally try to shoot other views around these well-known subjects. This tree has been photographed thousands of times and the only “problem” with Bratley View is this great old tree is virtually in the car park! I had headed to Bratley with the intention of parking there and wandering the couple of hundred yards to Mogshade to capture colourful skies reflected in the still water.

As I changed my shoes for welly boots, pulled my hat down firmly and zipped my jacket up, I could see this image appearing out of the corner of my eye. Even as I walked away from the car park towards Mogshade, I kept looking back over my shoulder at the unfolding landscape image. It was no good, after a couple of reflections I had to turn back and set myself up for this shot.

For those of you who have never ventured out to Bratley View, there really aren’t that many compositions you can make of this tree. If the New Forest workers could kindly carry out some “controlled burning” (where they encourage new bracken and gorse growth by deliberately razing sections to the ground) then more compositions will open up (you can see the edge of the huge gorse bush to the right which we landscape photographers could quite honestly do without).

On arrival back at the tree, the foreground was more colourful than the sky, so the horizon compositional decision was made and I always prefer a tree to lean “in” to the frame rather than “out” so the point-of-interest compositional decision was also made. Now to find the right heather and bracken to offer contrasting colours as well as upright structure all contained within the immediate foreground frame to lead your eye up through the image.

The distant mist (or the temperature inversion I mentioned earlier) helped separate the Scott’s pine from the background, so it was just a matter of waiting for the clouds to move over a little to offer wider colour coverage to the sky. This probably took no more than ten minutes to realise, although it seemed an eternity as I fretted over all the colour disappearing from the sky before I had chance to trip the shutter.

During these few minutes, and don’t forget this is before 6am, I was quite surprised how many cars swung into the car park, cameras were pointed out of half open windows and cars roared off again like I was witnessing some kind of photographic treasure hunt. “Ok, I’ve got the colourful sunrise, now on to get the deer portrait” thoughts were passing through my mind as I visualised passengers ticking off a “to do” list. The odd person actually got out of their car and stood tall before shooting, but nobody really considered compositions or looked around them for a better vantage point – or came anywhere near the tree! Having walked the 10 metres to where they all seem to be stopping and shooting from, all I could see was a big patch of gravel car park and some pink sky. I stood there with the same bemused look on my face they had been using when looking at a sole photographer stood on a bank staring at the clouds with his camera looking in a different direction with a big tree in the way…

I could say the difference between them and me is I’m trying to make money and they were just capturing the “moment”. But then, I do my photography for the enjoyment factor and try to capture the best image possible at that particular time – or the best “moment”. The fact that people like my work enough to buy prints or hire my time for photography lessons is a huge compliment and bonus.

So, with summer on its way we can all look forward to the green shoots of spring and warm colours of summer heading our way. But then again, remembering this image was taken after a long spell of rain – and the forecast for Saturday looks to brighten after a storm on Friday and overnight rain. Perhaps the winter isn’t so bad after all and I need to look at potential weekend venues!

Exposure information: 1 second @ f/11, ISO100

Filters used: 0.9 Neutral Density Graduated

Post processing: RAW file processed in Lightroom with +10 Shadows lift.

Prints of my images are available from my website.

All images are protected by Copyright laws for Andrew Stevens Photography 2014.


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