I think that pretty much sums up our autumn, here in the British Isles, and now that we are into winter it looks to be continuing for some time yet! Storm Desmond has passed followed by torrential downpours resulting in terrible flooding in the west and north. The beginning of the month, however, was a very different story with the beginning of November being very pleasant with dead calm conditions and even a few days of mist and fog – perfect for woodland photography!
Arriving from the Peak District (see 4 posts back) rather than go straight home, I decided to continue on to a local’ish beechwood. I’m glad I did too since as I arrived (just an hour before sunset) the wood was bathed in warm, evening light with rays cast between the stout trunks. I’ve found over the years that I thrive in such situations where I have limited time and need to think quick and decisively. Even if I have bundles of time I’m attaching lenses and making adjustments at speed. It’s just the way I work. On the other hand, there is nothing quite like having less dynamic conditions, so to speak, when you have time on your hands. This is a time for more considered and thoughtful compositions. Both have their merits.
The following few days were spent holding small group (3-6 persons) workshops in the same and another woodland where on the day following my evening spent in that wood we enjoyed what can only be described as rare and spectacular conditions. They were happy I had decided to bring the workshop forward by 2 hours!
Here’s a selection from that afternoon. Such were the conditions and the images I was fortunate to obtain that I have held a few back for obvious reasons.
Arriving early with the group we were treated to some wonderful conditions which seem to be getting rarer and rarer theses days. So, you have to make the most of the opportunity and for the next four hours the group did just that. The cuppa and bacon baguette was well deserved in the tea room just up the road afterwards!
I advised them to, above all else, keep it simple. The temptation when confronted with a scene such as this is to put on the wide-angle lens when the result is that you get everything in but nothing in particular. Instead, I advised them to switch to a telephoto zoom, to pick out details and, unless it contributed significantly to the image, to keep the sky out!
The Sigma 15mm fisheye proved very useful for canopy images and producing unusual angles. It’s certainly not a lens I use too often but there are occasions when it really comes into its own.
I could shoot all day long in conditions like these. There are few environments more evocative in mist and fog than an English beechwood.
A few days later I headed off to Prague to lead another workshop, I was then back for all of two days, then off I went, again, to Ireland to hold another. I arrived 3 days earlier than the group to reacquaint myself with those locations I intended to take them to as well as seek out one or two new ones.
Storm Abigail was in full force when I arrived in Killarney National Park and I couldn’t believe just how high the lakes were compared to last year (hardly surprising given the amount of rain that had fallen) and as I stood on the edge of Muckross Lake watching the partially submerged oaks getting battered by the gale force winds and waves, just one word sprung to mind – awesome!
Given the strength of the gusts I was amazed that more trees weren’t blown over since even the mighty oaks were swaying like flags in the breeze.
Eagle’s nest Mountain at dawn
Eagle’s Nest Mountain has an instantly recognisable profile and regardless of the conditions lends itself wonderfully to making interesting compositions.
After three nights we headed to the Dingle Peninsula where we experienced yet more strong winds and a drop or two of the wet stuff! A sense of humour and a willingness to ‘have-a-go’, whatever the conditions, are a perquisite on such a tour.
Clogher Bay. I used ICM (intentional camera movement) here to produce something a little different to that taken in a more conventional manner. Often, images taken in such a way will convey a greater sense of what the photographer is experiencing.
Arriving pre-dawn the sky was relatively clear and we had high hopes. stars could be seen and I ‘convinced’ the group that it was worth venturing outside and making the most of the conditions since I knew full well that at any time it could change in an instant. And indeed it did! For the next couple of hours we, once again, sat through strong winds and squally showers. As long as you have waterproofs on it’s always worth it since you don’t want to be sitting in the car should the sun make an appearance, no matter how brief it may be.
With the weather closing in we began the short journey back to the B&B to dry off and prepare ourselves for the rest of the day. Within just a couple of minutes we could see the most dramatic light unfolding over the Atlantic. No time for tripods here! Thankfully the roads were very quiet (though I did have to move the car once) so I just parked up and we all jumped out and made the most of this incredible spectacle.
For this particular workshop the group size was kept very small to just three which had a number of advantages, not least that each had plenty of room in which to photograph. Thank you gentlemen for pushing through the, often, trying conditions and always with a smile. The sausage rolls, Marmite and teapot moments will stay with me for a very long time!