Tog Blog - Steve Cole Landscape Photographer

After the Lord Mayors show

"After the Lord Mayors show"...Its a well know saying we have all heard of and its a catchphrase that you could apply to many of life's moments and endeavours, we normally use it when comparing greatness to the ordinary.

As a landscape photographer I have been fortunate to travel and photograph some of this kingdoms most outstandingly beautiful and majestic locations and not only that, I have had wonderful conditions to work with too, a very lucky chap indeed. There cannot be many better moments as a landscape photographer, than visiting a classic landscape arena such as the Lake district and be gifted conditions and light that turns them into truly magical scenes.

At the latter end of 2017 mid autumn time, I had two weeks running of superb light and conditions, the first week was a family holiday staying in Lyme Regis in Dorset and the day after returning home I was then off to Ambleside in the Lake district for a week of shooting the lakes with my great friend Tracey. Those two weeks would certainly be in my  top 5  of best ever weeks of shooting, the holiday in Lyme Regis provided me with an iconic landmark as interest and a full week of terrific light to shoot in and most of the time it felt like I had it all to myself, the week in the lake district was just as fruitful, with day after day of wonderful light and awesome scenery to choose from, the Wednesday of our weeks stay had always had a good forecast  for Derwent water since we had arrived on Saturday and it just got better right until the day before and then it turned into a special forecast...Mist...and it truly delivered on an epic scale and probably gave us both our best morning of shooting ever.

After successful visits to superb locations you always leave feeling very euphoric and inspired to return again as soon as possible, unfortunately that is not always possible and those exciting memories of stunning coastlines and lakeland scenes start to fade away and all you are left with is normality, your normal day to day local landscapes that you have shot a thousand times and are about as inspiring as a wet kipper slapped in your face.

You have gone from the Lord Mayors show to the bog standard in landscape photography terms, how do you regain your enthusiasm in shooting the fairly mundane after capturing the best the lake district has to offer for instance, it's simply not a case of going back to the usual fare and just carrying on, I literally spent a month trying to get excited about landscapes I wasn't that fussed about, I had tasted the cream and didn't really fancy anything less than the best. Thankfully early December we had a sprinkling of snow to give the closeby Peak district an even more photogenic look and by the middle of December I had a few days of beautiful misty conditions just down the road from where I live to remind me that given the right conditions and light, a stunning scene is possible in just about anywhere.

I'm actually looking forward to having a shoot or two around my local destinations again, it's easy to forget that it's the local work where you fine tune your technique and make sure that you are not left disappointed with your efforts when you are given sublime opportunities at the classic landscape locations.



Top Flickr images from the UK 2017

A Moment Like This

I might not have had any shortlistings in any of the annual photography competitions this year, but at least I have had a little good news on one of my images on Flickr. The image above titled "A moment like this" has been picked by the algorithms and staff at Flickr as one of the Top photo's from the UK 2017. Quite a few of my flickr contacts have made it in there too with stunning images, so I am very honoured to be chosen to be featured in the gallery.The image has received around 116,000 views and has been faved over 3000 times. It is definitely my favourite ever shot from this location.The image was captured at sunrise along the river Soar between the tiny villages of Zouch and Normanton-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire. This particular viewpoint is always one of my favourites on the walk by the river, with its quaint little cottage, lead -in fencing and quirky tree's in reflections, why wouldn't it be, of course the added bonus of a stunning sunrise helps too.That morning was one where I found myself willing everything to come together, the calm conditions were perfect for reflections, there was a slight mist, but the clouds were in the wrong place to really colour up at sunrise, I had one eye looking towards the soon to be rising sun and the other eye willing the high cloud to gather speed and arrive above the cottage at just the right moment, well my prayers were answered in spectacular fashion, everything did come together eventually and my Nikon shutter become very busy for 20 minutes or so.Moments where the whole scene comes together perfectly are very few and far between but that morning I was a lucky guy, I'm not sure I could shoot this scene any better than that morning, but I am not going to give up trying, its one of my favourite images from one of my favourite walks.

Lakeland Glory

The Glorious Lake District

Great Langdale

Great Langdale

The majestic setting of the Langdales in Ambleside in the glorious national park of the Lake district.

The glorious Lake district, an area of North West England that has enough natural beauty to have this country's favourite poets waxing lyrically about it, reknowned writers writing novels and guidebooks about it and landscape photographers visiting every blessed corner of this magical location like a swarm of bee's around an honeypot.

As far as England is concerned, the lake district is the crème de la crème location for landscape photographers, who will travel the length of the country in the hope of capturing the very essence of England's finest national park, whether it be a grand view, mountain, fell or of course any if not all of those glorious lakes.

With all of this eye candy to look forward to what more could you want, well a few prayers to a very generous weather god might be your next move, as anyone who has been unfortunate in their timing when visiting the lakes, it does rain a lot, there's a good reason the lake district has plenty of lakes. The hills of the lakes look beautiful and majestic but they are also one of the reasons it also rains a lot there, the prevailing westerly winds pick up moisture in the air when they raise over the mountains and then release afterwards, good old weather systems.

So as the lakeland photography trip organised by my wonderful friend Tracey approached, we both started to cross every finger, conjure up every lucky thought we could and hope we would at least get a couple of days where we may have a small window of opportunity to capture something nice. Well I can only think we must have said some very nice prayers to the right person, we were well and truly fortunate to be blessed with almost 6 days of decent weather and light out of week we were there, only having one morning lost to the rain, in any part of the UK that is a very good success rate, in the lake district it's almost like a lottery win.

On the day where the morning was lost to rain we still managed to capture some spectacular images when the sky went nuclear at sunset, we managed to find a parking spot at Lake Windermere and couldn't get out of the car quick enough when we saw what we had to play with, the sky beyond the jetties had massive sun rays emanating across the vista and from that moment it just got better, although the strange tones of the sky were playing havoc with my white balance settings, it truly looked that surreal, the sunset seemed to last forever and had photographers flocking around us eagerly in the hope of capturing a sight to remember.

Our favourite day weather wise was mid week, Wednesday had been the best forecast day since we arrived and it never changed, so we did bank on that day delivering something special and we weren't disappointed. The temperature had dropped to just above freezing in the night after that half day of constant rain the day before and with sunny conditions forecast for Wednesday, it had all the right ingredients for a landscape photographers prized condition...MIST. 

We made an early start to make sure we didn't have to fight through hordes of other photographer upon our arrival, our excitement started to build as we approached the outskirts of Keswick and spotted that Derwent water was covered in a layer of mist, but this was where we had to make a decision, do we go higher and try and capture the mist from one of the fells surrounding the lake or do we stay low and give ourselves more options, both were very tempting but we opted to stay low around Derwent water in the end and what a divine call that was.

We put enough money in the parking meter to cover us being there 3 hours if we needed to be, in the end we had to add a little more. The morning turned out to be one of those that every landscape photographer dreams of having, where the light is constantly changing, the conditions constantly moving around you, you look at your surroundings and think Wow and capture a few, then you look over to your right and think oh I need to be over there and walk with a mission in your stride and capture a few images in that part too, until you realise that the light is now sublime where you were initially, I ended up walking nearly 4 miles without ever being more than half a mile from our parking spot, I was completely knackered in the end, but boy it was great fun and I would easily put that morning in my top 3 sunrise shoots ever.

Our most interesting day came the very next day, the forecast was for decent light and weather all day and it turned out to be spot on. Given the good light we were gifted with we decided on not having a planned route, but instead just following the light and see where it took us, well it definitely gave us a journey to stick in our minds for a long time afterwards. With the light guiding us, we drove through the stunning Langdale valley and around th=o Blea Tarn to start with before being enticed by even better light in the Wrynose pass, a beautiful pass that that lends itself to some fabulous views at the top of it. Since it was still only mid morning we decided to carry on and venture further west, this took us over the other side of the Wrynose pass and what we saw ahead of us we found initially quite startling, the hill facing us seemed to have a road that looked like it literally went up vertically in a series of bends, on reaching the bottom of this road it looked as challenging as it did a mile back. 

I have to give my friend Tracey a pat on the back because despite misgivings about actually driving up this ridiculously steep and twisting road on both sides of the hillside, she hold her nerve and did it twice, never daring to move out of 1st gear, we later realised that we had gone up and over the well named road through the Hardknott pass, officially England's steepest road, later reading information about this pass, it advises it is not for the faint-hearted, we can totally see why.

The one great thing this road provides is, a passage to one of England's favourite views, the awesome vista at Wastwater, with England's highest mountain Scarfell Pike topping the other majestic peaks neighbouring it, breathtaking scenery to say the least, definitely can't wait to return there soon, maybe on an incredibly rare calm day there to capture stunning reflections.

I have written about just a few highlights on our Lakeland adventure, there were many more, I could almost write a book, it was a trip where we pinched ourselves daily, another wonderful day's weather in the lakes, surely not, but yes we really did have a week of marvelous opportunities and we made the most of every moment gifted to us, the trouble is it makes you think that we must have used up all of our luck and our next visit the weather will be the sort you normally associate with the lakes, we hope not as we are already planning for the next time.

All By Myself

Dawn Defender

When you ask most landscape photographers where they consider to be one of the best coastal photography locations, a fair majority would probably answer Dorset and I would not disagree with that choice. The stunning natural features of the Jurassic coast are second to none, with Durdle door, Lulworth cove and Kimmeridge bay to name but a few, a landscape photographer is truly spoilt in Dorset.

But Dorset can deliver on the man made front too, Portland Bill lighthouse makes for a striking subject at the tip of Portland, the other impressive and much photographed landmark along the Dorset coast is of course the sea wall at Lyme Regis, known as "The Cobb".

On all of my previous holidays in Dorset, we had stopped around Weymouth or near the Isle of Purbeck, this time we had chosen to stay in Lyme Regis, just for a change more than anything, it proved to be a very positive choice in so many ways.

We arrived in Lyme Regis late October on an half term school holiday so that weekend was for the most part very busy, buy hey, we were going to be stopping in an excellent apartment that actually overlooked the Cobb. 

I have never really had the chance to photograph either Lyme Regis or its famous sea defence wall at any great length before, so I was looking forward to spending at least a few days attempting to capture something decent. The first chance of doing so was on the very same evening of our arrival and I was treated to some terrific rays of sunlight fighting through the moody evening clouds, a great start to the week's shoot, the only thing that was a bit of a struggle was trying to capture an image without dozens of holidaymakers and residents in the shot, the Cobb as I found out is a very popular stroll for people of all ages before settling for the night and why not.

To be honest it was always my intention to focus more on the dawn and sunrise at the Cobb, the sun was going to be rising in a great position and the dawn sky would deliver in just the right part of the sky too, if my luck was in that is. The first sunrise turned out to be reasonable if not a bit of a late developer, but you take what nature throws at you, now because I am used to getting up at ridiculous hours for sunrise, being one of the first on the Cobb to be in prime position was never going to be too much of a strain, I found my preferred spot and settled in to the patient wait for something special, within a very short time I was joined by two friendly togs who set up behind me, thankfully they were of the talkative type rather than the ignorant "I'm not conversing with you" type who make standing in virtually the same spot for an hour feel very awkward. After a few shots I even asked them if they wanted to move forward of me or with me so none of us obstructed each other, but they were happy to stay put, always great to meet genuine and pleasant folks on shoots, the sunrise was never going to win prizes for the best ever but it was a good 1st morning in Lyme Regis.

Bizarrely that was the last time anyone even approached the same spot on the Cobb for the rest of the week, which was a huge bonus for me, not only did it give me freedom to move all over the Cobb, it also gave me the benefit of not feeling rushed at any point and that often leads to actually taking better images overall.

All in all I and we were very lucky all week with not a spot of rain to speak of and lovely autumnal sunshine for most of every day we were there. I was also lucky to experience some really stunning dawn and sunrise skies all to myself( well on the seawall anyway). I loved having the chance of being able to shoot very long exposures as well as having the choice of any composition I wished without having to consider others, from what I gather this is not always the case at the Cobb, where gaining the position and comp you desire sometimes has to be arranged between a number of photographers all on there at the same time.

I guess seeing that this was my first real chance of shooting the iconic sea defence wall, fate took pity on me and gave me every opportunity going and I like to think that I took advantage of this well and truly. Although I have dozens of different shots of the Cobb to be going on with, I have a feeling it won't be the last time.