Michael Cartwright Photography
Shooting Landscapes - On The Edge of Weather
Posted on 25th August, 2020
As a photographer who loves to shoot on the edge of dramatic weather, my eyes light up at the news of an incoming unfavourable forecast. Today’s weather prediction (Tuesday 25th August) was gusty winds, thundery showers and patches of sunshine....perfect! So with my gear all packed I headed up to the North York Moors anticipating a day of great conditions for landscape images.
Shooting in this way is a risky strategy. It’s very easy to end up taking a beating from Mother Nature and coming home damp, cold and disheartened, wondering why on earth you didn’t stay at home in the warmth! It can however, also prove to be a highly profitable method of capturing scenes packed with drama. It’s a risk/reward scenario.
With the prospect of fast moving, broken cloud over North Yorkshire, I headed towards Rosedale to shoot the Millennium Cross. My idea was to create 2 images, one using a long exposure filter and another that featured the surrounding heather that is currently in full bloom. There is also an old farm building that I’ve had an eye on and wildlife opportunities on North Dale Moor close by.
With the rain lashing down throughout the early part of the day, my plan was quickly thwarted and it was seemingly impossible to shoot anything of note as I waited patiently in the pouring rain by the side of a moorland road. Better luck next time.
The bleak moors shrouded in rain
I decided to wait a little longer for a possible break in the downpours and shoot Mallyan Spout, a short drive away. After so much rain, the waterfall would surely be bursting at the seams, cascading mightily into the beck below...this could be the shot! As I arrived in Goathland the clouds began to break and the rain slowed to a complete stop for around 20 glorious minutes. Just enough time for me to trudge down to the waterfall via the muddy steps. You could hear the thunderous sound of water crashing from the falls just meters away. My anticipation grew as the waterfall neared, only to be dashed once again. The banks of West Beck had broken due to the sheer amount of water, leaving access impossible. The huge amounts of water that I thought would give me a great opportunity ended up working against me. So close and yet so far. Wearily walking back up the hill to the car, the heavens opened once more to further compound a miserable and fruitless session so far.
On leaving Goathland I noticed a stone cross surrounded by heather on a nearby moor that looked interesting. The rain once again stopped for a few moments, giving me time to cross the moor and shoot a handful of images.
This brief break in the rain offered up the best opportunity for photographs, showing that shooting on the edge of weather can often lead to pleasing results. It wasn't long before I was running back to the car, as the biggest shower of the day lashed down, this time setting in without a glimmer of a break for the foreseeable future. Making my way off the moor, cold wet and with my earlier enthusiasm severely depleted, it was time to dry off and admit that today's shoot was done.
Keeping your filters dry on days like these is a big challenge.
Good quality boots and outdoor clothing is required, these supposedly shower proof trousers were not up to the job! Fortunately I had a change of clothes in the car.
So a largely fruitless day in terms of volume of photographs in the bag, but a fulfilling day none the less. Over the years I’ve discovered that many adventures in tough conditions result in little or no images of note, yet there is always a positive to take away from the situation. Today, I found new locations to return to in the near future, I spent time driving around some of the most beautiful roads in the UK (even if the views were shrouded in rain clouds) and became more familiar with this vast landscape. Aside from this, I received a healthy dose of countryside air and enjoyed a challenging time behind the lens. I'm happy with one or two photographs from the session and I simply can’t wait to go again!
Woodland on the outskirts of Rosedale East that offered a little salvation from the persistent rain
I rewarded myself with a warm meal at the Bay Horse, Great Broughton on the way down from the moors. Another great reason to make sure you head out to shoot!
If I can offer advice it would be to give yourself opportunities to shoot under dramatic conditions, but don’t get too disheartened if you come away with nothing or only a small selection of images. Persistence is the key and we all know that quality beats quantity every time. When shooting in this way you can’t expect each session to give up a huge array of portfolio worthy shots, but during those brief moments when things fall into place, you will be ready to capture something truly unique.