Landscape photography in winter has a few advantages. Sunrise is later, sunset is earlier, and it might just snow. (Oh please let it snow on Dartmoor this year, please, please, please!). However, while sunrise and sunset are at much more sociable hours the days are very short and so are my windows of opportunity for photography. During the summer months I can spend all day at work, casually jump into my car, drive to Lands' End and still be there in plenty of time for sunset. I can go out photographing virtually any day of the week.
With winter things are very different. I still have to work and I still have a family life, but now I can't just pop out in the evening to go out and take photographs. The shorter days that come with winter are no different from any other year but this year I'm feeling the restriction more than any other year. I think this is largely due to the level of commitment I have given my landscape photography this year. This year I have committed more time than any other year to improving my art. Now all of a sudden I can't get out as much and if the weather is very bad I sometimes don't get out all in a week. I'm starting to find it frustrating!
My Old Friend
It's not all doom and gloom tough. It's not as if I can't get out with a camera, it’s just I can't get out as much. As with most working parents I have the school run to do. My responsibility is to get the kids to school every morning, except Friday. So if I'm organised and the weather is looking favourable I can just about get out for a dawn shoot on a Friday and still be back in time for work. This means that I have to go somewhere local and this is where my trusty old friend Dawlish Warren beach comes in.
Dawlish Warren is only about 25 minutes' drive from my house and as I said in my video My Top 5 Locations to Shoot in Devon, it's also one of my favourites. I've photographed the beach and the groynes many times but each visit offers something different. With variable weather conditions, changing direction of sunrise and tidal waters, each time I go I need to think how I'm going photograph it that morning.
Given the proximity of Dawlish Warren and my desire to still practice my photography as much as possible during the winter, I expect to be visiting my old friend a lot this winter.
My New Friend
While visiting on old friend is all very good, particularly when I'm really short of time, I also need to stretch my photographic wings a little. Though time at the weekends is really family time there are windows of opportunity and they need to be put to good use. There is the temptation to visit locations I've been before but winter is also a good time to go out and do a bit of discovery.
Last weekend I got up early and went to North Tor and Bench Tor on Dartmoor. These two tors are very close together and offer all round views of Dartmoor. I actually discovered this location by accident. I was looking through some old issues of Outdoor Photography and came across Bench Tor in the Locations Guide section (which is a great source of inspiration and ideas). I knew roughly knew the area as it's very close to one of my other favourite Devon locations to photography, Venford Falls.
Arriving at the car park in the dark I put on my head torch and began the relatively short walk up to Bench Tor. As with most dawn shoots in the cold I questioned my sanity but a blast of hot black coffee soon put me in the correct frame of mind. As most landscape photographers know it actually starts to get light around an hour before official sunrise so as I wondered about Bench Tor and nearby North Tor I could start to see lots of possibilities for compositions.
With so many possibilities, including options for sunrise and sunset shoots I think I have found a new friend for winter. Though I expect the best photographs will be had during spring and autumn months I think I will spend a bit of time up there working out how to make the most of it when winter finishes. That is unless it snows in which case the big views up there will be amazing.
So do you struggle to find time during the winter to get out with the camera? Do you have a go-to location that is nearby? Do you use the winter months to get out and discover new locations? Let me know in the comments below.