Oxburgh Hall at sunrise
I peer through the viewfinder one more time and make a slight adjustment to the composition. My camera is set up on a tripod and I'm double checking everything while I wait for the sun to bathe the red brick walls of Oxburgh Hall with the first rays of light. This is what it's all about, being out on a perfect autumn morning. There's a chill in the air, mist rising from the river and a barn owl hunting over the fields as the first pastel shades of dawn spread across the sky.
It's been a while since I've written about what I've been up to and as we're moving into winter, it's probably a good time to look back on autumn.
Much like last year I've spent the last few weeks capturing autumnal scenes at three of the National Trust properties here in the East of England, this year Oxburgh Hall, Blickling Estate and Hatfield Forest. Oxburgh Hall is a stunning 15th century moated manor house in Norfolk, surrounded by 70 acres of formal gardens and woodland. There are plenty of tantalising views of the hall glimpsed from between the trees or reflected in the moat. Also in Norfolk but on a rather different scale, Blickling Estate covers over 4700 acres of farmland, parkland, woodland and of course the impressive red brick mansion house and gardens. The iconic view of Blickling Hall reflected in a calm lake surrounded by trees in all shades of earthy autumn tones is hard to resist but there are so many great views across the estate you could easily lose days exploring. Further south in Essex, Hatfield Forest is a medieval royal hunting forest complete with deer and grazing cattle, teaming with wildlife and wonderful ancient trees… a magical place. While two of these places are new to me so a bit more preparation would be needed, all three had me excited about the onset of autumn.
Taking a photo of autumn colour at Blickling Estate
I always look forward to this time of year, the crisp clear mornings, mist shrouded sunrises and of course all the fantastic colours as leaves gradually turn shades of gold, russet or even red before drifting down to earth. Unfortunately autumn also brings wind and rain and this year an abundance of both swiftly stripped leaves from trees bringing autumn to a rather abrupt end from a photography point of view, fortunately not before I'd got the shots I needed. But here lies the problem... Everybody knows what to expect at autumn, the difficulty for photographers is knowing when it's going to happen so we can be there to capture it. The weather determines when the leaves change colour and how good the colours are. The weather determines when the leaves fall and the weather even has a bearing on how good the photos will be (or at least how difficult it will be to get good photos). With a lot of ground to cover, a limited window of opportunity to do it in and so much resting on something as unpredictable as the British weather it can start to get a bit stressful.
Obviously there's no point worrying about things that are out of our control, the weather forecast is too often wrong so you just have to get out there and do your best with whatever weather you find yourself in. If it's wet or overcast weather then go into the woods where the sky doesn't matter, use the flat lighting to your advantage and concentrate on getting some detail shots. If the conditions are good then make the most of it as it may be the only chance you get... when I found myself at Blickling Estate with good weather I apparently walked over 11 miles (according to my pedometer app and my aching legs the next morning) to get all the shots on my list while the light was good.
In fact when conditions are perfect the pressure to make the most of it can be even greater than when the weather is bad but I think that's a subject for another blog, I need to start preparing for winter shoots and worrying about whether we'll get any snow this year... here we go again.
Walking the dog on a misty morning at Hatfield Forest