We all love summer......those long warm sunny days, BBQ's, beer gardens, Ice Cream's......and much much more...We all love summer right? WRONG. You may be surprised to know but summer must rank as the most unpopular of seasons for the old landscape photographer. You would be forgiven in thinking that it would in fact be the opposite but instead of getting out in the warm sunshine with their cameras, they in fact hang up their cameras and tripods all together and go into hibernation until the Autumn. Often photographers complain about suffering from lack of motivation at this time of the year. So why is this? Well if you keep reading I will let you know the main reasons for the loathing of summer and how I keep my motivation in tact and why I certainly wouldn't dream of hanging my camera up at this time of year.
I believe there are three main reasons for summer bashing. There are probably more but for me, these are the main culprits as I understand it. The first reason is the longer day light hours, you really do need to burn the candles at both ends this time of year. Sunrise can be as early as 4.30am and can often mean a 2am get up to be able to get to our location with plenty of time to get on site and set up ready for the best conditions. Getting up at this time really is a struggle and will generally render you useless for the rest of the day and very much in a zombified state. In contrast, sunset is a lot later and again you can find yourself getting home pretty late in the evening after a shoot. I would say that sunset is generally considered more achievable for photographers but still not ideal.......as we need our beauty sleep us photographers!!!
The second reason is the light. We all know the importance and the impact that good light can have on an image, but in the summer months there is no denying the strength of the sun. This can make conditions pretty challenging to say the least. The harsh lighting can result in high contrast in images, long shadows, lens flare and blown out highlights. There is also a lot more haze in the atmosphere this time of the year and can effect detail and colour contrast, leaving images looking rather flat. You also have less shooting time, as the light is harsher for longer or becomes harsh very quickly. Good quality light is essential for Landscape Photography, so I can really see why this would be a turn off for many photographers.
The last reason is green!! The landscape is awash with a deep green colour which looks very pleasant to the eye, it doesn't translate very well on camera. If its really hot then the grass can become a scorched yellow colour, which is also not particularly pleasing to look at. Bracken springs up everywhere and it isn't very photogenic, it also covers the landscape and you loose all interesting foreground as its buried under this thick blanket. Bracken can get up to waist height and can be difficult walk through, making access to locations alittle more difficult. You are also prone to horrible little beasts like midges and ticks in the summer months. These little chaps can make for a really unpleasant experience, especially ticks and you should always check yourself after being out and about.
While I do understand the above arguments and I can see why these elements would be a major turn off for some, I would never dream of giving up for months at a time....I can't imaging anything worse. So I'm going to offer my thoughts and how I believe we can counter these arguments and have great success with our images this time of year. Ok, I hold my hands up....sunrise is so early and can be really tough in the summer, so much so I've kind of knocked it on the head at the moment. So I've been doing more evening shoots. Sunsets are great and I really enjoy them. The reason being is I have a lot more time to get out and explore, it's not as rushed as sunrise shoots, I also can build in a walk and get to locations, which in the winter, would be a struggle without alot of walking in the dark. Its a great opportunity to explore and find more locations and get tester shoots and find compositions for the future. So the answer to this one is pretty simple.....if you cant do sunrise do sunset.
I believe its a fair assumption to say that its not all wall to wall sunshine and clear blue skies in the summer......infact far from it in the North of England. So I tend to be pretty selective when choosing the conditions I shoot in, if possible. This is no different to how I normally operate at anytime of the year, so why change in the summer?? After long periods of heat, the weather tends to break in spectacular fashion, we get a lot of sunshine and showers and again this can lead to brilliant shooting conditions. If its hazy, I tend to reach for the long lens as you can create some fantastic layered images with a longer lens and hazy conditions. It's just about learning to handle your conditions and choosing the correct weather and light to shoot in. If it's a clear blue sky day then dont go for a wider shot where you include sky, again use the longer lens to pick up finer details in the landscape when the light hits, you can create some wonderful intimate images doing this.
Ok so how do we solve this green issue? Well we don't. Summer is just green, that's how it is. I'm not opposed to the green colours personally, but I don't like bracken as it does eliminate any foreground and it is diffucult to negotiate. I tend to avoid the lower fells and woodland in summer, as these are most effected by the bracken, so I try to get a little altitude and bypass the bracken and get above it. Getting down at the lake sides can also be a good way to elimate bracken and alot of the green. If the green is still bothering you then go and shoot in black and white. I quite like capturing the lake district in all seasons and weather conditions, also its worth noting that people actually like summer and like to see summery images and the vibrant green landscape associated with it, so I'm willing to sacrifice my own artistic preferences to bring people images they want and like to see.
So how do I deal with summer? Well for me, its all been about exploration and getting out into the fells. I can't deny I've struggled with sunrises and it's been a good few months since I did one. However I'm not too concerned and I've very much enjoyed getting off the beaten track and finding new locations and different view points. From a photography perspective I've never walked and explored so much, I've never visited so many different locations and areas I've never considered before. As a result of being out walking regularly I'm feeling the benefit and my fitness levels are increasing. It's also a great way to unwind after a day at work. I feel like I've been highly productive this summer, more so than ever before. Summer is the perfect time to get out and about and even if you don't want to take an image, you can scout for when the weather is more to your liking. At the end of the day Summer is hear to stay, there is no getting around this, yes there are better seasons, but this doesn't mean summer is bad, it's just another season to master and manage the conditions.....like we do with all seasons. So don't give up, get out and enjoy summer.....the Photographers forth favourite season.