Autumn can be a bittersweet time for landscape photography. The promise of trees in full Autumn colour, beautiful light, atmospheric mist and streams in full flow have me (and others) dashing around trying to make the most of these conditions in the short time that they last. But early Autumn storms, with strong winds and rain, can quickly strip trees of their leaves before the colours peak. Then there is the question of being in the right location when the colours peak. This is never easy to get right as colours peak at different time across the United Kingdom and there can be variations within relatively small areas caused by, amongst other things, local topographically and microclimates.
This Autumn I allocated the last two weeks of October and the first week of November to photograph locations in Cannock Chase near to my home in Staffordshire, The Peak District National Park and several waterfalls in Wales. As the Autumn colours usually peak in these three areas during this three week period, I hoped to get lucky at least once. This year the weather in these locations during this three week period was predominantly overcast with mist. Whilst not perfect for photographing large open vistas, the conditions were perfect for photographing within wooded areas.
Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
Cannock Chase is the smallest designated area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) in the United Kingdom. It’s 26 square miles contain the largest area of lowland heathland in the Midlands, which is a nationally important habitat, and areas of native woodland and conifer plantations .
Brockton Coppice in Cannock Chase is an area of mixed native deciduous woodland with a relatively large number of ancient oaks. On my first visit the tree canopy was still very green with only the bracken showing any sign of the colours that were to come.
A subsequent visit on a misty day and the colours had developed in the coppice.
As well as ancient Oaks, Brockton Coppice has large areas of predominantly Silver Birch woodland. The misty conditions made for very atmospheric images of these woods.
Not far from Brockton Coppice around the Punch Bowl is another area of Silver Birch Woodland.
On the edge of Cannock Chase, on the Shrugborough Estate, is an area of native oak woodland.
Near to this area of native oak woodland on the Shrugborough Estate is an area of woodland which has some spectacular Common Beech Trees.
Pystyll Rhaeadr in Powys is the tallest waterfall in Wales. Having visited this waterfall before in the summer, I hoped to photograph it surrounded by woodland in full Autumn colour. However, on this occasion, given the distance I had to be away from the waterfall to make this image, the moisture in the air worked against me. I hope to return next Autumn on a crystal clear morning.
After photographing Pystyll Rhaeadr, the next waterfall I visited was Furnace Falls in Dyfi Furnace. These falls are a bit of hidden gem lying just off the main road through Dyfi Furnace. As this was my first visit I mistakenly thought that the best way to approach the falls was to wade up the stream to the falls. With wet feet and trousers, I realised my mistake when I spotted a steep path coming down to the waters edge near to where I stood in the stream.
In the Brecon Beacons National Park is an area known as Waterfall Country. From Cwm Porth, the four fours trail takes in four of these waterfalls in one walk. I managed to photograph three of these falls in one long day, not a bad achievement given it was the school’s half term and very busy with families on holiday.
The first of the three waterfalls was Sgwd yr Eira. I managed to get set up and make a few images from different positions before it became too busy to photograph.
The second of the three waterfalla was Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn. Just as I set up a school group of gorge walkers arrived and I watched as they threw themselves into the pools and down the waterfalls with varying levels of enthusiasm.
The third and final waterfall was Sgwd y Pannwr. After packing up it was an hour back to where I had parked my car. I was the last person to leave that evening, tired after a long day’s photography.
Peak District National Park
The Peak District National Park has some excellent examples of native woodland including areas of Common Beech trees.
On a very misty day I drove through the Peak District to the outskirts of Sheffield to the Wyming Brook. The Wyming Brook is similar to but far less popular with photographers than Padley Gorge.
Middle Black Clough is in a secluded location in the Peak District. On my first visit this Autumn the stream was in full spate and far too dangerous to cross. Returning a week later the stream was much lower and with great care I crossed the stream and climbed the path to the waterfall.
After photographing the waterfall, I made this panoramic image of the lower stream by stitching three images together.
Padley Gorge with the Burbage Brook flowing through a narrow gorge lined with Oak, Common Beech and Larch trees is incredible popular with photographers. There is a wide range of subjects to photograph ranging from views of the stream flowing through the tree lined gorge, close ups and abstracts of water flowing over and around features to the trees themselves.
The images in this blog were all made using a Nikon D810 and Nikkor 14-24mm and Nikkor 24, 45 and 85mm PC-E lenses. Lee Filters SW150 and 100mm filter systems together with a B+W Circular polariser. Gitzo tripod, Arca Swiss ball head and Nikon cable release.