New Forest reprise - in the rain...

22nd June 2012
The heady scent of pine wafts across the path on the lightest of breezes whilst the thick fog – or is it just very low cloud, seems unable to penetrate the treeline and stands off at a respectful distance waiting for someone in the weather department to make up their mind about how the day should turn out. Still, it could be worse - last nights trawl of weather prediction websites universally listed heavy rain as the popular choice for pretty much the whole of the day, so it was a real act of faith to set the alarm for 3:30am in the hope that Weather Prediction would fail again.

I'm back in a favourite stomping ground. The New Forest always offers a wealth of photo opportunities from heathlands, coastlines, wildlife and, obviously, trees, (there really are an awful lot of trees). Its all here, in abundance, and when its coupled with a crystal clear multicoloured sunrise or an atmospheric evening of underlit cloud its a truly breathtaking place to be. This morning though the whole county really isn't cooperating at all. The drive out to Ober Water is thick with fog, the sun has already risen but is completely invisible behind thick cloud, and the Forest seems to have missed its annual makeover with dead bracken, fallen trees and clogged streams needing a bit of a tidy up. Even the New Forest ponies aren't cooperating. The small gathering I found earlier didn't want to play and just turned tail and disappeared into the forest rather than stay a while and pose for the camera.

Photographically I'm struggling. Compositions are hard to find in a place where the view in every direction looks exactly the same, the light is anything but beautiful and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm flogging a dead pony, so to speak. I'll press on - after all, it can only get better. Leaving Ober Water and its recalcitrant ponies behind, I nip round the corner to Rhinefield and have another go. Back in 1859 some far sighted individual planted a handful of seeds from the Sequoia Sempervirens, known otherwise as the Coast Redwood – possibly the tallest growing member of the Californinan redwood family, at the southern end of the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. There are a few Giant Redwoods nearby to keep them company and, in a place where there are just so many trees, these ones really stand out. At 150ft, several hundred tons and about 5 meters round the waistline, these trees tower over the Douglas Fir and English oaks that surround them. I make a mental note to come back in about 2,500 years time when they will have reached their full height. Thankfully the threat from fungal infections from the rhododendrons that they shared their part of the Forest with has been removed by diligent work from the Forest authorities and its possible to get amongst them again. Their height softens the light and creates a really pleasant atmosphere and a far more productive hour is spent enjoying their company. Its thought provoking to realise that man's intervention in nature has actually had a positive effect here. Its so rarely the case.

A full English beckons and I gladly stop off in nearby Burley to refuel. Fortified, I head back into the forest again, but nothing I'm shooting is going to match the light under those 160 year old monsters so I give up, change tack, consult the trusty OS, and head off for heathland. The tourist information brochures are chock full of shots of purple heather, russet coloured bracken and gorse covered with a profusion of small yellow flowers. Today, it seems, is not the kind of day when those shots were taken. Today is a Green Day. Whatever you shoot will be green, there will be no contrast, no counterpoint to natures base colour, nothing to make a subject stand out against the wall to wall carpet of greenery. Even the arrival of weak sunshine can’t lift the green-ness enough to make the heath look good, but a half hour spent with a small pond and the remains of a tree that has been struck by lightning may offer up some useful images.

Getting outside a large ice-cream at nearby Bolderwood, I'm left to reflect that a days shooting has netted maybe ten interesting shots, a ratio of maybe one for every ten miles I've driven, but only one that will possibly be added to the portfolio of ‘keepers’. Some will reckon those to be good odds – and therefore a productive day. I’m not so sure – although the New Forest is always a great place to be and any time spent in the company of Giants has to be considered time well spent. I confer a blessing on the visionary who planted those Redwoods decades before. Thank goodness there are just so many trees.

Will someone please switch summer on - my barbie is full of water...

Graham

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