Adam Burton Photography

Summer Days

31 Jul
Summer Days Summer Days Summer Days

Despite what many people may think the summer is typically a quiet time for landscape photography.  Long hot sunny days often with cloudless skies may seem appealing to holiday makers, but photographers are looking for something very different.  We like clouds, mood and drama with just the occasional burst of sunlight to give us atmospheric pictures.  And despite what any keen photographer might say, nobody likes dragging themselves out of bed at 2am in order to be on location somewhere ready to shoot sunrise.  Yes, summer is a landscape photographers least favourite season.  Having said that, its not all bad.  Summer is the best season for shooting rolling countryside scenes and so, living in rural Devon it is to the local farmland that I head at this time of year.

When I shoot locally I often head to a hill near Crediton which offers stunning far reaching views to Exmoor in the north and Dartmoor in the south.  At this time of year the rolling farmland below the hill resembles an enormous jigsaw puzzle of patchwork fields of brown, gold and green.  Early in July I found myself standing on the hill top at sunrise in the hope of some morning mist to add atmosphere to the view.  The mist was there, not as much as expected, but enough to soften the colour palette into a pastel idyll.  In front of me a ripening wheat field offered some very welcome foreground; I composed my picture to include the tramlines leading through the crops into the scene all beneath a soft colourful sky.  Standing in views like this is what landscape photography is all about for me.  Other than me, there wasn’t a single person to be seen, making the whole experience more magical and so much more rewarding than lying in bed for another couple of hours.

In summer many fields around mid Devon are harvested in a very traditional way, the wheat stacked in hundreds of triangular piles called stooks.  The stooks, stretched out in long lines, remain in the fields for a couple of weeks before being removed and sold for thatching purposes.  The fields around my parents village are especially popular for stooks; so much so that each year I set myself the challenge of shooting from a new field.  Last week I found myself in one of these fields, waiting for a sunset that unfortunately wasn’t to materialise.  The day had been very overcast, but with sunset approaching the clouds were disappearing at an alarming rate.  I knew if I waited for sunset I would end up shooting a boring clear sky backdrop, so I headed to my vantage point early and set about looking for my composition while some interesting clouds remained in the sky.  Shooting stooks is not as easy as it might first appear, its worth spending a good period of time searching the field for a good formation otherwise your composition will appear unbalanced.  As I constantly moved from one stook to the next, I kept glancing at a nearby house, wondering what any onlooker must be thinking.  Although I knew exactly what I was looking for to make my composition work, from a distance the stooks all looked exactly the same which must have made me look very strange indeed.

A couple of days later I was again standing in a field, but this time the subject matter was on the move!  I had been asked by a friend to capture a few photographs of their herd of North Devon Red Ruby cattle.  After a quick recce of the location I simply couldn’t resist the challenge; the views from the farm are magnificent and with the Red Ruby’s included I knew this would make an iconic Devon picture.  Photographing the cows reminded me why I love landscape photography, the subject matter tends to stay still most of the time.  But these cows were something else, every time I found a clean composition the herd would wander out of my picture and I would have to recompose.  As these cows were continuously on the move, therefore so was I, gradually moving further and further into the field in an effort to keep them in my composition with the rolling hills behind.  After a few minutes my eyes came into sharp focus on one particularly big cow with a ring through its nose.  Ah, that would be the bull then!  He was staring at me while snorting and swishing his tail in what seemed for all the world like a very aggressive manner.  Convincing myself he was about to charge, I glanced over my shoulder and made a mental note of how high I would have to jump to clear the barbed wire fence.  My friend whose cows they were was far more confident, calling the Bull’s name (Ferdy!) until his tail stopped swishing and he continued to graze.  Phew!  Hopefully Ferdy will remember I’m a family friend on my next visit, but just in case I don’t intend to stray too far from the fence!  

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