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The flooded New Forest

Posted on 28 January 2014 by

The recent heavy rainfall has been a pain in many ways, including reducing reasonable opportunities for heading out into the wilds and making it more difficult to babysit my nephew without watching ten hours of Transformers Rescue Bots. Both of which, I’ll add, become increasingly traumatic as the days wear on. However, as with most other things there’s a silver lining and for me the most obvious is how the rains have transformed the landscape of many areas of the New Forest.

As much as I love the New Forest usually, the recent flooding has brought a welcome change of aspect as open heathland has given way in places to floodwater lakes. It’s a great opportunity for capturing landscapes you could not normally see – as long as you can get through the mud. There are now parts of the path on Beaulieu Heath, which form a perimeter around the old airfield, that remind me of scenes of the Lake District (although considerably flatter). When combined with instances of thick fog, familiar locations like Bolton’s Bench at Lyndhurst take on a new, more haunting edge.

It’s an excellent illustration of the effect weather has on the visual aspects of a scene. One of my favourite shots from these trips was taken from the Beaulieu Road car park – a plain, standard Forestry Commission car park just like the many others scattered across the New Forest. It’s certainly in beautiful surroundings, encircled as it is by tall pines, but there’s nothing particularly spectacular about it – usually. But, on a morning of dense fog and with the trees now mired in floodwater the scene looks ethereal and almost totally alien from its normal self.

I was lucky to be in that place at that time, which makes me reflect on how much of landscape photography is down to luck like this. Certainly, there’s the craft to take into account – the exposure, the composition, the use of your equipment – as well as the will to go out looking for the right shot. But without the right conditions, you can only achieve so much. For me, the holy grail of landscape photography is finding those delicate moments when all the elements come together to turn the ordinary into something wonderful.

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