Medium Format Adventures 6

I did think of branding this post as: “The Trials and Tribulations of Photography in the UK…”. For my university course, I need to take some landscape photographs. I have chosen a location, and I undertook at digital test shoot in January.

Clee Hill

The location is in the Shropshire Hills to the south of Ludlow – Titterstone Clee Hill. Although this is in a designated AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and has protection, historically it was an industrial site. 

There are the remains of Iron Age hill fortifications, as well as the quarry works from the C19th and C20th. Some of the structures are very early examples of reinforced concrete, also known as ferro-concrete. 

The hill is significant at over 1,700’ (more than 500m) high. There is an air traffic control radar station on the top, which means that there is a service road all the way up to near the summit. There are spectacular views, especially looking west towards Welshpool and over to mid-Wales.

I need to take a series of images with the Mamiya RB67 using a mix of wide-angle (50mm) and short telephoto (180mm) lenses. 

My plan was to use reading week for the photo shoots – a ten-day window with opportunity to make a couple of visits. It’s about a 60-mile drive from where I live and over an hour’s drive on rural A roads to get there.

I was geared up for a 6am start last Monday. Cue the arrival of storm Dudley and a great deal of rain. My next available day was Friday. Cue the arrival of storm Eunice. The main issue with this one was wind – gusts a valley level predicted to be 75mph. In fact, record gust of 122mph was recorded on Isle of Wight.

I decided I had to go on Saturday. Forecast looked much better. 

I drove up to the parking area near the summit. It was immediately obvious that wind was a big issue. It was unsafe to open the car doors and I had to turn the car around so that I could open the doors without risk of them being ripped off.

I was in full winter walking gear, including 4-season walking boots. There were some remnants of ice and snow which had fallen earlier in the day (replaced by rain later). 

Without any camera gear in tow, I went to explore the hillside and determine what was possible. The wind levels were significant. Walking was difficult with high risk of being blown over by the force of the extreme gusts. Accessing a detailed forecast showed that valley-level gusts were 75mph with general wind speed of 40mph. That means that at 1,700’ the wind intensity would be greater. With windchill the effective air temperature was -25C.

View from parking area

I determined that the conditions were too extreme and too dangerous to proceed with any photography and abandoned the attempt.

It seems that whilst storm Eunice was ramping down, storm Franklin had been approaching, which hit fully on Sunday. Locally, this was much more impactful than Eunice had been. 

I left it until Tuesday to have another go. I headed off to Clee Hill and got there in the afternoon, since according to the forecast, the weather would have cleared, particularly the rain showers, and the wind levels dropped.

Incoming rain squall

Unfortunately, the forecast’s timing seems to have been awry. It was still showery when I arrived, and the wind was much stronger than I expected. I attempted to set up and take some pictures. The wind gusts were very high – around 50mph. This proved to be problematical. My camera bag blew over, despite weighing around 10kg with the hit in it. Items in the bag were picked up by the wind, such as my camera care kit, and blew away never to be seen again.

I set the tripod up (medium weight Manfrotto – not one of my carbon fibre ones). I kept the tripod low for stability. I put the RB67 on it. The gusting wind caused the camera to vibrate. Metred exposures were around 1/8 second. This meant that camera shake was going to be a big issue.

I tried a few shots, then moved to a more sheltered location. I then got hit by a rain squall. At this point I decided to abandon the shoot as it just wasn’t going to work. 

According to detailed forecasts, wind gust speeds below 30mph will not feature for another week. There seems to be an unending series of weather systems with associated strong winds for the next week at least.                    

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