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An Early Start on a Frosty Morning

Sunday 22 January 2017

The forecast on Saturday was for a very cold night of -6 degrees C with clear skies and some sun in the morning. "Perfect for photographing the frost around the river Stour between Flatford Mill and Dedham at sunrise" I thought.
I had seen a number of photographs on flickr and 500px showing a particular spot on the river where riverside plants are covered in frost and trees are perfectly mirrored in the still waters of the river. However, it seemed that the photographers were keeping the location of this spot very much to themselves as they only gave the vaguest indication as to river position. Not to be deterred I pored over the excellent aerial photographs that make up Google Earth comparing bends in the river and tree shadows with the photographs I wished to emulate. After my detective work I thought I had the location and now it was an early night for me so that I could alight from my bed at 5am fully rested and ready for a morning of photography.

The following morning was just as forecast and I had an uneventful drive to the National Trust car park at Flatford Mill where I was surprised to discover one other car in the darkness. I walked, in the pre-dawn light down to the river, crossed the footbridge and headed west along the riverbank with the frost crunching beneath my feet. After a few hundred yards I saw another photographer waiting for the sunrise. He asked me if I was heading to the bend in the river and I replied in the affirmative as though I really knew where I was heading. I was actually looking for something called Fen Bridge where I would once again cross to the north side of the river and walk for a couple of hundred yards further west to reach my, hopefully correct, spot.

It was becoming lighter as I found and crossed Fen Bridge. And YES this was the spot I wanted as the plantlife was covered in frost and the reflections of the trees were just as I had seen them. I now set up and waited for the sunrise. Unfortunately the cloud cover was almost non-existent, with the result that sunrise, when it came, was a disappointment. I had found the right spot but at the wrong time. Never mind, at least I now knew where to come in future.
River Stour at Dedham in Winter
 

I would mention that whilst I had been setting up a large number of other photographers had also arrived and settled on the opposite bank to me. After I gave up my original plan I wandered back over the bridge and took my best shot of the river including some of them as an additional element in the composition.

I now returned to my car at Flatford Mill, taking the opportunity to check out the photogenic properties of Willy Lott's cottage at this time of year. This was disappointing as the foreground was a sheet of ice with various items of debris thrown onto it . All in all, an eyesore.

After a welcome cup of tea from my thermos flask I decided to drive the short distance to Dovercourt, near Harwich, in order to revisit the Victorian lighthouse that I had last seen just over a year ago. By the time I arrived it was much warmer (a balmy 2 degrees C) and I was able to discard my gloves. I spent an hour here and took a number of different compositions of the lighthouse, groynes and sand ripples. There are numerous different ways of juggling the compositional elements here depending on the state of the tide.
Dovercourt Lighthouse and Beach
 


A final thought - if you are venturing out in such weather do make sure that you are properly equipped or the trip will be miserably cold and no worthwhile images will be obtained. In addition to my normal warm layers of clothing I also had with me my new neoprene lined Aigle wellington boots and a couple of inexpensive hand warmers (available from e bay). It was these items that ensured I was never too cold.