Earlier this year I hiked to the top of the Worcestershire Beacon on the Malvern Hills to photograph a spectacular winter sunrise. I wasn’t disappointed and came away with a set of images I am very proud of.
I know what you are thinking! It’s the start of summer and Matt decides to write a post about a Malvern Hills sunrise he shot in the middle of winter. Unfortunately I’ve been very busy and time has ran away with itself. There just doesn’t seem enough time in the day to do everything and when I do find a few spare minutes, writing a blog post just doesn’t seem to be my highest priority. That said, when I reviewed my top 10 images of 2019 I did commit to posting more. After a slow start I need make a better effort in the second half of the year. After all it is not like I don’t have anything to share with you. I have been out shooting several times so far this year. I have also completed several personal projects that I would love to share with you.
An area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
The Malvern Hills is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The hills are famous for a dramatic landscape and also producing pure spring water. Luckily for me the hills are located around an hours drive from my home in the West Midlands which means I don’t have to get up too early to catch a stunning Malvern Hills sunrise.
I have visited the Malvern Hills on several occasions, mostly whilst growing up. My parents owned a touring caravan which was kept in storage at Riverside caravan park in Little Clevelode. A weekend spent camping usually involved a trip to the hills for exercise followed by rest and relaxation.
How to plan a sunrise photography trip
There are a few things worth considering before you go on any landscape photography trip. I am not the most meticulous of planners however I do like to do some basic research. Once I have a location in mind I try to find inspiration from the internet. My go to sites include google images and instagram. Although I use websites for inspiration its important to note there is no fun in copying other photographers images. Finding your own creative composition is something I recommend all photographers should try. You never know you may even find something unique!
Dangers of looking for the perfect conditions
Just like many other landscape photographers I always have a close eye on the weather. Looking at the forecast can be dangerous and also damaging to your photography. If the conditions don’t look favourable is’s too easy to stay tucked up up in bed. I did start to fall into this fine weather trap towards the end of 2019 and found it quite difficult to get out of. Changing weather conditions can often add interest and drama to a photograph so make the most of the varying conditions and get out there and shoot!
5 things to do before a landscape photography trip
- Tell someone where you are going and roughly what time to expect you be home.
- Check your car has plenty fuel. It can be several miles between forecourts when out in remote areas.
- Pack a torch it’s likely to be dark especially if you want to be in position before sunrise.
- Plan your parking and ensure you have sufficient loose change for the parking meter. Remember not all parking meters accept card payments.
- Check the weather forecast and make sure you wear appropriate clothing.
The hardest part of photographing a Malvern Hills sunrise
Without a doubt the hardest part of photographing a sunrise is getting out of bed. Once out of bed, washed and dressed I find it easy to stay motivated. According to my trusted iphone app sunrise should be at 08:09 with golden hour starting at 7:45. From previous visits I know the walk from the car park to the Worcestershire Beacon is around 30-45 minutes and the drive from home to the car park around an hour. Working backwards and leaving some time for contingency I needed to get up around 05:30
Hiking up the Worcestershire Beacon
With my car parked and parking ticket purchased I set off on foot for the Worcestershire Beacon. It was a cold morning with plenty of frost on the ground. I was wrapped up warm wearing my beanie hat, scarf and gloves. It was dark and my path only illuminated by torchlight. The ground frost was causing me to slip and slide as I tried to keep my balance and continue to hike up the hill. It’s a steady climb to the peak and quite steep in places but when you reach the top it is so worthwhile as you are greeted with amazing 360 degree views of the surrounding area.
To my surprise I wasn’t the first to reach the Worcestershire Beacon. There was already a man sitting with his dog. They had made the trip from the Lickies just to watch the sunrise. I said hello and we stood chatting about how cold it was and where we were from. Unfortunately for him he had forgotten his gloves and with the cutting wind his fingers must have been freezing. We eventually went our separate ways, him to take in the sunrise and for me to photograph it. When he walked into my composition I knew I just had to capture this special moment.
I also made the same image without the human element. Whilst it is a lovely image I think I prefer the one with the man and his dog. Let me know which you prefer in the comments below.
Finding your composition
It can be challenging at times to find an empty scene. A stream of walkers, runners and cyclists constantly made appearances, stopping to capture their own images many on mobile phones. That said I did manage to find several compositions featuring the trig point & toposcope before making my way back down the hill towards the carpark.
Malvern Hills Sunrise at Worcestershire Beacon
I found many of my compositions quite quickly. Knowing in my mind what I wanted to capture helped. I knew I wanted to feature the foreground rocks leading onto the Worcestershire Beacon toposcope with the sunrise in the background. I am pleased with this composition as it ticks all the boxes. The rocks were covered in Ice so I had to be careful how I climbed on them to ensure I didn’t fall. It was just a case of waiting for the sun to break and the distant sky to explode with colour.
When I was a child my father would often hike up the Worcestershire Beacon on a Sunday morning to sit on this bench. The high ground makes it a prominent position for radio hams to make contact with people across the world. It’s also a great viewpoint to watch a sunrise as the hill behind helps to protect against the cutting winds.
The Peace House
Surrounded by a plethora of trees is the Malvern Hills peace house. I am not fully aware of what the function of the building is but the local graffiti artists have painted the word “peace” on the front wall.
The Malvern Hills are an excellent location for landscape photography and I have really enjoyed my morning photographing this winter sunrise. I hope to return to the hills soon so I can explore a different area of the of hills. For now I hope you enjoyed reading about my Malvern Hills sunrise and will leave you with this parting image featuring the Worcestershire Beacon and a silhouette of one of the morning’s many visitors.
Until next time…
Ta-ra a bit
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