I got up at five am for a seven o’clock sunrise on the moors. My wife took one look at the rain pouring down outside and said sweetly that I was on my own. We were lucky enough to have a quick trip to the United Kingdom, my wife was there on business, and I tagged along to grab some shots. We were spending the weekend in Dartmoor National Park.
I drove an hour through the pouring rain down hedgerows that couldn’t fit two large carts in them, let along a full sized automobile. During the drive, one lesson kept coming to mind: ”Bad weather makes good photographs”. At the end of my drive, the rain had tapered off.
I was heading up the Great Staple Tor. Tors are jumbled granite outcrops that dot this section of the country. In this case, I was hiking a quick half mile or so up the hill. I had climbed this route the previous afternoon looking at its photographic potential. At the head of the trail in the predawn darkness, I congratulated myself on scouting ahead. I could just make out the silhouette of my target as fog closed in around it. Sighing, I whispered…”bad weather makes good photographs”.
Five minutes and one sodden creek bed later, the fog had completely enveloped me. I knew I had to climb the hill in front of me, and turn left. One or two compass checks, and a pointed conversation with the local cattle got me to where I wanted to meet the daylight. Visibility was nil however, and I resigned myself to shooting out the morning in fog and seeing what I could make of the conditions. I was also trying hard not to think of the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’, Heathcliff howling on the moors, or the ‘American Werewolf in London’ movie.
As the grey fog started to lighten with the day, I shot. Trying to pick interesting shapes in the clouds. Dawn had broken, I knew that much. I kept shooting – losing much hope in anything interesting happening. But a funny thing happened on the way to disappointment. I could see a hint of clouds in the sky above me. The fog was thinning out. Checking my watch, I ditched my plans for getting back to the bed and breakfast and stuck around. ”Bad weather makes good photographs.”
Things moved quickly after that. Suddenly the fog on the top of the hill was gone, but the valleys were enshrouded. I could see the ocean in the distance to the south. What had been thick cloud cover was breaking up. And best of all, sun was peeking through above the horizon. I spend the next ten minutes running around like an overstimulated puppy, praying that I wouldn’t botch what I was seeing.
Bad weather makes good photographs, and this turned into a morning that makes getting up and walking through wet sheep shit in the dark worthwhile.
“Clearing Storm – Great Staple Tor”