Patience and Humility

‘Deep Purple’, Stanage Edge, Peak District National Park
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 35mm, 2 seconds @ f/8 ISO 400
LEE ProGlass 2-stop ND + 2-stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“When the weather is unchanging, we possess impressive predictive skills.”

Patience and Humility

It was a blustery overcast evening on Stanage Edge with no promise of any tempting tints at dusk, some other photographers had left before sunset, equally confident of an lackluster finale. As time passed, and darkness developed, I became convinced I would be leaving without an image. Eventually, I packed away my gear and started to walk back to the car. Within minutes, the sky ahead became tinged with pink, then I looked back over my shoulder and saw these colours were rapidly developing. I cursed myself for giving up so easily, then quickly ran back up to this position. Shooting such a scene would normally be a calm, controlled and pre-meditated experience, both myself and the shot would be ‘composed’ for a long time before releasing the shutter; but this time, because of the quickly changing conditions and the transient nature of the light, I had to work quickly.

I decided the Trig Point obelisk would create a useful focal point, then chose a composition which emphasised the textural and colour relationships between the shapes of the sprigs of heather and the clouds on the horizon. What I had predicted to be a less than memorable dusk had unexpectedly transformed into a mesmerising display of colour.

Weathered landscape photographers can often predict an impending crepuscular spectacle. We spend hours, waiting for the light, often with eventual disappointment, but occasionally with the euphoric rapture that comes when all the elements magically come together like this. All these experiences help us build confident pattern recognition skills. In relatively stable weather conditions, we are expert at predicting the impending quality of light and colour in the landscape as time passes.

We could be forgiven therefore, for believing that we are instinctively good at deciding whether it’s worth hanging around at the end of the day, or if dusk is already ‘done and dusted’, but there is a problem with such resolute confidence. It’s true that when the weather is unchanging, we possess impressive predictive skills, but the problem is, our British weather is far from ‘stable’. My experience at Stanage Edge highlights an exquisite unpredictability in this ‘game’ of landscape photography. I witnessed the most unexpected and spectacular display of vivid colour suddenly develop in an otherwise uninteresting sky. There is value in patience and humility.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.