Always Look Behind You

A couple of days ago I took off to Dartmoor, once again, for an overnight camp and some photography. I revisited Great Links Tor, which I have camped out at a couple of times previously. It is often worth revisiting a site at a different time of year or in different conditions to see what comes up.

Sadly, the weather was overcast, which meant that I would not be able to get my camera out for any astro photography. It was blowing a gale, showers kept me guessing all day and through the night too.

But stormy conditions like these are the times when a photographer can grab shots that other people just don’t get. Mainly because sensible people don’t go out in this kind of weather with valuable photographic gear!

Me? I love wild weather. I love the drama in the skies; I love the challenge of meeting nature head on; I love how it reminds me of my place in the great scheme of creation and I love the challenge of the creative process in difficult conditions. I also get to see things that a lot of people will just never get to see.

So, last Monday, as I trudged with heavy pack between Brat Tor and Great Links Tor, I applied one of the Golden Rules of landscape photography: “Always check what is going on behind you.” Often we are so fixated on what lies ahead, that we forget or don’t even think of looking back at where we have been. This is as true in life generally as it is in the more mundane field of landscape photography.

So, I looked back over my shoulder and was stunned by the scene that was developing in the valleys below. The weather was coming in from the West; broken cloud was scudding rapidly across the scene; showers were breaking out a mile or two apart here and there in the distance; the sun was backlighting the scene and breaking through the gaps like some enormous searchlight.

There are some scenes that are frankly difficult to do justice to with a camera. This was one of them. Nevertheless I stopped, took off my pack and grabbed my camera that I had packed away, hoping that I could capture something of the drama unfolding before me.

Sometimes we look back over our shoulders and we realise that we have travelled a long way. The light beams that struck the ground seemed to me like spotlights of moments in time that were long-forgotten. It was a reminder that life’s events – the storms and the changes and the forks in the road –  are so easily lost along the way. They can come and go like a fleeting sunbeam on a distant field. But each of them is precious and we do well to look back and remember them.

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