Apologies if I’ve mentioned this before, but after more than a thousand posts it’s possible that some sort of blogger dementia has kicked in. In any event I occasionally need to remind myself that this all began as a vehicle to host photographs that I thought were worth sharing.
Now though, the self-imposed pressure to keep posting, and the rush to capture images in short windows of free time I have when working means that the pictures are often little more than snaps, one step removed from the holiday album. Occasionally I’ve managed to plan a shoot, produce a worthwhile image and then describe the process such as those about the pier near Hartlepool, or the wreck at Saltwick Bay, but most of the time the pictures are simply reactive, which defeats the original objective of trying to improve my photographic skills.
And so with the rare opportunity of a free weekend and a favourable weather forecast it was time to go out with the sole purpose of capturing something artistic.
I remember reading an interview many years ago with John Entwistle of The Who in which he was asked about the Young Turks of bass playing such as Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke. His response was slightly dismissive; not of their talent but of their threat, and suggested that whenever someone was brought to his attention he’d listen to a recording, pick up his bass, make sure he could emulate whatever techniques he heard, and then go back to playing in his own style.
Thus with nothing innovative in mind, I adopted a similar approach. I mentioned a couple of weeks back the number of clichés that beset online photo galleries. Well with nothing else in mind I decided to have a stab at something that was growing in popularity but to combine it with an iconic location in the hope of producing something beautiful.
And so a plan was formed. I’d drive 50 miles to Hadrian’s Wall, walk to Crag Lough, the lake beneath one of the higher stretches, and shoot the sunset reflected in the waters with the added drama of the cliffs above. Then I’d return via Sycamore Gap, beloved of Kevin Costner fans as one of the locations used in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, wait for the sky to darken and frame the tree’s silhouette with the Milky Way visible in the skies beyond. (Shooting the Milky Way being one of those things that it seems every photographer must include in their portfolio). With plenty of food and coffee to sustain me through the evening, what could go wrong?
Given that I was headed to an early border that hints at the divide between England and Scotland I should have heeded the Scots’ national poet Robbie Burns:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley
To a Mouse, Robert Burns, 1785
Traffic was my first problem. Having newly opened a 3rd lane of the main road north days before my journey, someone thought it a good idea to reduce a section back down to one lane. I arrived with barely enough time to make it to my objective before sunset and so grabbed my camera bag in a hurry and set off at speed, only later realising that in my haste I’d left my tripod in the car.
As I neared my objective, I passed a group of young cattle who turned as one to eye me suspiciously, and a little further a mixture of cows and sheep, none of which concerned me. It was as I crested the next rise that I saw the missing parent in this equation standing squarely and very solidly between me and my objective. I didn’t waste too much time in abandoning my objective for the evening!
So without much chance of achieving either of my objectives I shot Sycamore Gap from a distance (thereby avoiding the cliché shot) and made the most of the glorious sunset as I returned to my car. I even grabbed an image of the Milky Way in the distance as I resolved to return the following day for a second attempt. At least my coffee was good.