Breathing in the landscape

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Breathing in the landscape
09/08/2012 - 15:56


There are certain very rare moments spending time in the landscape, with a camera to hand that for the photographer somehow stand ‘head and shoulders’ above anything one has had the good fortune to record before. The making of the image ‘ Osmosis’ above Dartmeet, in Dartmoor National Park in Devon was one of those.


I had travelled through this area many times and stopped on occasions to gaze, but not to make a photograph - on reflection for the reason that this wonderful amphitheatre of connecting valleys was so vast that it needed something very dramatic in terms of weather and light to create some sense of equilibrium & harmony in construction to create a meaningful photograph for my vision of what may come to be.


On a summer evening, following a gut feeling that something interesting may happen in terms of stormlight breaking through the clouds, I drove home from work in Plymouth via Princetown and across the moors towards Sharp Tor (the one near Poundsgate and Dartmeet – there are four peaks that share this name on Dartmoor!).


I parked and walked someway along the edge of Yartor Down, and naturally settled in front of the wild flowers, the composition was on reflection intuitive.


All the way from Plymouth I had followed the flow of the ominous looking storm clouds and had seen a couple of glimpses of rays of sunlight penetrating the towering clouds and dancing upon the distant slopes which filled me with a sense of optimism.


I sat looking at this expansive bucolic vista that was encompassed in part by the slopes of Down Ridge and Holne Moor - the small fields within the realm of the wider expanse of open moorland, the distant hills, and the sounds of distant flowing water in rivers. A sense that despite mankind’s accomplishments, in using some of this borrowed land within field enclosures, were dwarfed in juxtaposition to the magnitude of the raw moorland wilderness. Within the immediate valleys is the confluence of the East Dart River and West Dart River to form the River Dart at the tiny settlement of Dartmeet.

The reward after wondering if the clouds would be compliant with my wishes for dramatic light was beyond my vision of what might happen. Suddenly for a few fleeting moments evanescent crepuscular light bathed the hill at Huccaby and reached some of the land behind the Snider Park Plantation, as well as adding a welcoming warmth to the slopes of Yartor Down upon which I sat.



It is hard to explain in writing the visceral response to deciding ‘the defining moment’ for this 30 second light show, as to why to press the remote release cable at that specific time – it just felt right.

It was a beguiling half a minute and yet part of me had to stay lucid on the task of recording it. The emotional response on seeing the recorded image was one of elation, amazement and a sense of gratitude for having been lucky enough to both witness it and make a photograph to remember it by… again these words fail to describe the feeling it evoked in me.

The quote below, from Ray Bradbury’s 'Fahrenheit 451' book, sums up my feelings rather more eloquently than I can about my reverence for this wonderful moorland than I could attempt to do.

“He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land. He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough.”





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