When we go away to visit family or friends, I rarely get out for dawn photography as the occasions tend to involve lots of food and drink and late nights. However, before a recent family trip to Cambridge, I spent a little time doodling around on Bing maps “just in case”. My thinking was that, if I could find somewhere really close to where we were staying, I could nip up the road first thing, hangover permitting, and see what was there. The weather forecast for our weekend visit was fine with misty mornings, so an early morning foray looked possible.
And so it was that I found myself wandering along the banks of the Great Ouse, North of Cottenham, at just gone 7 o’clock one morning with no idea what I’d find and thinking that I’d missed the best bits of the dawn. My first dilemma was to choose left or right after I parked the car. I chose left and wandered off away from the rising sun. I was drawn by the mauve/pink tones in the sky that often occur just before sunrise or after sunset. Just around the corner I found a tree on the far bank that composed nicely against some grasses on the near bank which were reflected in the mirror-smooth water. I set the tripod up and rattled off a few shots. The composition didn’t really work in 3×2 but I thought that a square crop might improve things:
As I was setting up to take this photo my tripod fell over. Recovering from the shock that my expensive and trusty camera gear had narrowly missed a watery end I found that two of the tripod leg clamps had broken. How this had happened I don’t know but it made me a little grumpy — although the whole assembly would still just about about stay up if I was gentle with it. Packing up I headed across the road, back past the car, and into the sunrise. Over the fields I could see a farm surrounded by outbuildings and trees with the sun rising just over it. It was too bright to take a shot and I cursed my decision that I had not been there 10 minutes earlier to get the first of the sun’s rays through the mist. So, having found a spot with potential, I thought of the following day, packed up, and wandered back to the car, spooking a fox trotting happily along the river bank on the way.
Next day I came back for more of the same. The weather was similar but the fog slightly thicker. I headed straight for the spot I’d found the previous day and waited for my image. It never really came — because of the thicker fog — and the exact same atmosphere just didn’t happen. I got a fair few shots which I might still play with, but nothing to write home about. The best thing about that morning was just being there. It was pretty near silent apart from the distant hum of the A10, and the rather spooky and noisily abrupt evacuation of the trees by roosting birds as I walked past. I even got to see my friend the fox again, trotting along in the same place — probably assuming that the idiot with the tripod wouldn’t be there two days running.
Despite the small photographic return on my investment of getting up early, this particular morning made me realise that I should spend more time enjoying the atmosphere of the locations I get to, rather than scurrying about like the proverbial blue-arsed fly trying to get a winning image. After all, the images I’m after are supposed to convey serenity and atmosphere — what would be the point if I don’t get to feel that first hand?