Return To Hay Tor

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Hay Tor, that big lump of granite that dominates the eastern moor and can be viewed from miles around.

Hay Tor, that big lump of granite that gets overrun by tourists and locals alike in good weather, simply because of its accessibility.

Hay Tor, that big lump of granite I drive right past every time I visit the moor.

Not the most inspiring of introductions to this blog post but that’s how I felt about Hay Tor until recently – I have tended to ignore it. It’s just something on my right as I drive past. A little unfair perhaps, but I’m not one for crowds and its popularity is another reason I’ve avoided it until now. Well, not quite avoided – I did visit a couple of years ago for sunrise which was an altogether uninspiring visit. The skies were clear and I ruined what, fortunately in hindsight, was a bland vista with overuse of graduated filters – rendering the rock far too dark.

So, having re-discovered my old, failed, photos from my previous visit, and with sunrise getting earlier and earlier, I thought I’d revisit. I had a bad job to put right and its also one of the most accessible places on the moor so a relative lie-in until 5:30 was possible.

As I drove there, the sky to the southeast looked clear again, but there was some promising cloud in places. By the time I’d parked up things were looking really good with cloud building up – as long as it didn’t totally obscure the sunrise I could be in luck.

After a short walk up to the tor from the car park I set up shop and waited. Eventually the sky started to light up. A touch of red soon spread across the sky and all of a sudden the lights really came on.

I rattled off a few shots – no graduated filters this time so I used the histogram on the live view in the back of my camera to expose for both the shadows and the highlights, my intention being to blend the exposures to get a natural looking result. As the sun came up I was tempted by what I call the “siren shot” – the sun seduces me to include it in the scene even though I prefer to use subjects bathed in low light rather than shooting the light source itself. However I can’t resist, hence the name “siren shot”.

It was one of those sunrises that went on for seemingly ages. This gave me good opportunity to move around and try different compositions. I took a lot of slightly different but essentially similar shots, mainly experimenting with changes to the foreground, and my favourite (when those sirens aren’t seducing me at least) is the cover image for this post. I have hidden the sun behind the rocks, the colours are a little more subtle as its taken a few minutes afterwards, there is foreground interest leading the eye into the scene, and I feel that the rock on the right of the image balances it.

After the show was over, I was hoping to get some shots looking over Haytor Down towards Hound Tor and Holwell Tor, but the clouds so essential to the colourful sunrise had blocked out the sun by then, so that was out. When I got back to the car, there was a slight break in the cloud so I pootled off in the direction of Widecombe to see what was on offer and I got a passable shot of Hollow Tor, but there was no argument over what the morning was really about.
Still, to paraphrase Lady Whiteadder, two spikes (of good luck) would have been an extravagance so I set off home with that feeling that I always get after a good shoot – that somehow I’d screwed it up, the focus might have been out, that lens flare might have ruined things, that my compos were rubbish, etc etc.

I’m not alone in that feeling am I?

Anyway, I feel that I’ve put my Hay Tor Hoodoo to bed – or at least rectified the silly mistakes of my previous visit, and maybe I’ll be back to this area of the moor as, despite its accessibility and popularity, it does have a lot to offer and I feel I have some further exploring to do.

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