By The Time It Gets Dark

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The first couple of months of the year used to be a very fertile photographic time for me. I had opportunities to get out in the British mountains with a group of very enthusiastic friends, and spend time in the Alps at relatively little net cost to my own bank balance. Those days have sadly passed, and January and February were risking becoming rather fallow photographic months. For the last few years it’s always been a case that when I have the time, I don’t have the money, and when the money’s there, the time isn’t.

Recently, the weeks have been peppered with small photographic commissions, and threaded through with a longer-term piece for a national charity, so I’ve had to grab my personal photographic opportunities on the hoof, as it were. I’ve not had a great deal of control over the time of day some of those occasions have arisen, either.

Partly as a result, I’d missed a few good sunsets, according to friends on Twitter, and was feeling jealous. Then snow was forecast, but slow to arrive, and a few hours opened up unexpectedly at the end of a Thursday afternoon. Given the apparent certainty of the snow, and my aversion to driving in the stuff, I headed for my local stretch of the River Medway again. It’s just five minutes from home, and a regular source of joy.

I’d begun to doubt the forecast. It was gone 4pm and I could see a decent sunset was brewing. My route was heading pretty much due west. I’d not walked my local path at dusk for a couple of years, and never at dusk in the winter. It was cold, but not at all windy. The morning’s frost hadn’t long melted in the sheltered spots, and it was getting chilly again very quickly.

I reached a spot I always shoot several frames from, and which has featured in this blog before. It’s raised a bit above the river path by virtue of being the top of a World War 2 defensive concrete “pill-box”, and gives a very pleasing view along a lovely stretch of the Medway. Enough location info. Find it yourself, if you’re keen! I thought it would be my best chance of a sunset shot and waited patiently for developments in the upstream skies.

The cold descended like an invisible shroud as I waited. Though it was still, I was surprised at the speed what proved to be snow clouds were moving in from the east. Any good photos were going to be squeezed into a time gap between sunset and/or the arrival of the snow. I was right, but I was also completely unprepared for what came next. As you’d expect, I was pretty focused on the western skies and the developing sunset – which, to be honest, was bright, but not that marvellous after all. I’d failed to notice the eastern sky gradually colouring up as the setting sun in the west reflected off the gathering snow-clouds in the east.

And, as my photo for this blog shows, colour up it certainly did. I’ve shot sunrises from this spot several times, but had never seen a golden hue like this in one of them. I kept saying to myself “They’ll just never believe this is evening, not morning!”. I was also quite alone. This is by no means a heavily visited spot, and sadly there was no one to share the moment with. I recall tweeting from the spot that I hoped others caught sight of this too.

In my last blog, I’d lauded the camera on my iPhone6. I used it for the shot above. In fact, so confident was I that it was the right tool for a riverside sunset shoot in early February that it was the only camera I took with me. The other toys stayed at home.

The snow arrived by the bucketful only a few minutes later and all views disappeared. There was no skill involved in this shot, in my view, unless “right place, right time” is a skill. I think I was just lucky.

(I’ll forgive you not knowing the musical inspiration for this latest blog. It’s the title of a 1978 Albion Band track featuring the lovely Julie Covington. Look it out!)

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About tomsprints

I am a Masters athlete and freelance photographer living in Kent, in Great Britain. I'm a sprinter. As well as competing, my camera and I work regularly for the British Masters Athletics Federation and the European and World Masters Athletics organisations. For pleasure, I'm (principally) a landscape photographer. I have been blessed with the chance of spending quite a lot of time in the European Alps in the last 30 years. My web site is a vehicle for a my photographic work, and is at http://www.tomphillipsphotos.co.uk I run two blogs. One is about what it's like to be an older athlete ( http://tomsprints.wordpress.com ) and the other is basically about my photography ( https://ablogscape.wordpress.com ), although they occasionally overlap. I had a run-in with severe depression a few years ago, but seem to be coming out the other side now. However, I'm also having to come to terms with being diagnosed with the early stages of a degenerative sight condition. Not good for a photographer!
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