Dark Dawn


You’ve all seen the ‘landscape photography Guide’ YouTube videos with the ‘GoPro/drone Intro’ and the oh so slick editing, well this is like that, only my version. In other words a total road crash. Buckle up, this could be a long one!

DISCLAIMER: I really do like those videos, they make it look so … Epic. Some of them really do inspire, in the same way a good well written travel book will. It’s a good thing.


Lots of pulling focus as the camera tracks over all the gear strewn over my desk, floor, bed and out into the hall where the batteries are charging, linger on close up of OS map showing intended location – Haytor Vale, Dartmoor.


Hello I’m a world-famous landscape photographer etc, establish credentials, try to smile without looking like an axe murderer, try for enigmatic, settle for disturbingly weird.


Producer of Landscape Series reiterates just how famous said person is, mentioning casually how fortunate it is to have mega busy rock star photographer on board, also drop the number of episodes filmed and how long it took including editing, etc, price justification and establishing of premium brand quality feel.


Rock Star (RS): We are gong to get up early to shoot at a wonderful location; on Dartmoor

Producer (P): Dartmoor……

This will go on for some time, but suffice to say that lots of  B Roll footage of map reading, walk time calculations, sun up times, sun direction etc with a few iPhone/iPad apps shown being used to work which direction the wind will blow in the morning.

Any way lots of setting alarms, alarms going off, dark room shots but with hall lights blazing away, bags being packed with last-minute stuff, wide-angle hand-held tracking shot of walking down stairs, out of house, into car.

Time to break out the GoPro/Drone tracking shot of the car driving to the destination. Rock Star and crew exit vehicle and put all the bags on the ground for no reason other than it shows how much gear they’ve got.

Obligatory drone shot of RS and P walking over the landscape toward chosen location, which is deserted. follow with badly lit handheld GoPro footage of RS shouting into the camera and not being heard. Voiceover establishes just how hostile the environment is and how difficult it was to film, screen fade to black.

RS is now lit perfectly and has quality mike turned on and is explaining what a camera is and how to get the shot shown, make sure to use a really expensive lens and an 810 or 5D.

RS explains f-stops and exposure times, condescendingly demonstrate getting a ‘safety’ shot using full auto. lesson ends, cut to heavily processed images that have an obviously different sky to that of the video.

Show hilarious bloopers montage then cut to studio set of RS diving straight into the deep end of Lightroom before explaining that all you need is Nik Filters. Sorted.


The Vale – Nikon D7000, 16-85mm, ISO100, f4 1/60sec

Well my morning wasn’t like that. I’d planned to go alone and experience the peace of dawn, taking carefully framed shots and even should the conditions allow some lovely sexy long exposures, but no. Lilly my pup decided she was coming or she’d howl the house down. At 4am this was not good, cue lots of time getting her in the car etc. So I arrived with ‘blue hour’ all but gone, and the sun on the horizon. Mistake number one; you can’t sneak out without taking the dog.

We ran to the top of the Tor, I can’t remember much of what happen next apart from my remote not working, suddenly not being able to remember how to work either of my cameras, setting off the flash when I put it auto mode as a last resort – twice! lots of swearing and then lots of swearing and shouting at the dog who was wrapping the lead around the tripod and then me and then nearly pulling us both off the side of the Tor.

And that’s when I noticed the two other photographers, calmly and peacefully watching the sun rise and capturing stunning images from the other side of the Tor. I now wanted very much to die. To go back to bed and not have bothered getting up. I feared I had nothing to show, and I knew I cocked up big time. If that was you on the side of Rippon Tor, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for disturbing your peace. I’m sorry for the way I behaved and the language I used, I hope you never have a morning like this, completely break down only then to find you have an audience.

I changed position, partly out of embarrassment, partly to safer ground so Lilly wouldn’t pull me over another drop, and got a few shots with both cameras. Lilly became impossible and I packed up and headed down, thoroughly upset and ashamed, not bothering to look at the sunrise that I didn’t feel worthy of anymore.


Dark Dawn – Olympus E-PL1, 17mm, f2.8, ISO 250, 1/60 sec

At the bottom of the hill we were accosted by a small herd of cows, Lilly went nuts, the cows went nuts, I just wanted to get home, eventually the cows parted briefly and I made a dash for the car, put Lilly in and turned to catch one last photo just to try to calm down.


Dark Dawn 2 – Olympus E-PL1, 17mm f8, ISO 200, 1/250 sec

I drove away, far away, before pulling over and sitting staring out of the window, not quite believing what had just happened and feeling a sense of overwhelming failure. I truly am the Worlds Worst Landscape Photographer. It wasn’t until a few days later that I looked properly at the results and felt ok enough to work with them in Lightroom and Photoshop. It took even longer to try to write this.

Looking back, I understand that I’d built up this opportunity in my mind, I knew I’d have little chance of repeating it for quite sometime, but in building it up, and planning I’d forgotten the most important thing.

The photos don’t matter. I should have just sat and watched the dawn.

Then it wouldn’t have been so dark.

I plan to get up early again soon, only this time I will take Lilly and some tasty eating things and we will just sit and watch the sun. I may take a snap on the iPhone, but I don’t think so, I plan to just breathe and eat.

The remote works just fine now I’ve put the battery in.

TRACKING SHOT; Drone footage of RS leaning against rock formation looking into the sun, drone gets higher and higher before fading to black, credits roll with hastily shoehorned overdub of Producer promoting video series and website name.



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