Rippon Tor

Big Blue Skies 

The weather recently has been a bit of a mixed bag.  Some days it's been grey, overcast and frankly a bit miserable.  Not that you can't do landscape photography in bad weather, but it can limit your options.  At the opposite end of the weather scale is the clear blue sky days.  This type of weather is rather pleasant in the winter, but I don't find it inspires my landscape photography.

As I was checking the local forecast on my favourite weather service one evening all I could see was clear blue skies for the following day.  It certainly didn't look like optimal conditions for a bit of landscape photography but I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to get out with my D850.  As the weather forecast was largely the same for South West as a whole, I decided there was little point in travelling any further than my local area.  But where could I go?  Dartmoor of course!

Rippon Tor, Dartmoor

My preference when shooting the open moorland of Dartmoor is to have interesting skies.  As this was not going to be the case for this shoot, I decided I would get myself to an elevated position.  One of the closest high points for me is Rippon Tor at 473m.  While definitely not the highest point on Dartmoor, it still offers impressive views of the Haytor area.  Even though clear skies were forecast, the elevated viewpoint can help you take advantage of any distance haze in the sky.  This can light up nicely in the right conditions and provide some nice interest in the sky when shooting with a long lens.


When I woke the following morning and left the house I could see clear skies and the stars above so it was looking like the forecast was going to be fairly accurate.  As I headed up to Dartmoor things started to look very different.  By the time I'd reached the car park for Rippon Tor, things looked very cloudy indeed!

It was pretty windy at the top of Rippon Tor, but that was to be expected.  What wasn't expected was the amount of cloud.  It was that fast moving type of cloud that always looks like it's about to clear but never seems to.  Things didn't look much clearer down towards the coast where the sun was going to rise.  Not one to be put off I thought it was worth hanging about to see if things would improve.

Just 5 Minutes More

Your enthusiasm can wear off quickly when it's cold and windy on Dartmoor.  As the time for sunrise passed and it didn't look like things were going to improve, I was ready to give up and head home for a coffee.  No sooner had I zipped up my bag though, the sky started to clear and the sun peaked up over the cloud and started bathing the scene in the soft morning light.  I quickly unpacked the camera and took this shot.

Dawn on Rippon Tor, Dartmoor, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 VR at 29 mm, f/11, 1/4 second at ISO 64, Lee Filters Circular Polariser.

In retrospect, I didn't really take enough time to arrange my composition.   I think the image would have worked a little better with a slightly more elevated view of the foreground.  However, time was very much against me.  Though the sun had just risen above the cloud, sunrise itself was a good 15 minutes earlier, and so the light was already getting harsher.  I had to work fast to make the most of that lovely morning light on the side of the tor and on the undulations of the ground. 

Now that I was back in the mood for taking some landscape photographs I decided I would capture a panorama.  On a recent trip Fingle Bridge I met up with fellow landscape photographer Neil Porter and he recommended to me a relatively inexpensive levelling head.  This great bit of kit would greatly simplify the process of levelling my camera in preparation for capturing a panoramic image.

The View from Rippon Tor (Panorama), Dartmoor, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 VR at 52 mm, f/11, 1/10th second at ISO 64, Lee Filters Circular Polariser, 9 image stitch cropped at 6:17.

Shortly after capturing that image the weather conditions had improved markedly and in need of a cup of coffee, I decided that I'd had the best of the morning light.  As I walked down from the tor I kept thinking about how upset I would have been with myself if I'd been in the car driving home only to see the conditions improve from the road.  I was lucky that I hadn't packed up 10 minutes earlier!

How long do you wait before you give up waiting for the weather to change?  Has your patience paid off and you've captured an amazing image?  Let me know in the comments below.