I’ve been in Scotland for a week. I haven’t spent nearly as much time sorting and editing as I have shooting, but some of what I’ve got to show for my presence you can see here.
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Photographers live for about four hours every day: the two hours on either side of sunrise and sunset. That’s the best natural light of the day. The rest of the day is for location scouting (or so I’ve been told).
Somebody asked me once, “which do you prefer, sunrise or sunset?” To which I replied, “well, I’m usually awake by sunset…”
And that has been the case so far on this expedition. Despite my best intentions, I’ve slept through every sunrise. That might have something to do with fact that the sun sets at this latitude at about 9:30 PM, and the twilight lingers until nearly 11. And I’ve been out every evening photographing something at sunset, though the actual sun has been mostly obscured by clouds.
After that, you get back to your room, download the memory card, sort the photos and edit a few, and by the time you start nodding out it’s 1:30 AM. Not exactly conducive to starting again at 3:30 (since the sunrises at about 4:30…).
Yesterday I made the short – and lovely – drive from Melrose to Rosslyn, which is my whole reason for being here in the first place. And last night I went out again at sunset and looked for something to shoot at the end of the first completely sunny day I’ve had all week. After that, same drill… fell asleep at the keyboard about 1AM…
But this morning something very different happened: I woke up and saw the moon setting in a perfectly clear sky outside my window. I looked at the time on my iPhone: 4:24. Like an idiot I tried to go back to sleep.
But whatever higher power brought me here intervened.
Despite my best efforts to go back to sleep, that was not gonna happen.
In the absence of sleep I opened Google Earth on my iPad (there was just enough signal to get a view) and entered the coordinates for Rosslyn Chapel, which is about 2-1/2 miles from the b&b where I’m staying. From the map I could see there is a road that goes past the chapel to the edge of a field on the eastern side. From paintings and photos I’ve seen from that angle, I knew there was some kind of meadow on that side of the chapel.
I threw on some clothes and was there by 5:30, just as the sun was peaking over the hills.
Medieval churches, chapels, and abbeys were typically laid out so that the altar – and the grand windows above it – face east, so that the rising sun can remind worshipers of the Resurrection (note to fundamentalist Christians: you do know that Muslims face east for their prayers, too, right?).
The combination clear sky and the rising sun meant that the best natural light I’ve seen all week was shining down on the nearly 600-year-old of east facade of the Rosslyn Chapel just as I was getting my tripod set up.
Left to my own devices, I might have slept right through it. But I swear, some power better than myself hauled me out of bed, threw clothes on me, and steered my rent-a-car through the pre-dawn light to get these photos.
Now, behold the majesty of 15th Century architecture:
I’ve had good moments and bad moments on this trip. The good ones are usually after I’ve been shooting for several hours, and I’ve taken the time to marvel at the fact that I am even here, doing this extraordinary thing. The bad ones are after I’ve sat at the computer with the results from the day and thought “oh crap, I missed that… shoulda framed that differently… oh, look at THAT… that I didn’t quite get in the frame…” etc. etc. All common photographers’ laments.
But today, I can take some solace in the knowledge that however else the rest of the day goes, I got this part right:
But only because that Higher Power would not leave me to my own devices and let me sleep through the dawn.
I wish I could remember now who was it who said, “you do the work… and the inspiration takes care of itself…”