Stormy weather in the Yorkshire Dales
It was a dreary autumn day with an overcast sky and not much prospect for great views or magical light dancing across Ingleborough, but myself and a group of three other photographers headed up the track to the top of Twistleton Scar regardless. It was not a difficult ascent and the weather was reasonably benign, if a bit chilly, as we passed by the ice cream van parked along the track and wondered how much business he would be getting that day. It didn’t seem like ice cream weather and we speculated if selling hot dogs would be better suited at this time of year.
We soon turned onto a bridle path that steeply took us to a plateau near the top of Twistleton Scar, and once on top, I felt the excitement building. I was starting to see photographs everywhere I looked. The soft light was ideal for the limestone pavement with its clints and grikes, so that even down the sides of the deep fissures there was a little light, enough to record some detail on the film, instead of harsh shadows caused by the directional light of a sunny day. The occasional tree growing in between the limestone showed how harsh conditions could be up there. Often they were bent and severely windblown, shaped by the strong westerlies that frequently whip across the summit.
Once on top, we slowly split away from each other, every photographer consumed in their own little world, spreading out over the plateau, all of us being drawn to our own view, rock or wall. We photographed happily for a while until gradually the wind started to pick up and it became decidedly chillier as the distant view towards Ingleton became obscured by a passing storm. Unsure of which way it was heading, and very conscious of the fact that we were very exposed up on the top of the hill, we began making our way back towards each other again, knowing that we would be safer closer together as part of a group instead of spread wide and alone across the exposed hill. We were keeping an eye on the clouds to try to work out the direction that the storm was moving in and for several minutes we all just stood there, huddled together, hats drawn over our ears and collars pulled up protecting our faces. Which way was the storm moving? Should we start heading down already? Or can we risk staying up on top for a while longer? Was it actually going to snow? None of us were totally sure of the answers.
But as we watched and waited, it became apparent that the storm cloud was not heading in our direction, but was instead bearing off towards Ingeleborough. We would possibly catch the edge of it, but it wasn’t going to turn into a full-blown storm, so we picked up our tripods again and went back to our photography.
The next time I looked up, the cloud had completely obscured Ingleborough. But as I stood there looking at it, it starting to lift and swirl around. The summit of the mountain peaked through the cloud and suddenly I picked up my tripod and ran across the grass trying to find something I could use as a foreground. I didn’t have much time to think, and I was partly working on instinct, because I knew that the swirling cloud was not going be long lived. I headed straight for a line of some limestone pavement that served as a lead in to the frame and to Ingleborough in the distance, quickly metered off the rock, added an ND grad filter, glanced around the frame edge to double-check the composition, and then stopped to take a breathe. I wanted the cloud to be swirling around Ingleborough but I didn’t want too much of it to obscure the mountain nor not enough cloud, and it was changing every second. I knew I might not get a second chance, so wanted to make it count, but also couldn’t wait too long. Almost there…. almost…. click. Then before I knew it, the cloud was all gone. One moment, one chance, one picture.