It’s all the fault of that man Blair Jones, The Wildlife Occulus . He is a fellow bird photographer who lives near one of my favourite places – Goldcliffe Lagoons near Newport. He’s been blogging about taking sunrise and sunset pictures on either side of the valley where he lives. Since I regularly wake ridiculously early I should be able to do the same. This is not a competition you understand: I cling to the conviction that I am not the competitive type. I never use an alarm. If I need to wake even earlier than my normal five o’clock I just remind my subconscious before I sleep – never fails. Any excuse to deprive me of sleep in the morning is eagerly latched onto by the bit of my brain which lurks in the shadows of the conscious mind.
I load up camera, long lens, wide angle lens and tripod. There’s a frost again so I dress with several layers, a woolly hat and thin merino gloves. On my doorstep it seems excessive, but not for long. At 4:15 it’s light enough to see, and my footsteps echo between the closed and curtained houses. Only the birds can outdo my boots – a glorious cacophony of avian testosterone. Apart from the ubiquitous blackbirds, one of the noisiest in our garden has been a Garden Warbler. I was delighted to find, first where the amazingly loud and melodious sounds were coming from, and then to catch him in mid-tweet:
That was yesterday; now I’m wishing I had put warmer clothes on, but there’s no going back; light is increasing rapidly and I need to move fast, both to warm up and to get my sunrise pictures. I make a brief detour up a side road where I know I can get a view of the village:
Something has gone wrong with the sun. It should be rising opposite my bedroom window in the dip in the horizon below the moon in this picture, but it’s shifted northwards, exposing how little I know about the movement of celestial bodies. After the stony track to Penstacan where I have permission to walk up the hill, I’m through a gateway and feeling the slope pushing the blood around my body and warming it. Two fields further and a lot higher I’m finally in position, but, mocking my rapid climb, the sun is in no great hurry to rise above the northeasterly hill where the light is strongest. I have time to adjust the tripod, set the exposure on a ten second delay to stop any movement, and press the shutter. The air is warmer here and the bluebells are unharmed.
The new fronds of bracken, all blackened and drooping in the valley, are green and vibrant here. The frost has rolled off the hills and gathered itself together in the valley where all the young vegetables are, just waiting to be wilted.
In the distance are the Carmarthenshire beacons – the Western outpost of the Brecon beacons. Now here is the sun:
It’s still in the wrong place, and why isn’t the sky all red like Blair’s pictures? These problems swim around in my head for a while. It seems unlikely that the sun has changed its trajectory, but quite possible that I’ve never looked out of the bedroom window at this time in May. As to the colour, Blair lives in the Valleys. There are towns, cities, people, industry and traffic – the air is thicker. Here there is no pollution, the air is thin and pure – and boring.
A cuckoo calls and so does breakfast so I take a last long shot of the beacons and head for home.