I recently ventured back to The Isle of Man for the weekend. I was lucky enough to find time to get back out into the hills and remind myself how fortunate I am to call the place home.
It was great to take a short break from University to spend a weekend back home with family and friends, nothing quite beats it. However, what does make that better is when the place you call home just so happens to be somewhere you find incredibly inspiring with an unusually diverse landscape.
Sat on the sofa with a mug of warm coffee one blustery grey afternoon, I was struck by a peculiar feeling that the weather was about to change. If it's one thing the Isle of Man is renowned for it's the spontaneous nature of its weather and in particular, with it being a small island, the sudden onset of thick mist.
With that in mind, I went to the nearest window and tried to gauge the weather. Sure enough, the clouds were grey, swollen and moving fast. Maybe the 'peculiar' feeling about the change in weather wasn't so unusual after all.
With a couple of swigs I finished the coffee, put on some boots, grabbed the dog and car keys and headed out into the hills. Equipped only with my iPhone, I was entirely motivated to get some shots of this dynamic weather that may or may not even be taking place. I don't want to sound as if I'm devaluing the iPhone as a photographic tool though, in fact I want to do quite the opposite. For me, it's the most important tool I have for making work and I don't think others should be ashamed to say the same. But that's something I'll go into detail of another time.
So with my destination already in mind, I began to travel into more sparsely populated areas. This might sound like I had been driving for some time, but you must bear in mind that you could drive for about ten minutes from anywhere on the island and come across a totally uninhabited place.
Within twenty minutes of leaving my house, I had arrived. In the south of the island, an area called Rushen fringes the coast and faces south-west into the Irish Sea. With towering cliffs, rolling moorland and expansive, thick forest plantations this place boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in The Isle of Man. But I hadn't just parked up here for those features alone. In my experience of this particular area, the likelihood of thick sea mist melting over the cliffs was extremely high. Back at the house earlier when judging the weather, I thought I might strike lucky up on Rushen and manage to capture some of this.
With the dog bounding off ahead up the nearest hill, I noticed the sky had turned thicker, whiter, almost slower. Around ten minutes from the crest of the hill where one can look out over the cliffs, the sea mist had arrived. With utter silence save for the wind slipping through the grass and the dog padding the heather, I noticed that the landscape around me was disappearing. Quickening my ascent, I was almost at the summit; but the mist continued to thicken.
The hill with me and the dog were suddenly all that remained of the entire island. It had shrunk to some hundred metre-square field of rusted reds and milky whites. With the landscape changing so rapidly due to the weather, it was near impossible to stop taking photos. However I knew that pushing to the top of the hill would reap a greater reward, so I made the last hundred metres in minutes.
And there it was - the infamous blanket of sea mist I was hunting. Admittedly, seeing a thick blanket of mist from within is generally seeing nothing at all except for the ground beneath you. However this is exactly what I wanted from my impromptu expedition, to be totally enshrouded in Manannán's Cloak. For those of you who aren't up to scratch on your Manx folklore, The Cloak is said to be protection given by Manannán mac Lir - sea deity and supposed first ruler of the nation. With the power to hide The Isle of Man from danger with his cloak of mist, he has strong affiliations with Tír na nÓg (a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, health and joy) and also had a small part to play with the naming of the island.
This spontaneous island weather injects a dynamic narrative to the landscape, transforming it from 'regular' to Middle Earth in a matter of seconds. This is one of the things I love about misty weather; much like snow it completely reconstructs an environment and almost kick-starts our imaginations into creating the world beyond the mist. For a few brief moments we can be wherever we desire. Bringing this feeling into the images I take is something I always aim for; a degree of nature's magic with a modest request for imagination.