We planned a few days at the Opal Cast in France, a wonderful seaside area with rocky coasts, large tide differences, and a lot of remains of the Second World War, that has shaped the landscape many years ago. The forecast promised fantastic weather for landscape photography, so we had high expectations for impressive sunrise and sunset shots, and perhaps even a few star trails. The reality turned out quite differently.
I love the Opal Coast. It is the region in France next to the English Channel, where on clear days the white cliffs of Dover are visible on the horizon. The region is famous of the two capes; the Gray Cape, also known as Cap Gris-Nez, and the White Cape that is named Cap Blanc-Nez. Each cape has their own looks and photographic possibilities. You can walk for miles over the high cliffs between the two capes, and explore the beaches that stretch for almost half a mile during low tide, revealing the old defensive works of World War Two on many places, and a couple of ship wrecks. There are even a few ruins build into the cliffs that date back to World War One.
First of all, my girlfriend and I wanted to enjoy a weekend at the coast, especially since the weather predictions were perfect. But I also wanted to explore a few locations for an upcoming workshop, and I was planning to do some more tests of the Kase filters I use nowadays. My expectations were high and in my thoughts I already saw the nice sunrise shots I would take. But upon arrival we were treated with heavy overcast that set the landscape in a gray and sober light. We couldn’t even make out the transition between the sea and the sky; the horizon was nowhere to be seen.
To be honest, it felt like a real disappointment. I had great expectations and now I couldn’t shoot the images I wanted. We went exploring some new locations nevertheless, unfortunately without the sunset I had hoped for. For a moment the thought crossed my mind to leave my camera and tripod at the cabin, but I didn’t and I just tried a few composition to have an idea about the possibilities at that location. During twilight I did see a nice minimalist panorama unfold, but the image on the back of the LCD screen wasn't that exciting. It seemed to reflected my own mood at that moment.
And so the night fell upon us and we went to bed early. Next day the weather was unchanged and we had a gray and colorless sunrise. More disappointment, not only for us, but also from a group photographers that was roaming the beach at Cap Gris Nez. Later that day I went out all alone to find more interesting new photo spots, and to fly a bit with my drone.
But wait... I finally realized there was no reason to be frustrated for the weather conditions. I always tell my workshop participants to go shooting no matter what, and not to be withdrawn by apparently unsuitable conditions. With all my great expectations I had fallen for this trap. Because I had some images in mind, I failed to see the possibilities of this gray weather. After I packed my drone I looked at the scenery with different eyes and finally took a few very interesting shots.
May this be a lesson, not only for myself as a reminder, but also for all (landscape) photographers; be careful with any expectation you might have. There is a chance you will be disappointed when the conditions turn out to be different from what you hoped for. It even can withhold you from seeing the possibilities of the situation.
So did I at first. Now, when I look back at the images from this weekend at the Opal Coast, it might not be the images I expected to take, but I did shoot some beautiful images nevertheless. I just had to reset my expectations. Next time I will try to be more open minded.
The funny thing is we did not expect the weather to change, so the second morning we did not get up early for sunrise. Ironically the clouds had disappeared and we woke up with sunlight in our faces. That day we stayed at the beach nearby our cabin and enjoyed the warm spring temperatures while the tide rushed in. It gave some nice photographic opportunities, although the sky was rather dull. Ah well... it seems never good enough when a cloudy gray sky isn't good, and a sunny clear sky is neither. But we had a wonderful weekend after all, and went home satisfied. Next visit at the Opal Coast will be different again, and hopefully I will go there without any expectations.
Have you experience something similar once? Tell me about it in the comments below. I love to hear your story.