Daniel Groves

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From Dawn to Dusk

Published: 18 January 2016 · Tags: photography, dartmoor, hiking

Shooting from sunrise to sunset in the snows on Dartmoor.

Saturday started at 5:30 to the sound of my alarm clock shouting at me. It was time to get moving, as I was meeting James in thirty minutes to head up onto Dartmoor and shoot the sunrise. We headed up to Sharpitor where we could access the tor in just a couple of minutes from the car park and the bottom, as well as take advantage of its stunning backdrop. The minus two degrees celsius on the car thermostat didn’t mean much as the wind soon added its own chill factor on top.

We weren’t expecting much from the sunrise, but as a low cloud bank moved over we were soon surprised as the colours quickly developed. Once the sun was up we had to move quickly to meet Mike in 40-minutes time.

 alt: Sunrise over Sharpitor
Sunrise over Sharpitor.

We arrived at Postbridge at 8:50, and were walking by 9:00. The first location we had in mind was a waterfall on the east dart river – to be exact, the waterfall I visited during Solo over the summer months. The setting was drastically different the last time I had been there and offers a huge range of angles thanks to the unique rock formations and the non-uniform setting of the waterfall. We stopped there for a good 20 minutes, but could happily have spent a few hours shooting a huge range of different angles.

 alt: Waterfall on the East Dart River
Waterfall on the East Dart River.

We proceeded north after this towards Winney’s Down. This is a large and not overly steep area of land which had built up some fairly deep snow drifts in places. This made it hard-going as our feet had to sink through several inches of snow, followed by grass. We also had to be aware that there could be thin ice below the snow covering uninviting bog water.

Continuing north we soon reached Quintin’s Man Cairn, tucked just inside the firing range. This marked the start of being able to follow paths again which made the going easier until we reached Whitehorse Hill and proceeded to follow the peat pass. This was easily the best conditions I’ve ever faced the pass in, which normally channels water effectively making it hard and messy work.

 alt: James and Mike in the peat pass of Whitehorse Hill.  alt: Mike setting his glove on fire on top of Watern Hill.
Left: James and Mike in the peat pass of Whitehorse Hill.
Right: Mike setting his glove on fire on top of Watern Hill.

We now turned our attention to the east, Watern Tor in particular. We’d earmarked this for stopping for a bit of lunch, and hoped to shoot the top if any light presented itself. This made for hard work as we cut across Walla Brook Head which had some of the deepest snow we’d faced on some steep and slippery ground as we descended onto the plateau. Once we’d raised out of the other side we picked up a fairly well trodden path north until we reached the tor. Between several ten-tors training groups sitting on the tor for lunch, and only very brief spells of good light none of us shot anything here, and we proceeded to move on once again.

Out next stop was Teignhead Farm, where James and I bikepacked to back in spring. Here we took advantage of the shelter to crack the cookers out and make another brew while we killed a little time before we needed to move on to get on location for shooting the sunset.

We headed south again as a group but split soon after as James and I made for the top of Sittaford Tor, and Mike made for the Grey Wethers stone circle. We all had out own successes at our locations as the three of us came back with completely unique images.

 alt: Sunset from the top of Sittaford Tor.
Sunset from the top of Sittaford Tor.

We quickly regrouped at the stone circle as the light proceeded to go, and moved south again quickly to cover the worst of the wet ground with some natural light. We were soon defending down to the river under the beams of our head torches looking foreword to a well earned meal and an evening going through the results of the days shooting.

The Route

The route is easily repeatable by parking at Postbridge. You will need OS Map OL28, and good navigation skills as the route does require walking through some fairly featureless areas on a bearing.