The Gifts of Weather

Clearing storm on the Stirling Ranges, Western Australia

Clearing storm on the Stirling Ranges, Western Australia

Sometimes, the best pictures we get are 180 degrees from the ones we were after. This is nearly always true when the weather is wacky and unpredictable, and brilliant blue skies are punctuated by passing showers.

I set out this day to photograph the sunset on Bluff Knoll, the highest mountain in Australia’s Stirling Ranges. It is really the only mountain worthy of the name in this part of Australia, and I had carefully plotted where to be for evening light. But the weather had other things in mind: passing squalls and black clouds looked pretty grim. But the rain came and went, followed by brief bursts of sun,in short, the kind of weather that produces drama, and sometimes – rainbows.

The angles weren’t right for rainbows on this occasion, but I sat through several showers waiting for a beam of brilliant light to hit the peak. It never did. (As often happens in mountains, the clouds stuck on the high peaks, but broke up at lower elevations.)

It was right after one of those squalls that a beam of light hit me, and the weird Grass Trees I had taken shelter behind. The mountain was still in deep shadow, but the light on the foreground was brilliant, if only for a few seconds. It was long enough.

In the end, my mountain was just a dark, brooding backdrop to the picture instead of the main event, and my favorite picture that day was VERY different from the one I had set out to capture. There’s magic in that.