Photography is often frustrating because what you are able to record is a small fraction of what you want to record. Sometimes it’s what is outside the image that makes the image itself worthwhile. At other times it’s better not to try but to leave the moment alone.
This was the case the other morning when we set out to enjoy a short sail.
As we left the Sound, the wind strengthened and steadied from the west. We settled on a course south south west, Eddystone on our starboard bow – four and a half knots across a gentle swell.
The sky had been heavily overcast all morning – a dark layer of stratus that shut out the sun and promised rain. But, for now, there were clear patches of blue sky showing in the west.
It was that approaching blue sky that held our attention as, four miles out, we watched the coast come to life – cherished Cornwall unveiling in the sunshine.
First the Dodman, then the steep cliffs around Fowey, the green fields behind Polperro and on to the bright houses of Looe, sunlight flashing on expectant windows; Downderry sparkled along the water’s edge, pointing to Portwrinkle still hidden behind Rame, before the headland itself beamed out at us.
Silenced, we breathed in the startling November light, marvelling at the clarity of detail, excited by the intensity of the experience. Behind us the sea seemed to darken.
Suddenly, inland, the high chimney stack on Kit Hill stood proud in the sunshine. Next, a group of buildings on Plymouth Hoe, white beacons in the afternoon, overwhelming their less fortunate neighbours. In the foreground, the Breakwater leapt at us. And the whole stunning display moved eastward – scudding along the South Devon coast.
By now, Cornwall was dark again and disappearing fast.
Five miles out we turned for home, basking in our own ten-minute spotlight before, with the Cornish coast lost behind Rame, the gloom bore down on us. Dartmoor disappeared behind the city, leaving it without background – bleak, solemn and solitary, enveloped in drizzle.
We rounded the Breakwater in the murk, the band of drizzle mercifully lifting as we crossed the Sound.
A little later, dry and ashore, we watched the next band of rain cross the Cattewater, blotting out the familiar view.
It was a day to treasure – a day when there was more to sailing than the sailing, more images than could possibly be recorded.