Adrift on a sea of cloud

Normally, if you see a mountain peak emerging from the clouds on my page, it'll be a summit somewhere up the Mournes.

But not this time! This shot is from a few Sunday mornings ago and the mountain this time is St Patrick's own: Slemish.

While much of the rest of Northern Ireland was basking under clear skies that morning, Co Antrim was blanketed in a thick, cold fog. I had got wind of the fact that Slemish was poking up out of the gloom. But where to photograph it from?

I headed up the Collin Road. The road there goes quite high. And, as I came towards the brow of the road, where it opens up to an amazing vista over towards Slemish, the sun began to illuminate the fog. Would it break by the time I reached the brow?

No. It would not! No views to be had from the car park. So there was only one thing for it: head up the nearest mountain in the hope that the sky would clear.

Known locally as 'Big Collin', the summit sounds a bit more romantic in its original gaelic: Collann Mór. And that seemed all the more fitting as I headed up over the bog towards the summit.

The fog lifted and fell, bathing me in light one minute, wrapping my in a misty veil the next. As as it undulated up and down, I was treated to fog bow after fog bow - itself, a glorious sight.

But, when the mist dropped and I got clear views, there around me were the surrounding hills, rising grandly above the fog, while the clearest of blue skies rose up, up and away above me.

To the north, the huge wind turbines of the nearby wind farm turned slowly in the light wind, as the mist enveloped their bases, making them rise up as if connected to some structures in Cloud City from the Empire Strikes Back.

To the east, there were the hills above Larne, with the trees in the valleys below just about poking their leafy heads up out of them mist.

To the south, there was Cavehill, my frequent early morning vantage point, McArt's Fort standing proud as the cloud rolled and billowed between us.

And there, to my north east, was the unmistakable outline of Slemish, adrift upon some ephemeral cloud-sea. The rock outcrops of dolerite were catching the low morning light, streaming up from the south east.

I spent the next hour or so there, enjoying glimpses of the landscapes below everytime the cloud cleared from my vantage point. And, eventually, I succumbed to the cold of ever increasingly numb fingers, and headed back down.

I have photographed Slemish on so many occasions. But never before have I seen it looking quite like this. It just shows - you don't always have to be in County Down to get your head above the clouds!