All for the sake of 15 minutes...
I like to think I’m generally a pretty upbeat guy. I tend to think of the proverbial glass as being at least half full (often with the chance of a refill not too far away). I have a strong tendency to get excited about things I’m enjoying. I know the old pessimists charter says, ‘Don’t get your hopes up and you’ll never be disappointed,’ but I tend to be happy to run that risk and embrace life with enthusiasm.
But then last Thursday happened.
I was out aurora chasing with my good buddy Johnny Baird. The stats were impressive, we were totally game on for the first decent viewing of the new season. Johnny and I were out hunting, and we were standing near Big Collin mountain looking down on Slemish Mountain - under a bank of cloud that resolutely refused to show any signs of shifting. We were seeing photos of the lights coming in from across the UK. But we were seeing nothing. Eventually, at 1.15 am, I decided to call it a night. Johnny, who didn’t have to get up for work the next morning, decided to head to Slemish for once last go.
Fifteen minutes later and I’m in bed, whilst Johnny is being treated to a great display, as the cloud cleared at just the right moment.
And I was gutted. Truly gutted. For the sake of 15 minutes, I had missed it all.
Fast forward to Sunday night, and I found myself out on the North Coast. The forecast was for showers - often the kind of weather that gives dramatic light and some great photo ops - and I headed for Magheracross carpark near Portrush. To sit in my car, with the wind and rain buffeting me for the next hour. Like Thursday night, I was clouded out. Like Thursday night, there were no signs of things clearing. But unlike Thursday night, I wasn’t going to miss out on any fleeting chance I might have. So I sat on. In the car. In the rain. And waited.
Looks like I wasn't the only one determined to brave the inclement weather...!!
But nothing was happening. Nor did it seem likely too. I should just head on, I thought to myself. I need to call it a night. But memories of Thursday night echoed around in the back of my mind. Okay, I thought to myself, just 15 more minutes. Maybe I’ll get lucky
And then, just like for Johnny on Thursday night, the clouds cleared, the rain died off a bit. And I had my opportunity. Quickly, I hurried into position. The light indeed was dramatic. But the rain picked up again almost immediately. Too wet for my camera. ‘Come on, rain,’ I shouted, ‘clear off!!’
And, as if by command, it did. At least it died back off enough for me to have a go at a shot. Yes, it was still windy. Yes, there were spots of drizzle. But more than that, a massive rainbow shimmied into life behind me, around Dunluce Castle and the Wishing Arch.
As the sun was so low in the sky, and because I had an elevated viewpoint at the cliff top, the arc of the rainbow not only arced through the sky overhead, but it started to swing in below me over the ocean below, accompanied by a faint but discernible secondary bow around it.
The light had a lovely quality about it, managing somehow to be both soft and clear at the same time. The sidelight off the chalk cliffs pulled out details there. But the light in the distance, helped by the reatreading rain, covered the background with a delicate softness.
I set up my camera as quickly as I can, hoping it would hold steady in the wind and on the tufts of grass, and snapped away, trying not to bounce around too much in my excitement. Within a few minutes, the bow had faded as the rain moved East. But I had caught it. I had given it just 15 minutes more - and it had paid off.
I’m still gutted about missing the aurora. I may not have caught pillars of green thrusting up into the sky last Thursday. But to have caught the many colours of the rainbow, arcing gently above and below me, that kind of felt that it made up for it, at least in part. My glass was certainly more than half full on Sunday, don’t you think…?