Big skies are a feature of living in the Fens – the flatlands of East Anglia. For those of you not familiar with the geography of East Anglia it’s that bit of England that juts out into the North Sea from the east coast (see illustration below). The skies are big – or appear big – due to the fact that the land in the fens mostly lies below sea level and is incredibly flat – there are no hills or mountains here to obstruct the view, and the countryside is gloriously free of tall buildings.
Sky gazing out here can make you feel incredibly small and insignificant. The sheer vastness of what you are looking up at is hard to comprehend, as is the way in which the same sky can change in appearance in an instant. During the summer the fen skies are at their best with stunning sunrises and sunsets, amazing dawn and dusk cloud formations, brilliant sunshine burning clouds away to azure blue skies in the heat of mid day, and the cloud free sight of a million stars at night – The Plough and Big Dipper easily identifiable.
It is a privilege to live here and to experience these vistas so frequently. The winter months bring about a stark transformation to the landscape and sky scape. November is the darkest and greyest month in the fens, ploughed black soil fields merge with dense grey clouds delivering their pay loads of opaque sheets of rain. Morning and evening mists complete the totality of greyness as, shroud like, it envelopes everything and everyone. Yet there are still moments when the sun breaks through, surprises you with a deep orange sunset as it sinks early into the low clouds on the horizon (see above). The shafts of sunlight seem to illuminate the clouds from within and without – at moments like these I almost feel that God is touching the sky. In the late winter and early spring the clouds start to break a little, and the sun dances with the rain showers to provide us with frequent rainbow delights which are so clear you are almost compelled to reach for that mythical pot of gold.
When we run about our busy lives under these amazing skies it is easy to forget the true wonder of this dazzlingly diverse creation. It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day and forget to look up from our desks, from our trudge to the office, from our weary seat on the train. I have been lucky enough to travel the world and see the sky from many different parts of the globe, it is a constant source of wonder and delight that the same sky can be so different; from the deep blues created between Ocean and sky in the Caribbean, to the dark stillness pin pricked by night stars in the Nordics; from the stunning sunrises of the Florida Coast as the pelicans fly past in formation to the surfers paradise sunsets of Pacific and Mission beaches in San Diego; from the top of Mont Royale in Montreal – the summer sky like a blue canvas backdrop to the city scape far below, to the sky scraping heights of New York City, with the sun bouncing off the Chrysler building and the blue sky reflected like a lake in high-rise windows. Over the years I have trained myself to look up wherever I go, so much so that it is now second nature – I’m afraid I might miss another wondrous sky display.
You’ve guessed by now of course that this piece of prose is merely an excuse to publish some of my own photographs taken in some of my favourite places. I’m addicted to sky pictures, particularly sunsets and sunrises. Wherever I visit it’s not unusual for me to check the sunrise times and be awake and ready at the best vantage point a good thirty minutes before the sun appears. I similarly make an appointment with the sunset.
I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. Most of all I encourage you to always look up, and view the sky with a renewed wonder each time.