Probably more than a year ago I decided I must have a Lee Big Stopper, a 10 stop neutral density filter. It wasn’t an impulse buy though because none of their UK stockists had any available, and lead times were estimated at 3 months. But as often as not waiting times nowadays seem just a sly way to deliver sooner than promised and so “delight” the customer. So I placed an order and waited. Then more than 3 months had passed – and so in a self righteous fit I cancelled that order. If this vendor couldn’t get their act together, I’d order it from someone else. Of course, the same happened again. Months went by and there was no sign of the filter, and I impatiently cancelled that order too. By now Lee’s web site acknowledged production delays and said they simply didn’t know when the situation would improve. I’d also contacted them directly, and while their reply wasn’t encouraging at least it seemed open and honest. So for a third (or was it a fourth?) time I decided to order one, this time from Speedgraphic, and this time I was going to wait – no matter how long it took. As the whole summer passed by, and then my big autumn trip to the Lake District, still there was no sign of the Big Stopper, and by early December I was growing impatient again. As before, Lee replied promptly but with the same discouraging “not able to offer any accurate availability dates” message and spoke of problems with suppliers (which wasn’t a good thing to say to someone who had spent time working in corporate recovery). Speedgraphic seemed equally powerless, and once more I seriously thought of cancelling, ordering a similar filter from B&W, and moving on. And then, one week later, just before Christmas, my Big Stopper arrived.
Since then I’ve either been too busy to get out and use it, or the weather didn’t want to cooperate – clear blue skies are not Big Stopper weather – but finally Monday’s forecast promised a decent mix of sun and cloud. Going right back to when I first tried to get my hands on the filter, one location I’d mentally shortlisted was the isolated church at Fairfield on Romney Marsh. Since then I’d got the Photographer’s Ephemeris app on the iPad and bookmarked the location, and over the weekend I’d checked the sunrise and sunset times. So you might say that the picture was a year in the planning – or even longer if you include seeing Fay Godwin’s well-known picture. [From what I've read, the church was the only building left standing when the rest of the village faded away]
And where is all this leading? Well, for all that patience and planning and an hour and a half’s drive – I’d forgotten to charge up my camera’s batteries and I only had 45% left in the one in the body. Minute-long exposures really drain the D700’s power, so after about 30 pictures here and then at Dungeness, that was it.
My conclusion? By all means make those grand plans, pursue them for a year or more if you have to – but just don’t forget the little details. When you get them wrong, they will really spoil your day!