Adam Burton Photography

Belstone Common, Dartmoor

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Situated in the less touristy northern part of the moor, Belstone Common is one of Dartmoor National Park’s lesser known locations.  Since moving to Devon in 2008, its an area that I have returned to many times, and I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface.

The Common is a typical rolling moorland landscape which elevates up to a series of rugged outcrops known collectively as Belstone Tor.  Once on the summit of Belstone Tor, a gentle ridge leads southwards past Higher Tor and then onto Oke Tor and beyond.  At an elevation of nearly 500 metres, there are far reaching views all around; to the north an endless patchwork of fields that make up rural Devon while to the south the wild moorland hills of Dartmoor.

Like all the high moorland Belstone Common can be a pretty inhospitable place on the wrong day.  Over the last year while exploring Belstone I have experienced freezing ice, deep snow, dense fog, crazily strong winds, biting rain; in fact pretty much all extremes of weather that nature offers down here in the Southwest.

On this particular afternoon the weather conditions seemed perfect, apart from the usual high winds that you come to expect on Dartmoor.  With the late afternoon winter sun dipping low in a fairly clear sky I hoped for some directional light to bathe the moorland in rich gold. 

I climbed to the top of Belstone Tor, and then headed south towards Higher Tor.  From previous scouting trips to this area I had a rough location in mind from where I could capture a series of tors stretching over a rolling moorland wilderness.  Once I had found my background I searched for some appealing foreground to include in a wide-angle composition.  Finding foreground interest is fairly easy in such a rocky habitat, but it takes more than simply including any rock to make an effective composition.  After some searching I settled on a position close to the edge of the tor itself.  The rocky ledge provided not only an ideal spot to shoot into the distance but also offered the appealing foreground I was looking for.  The low sunlight gave tremendous texture and warmth to the granite surface of the ledge, as well as warming the golden grass in rich tones.

Setting my camera onto the tripod (with legs splayed wide to counter the winds) I attached my Lee polariser to help the camera record the rich colours.  I then covered the sky with a 0.6 hard edged graduated filter to prevent the sky burning out.  Everything seemed ideal, with the minor exception of some blue sprayed sheep grazing right in the centre of my frame!  White sheep would have been wonderful, but blue looked just a little odd.  I was tempted to move down the tor and shoo them away, but as I had already setup the picture I was reluctant to move my camera.  And I certainly couldn’t leave the camera to the fate of a strong gust of wind so I decided to include the blue sheep.  Of course, I could attempt to remove them later in Photoshop but that’s not something I feel particularly comfortable doing.  They were an element of the Dartmoor landscape and that was good enough for me. 

As the sun descended behind High Willhays (Dartmoor’s highest peak) to the west I captured several more shots before the golden light suddenly faded, completely transforming the scene to a windy, wild and exposed Dartmoor tor.

2 Comments

Excellent photographs of a very beautiful corner of Dartmoor.

I particularly like the smaller images with their far-reaching views over Taw Marsh and towards Oke Tor / Steeperton Tor.

by Miles Wolstenholme on 12th April 2011

Hello,
I admire your photos, they are very beautiful.
Kind regards,
Karl Schlechta

by Karl Schlechta on 28th October 2011

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