HEAD AND THE CLOUDS
Lake Eyre in South Australia has been one of several favourite locations for photographer and writer Trevern Dawes over several decades. Each visit brings a different situation depending on surface and sky conditions. Not every visit brings results – sometimes it’s too windy, there’s a boggy surface, or the sky is overcast and blank – but then there are those special moments that add extra landscapes to the collection. This time a dramatic early morning cloud structure attracted attention, but to find the semblance of a face in a mixture of salt and sand to complete the picture was just taking good fortune to its limits.
Trevern Dawes has the rare distinction of being a contributor to the very first issue of Camera magazine when it was launched back in June 1979. He is still as passionate about photography now as he was then, and continues to write about many areas of imagemaking and taking pictures for both books and magazine articles.
A backpack to house a Canon EOS 60D with a 10-22mm wide-angle lens and a Canon EOS 5D Mark II fitted with a general purpose 24-105mm zoom. Aperture-priority auto exposure control is usually set at f11 to give a minimum shutter speed of 1/60 second for shooting without a tripod. The ISO is adjusted to maintain the shutter speed/aperture combination. This particular scene was captured with the Canon EOS 60D and 10-22mm lens.
The vast difference in the brightness between the sky and the ground can be awkward for photographers to deal with. A camera mounted on a tripod can be set for auto exposure bracketing and the results subsequently merged in the computer, but when all due haste is required – and tripods only create restrictions – it’s a matter of letting the camera automatically capture the scene. If the camera preview indicates a problem then a manual override is necessary. Auto exposure via aperture-priority control proved to be adequate here, although some Photoshop adjustments later helped to accentuate the key aspects.
How It Was Done
The cloud pattern was the initial impetus to start shooting and, in some respects, might have rendered a worthwhile subject in itself, but if something in the surface could be found to create a visual balance or add more interest, then a potentially good image could be turned into a great one.
Tricks Of The Trade
There is no doubt that luck plays a major role in landscape photography… and it all relates to being in the right place at the right time. In many respects, luck is a matter of what you make it. Spend more time in the field and you increase the potential success rate. Take notes when conditions are not appropriate for a potential good site in order to know how to go direct to the best camera locations at a more favourable time. By adopting standard camera routines and visualising the outcome as print on the wall or page in a book, the entire process concentrates on what photography is all about – seeing!
Degree Of Difficulty (Out of 10)
A photograph like this one can bring immense pleasure – what photographers call the ‘buzz’ – in that you know you have won and all you need to do is to bring it home safely (back-up files, never leave the flash cards unattended, etc.), sort it out in image editing software and make a print. So many times in Light Work Trevern has been given the score of ‘9’ because this leaves a little space for improvement. But not this time – so it’s a max-out.
Can You Try This At Home?
Although far from home, this result demonstrates the value of being prepared and to be able to make the most of any situation. By all means look for opportunities to improve and vary. At least on the home front there is no need for extensive travels to remote places. Being actually familiar with a home or neighbourhood location – as well as favourite places far away – has advantages for planned camera work, but there are always going to be surprises to test your responses.