HEAD AND THE CLOUDS

Camera - - ON TRIAL -

The Pic­ture

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.

The Pho­tog­ra­pher

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.

The Equip­ment

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 Tech­nique

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.

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