LIGHT WORK

Camera - - CONTENTS -

These ar­ti­cles are de­signed to help you ap­pre­ci­ate how pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers ap­proach as­sign­ments and the tech­niques they use, in­clud­ing some help­ful tricks of the trade. In this is­sue, Trevern Dawes ex­plains how prepa­ra­tion and ef­fort – plus a lit­tle dose of luck – can re­sult in a great land­scape pho­to­graph.

The Pic­ture

The law of av­er­ages – or per­haps just sheer per­sis­tence in land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy – is even­tu­ally go­ing to re­sult in the de­sir­able sit­u­a­tion of be­ing in the right place at the right time. In this case on the shore­line of Lake Gaird­ner in South Aus­tralia, the fourth largest salt lake in Aus­tralia.

The pre­vi­ous morn­ing had been calm and rather or­di­nary, but as luck would have it, the fol­low­ing dawn was spec­tac­u­lar al­most be­yond be­lief. A golden sun­rise and a pow­er­ful wind whip­ping up foam cre­ated some won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties yet that same wind threat­ened to ‘blow out’ any prospects of suc­cess­fully cap­tur­ing the scene. On the spot tech­ni­cal de­ci­sions needed to be made and here is where ex­pe­ri­ence lends a hand. The re­sult­ing im­age was crisp and sharp and al­lowed a splen­did A2 print to be made.

The Pho­tog­ra­pher

Trevern Dawes has the rare dis­tinc­tion of be­ing a con­trib­u­tor to the very first is­sue of this 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 im­age-mak­ing and tak­ing pic­tures for both books and mag­a­zine ar­ti­cles.

The Equip­ment

A Canon EOS 60D fit­ted with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm wide-an­gle zoom lens. A UV pro­tec­tive fil­ter in place and the cam­era at­tached to a Man­frotto 055 tri­pod. Aper­turepri­or­ity auto ex­po­sure con­trol at ISO 200, and man­ual fo­cus­ing.

The Tech­nique

The main prob­lem was the strong wind that even made stand­ing up awkward. Shoot­ing with the cam­era in hand would have de­manded a fast shut­ter speed, but as ex­ten­sive depth-of-field was needed, it would have meant push­ing the ISO up so high as to cause un­wanted im­age noise. Al­though the tri­pod held the cam­era se­cure and al­lowed an ex­po­sure of 1/15 sec­ond at f11 (at ISO 200), it was still nec­es­sary to hold the tri­pod firmly. If the tri­pod had been left unat­tended it and cam­era would have been blown over!

How It Was Done

This par­tic­u­lar spot at Lake Gaird­ner has pro­duced many pleas­ing dawn shots over in­nu­mer­able visits in a va­ri­ety of con­di­tions, from bald to heavy skies and even fog. To reach the lo­ca­tion re­quires a pre-dawn walk from a camp site of about two kilo­me­tres in or­der to be on-site ready for the first hint of light. A heavy tri­pod was re­quired to start the photo ses­sion, but later it be­came a nui­sance on the re­turn walk when the mid-morn­ing light and a bright sur­face per­mit­ted hand-held shoot­ing.

Tricks Of The Trade

Be­ing fa­mil­iar with a lo­ca­tion is a real ad­van­tage as it means no time needs to be de­voted to check­ing out ‘the lie of the land’ to find the best van­tage points. Not sur­pris­ingly, the best re­sults from land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers usu­ally even­tu­ate from those who know their lo­ca­tions well and who work them on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Be­ing able to vi­su­alise the fi­nal im­age as a framed print or in the pages of a book is help­ful, but mak­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate tech­ni­cal de­ci­sions quickly is just as im­por­tant.

Since it’s im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict how the first glimpse of sun on the hori­zon will ap­pear among cloud, the only ap­proach was to shoot at fre­quent in­ter­vals and later se­lect the frame that pro­vided that ini­tial glint with­out be­ing too pow­er­ful. In the mean­time the foam edge was mov­ing and the cam­era view­point needed to move as well.

De­gree Of Dif­fi­culty (Out of 10)

When it comes to dif­fi­culty this one is an ab­so­lute 10 out of 10. De­spite the awe­some sky and the ap­peal­ing foam, many pho­tog­ra­phers would have pre­ferred to seek shel­ter from the strong, bit­ter wind. But this is the stuff of the wilder side of land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy. It’s not sup­posed to be easy, so when you get ev­ery­thing right in the cam­era it’s pay off time for all the ef­fort in­volved.

Can You Try This At Home?

Un­less you hap­pen to live in the wide open spa­ces cap­tur­ing a ‘once in a life­time’ land­scape is a highly un­likely event. Nev­er­the­less, sit­u­a­tions on the home front can hap­pen. First you must recog­nise the po­ten­tial and then re­act as quickly as pos­si­ble. De­ci­sive mo­ments in land­scape are as com­mon­place as get­ting the tim­ing right in many other realms of pho­tog­ra­phy, in­clud­ing ac­tual pos­si­bil­i­ties in your back­yard and in ar­eas close to home.

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