Seize the mo­ment

Don’t de­lay when the right weather con­di­tions are on the hori­zon

NPhoto - - Feature -

While any­one can whip out their cam­era or phone on a clear day, only a pho­tog­ra­pher knows the dif­fer­ence that a change in the weather can bring to pic­tures. Whether it’s a brood­ing sky that’s on the edge of rain, wind that’s strong enough to push tears from your eyes or some lin­ger­ing fog and mist, weather has the po­ten­tial to add in­ter­est and at­mos­phere to your land­scapes.

Take this shot of a colour­ful sun­rise over a snow­caked Bel­stone Tor on Dart­moor, in Devon. Adam Bur­ton had been re­vis­it­ing this com­po­si­tion for eight years, pho­tograph­ing the tor through­out the sea­sons. But although he’d cap­tured the shot many times in win­ter, he had al­ways hoped to pho­to­graph it blan­keted in snow. “The trou­ble is, snow is all too fickle in South­ern Eng­land,” ex­plains Adam, “and when it does ar­rive, it’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to reach lo­ca­tions due to snow-cov­ered roads.

“After some Fe­bru­ary snow­fall in 2015 I was for­tu­nate to reach Bel­stone on Dart­moor with­out any prob­lem, and I ea­gerly climbed up to reach this view­point. With a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion I set up and waited for some rich morn­ing sun­light to il­lu­mi­nate

the rocks, but I was to be dis­ap­pointed. Although the scenery was cov­ered with snow, the sky was grey and the an­tic­i­pated light show failed to ma­te­ri­alise. I did pho­to­graph the view, but it didn’t ex­cite me and after re­turn­ing home I de­cided not to process the pic­ture.

“Roll for­ward nearly 12 months and the forecast for snow saw me again head­ing down the icy coun­try lanes from my home with this view firmly in mind. As I reached the sum­mit I was al­ready ex­tend­ing the legs of my tri­pod in prepa­ra­tion and I quickly set up my cam­era and waited; it was then that I no­ticed the wind. At nearly 500 me­tres above sea level, Dart­moor’s moor­land can feel tremen­dously ex­posed at any time of year, but es­pe­cially so in the win­ter. The strong wind buf­feted the cam­era and left me feel­ing chilled to the bone. As I waited for the first rays of morn­ing sun­light to lick the tor, it be­gan to snow, so I quickly grabbed a cover and wrapped it around my Nikon in the hope that the snow shower would pass. For­tu­nately it did just that, and within min­utes I was ready to shoot, after a quick wipe down of the lens to re­move snow blotches.

“It was at this point that the sun first ap­peared, faintly il­lu­mi­nat­ing the tor, but the pic­ture still wasn’t right. A huge pink cloud – the one that had car­ried the snow­fall min­utes ago – was pass­ing into the frame, but it only oc­cu­pied the left half of the pic­ture, leav­ing a big patch of blue in the sky to the right. A com­mon mis­take among land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers is to get the main com­po­si­tion nailed down, but not pay at­ten­tion to the clouds. Re­gard­less of hav­ing the key ingredients of a pink sky, a snowy fore­ground and some morn­ing sun­shine, with­out those clouds feel­ing bal­anced the pic­ture would not be com­plete. So I waited while the huge pink cloud rolled into the scene, re­sist­ing the urge to shoot un­til it was in the op­ti­mum po­si­tion.”

Even with care­ful plan­ning and the right weather con­di­tions, an en­vis­aged scene may not ma­te­ri­alise. Adam Bur­ton man­aged to nail this shot a full year after he first at­tempted it

Don’t rely on weather con­di­tions alone to carry a shot. In­vari­ably, the first an­gle you find to shoot from isn’t the best, so work free of a tri­pod un­til you find an an­gle that shows all the el­e­ments of the scene at their best

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