Be ef­fi­cient with light

Make the most of ev­ery minute and get up early to avoid dis­ap­point­ment later on in your road trip

NPhoto - - Road Trip -

When road trip­ping in a camper­van it’s es­pe­cially easy to stay in bed, but there are at most two op­por­tu­ni­ties for golden light when pho­tograph­ing land­scapes, so don’t ditch 50 per cent of them just for a lazy lie-in.

I ar­rived at the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye late in the evening, with the aim of bag­ging a sun­set shot from the sum­mit. I was pre­sented with a won­der­fully clear sky, but I’d mis­re­mem­bered the length and dif­fi­culty of the as­cent, think­ing I’d make it up in 20 min­utes, ready for the last light; an hour later and I was still climb­ing. The light was gone, along with any hope of a de­cent shot. It wouldn’t have mat­tered any­way, be­cause I’d for­got­ten the first rule of land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy – check­ing where the light will be best dur­ing the day. Sun­set in late March sits due west, to the right of the old man from where I stood, with no light touch­ing the rocks at all. De­ter­mined to sal­vage some­thing from the shoot, I de­cided to camp overnight at the base, and set my alarm for 6am.

Next morn­ing, af­ter pow­er­ing up in 45 min­utes, I made it with time to spare. I cracked out my 3 Legged Thing tri­pod and at­tached my D750. I knew I wanted the old man on the right third of the frame, so I could avoid the large (and rather bor­ing) rock face to the right of the stacks. This also gave me the op­por­tu­nity to in­clude Loch Leathan and the sea to the left.

I was hop­ing for some beau­ti­ful clouds in the sky to make the top of the frame more vi­brant. And there they were: pris­tine, wispy and ablaze with colour – and way out of frame to the left of The Old Man, di­rectly above the sun (see above).

Un­de­terred, I per­se­vered. ISO100 was my start­ing point. The sen­si­tiv­ity of the im­age sen­sor wasn’t im­por­tant be­cause I had a tri­pod and I knew my ex­po­sure wouldn’t be long enough for any­thing in the scene to change. I then nar­rowed my aper­ture to f/11 to in­crease depth of field. (My 24-70mm f/2.8 is also a lit­tle sharper at f/11 than it is at f/2.8.) Then it was a case of set­ting my shut­ter speed to ex­pose the im­age cor­rectly. This meant no clipped high­lights or shad­ows, and clear de­tail in

the land­scape. My start­ing point was 1/10 sec, which I then tweaked as the light changed. Ten min­utes af­ter the sun had risen, the other pho­tog­ra­phers who had come up for a shot headed back down the hill – just be­fore the sun­light started to kiss the side of the rocks. The scene be­gan to sing, but I wanted to in­crease the con­trast fur­ther, so I popped a po­lar­is­ing fil­ter on. It deep­ened the colours, but dark­ened the scene by two stops. Luck­ily, be­cause the sun was now shin­ing di­rectly on The Old Man, it was a lot brighter, so I didn’t have to in­crease my ex­po­sure time.

the great

Clouds can make great sub­jects in their own right

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