Go cloud spotting
A little understanding of how the weather can change in your environment can go a long way
Whether it’s being aware of the predictable weather patterns of somewhere flat like Florida, or the unpredictable nature of the mountainous highlands of Scotland, knowing what might come next tells you if you should stay put and keep shooting or cut your losses and move on.
Waking up with the sun gave a natural rhythm to my photographic days in the highlands, and I felt more alert and more able to think clearly. That was crucial to creating this shot. From atop the Quiraing, I noticed a thick veil of mist forming over the sea in the distance. It had been cold but clear overnight, and the mist was thickening as the sun rose. Judging from the forecast, which was erring on the side of bright sunshine all day, I presumed the mist would burn off part-way into the morning. I knew that I didn’t have all day to capture the mist, but I still had a few hours, so I set up my Nikon on a tripod and started with a tight crop on the mist, looking seawards at 70mm on my 2470mm f/2.8 lens. With the aperture and ISO consistent with the last photo, (f/11/ISO100) the only value that changed was the shutter speed, which was now at 1/6 sec. After rattling off a few frames over the space of about ten minutes, I flicked back through the images, and noticed that the mist was gradually creeping inland. I knew what to do next: I immediately set up another D750 (I’m a lucky boy, I know) with a 14-24mm lens to capture the bigger scene, in addition to my tighter crop.
No sooner had I done that than the mist crawled up the mountainside. Unsure about when the best shot might arrive, I decided to engage the built-in intervalometer mode on this second D750 to take photos for me over a period of time. (You can find this in the menu by going to Shooting Menu> Interval Timer Shooting.) I set an interval time of 5 seconds, and set the number of shots to 300, so that my D750 would take a photo every 5 seconds for 300 shots. Back-of-the-envelope maths tells us that this would take 25 minutes (5 x 300 = 1500 / 60 = 25). I knew I would flick through later on the laptop and find ‘the one’, so I let it carry on taking photos while I moved around the scene with my 24-70mm. If I’d had a Nikon model which didn’t have this option built-in, I could’ve just used an external intervalometer to do the same job.
I was so fixated on the mist that I forgot to look at the larger scene, but once I had one camera running on the mist, I stopped and looked up. It was at this point that I noticed some awesome altocumulus clouds raking through the sky above. Eager not to miss out on the chance to shoot both this cloud and the fog in the same shot, I zoomed out to 40mm and framed up on the ridge and road in the foreground (above). I sandwiched that ridge with both clouds and got yet another shot with a feel entirely different to the main shot above. It was light and breezy, and you could practically feel the sun beating down on the moss-clad ground. I had to dial my shutter speed down to 1/80 sec because it was now a lot brighter. I also used a soft, two-stop graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky – without this I’d have lost all that lovely detail in the clouds. This meant I didn’t have to bracket and merge two exposures later.
Setting your Nikon to shoot at intervals is a great way to capture fog as it rolls across the landscape
In this image, a two-stop graduated neutral density filter with a soft transition was used to darken the sky, and so retain detail in the clouds