Stay the night

Kill two birds with one stone, and get two very dif­fer­ent shots, by shoot­ing at dusk and dawn

NPhoto - - Road Trip -

There’s al­ways go­ing to be that post­card shot you just have to get. It’s a cliché. Ev­ery­body’s been there and you’ve prob­a­bly seen the im­age a hun­dred times. But it’s pop­u­lar for a rea­son. Breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful scenery just has to be shot, es­pe­cially when it or­gan­ises it­self into a text­book ex­am­ple of pho­to­graphic rules.

This was my fi­nal night in the high­lands. The hot, sunny days of the past week had started to wane, and clouds had pushed in over the moun­tains of Glen­coe. It was okay, though, be­cause Scot­land looks good even in thick cloud. I planned to shoot that night and then re­tire to bed, wak­ing be­fore sun­rise to get another shot.

I knew Buachaille Etive Mòr is prob­a­bly the most pho­tographed spot in Glen­coe, if not the whole of the High­lands, but I al­ready had ev­ery other shot I wanted to get in the bag, and so treated my­self to a cliché. I parked up down the road and walked to the best spot to find that thick, squelchy mud cov­ered the en­tire area. The ground had been churned into mud by the foot­fall to get to ‘the spot’. Deep, re­cessed foot­prints had been left in the ground, so much so that I had to go back and change into my wellies. Af­ter fi­nally trekking back, I first tried fram­ing up hor­i­zon­tally, to be a bit artis­tic and ‘dif­fer­ent’ to all the other ver­ti­cal shots I’d seen, but this didn’t work; there was just too much dead space ei­ther side of the falls. The ver­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion worked much bet­ter, putting the wa­ter­fall at the bot­tom third of the frame and the tree and moun­tain in the top third.

Af­ter fram­ing up hand­held I started to po­si­tion my tri­pod, and no­ticed that the legs slot­ted ex­actly into tri­pod dim­ples that pre-ex­isted in the mud! I car­ried on re­gard­less, telling my­self, “It’s just one of those shots you have to take.”

I placed a ten-stop ND and two-stop ND grad on my lens, which blurred the wa­ter and dark­ened the sky re­spec­tively (see left). The light had al­ready gone be­cause of the cloud cover, but I planned to re­turn in the morn­ing to cap­ture the sun­rise.

I got there be­fore sun­rise and the warm tones were great, as was the stra­tus cloud over­head that soft­ened the light. I was so lucky to get a great morn­ing on the only day I set aside for this iconic shot. And then my heart sank. Some­one had hiked out across the stream and was stood right on the is­land in the mid­dle of the scene. This is some­thing I’d seen be­fore in Ice­land: one keen am­a­teur with no re­spect for other pho­tog­ra­phers spoilt an en­tire shot by walk­ing on oth­er­wise pris­tine snow in front of Mount Kirkjufell. In this case, though, the cul­prit had stood right in the way of some­one else’s shot. I urge any­one who reads this to con­sider oth­ers when out pho­tograph­ing, es­pe­cially at busy spots. It’s a mu­tual re­spect we, as pho­tog­ra­phers and artists, should have for one another. I just had to grit my teeth and read­just to the left to frame him out. A hor­i­zon­tal ori­en­ta­tion wasn’t even on the cards this morn­ing, even if I wanted to ex­per­i­ment, so I went ver­ti­cal again. Nev­er­the­less, a break in the clouds be­hind me shone a rich orange on the moun­tain and lit up the bare branches of the sil­ver birch. With the cool blueish tones be­low, I was still very happy with my post­card shot.

With thanks to Kate Thomp­son and all at Volk­swa­gen UK for sup­ply­ing the VW Cal­i­for­nia Ocean cam per van. For more on all things VW vis­itwww.volk­swa­gen.co.uk

the great

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