The measure of the landscape photographer’s art lies in what he or she does when the light is working against them.
I spent my first few years as a landscape photographer chasing the sweet light. After all, I am Magic Hour Travelscapes. Start early, stay late and chances are you will be shooting light that most people will find beautiful and compelling. The truth is that when the sky is on fire and the land takes on that familiar warm glow, it’s not so hard to create something appealing. On the other hand, when the light is dull, the weather dreary and conditions uninspiring, the landscape photographer is forced to dig deep and bend Mother Nature’s offerings to one’s will. Sometimes I find that such is the degree of difficulty, producing a single decent image is the equivalent of conjuring a rabbit from a hat.
Maybe, it’s the reason why I am most drawn to photographers who do not rely on magic hour light for their images. The Tasmanians Peter Dombrovskis and Chris Bell are excellent examples of these.
Over recent years, I have been working out what to do when conditions are not favourable for traditional landscape photography. I will always chase the beautiful light, but with maturity I have become increasingly confident about taking on the challenges when it is absent.
I see every difficult situation as a puzzle to be solved. There is always a photograph to be made should one decide that the task be important. This is not always the case; I’m finding myself these days taking out my camera far less often, instead content merely to observe and savour the environment. Perhaps it’s part of the process.
On my recent week long trip through Scotland, I managed only seven shoots in total. About half of these were in wet typically Scottish weather. Without great light, the pressure to ‘shoot first and think later was off’ and I was able to try out this idea of slow photography.
Elgol remains one of the world’s premier locations for seascapes. Anytime the ocean mixes with mountains, you can bet that the results will be impressive. The only problem is that Elgol is not exactly a secret location and there were already quite a few photographers milling about when I arrived for a sunset shoot. A heavy shower sent all of them away and pretty soon I had the place to myself. The drama of a surging swell against the sinister peaks of the Cuillins had already been well captured by many photographers before me. And being me, I was not content to walk the path as those before myself.
In recent years, I have favoured faster shutter speeds for seascapes. However on this occasion I decided that a long exposure was required to imbue the scene with an ethereal fantasy atmosphere which to date I have not seen in any photographs at this location.
Also known as the fifth element by medieval alchemists, aether is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. In Greek mythology, it was thought to be the pure essence that the gods breathed, filling the space where they lived.
Canon 5DMkIII, 16-35mm, ISO 100, f11, 80 seconds