The Missing Light

You can call me a romantic fool if you like but the feeling I get when standing in the midst of nature’s wonders early in the morning is something I find hard to describe

It was November 2010 and as a very enthusiastic photographer I had big plans for a glorious sunrise; the weather forecast showing clear skies overnight. My assessment of this location is that, no matter how clear the sky is during sunrise, always there will be some clouds hovering above the Cuillin Hills. As soon as the sun rises above the horizon at this time of year, it shines through the mountains and hits the clouds from a sideways angle. The result can be astonishing and the captured photograph sensational.

However, it was not meant to be that morning. After arriving early in order to prepare and then waiting for an hour, all I had to offer from this morning’s shoot was not just a frozen lochan but frozen toes and fingers too. The sky was not what I hoped for but the view of the frozen lochan was spectacular. I just stood and absorbed the beauty. After all, isn’t that what landscape photographers fall in love with? You can call me a romantic fool if you like but the feeling I get when standing in the midst of nature’s wonders early in the morning is something I find hard to describe as my poetic skills leave a lot to be desired; I am just a landscape photographer after all.

My final decision was to use a heavy ND filter and try to smooth out the clouds slightly, giving the image a dreamy effect. I could turn it to black and white, as some of you might suggest, but I like the orange colour of the grass protruding through the ice. Some of you might ask me also how I managed to get sharp depth of field with an aperture of f/13. The answer depends upon each individual scene in particular. I could turn the dial to f/22 to be sure about sharpness throughout, but what about diffraction? That would ruin the quality of the image. Instead, I opted for f/11 and focused on the grass on the left (half way into the frame). Upon checking the bottom of the picture in live view and with the DOF button pressed, I realised that the foreground was slightly out of focus. I focused again but this time slightly closer and changed the aperture to f/13. On a second check, my foreground was pin sharp all around and there was enough clarity in the distant mountains (but not pin sharp) for me to be more than happy to go ahead. I like keeping the aperture as wide open as possible; I know that my lenses give me stellar results from f/8 to f/13. A 2 stop soft ND Grad was used to bring down the sky slightly.

Am I happy with the results? Of course, I am always happy when out in the field and at one with nature. And, what about the glorious sunrise; simple, it will happen another time and I might be there to enjoy it and to capture it. After all, this should be every landscape photographer’s maxim: get it next time.

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