Transient Light

Like many things in life, landscape photography comes with its own set of rules to learn and abide by. However, it is just as important to know when to break them

I have always been a strong believer in preparation. Whenever I get ready to visit a location, I always make sure that I check my list of things that need to be done before I leave the house. I check the weather forecast for the next few days, as well as sunrise and sunset times. It is also very important to check out tide times if I am about to visit coastal scenery. Finally, I make sure that all my gear is in my backpack and ready to go.

I follow similar rules when I am on location. Initially I will walk around and scout the location in order to find the best spot for my composition. I am always amazed to see people arrive at a location and immediately set up their tripod and camera gear and start taking pictures, without checking out the location first. Once I have found the best composition, I then follow the procedure of checking camera settings. Then, once everything has been checked, all I have to do is relax and wait for the best time to capture the image.

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By now you must be wondering if I always live my life under the pressure of rules, and the answer would be yes, and no. Yes, I do have certain rules and I do follow them as they help me to remain organised, but I am also ready to break those rules or simply ignore them. My photographic life is very similar. I have a set of rules that I follow but I also break or ignore them when the times demand.

On a recent photographic trip to the Dolomite mountains in Italy, I was surrounded by breathtaking scenery; tall, rugged and wild looking mountains capped green valleys of outstanding beauty. The magnificent vista brought frames from ‘The Sound of Music’ to my mind. Around every turn – and there were plenty of them – there was something different to admire.

We had arranged the trip to coincide with the autumn colours. The best part was that due to various altitudes, the colours of the trees differed. Larch trees had a much nicer autumnal colour at higher altitude than the ones near the valleys.

We stayed in three different areas of the Dolomites as we wanted to explore as much of the area as possible. One of the places we visited was Lake Braies. Slightly isolated and surrounded by mountains, this was a perfect place to walk around, relax and catch your thoughts.

Just before sunset I was photographing the reflection of a beautiful little church on the other side of the lake. As I lifted the tripod and walked further down the lake, I noticed a most remarkable warm light bathing the mountain peaks behind me. Two of my friends were slightly further away, also photographing reflections on the lake. I called out to let them know that if they did not hurry they would miss this incredible but fleeting light. They couldn’t really see what was happening from their position, so I shouted again to make sure that they really understood what I was witnessing. Eventually, they started walking towards me and, just like myself, they could not believe how beautiful that transient light looked on the peaks. Without hesitation, we set up our gear and started recording this phenomenal light.

I will close this essay with a bit of advice. By all means, have rules in your life, and in your photography. However, make sure that you remain flexible at the same time, otherwise you might miss out on many things, including transient light.

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    Super article. A lot of this rang true with me having been on your Lofoten workshop recently. As you say it’s important to know the rules but also know when to break them and to take advice when given.
    More of the same please.

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