I had heard of a beautiful location in the area around Loch Druim Suardalain in Assynt, Scotland, but had not visited it beforehand. Usually, I avoid visiting new locations during a workshop as the area might be disappointing photographically, and participants might be disillusioned. However, this time, because of the intermittent wet conditions, I thought it would be a good opportunity to pay a visit to see what the area had to offer. Without wanting to sound overconfident, I believe strongly that pictures can be made everywhere and, with my guidance, all participants should be able to find an image they will be happy with. Indeed, the area did not disappoint; there was ample opportunity for many different compositions and points of view.
The only thing we had against us was the weather; dull, cloud covered and featureless sky was the order of the day. My advice to everyone was not to include the sky in their compositions. I am a strong believer that, compositionally, a landscape picture full of impact does not need to contain sky unless the sky has something to offer to the landscape; hence you may notice that many of my images contain very little or no sky at all.
While walking, photographing, learning, and having fun, I noticed this half submerged rock covered in moss. I was attracted also by the almost perfect reflections and the beautifully soft colour palette of the background, a true and typically Scottish winter scene. While everyone was busy photographing various subjects around me, I asked for permission to make this image. Very kindly they all agreed and, before I knew it, most of them gathered around to see what and how I was going to proceed; we can all learn from each other.
It took me a little while to find the composition I was looking for. However, the hardest part was positioning my tripod. As you can see in the small picture, I had to be knee high in the water. There is a reason behind this, of course. One might suggest that I could have used my 70-200mm lens and stayed on land, instead of using the Canon 24-105mm at 70mm, but there are a few things we need to consider. First, and most importantly, is the angle of view. Had I stayed on land and zoomed in more than 70mm, the rock would have covered more background land, and I wanted only the top part of the rock to protrude above the water line. Actually, to get my composition precisely how I wanted it, I had to try a couple of different lenses and various tripod positions. Here, I must give a big thank you to Mike Bell for assisting me in this. From the small picture you can see that, even small movements would allow the reflections of the dull sky to creep into the composition, plenty of patience and small adjusting movements had to be employed. An aperture of f/16 delivered the slightly out of focus background superbly, exactly in the way I had envisaged.
Forget a dull and boring sky: all you need is time to explore, patience and passion to find the hidden picture.