Just before Christmas I found out that I would be featured in Outdoor Photography magazine. It was a great way to end 2017 and the March edition of the magazine has just been published today (8th of February 2018). OP chose to feature a photo of Loch Earn with Rob Mullholland’s ‘Still’ sculpture, a photo of a rainy Rattray Head lighthouse and my 4 image composite of St Monan’s breakwater on a gloomy morning.
When I go to shoot landscapes I usually have something fairly specific in mind. This gives me a starting point and some direction for the shoot but things often take a turn (usually due to weather or access issues) and often times you have to switch to Plan B or even Plan C! The 3 photos featured in OP are good examples of what I mean…
Loch Earn was a perfect morning (apart from having to wake up at 2am!) where everything aligned and the photographs seemed to pick themselves up and jump into my camera. It’s what we always wish would happen but rarely does. Plan A.You just count yourself lucky and don’t ask any questions! The good thing about getting a couple of good shots quickly is the it gives you a bit of confidence and some time to explore the location for new, unexpected angles.
My shot of Rattray Head lighthouse was taken during a landscape photography workshop. I had set my camera up to walk my clients through the long exposure process. For the sake of the demonstration I try to get the longest exposure possible using a narrow aperture, low ISO and 10 stop ND filter. I’m a fan of the technique but on this day, it wasn’t looking quite right for me. The long exposure smoothed out all of the movement in the sea and just didn’t capture the mood of the gloomy conditions. Once my clients were off and running I decided to revisit the photograph and try to capture the driech atmosphere. Plan B. How could I do this better? By choosing a shutter speed of just a couple of seconds I was able to show just enough movement in the middle-ground waves and show the foreground water dragging away, which leads you into the scene. Somehow it all came together with the moodiness of the sky. As I said, I was teaching a workshop so I didn’t have time to do things perfectly so, with the 10 stop ND still in place I quickly juggled my aperture and ISO settings to make the 2 second exposure work, shot a few frames and then went back to teaching my class.
St Monans was a similarly dull day but without much atmosphere at all. You always set out hoping for beautiful light to break through at just the right time but on this day it wasn’t meant to be. Plan B. I decided to look at what I did have rather than wish for what I didn’t have. Stop and look. I had water splashing up and over the breakwater at a few different places so I decided to wait until all the splashes happened at the same time. I waited. And waited. Nope. Plan C! Standing on top of the seawall I told myself I wasn’t leaving this location empty handed. I decided I’d have to capture each of the different splashes and mini waterfalls separately and composite them together later in Photoshop. All I had to do was wait, watch and click at just the right times while making sure the camera didn’t move. The Photoshop side of things was fairly straightforward, stacking the images up and using layer masks to blend them together. Although it’s not what I set out to do I was happy to walk away with something atmospheric from a difficult situation.
It goes without saying that I’m delighted to have been featured in Outdoor Photography and I’m glad I could share these insights with you. Please let me know if you have any questions etc and I should also mention here that I’ve got a landscape workshop at Rattray Head coming up on Saturday the 17th of March. Full details are on the website – let me know if you’d like to come along.