By Cath and Ian Humes
One evening, Cath and I were looking through various photographers work and were discussing what we liked and disliked about the images. The discussion turned from specific images to photography in general and how you could stack the odds in your favour when producing images. What do you need to do to capture, for want of a better word, a great picture. Specifically, what can you plan for and what can’t you. As with any art form there are a few things you can do in preparation. A painter can mix their paints, a sculptor chooses their materials and a potter needs a wheel that works the way they like. All art requires some preparation.
So what goes into taking a great picture and which of those items can you plan for? Well, we think it’s seven items: the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment, enough skill to use it, the right weather, the right frame of mind….. and a little luck never hurts. You don’t need all of these, you can probably get away with just having luck, and I will take all the lucky photographs I can get. But luck comes and goes, the rest requires preparation.
Canon 1DS Mk1, Canon 45mm f2.8 TSE at f8 around 1/320, ISO 100, Raw, 10:42– 10:46 October 17th
There are some places that offer more photographic opportunities than others. However this depends more on the photographer than the location. I would struggle to do street photography because it’s not what inspires me, and yet I’m quite at home doing architectural photography; same location different subject. If I am in a rocky field with mountains and a sea loch then I am in my element but it would leave a portrait photographer cold, unless I suddenly become the subject (shudders). So for me, the scenery doesn’t get much more striking than that available on the Isle of Skye or around Glencoe. Consider the ten best pictures you have ever created, the ones you personally like the best. Half of my top ten are located down a single eleven mile stretch of road on Skye. I could spend all week on the Elgol Road and would not be unhappy. If like me, wide open spaces, cloud capped mountains and wild prehistoric landscapes make you reach for your camera then this is the place for you.
The above picture is nicknamed the five-year-photo as it took me that long to get just the right conditions. After many visits that were unsuccessful we arrived in the rain at the marble quarry carpark. The rain was blowing through in regular waves fifteen minutes apart, the set started with five minutes of hard rain, followed by five minutes of windblown drizzle, then you were treated to five minutes of sun before the set restarted with the return of the hard rain. Cath smiled at me as we sat listening to the drumming on the car roof, she didn’t need to say anything, we both knew she thought I was mad. I t didn’t look hopeful but you have to work with what you have. I knew where I needed to go and how long it would take so had my wet weather kit on, waterproof bag zipped, tripod and panoramic head ready. Cath smiled and said, “See you in a couple of hours.” as she settled in under a woollen blanket with a good book and a flask of tea. So off I wandered into the weather, rain, drizzle, sun, repeat. Climbing the hillside and finding the spot took three full sets of weather. I started setting up my tripod whilst it was still raining so I would be ready. During the next sunny phase the camera got mounted and calibrated and as the rain started again the heavy-duty garden-waste bag covered camera and tripod head. Sometimes it’s good to be the only person on a rain soaked hillside holding a tripod with a rubbish bag on it. The sun came out and the camera was un-bagged. It was time to work quickly, focus, expose, turn to the left, shift the lens up, top row of nineteen images, shift the lens down, bottom row of nineteen images and then bag over when the rain started again.
The left image was shifted up to include more sky in the final panorama, and the right image was shifted down to include more foreground. I used a tilt shift lens to create these but could have tilted the camera up and down to achieve a similar result. A wider lens than the 45mm TSE would have given a wider field of view, using the 35mm lens would have meant taking fewer pictures and having a smaller maximum print size for the final panorama. It would also have helped to have it with me and not sat at home but you can only carry so much. Maximum print size at 300dpi 26ftx6ft.
When the next band of good weather appeared it was time to do it all again in case something had gone wrong the first time. I had to get one good complete panorama as the clouds and shadows were moving too quickly to be able to swap frames between panoramas. In the fifteen minutes between shots the sun would have moved about four degrees and that would show as a notch in the shadows. It could be fixed in post-production but it’s better to get it right the first time. I shot three panoramas, packed the kit up and slogged, soggy but happy back to the car. I arrived back over two and a half hours after leaving and found the car was locked. Cath was sitting inside, warm and dry, her crochet on my seat finishing her row. She told me with a smile on her face, “Even a princess needs to finish her row!”. When the row was finished, she let me in out of the rain (there’s always a price for photography). As a photographer she knew enough not to ask if I had got it, we wouldn’t know until the post-processing. So she asked the only two questions that were important, “Have fun? Tea?”
All Images Copyright © 2015 Cath and Ian Humes. All rights reserved.