Its been quite a while since I’ve had a real run and gun photography morning.
My inital plan went completely out the window when I woke up at 4:30am and realised two things. First was the radar was showing lots of cloud off the coast that would block any early light from the sunrise and second, I couldn’t see across the road because of the fog that had developed through the night! Rain the day before and a perfect temperature night mean that huge areas were covered in low lying fog.
I had to formulate a new plan. I now wasn’t worried about getting to a location an hour before sunrise. I was worried the sun would have to get too far into the sky to make it over the clouds at sea before the fog started to lift. My photo from my last blog post had me inspired to try an new perspective on the landscape, from a high vantage point, and I knew just the location. My only concern was, I’d never been there before! It was near a couple of other spots I did know about so I figured if plan A failed, I had alternatives.
A 30 minute run from home found me making my way along the most incredible ridge line. There is enough room for maybe a house each side of the dirt road, before the land falls away completely down to the valley floor below. What an amazing spot and I’m kicking myself for never being here before. The fog was pooling between the hills in the valleys, absolutely perfectly what I wanted. I tried a few different shots before the sun came up, I really liked this one for the crepuscular rays that were beaming over those annoying high clouds at the coast. Not sure what had gone on with the grass here, kinda wondering if some cows might have been taken by aliens given the “crop circle” in front of me.
Want I really wanted however was that sun to break through the clouds and throw some light on the landscape below. I figured if I could keep the sun just out side of the frame I could get a nice angled back lit situation with amazing contrast. Well I didn’t have to wait too long before the sun did finally break through. The unfortunate part was that the beautiful colour wasn’t showing up the way I wanted. So hatching a plan, I decided to really zoom in on the landscape below, isolating the hills and the fog, almost removing the sky, and putting my camera into black and white mode, I can also add a tint. I tried a red/orange tint for warm light but it just didn’t work, going the other way I went with a cool tone (touch of blue) and really liked the results. These settings make no difference to the final photograph as I shoot in Raw and can develop the photograph any way I like. However it really does help you visualise in the field in that moment, what you are shooting for and lets you get your settings just right. This photo took all of 2 minutes to edit, really just convert to black and white, adjust the highlights and shadows to where I wanted them, and then add just a small amount of blue to the shadows in split toning. Done, and this is now one of my most favourite fog photographs ever! Running a print of this today and it’s going straight on the wall. Let me know in the comments below what you think.
Finally finishing up on the ridge line, I knew my morning wasn’t quite over yet. It was time to run and gun. This is really simple. Drive around in amazing light and fog conditions until something grabs your eye, and STOP! If something gets your attention, no matter how small, how trivial, my rule is I have to get out and take a photograph. Well, in the next 40 minutes I stopped 8 times, and got 2 photographs I really liked. That is pure bonus for me as I knew I already had shots in the bag from the morning.
The first one I really liked has a detail that is really hard to see see unless you see the photograph up large, and I like that. It means only a few people will ever see that in person, those that see a print of mine, or who purchase a print. It’s not a dramatic photograph, it’s very simplistic. A tree, in a field, with the sun glowing through the fog behind. The detail I love, all that grass in front, is absolutely littered with circular shaped spider webs glistening with dew! I don’t know what type of spider, I’ll have to look into it because I’ve seen this a few times, but it looks amazing when you realise what it is.
This next photograph shows why I have that rule of you absolutely positively must stop and take a photograph. I only caught the very briefest of glimpses of this scene as I drove past. In fact I’d driven past it twice already that morning and not noticed it because it was set back quite a distance from the road. Jumping out of the car and grabbing my camera I knew I would need to zoom right in as far as I could for this one, as there didn’t appear to be any way to get closer (tip: I leave my camera mounted to my tripod on the back seat, I don’t have any concerns of it falling off as Olympus gear is just so light, this means I can be out and shooting in 5 seconds, also very handy when chasing storms). The benefit of this zooming in is all the elements of the scene get compressed together. The trees in front get closer to the Tower (as I’m calling it) and the hills behind get closer as well. I think this gives a nice intimate layering for this photograph. The sun was behind me and the colour, light and fog were just amazing.
Finally it was time to pack up, what an amazing morning. Autumn is my favourite time of year for photography as there is just so much going on, from late season weather, to fog, to crystal clear nights for Astro, I suggest you get out now and get out often.
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