… Should be done while the sun is shining. Or so goes conventional wisdom anyway.
Yet as photographers we should be aware to the photographic potential available to us when the sun isn’t shining, or when conditions are not ideal. When I think about landscape photography I am sometimes guilty of wanting – and waiting for – conditions to be nigh on perfect before I’ll venture out with camera gear in tow. It doesn’t help that even though I live near a lot of fantastic countryside, it still takes probably an hour at a minimum to get somewhere, by which time the weather could have changed (or any one of a range of excuses). Given that in the UK a litre of fuel now costs more than the latest all-singing, all-dancing DSLR (I jest, but the exaggeration isn’t extreme!), I prefer to be sure it’ll be worth it before I get in the car. And there is very little sure about landscape photography.
So all that translates to not getting in the car. A bit like the feeling of always not having a camera when a photo opportunity presents itself, you also miss opportunities if you don’t put yourself in the position of finding those photo opportunities in the first place, camera or no camera.
So in the deepest, darkest of winter a short while back, this photographer was dragged out by a dear friend to a place in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere vaguely near Bradford, which with the greatest respect is not exactly a hotbed of nature photography. Given average weather conditions and thawing snow, I didn’t even bother with the heavy and annoying camera package. It was also somewhere I’d photographed before, in better conditions, in the middle of summer, flush with green. So I assumed (why do people even bother assuming, seeing as it seems to perpetually lead to disaster…) there would be nothing to gain from photographing it again in less than perfect conditions.
An hour’s drive later, having managed to avoid any sat nav sabotage due to the benefit of having made the trip two summers ago, we were safely parked and began the short trek to the falls. The ground was a mixture of snow and packed ice, and given my general propensity for being a clumsy clot, took slightly more effort and time than it should, but the sight when we arrived took my breath away. Or at least, it did for someone who spent his life growing up in an equatorial metropolis of 3 million people.
Luckily for me my friend had brought along her camera, her tripod, and a sense of charity. After she’d taken her own shots I borrowed the camera and grabbed a few frames. Apparently two days earlier the ice curtain had stretched all the way across the falls but after a bit of a thaw most of it had broken away.
Prior to getting there, I hadn’t anticipated spending much time at the falls at all but as it turned out we stayed until the winter light began to fade. Even then on our way back there were plenty of little details to capture downstream, as the normally interesting swirling water and rock formations along the river were embellished by ice and snow. Needless to say the trip back was a very pleasant affair.
There is an old saying that springs to mind. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And bring your camera.