A Fleeting Opportunity

‘Loch Garry from Dalnaspidal’, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM @105mm, 1/640 sec @ f/8.0 ISO 100
LEE 3-stop neutral-density graduated filter.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head
Adobe Lightroom.

“Spontaneity can sometimes bring Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive-moment” to landscape photography.”

A Fleeting Opportunity

The slow methodical approach of the large format photographer has much to offer the inquisitive SLR user. Taking more time over our photography, adopting a more disciplined workflow and meticulous attention to composition can help us to create compelling imagery. However, one significant advantage we have over our large-format colleagues, is the ability to move very quickly when circumstances dictate. Landscape photography can often be about capturing a brief moment, making the most of a fleeting opportunity.

One stormy overcast afternoon, while travelling along the A9 towards Pitlochry in the heart of Scotland, the clouds began to clear and the possibility of sunlight was arising. Conditions like this, at the edge of weather, offer dramatic possibilities for the landscape photographer. The SLR user is particularly well placed to take advantage of such fleeting opportunities. Moments when the sun suddenly shows itself in all its visual majesty, creating the possibility of chiaroscuro style images full of pathos and melancholy. Moments that demand rapid visualisation, quick reactions and fast workflow.

It had been raining heavily; a ray of bright sunshine suddenly appeared during a lull in the storm, bathing the Loch in light. I pulled over quickly and fumbled about hurriedly in the back of the car, rapidly preparing my camera as the lorries thundered past kicking up spray from the road. There was no time for my usual methodical tripod based approach, I attached my 24-105mm lens, a neutral-density-graduated filter and ran across the road, umbrella in one hand and camera in the other. I quickly fired off a test shot, checked my histogram and then spent just four minutes shooting the scene under my umbrella before the sun disappeared again and the moment was lost. Spontaneity can sometimes bring Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive-moment” to landscape photography.

I’ve rendered the image with very little colour, almost monochrome, it seemed appropriate to the scene as I experienced it; melancholic but hopeful.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.