I made my way to the far northeast corner of Aberdeenshire today scouting a specific lighthouse, my intention is to return here for a sunrise shoot when conditions are right to do so. I still took along my camera so I could make a few images but these were never intended to be anything other than informative for me at a later date.
But once I started shooting I thought the images were really quite nice so took a little time and effort to do what I could with the conditions. Obviously the light wasn't the best but the sea conditions were good and some solid waves were bouncing back off the base of the structure. I took some time to make images that captured the sea state and also some that calmed the sea state using long exposures.
The images below show one shot with a polariser at 1/640th and f/5.6 to freeze the motion of the sea. The other one shot with a polariser and a 16 stop filter at 30 sec at f5.6 to smooth out the sea. I like both and thought they make an interesting example of how you can make very different shots at the exact same location simply by changing your shutter speed.
Rattray Head Lighthouse is on the northeast corner of Aberdeenshire and has been there since 1895, automated in 1982 it continues to warn seafarers with its 28 nautical mile beam of light cutting through the night sky. There is a beautiful beach and 17 miles of unspoiled sand dunes up to 75 feet high reaching south from the point. It is a stunning, isolated place accessed via a terrible track that is deeply rutted and potholed along most of its length, but it is still well worth the slow drive along it. It's certainly a drive I will be making again when conditions are right.
This week I managed to get out exploring a little of the Cairngorms National Park using my mountain bike to cover the ground. A basic scouting run looking for future photo opportunity found it around every corner, and I had to remind myself that different is not necessarily more photogenic. It's easy to fall into this trap when we travel far beyond our usual haunts. The change in topography provides differing views than we have experienced for a while, so it is natural to be tempted into thinking they are all great views rather than new views.
It's a very difficult thing to combat, and I believe we do need to combat it, because the views are so appealing due to their recency that we tend to see them as much more interesting at that moment, when they are in fact only momentarily interesting.
If you're shooting for Instagram, then fire away, because the image only needs to be momentarily interesting, but if you're shooting to create a landscape image for the portfolio, and hopefully future sales, then momentarily interesting simply isn't enough.
I covered 25km around the south east corner of the Cairngorms and found a number of areas with real promise for future image making. I always carry my little Canon M50 to note the places I find, then once back at home I place them in a 'potential' folder with notes on conditions required to make the image I envisaged for the location.
The image below is fine for sharing on the blog (ignoring clear composition issues) it does give a taste of Scotland, but the light is wrong, the heather to the left of frame is in its winter state and far too dull, and the grasses lifeless.
But if I return on a frosty autumnal morning the heather would be blooming, both on the left of frame and on the mountain in the distance which would catch the morning light, there should still be good water flow, life in the grasses and (if we want it all) just a light dusting of snow or hoar frost on the mountain, that would be the shot.
In truth, I am unlikely to return to this area in perfect conditions, it's simply too far to hike in before dawn with all the gear and to be honest I'm sure I could find a similar composition in dozens of places within striking distance of the roadside. But the process of scouting does make us consider these things more carefully, and look out for them elsewhere, so in that sense it brings value to the whole exercise.
In truth, just being out there hunting images and enjoying the tranquillity whilst contemplating photography is such a wonderful pastime that its contribution is in many ways, invaluable.
So, whenever you're out there shooting, and particularly in a new area, be more critical of the image you're trying to make and don't let the 'new view' fool you into thinking it's a great view.
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