March 12th, 2020
It is not only his majesty Lockdown the Third that is raging around us – at least it is the case here, in the south east of England, where I have been perched for a few years now – we are also in the grip of rather inclement weather, with rains and strong winds, and low clouds calling to mind a blanket of lead than anything else and blocking out most of the sunshine. Not ideal for long exposure photography, right? Or is it?
While, in the case of long exposure photography, it is almost darn impossible to agree on what ‘ideal’ really means, it is a lot easier to say what is acceptable, passable or just good. After all, most long exposures are created outdoors – and outdoors means weather. All kinds of it.
When you are out shooting it might be difficult to keep your tripod steady, what with constant gusts of wind coming at you from all direction and often nothing to act as a natural shield (if you ever been as silly as myself and took a brolly to use as means of protecting your camera from shakes, I’m sure you’ve learnt it is, to say the list while remaining polite, of very little use). The attempts to use your body as a defence against the wind are no doubt brave and honourable, but ultimately otiose. The only way is to give up fighting and accept the conditions as they are and take advantage of them.
Luckily for the adepts of long exposure photography, it is not, as many happen to believe, a one-dimensional genre. Not everything here is about silky-smooth water, perfect light-streaks, and perfectly toned images of waterfalls in Iceland. In fact, those are only manifestations of something lot more profound. If love really rules the world, let’s photography be the food of love (apart from music of course). And if photography be the food of love, shoot on!
Many a photographer confess they take cameras in their hands because they simply like the act of photographing. ‘Tis very noble to be sure but what I am always expecting is to hear that they do it not only for the love of the medium but also, and hopefully more so, because of the love of nature – and love of themselves, too.
Shoot in all weathers. Shoot because you love doing it. Shoot to preserve those fleeting moments that appear before our eyes and are gone in a flicker, never to return. Shoot because you love yourself and what to show how you perceive the world around you. Shoot to record what is in front of you. Shoot to express what is inside you. Come rain or shine, or blustery winds – use every opportunity you have to shoot. Too windy for a tripod? It’s time to try your hand at ICM – and this time even a most shaky of hands might prove to be the best one for the job. Forget your pre-visualisations and expectations and surrender to the conditions you have at the moment – and if you open yourself to the elements, I guarantee you will not come back home without at least an agreeable image.
The two images I am presenting this month were taken near my home, with more-less twenty-four hours elapsing between them. They are of the same spot and were both taken with a full spectrum converted infrared camera. The first one (bluish) was handheld, allowing a little shake from light wind, the other one (black and white) was taken the next day in very strong winds, on a tripod. Both images were post-processed in Lightroom.
They are very similar yet quite different. One of them gives more clarity, with tree-trunks in sharp focus while the wispy branches move in the wind. The other has nothing in sharp focus, giving it a lot more impressionistic angle. I like both of them and when the leaves grow am sure to re-visit the spot, fishing for another image, hopefully different still.
One thing is – it is quite surprising how much enjoyment we can find in vicinity of our homes, but my guess over the course of last year we have all learned it already. The other, far more reaching, is that we should never allow ourselves to be constrained. Experimenting with everything we have at our disposal – exposure times, different apertures, ISO settings, is just a beginning. As the world outside changes with every minute it is perhaps worth remembering that its beauty and understanding of it is in the eyes, the mind and the soul of the beholder. The bottom line for us photographers is that our art is an amalgamate of what is outside and what is inside us, and our images are manifestations of it. When I print an image, it is as if I was saying: I love what I saw and that is why I photographed it; and I love this image because it truly represents me.