Feb is fab
February 12th, 2019
It is an uninviting time, February is. New Year’s Eve reveries are long gone and all that’s left is to wait until the spring starts waking up the world around us and within us again. It can be a very long and a very grey wait.
Every now and then there comes a fabulous February, with days brimming with sunshine and evenings full with moist and – what is most important here – mornings milky with fog.
We had just one like this a few weeks ago in the UK. For those few days you could set up your alarm clock at an ungodly hour and venture out when all your neighbours were still fast asleep, into the calm and quiet of the last moments of the night, to drive to your destination.
To drive dead slow, not quite sure if you were going where you wanted to. To fog was so dense it was impossible to see any further than a few meters ahead. The fog lights helped very little too. And once you got there and parked your car, it was still impossible to tell which way to walk, the fog was still so impenetrable.
And so I walked blindly through forest and came across this lake. I could not tell if it was a big one or not – there was no visibility at all and no sounds apart from some birds. It was impossible to decide if I should stay put or keep on mooching, it was everybody’s guess what would be best. I had a strange feeling there is no vicinity – for the fog I could not tell what was around me. It was, to coin a phrase, pitch white.
It took more than two hours for the fog to lift enough to see anything. I do not mean ‘see’ in the regular sense of the word and definitely not in Avatar ‘I see you” sense. I imagine it would be much more appropriate if I decided be ‘faintly discern’. I could barely espy something across the water that might be but could not tell how far away it was.
A year ago distance would not be a problem. For the past five years I used to walk around with 28-300 mm lens in my bag and used them good few thousand times. I did like the images I took with it yet little by little a dissatisfaction was growing in me, the softness of the images bugged me more and more until a year ago I decided to switch to primes.
Old primes, from 1970s to be precise. The bag got lighter (a lot lighter!) and my images got crispier. A lot crispier. The only thing is I now have nothing longer than nifty-fifty.
So, if the tree turned out to be too far, I could still take it but then would probably need to crop a lot. In the safety of my bag 24mm, 28mm and 50mm water for the final decision, more patient then me. Should have brought a folded chair or something to bide my time in a more dignify fashion, I though.
Unhurriedly, the fog was lifting. I could now see that there were a few tens by the bank with fishing rods pointed out towards the water. Light kissed lake surface few times. Something was stirring in the bush nearby. It was like waiting on a bus with more and more people appearing at the bus shelter but the bus still nowhere in sight.
And then, suddenly, it was there, right in front of me. Not too close, not too far – in a perfect distance for 24mm. The light just make its promise to shine from behind the tree later on so I decided to hover there for a bit longer. In the still on the morning I set my tripod up, spread the protective on the muddy ground, put down my bag and opened it slowly. When the camera crowned the tripod I levelled it, framed the image and check what lens will be best. It was just perfect for 24mm lens.
A few test shots and histogram checks later all was focused and the only thing to wait for was the decisive moment. It is never sure it will come, is it? This fugitive moment of perfect play of light that makes the image stand out and a photographer come home wearing a beatific smile. That moment when everything just resonates with you. That moment when the only thing you want to do is to press the shutter and have this image.
This biding is a lot like waiting for the results of the exam when you know you had done all the necessary preparations but by no means are assured of receiving the desired note.
The difference is that now you can once more rethink your approach and perhaps re-frame the shot and rethink the post-production and the final image you set your mind and heart on.
The for was lifting and I stared to perceive the branches, birds bobbing around in the water, some more detail further behind. Light metering time came. At f/2.8, ISO 100 it showed 1/160 second. 10-stop filter would make it a mere 5-6 seconds, while 15-stop around 3 minutes, which I decided would be too long. At f/7.1 it gave 60 seconds, just enough to smoothen the water and keep the branches steady.
When I take such short exposures I tend to take a few shots with intervals of five minutes, give or take. It was no different this time round. After that I decided to head home as it was quite probable there are some other opportunities to be had on the way.
I took a few images along the lake, a few when the forest meets the field, a few at the playground in the city park and then I finally arrive at the spot in the city I currently reside in. The city, although it boasts a thousand years of history is – I will refrain from using words that be too harsh – uninspiring and drearily dull. It boasts to be the birthplace of one of the most famous rock bands and the most infamous – as least in certain circles – prime minister. Its short main street in usually empty, while scores of its borne and bread inhabitants, regardless of the time of the day, can be easily found at the Weatherspoon’s.
There is here, however, not an entirely shabby spot of a park and a building that I have always take when enveloped by fog. Now was my chance.
The street is quite steep and the building old, with vapidity I expected to work well this morning. Walking towards it I stared encountering the first signs that the city has already awaken. There were a few odd people at the bus stop and further down police patrol was struggling to keep a screaming man down. Soon the fog will be gone, I thought, and made haste.
Selecting vintage point was plain sailing so the tripod and camera ware up in no time. Filters on, light reading done and off we go! Five, six shots and job done. Time to head back home and have some good tea.
As I was packing, the lads of no more than 14 were passing me by. As soon as they saw me standing in a narrow side street that stood there blocking it for me. For a moment they stood with their backs to me, whispering something to one another. Folding my big, 3.5 kilo tripod (not to mention the head) I was asking myself if they will want to sell me some pot or rather will get a blade out and try to get my back or in most polite of terms ask for some financial contribution to their purse. I will never know. After less than a minute they decided to end the blockade and moved on.
I tend not to post many of my images neither in LEMAG FB group nor here. I have not create LEMAG to show of my own work but to propose a platform where artists using this technique could find a welcoming home. This time though I decided to share a few of images from that glorious morning in February and share the wonderful experience of finding interesting spots where I never thought I would.