Epic light and changeable weather

Wey Navigation
The last couple of days have been really foul here – loads more rain that our already saturated landscape really didn’t need, and unremitting grey skies. But on Tuesday, as the weather front rolled slowly in over the Surrey countryside, Jen and I were treated to some seriously epic skies.
Surrey landscape
Fortuitously, we had chosen for our weekly photoshoot the Wey Navigation towpath between Cartbridge and Triggs Lock. The Navigation is bounded here by water meadows, open spaces and big skies. We were like the proverbial children in the sweet shop (kids in a candy store in American!). It will take me a while to get through all the images I made but here are the first few out of the digital darkroom. Little editing required thanks to my circ. polariser and ND grad. filters. Colours as they appeared on the day.
Weather front

The joy of watching light

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On this trip I have enjoyed a few opportunities to return to my first photographic love, landscapes. There really is nothing like waiting for the light. Time slows down. Senses are heightened to notice the rhythmic wash of waves on the shore, the eerie cry of a solitary gull, the way the light touches the crests of the breakers, the curve of wet rocks at the shore’s edge, the drift of the clouds. How could I have forgotten?
This shot is from my iPhone and not exactly top quality – iPhone4’s camera is good but struggles in low light. The proper shots will have to wait until I get home. But even if none of them prove worthy, the experience was magical.

Backlit bee

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I love shooting macro into the light. You never know quite what you’re going to get, which is a huge part of the fun. In this image, I enjoy the rim lighting on the bumble bee as it visits verbena bonariensis in my garden. Incidentally, if you are looking to plant for wildlife, this verbena is a must.

No such thing as bad weather

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“Storm over Nantucket”

While I typed yesterday’s blog post, hailstones the size of marbles were rattling my roof. This April shower made me think of a saying which the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations attributes to John Ruskin: ‘There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather’. Although it is highly unlikely that Ruskin had us mind, for photographers this saying is entirely apposite. Changeable weather brings interesting skies for landscapes. Cloudy weather brings diffused light that is perfect for macro work or portraits. Rain leaves colours refreshed, foliage sparkling with droplets. Mist highlights structure and outline in the landscape, and snow is the perfect natural reflector for portraits. Probably for the outdoor shooter, clear blue skies and baking sun are just about the worst weather there is. There’s no pleasing some people!

So imagine my delight when, after a ‘perfect’ summer day on holiday in Nantucket last August, the evening brought one of the best storms I have experienced. From the balcony of our pontoon-cottage I watched the show for a full two hours. Today’s photograph is my favourite from the many I took. This was my first experience of shooting lightning. I want more!
The technical bit: To take lightning shots you should use BULB mode with a cable/remote release. That way you can keep the shutter open and close it immediately after an arc. But, if your cable is broken (grrr!) you can try using long exposures and self timer. I used a series of 30 second exposures over two battery-draining hours. Sometimes the shots were over exposed as I couldn’t close the shutter for fear of joggling the camera. Sometimes I got lucky. ;o)
Canon EOS 5Dii, 24-105mm L lens, tripod. 24mm, f/8, 30secs, ISO400, -1EV.