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Can You Hear The Snow Fall?

Rio Fitz Roy, Patagonia, South America
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, 24mm TS-E lens 2 minute @ f5.6, ISO 100, tripod, 10x ND filter

Sometimes you visit locations and the light is not optimal. In a perfect world, you’d camp out and wait for the light to appear, but life isn’t as simple as this. Often when travelling, you have only one short opportunity to photograph an area and so you have to take what you can get!

Such was the case with Rio Fitz Roy which sits at the bottom of Cerro Torre. This location can be reached in a day from El Chaltern below, but we camped out for a couple of nights so we’d be in place for the morning and evening light.

As an aside, the weather was like this for most of the day. I spent six hours at this and another location nearby, patiently waiting for the cloud to lift. In the end, I had to walk back to camp for dinner empty-handed, but no sooner had I walked into the mess tent than the sun came out! This location was too far away to return before the sun disappeared behind the mountains, so I made do with what I could see from near the camp. But back to Rio Fitz Roy and the lack of light.

While the original exposure was very flat, just being in this location on my own was very special. This is a photograph with lots of baggage, lots of memories, so even though the light is not great, it was an important image for me. I used a 10x neutral density filter to produce a long, two-minute exposure which blurred the water in the river and, as there was no wind, the surrounding trees remained sharp and blur free.

Wind is often a challenge for long exposures because trees and grasses blur while the shutter is open. The solution is to take two different exposures, one long exposure with the ND filter to blur the water and the clouds, and a second without the ND at a movement-freezing speed like 1/250 or 1/60 second. The two exposures are then merged together using masks in Photoshop.

I took a number of exposures of this scene at different shutter speeds, including two minutes. It was during the two-minute exposure I can remember watching the largest snowflakes I have ever seen drifting down from the heavens above. Apart from the water rushing over the rocks below, there wasn’t a sound to be heard – it was a bit like being in a sound studio with deadened walls. The snow flurry only lasted a few minutes, but the experience is etched in my memory every time I look at this photograph.

As photographers, we have no control over what others think of our work. While from time to time people will enjoy our work and compliment our photographs, the only person we can really please consistently is ourself. I think there comes a time in every photographer’s career when you become comfortable with your technique and so the resulting expressions are complete. I like to think after 40 years I have reached a point where I’m happy with my technique and my expression. Is this arrogance? Or experience?

And one more thing! My wife really wants to clear out the last boxes of The New Tradition we have carefully stored under the stairs at home, so reluctantly I have reduced the price. Previously it was $150 to $180 including postage. It's now just $80 for the book, plus we've worked out postage and packaging ($15 for Australia, $35 for NZ, $80 the rest of the world). So, if you haven't yet purchased a copy of The New Tradition, now is the time. Click here for details.

Do You Take Photos Just For Yourself

Skyscape, Antarctica
Fujifilm X-T5, XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR, f8 @ 1/500 second, ISO 125

When I travel, I take a lot of photographs. Normally I don't press the shutter unless I think there is something good about the subject. Of course, as David Oliver will complain, I take hundreds of photos of wildlife not with the expectation they will all be great, but with the hope one of them will be!

The skyscape presented here is a photo I really liked through the viewfinder. The simplicity of the detailless white snow contrasted against the dark grey clouds was graphically strong, and then there was the glimpse of pure blue sky through a gap in the cloud cover. I took perhaps six shots as the shape and size of the blue sky changed from where we were positioned (I was on Aurora Expedition's Greg Mortimer and as we were steaming along, the shapes of things in the landscape were changing quickly).

Yet in my initial run through of picking out photographs to process or share from my voyage, this didn't get the nod. There were other photographs that my subconscious told me other people would like more. Yet when I give presentations on my approach to photography, I tell those silly enough to listen that the only person we can be sure of making happy with our photography is ourselves, so don't worry about everyone else. 

So, this week, I'm sorry, but with your permission and kindness I'm not worrying about you. I like this photograph. It's simple. It can have lots of meanings if you want it to. But at the end of the day, I like it. Enough said!

I'm not expecting lots of hearts and likes when this gets posted on social media. Nor am I expecting lots of emails of congratulations from this newsletter or the website. It's just a competent photo (I suggest) and in a world inundated with great photographs, it won't compete with the true crowd pleasers. But does that matter?

My challenge to you is to post something that you really like and to hell with everyone else! In the nicest possible way, of course. We still want our friends and followers to return next time when we post something that is perhaps more generic in its appeal.

Arkaroola Information Night

Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary Lake Frome, Lake Eyre + The Painted Hills
April 21st to 29th 2023

If you are ready for a photographic retreat of a lifetime hosted by Robin + Timothy Moon, and Peter Eastway and would like to know more about where we are going and what to expect, then join us for an information evening over Zoom next Monday 30th January @ 7.30pm

To register for the event click here

For full workshop notes click here

Tim tells me you need to register with Zoom ahead of time these days, and he has a limit of 100 seats on his account. While I don't expect we will run out of places, best to register sooner rather than later if you're interested.

Our plan is to wing it! Show some photos from previous trips and answer questions - so if nothing else, it should be an entertaining Monday evening!!

 

Is Everything Right In Paradise?

Paradise Harbour, Antarctica
Phase One XT 150MP Achromatic back, 32mm lens, f11 @ 1/250 second, ISO 400, IR filter

This is Paradise Harbour (or Paradise Bay, depending on the map you're looking at). Most voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula come here as it really is very beautiful, depending on the weather. Mind you, even when the cloud is low and the mountains hidden behind, the glacier front and brash ice in the harbour itself make wonderful, moody compositions.

On this trip, we were out in a zodiac hoping to see humpback whales. Ben, my zodiac driver, was called on the radio to go back to the ship to help, so I transferred from his zodiac to another so I could continue shooting. A few minutes later, my radio crackled and it was Ben, raving about what a great whale experience they'd just had, with a humpback diving under the zodiac not once, but three times! I didn't believe him, of course, but then I saw the videos taken by the other passengers. Oh well....

I still love Paradise Harbour. It's dramatic as you can see and what I like about this black and white rendition is the crunchy contrast which matches the brash ice in the foreground. However, I keep adding contrast and then taking it away. When I remove the contrast, I feel the overall tonality is smoother and more in keeping with the location, but when I add the contrast back in, I just love what it does to the ice textures. The example above has a number of adjustment layers with masks adjusting the contrast in different areas, but still, I'm not quite sure if everything is yet good in Paradise! Time will tell - I need to live with the image a little longer.

Shooting on the Achromatic back meant black and white only. In colour, I love the rich blues and aquas, while in black and white, I get to concentrate on shape and form. I don't think one is better than the other just now, but they are certainly different ways of dealing with what's already an amazing subject.

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Svalbard - Ten Perfect Days
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Peter and Tony Talk Middlehurst
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