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Early morning, Phobjikha Valley overview, Bhutan
Phase One XF 150MP, 110mm Schneider-Kreuznach, f5.6 @ 1/250 second, ISO 50

The first time I visited the Phobjikha Valley, I didn't feel it. The second time I found a couple of shots. The third time we were overnighting in a different part of the valley, in an old farmhouse, and while there were some great angles, I still didn't find anything particularly special.

On the fourth visit, it was magic!

Early morning bands of fog drifted across the valley floor as the sun rose, highlighting an old farmhouse here and revealing a mountain top village there. I was mesmerized! David Oliver and a few of our photographers wandered further along the road and found a herd of horses with frost cloaking their backs. And there was a lone tree, also blanketed with frost, backlit against a dark headland covered in trees. It seemed everywhere I looked, there were photographs to be taken.

When travelling (remember the days when we could travel), it is always tempting to sleep in. After a week or so on the road, the body gets tired and it takes me a little more effort to get out of bed. But I always do. I would hate David to get up early and find something I missed out on!

With the mist moving slowly and the sun rising, the landscape kept changing and whoever said you have plenty of time as a landscape photographer clearly hasn't visited the Phobjikha Valley at dawn! My first inclination was to use a wide-angle lens to incorporate as much as possible. I'm happy with a few of those frames, but huge expanses of sky and foreground seemed overpowering. For this photo, my choice of lens was a mid-telephoto. It required me to make some decisions about what to include and exclude, but this isn't an insurmountable problem as you can take as many photos as you need to.

As long as the light and the fog remained.

What I love about this photo is the mood and atmosphere provided by the slightly toned black and white rendition. When I look at it, it brings back fond memories of half a dozen trips to Bhutan. While there are plenty of pristine landscapes in Bhutan, what I love are the punctuation marks provided by farmhouses, dzongs and small stupa. And as with landscape photography generally, it's the light that makes the image. A few minutes later, the mist had lifted, the angle of the sun was higher and the magic was gone.

If you're looking for some excellent reading and inspiration as we await our next chance to travel overseas, check out my book The New Tradition. You can see a sample flip-book and introductory video on the Better Photography website - 

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