A trip that combines driving and photography poses special problems. The extreme at one end of the spectrum is traveling down the interstate at 70 miles per hour, seeing a fantastic landscape and having no place to pull over and photograph. I have faced this scenario on numerous occasions. I take the next exit, work my way back to the original location and usually get there just in time to watch the light completely change. The other end of the spectrum is driving more slowly down a back country road with plenty of opportunities to pull over and make photographs.
Last week, while still in Scotland, I drove from the Isle of Skye to Inverness through the Highlands in the western part of the country. While there aren’t interstate highways, there is an improved highway that runs along the infamous Loch Ness. This route has its share of beautiful landscapes, but the limited parking areas are designed more to please the average tourist rather than photographers. Instead, I drove the back route with many mountains, lochs, rivers and single-track roads; one lane of traffic for cars driving in both directions. There are also unlimited areas where you can pull off the road with ease to photograph.
Saying that the weather in the Highlands is constantly changing is an understatement. There aren’t many days of blue skies and sun. In fact, it’s quite common to experience all four seasons of weather in a single day. As a photographer, I find myself watching a storm as it passes by or waiting for it as it approaches. Either way, unsettled weather makes for beautiful clouds and light – with a physical quality you can almost touch.
On this day as I drive through a series of mountains, the road overlooks and then runs alongside Loch Carron. At the bottom of the road, the low November sun broke through the clouds, lighting up the next set of mountains on the far side of the Loch. I pulled over and quickly started exploring the180 degree view in front of me, using my Canon 5D MII with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens from KEH.
Zooming in at 400mm, I scanned the mountains and made single images, represented by the very first one in this blog. I then zoomed out to 100mm and made the second image – a panorama comprised of seven individual vertical exposures combined using Adobe Lightroom.
The clouds were moving fast and the light on the mountains was quickly changing. After my first thirty minutes of photography, the light from my right was gone, blocked by a new storm moving in. I watched and waited as the sun started moved across and between the mountain tops, this time to my left. Every few minutes the weather presented me with a new photographic opportunity. Below my photo of the mountaintop illuminated between two ridges reminds me of a lunar landscape.
Light and clouds continued to move to my left until finally, it seemed as if my opportunity to photograph had passed. But rather than putting my camera away, I decided to wait for what might happen next.
Five minutes later I was rewarded. Once again two weather systems converged from opposite directions. As the two systems met they hovered over the mountain, creating a confluence of earth and sky. I zoomed the lens to 400m, making a series of seven vertical images which when combined in Adobe Lightroom created the final panorama of today’s blog.
Once again I was reminded that in this photographic age of instant gratification with the ease of making images quickly and then moving on to the next opportunity, we need to remember to spend the time necessary to allow the subject to show you how it wants to be photographed.