When the barometer falls, we all know that we are in for a dose of bad weather. If it falls quickly, then we know that this indicates strong winds as well. We all look forward to the pressure rising again with the prospect of fairer weather, a drop in wind and maybe some sun! Earlier this March, mainland England was ensconced under a high pressure system. This provided a higher than average measure of sunshine and temperature. Where I was, on the Isle of Mull, it was a different story altogether. The high pressure had quite literally, bathed the island in low cloud, mist, drizzle and fog. I could well concur with the view that Mull has been labelled as the wettest of the western Isles. All very difficult for photography. This was a definite high pressure scenario, high pressure on me to get the shots!
In such conditions, with little or no directional light, ones thoughts usually move towards monochrome black and white images, and moody ones at that. One of the issues with these, is that without the tonal range and the lack of contrast, again the compositions can be tricky to provide impact.
On Mull, with its miles of coastline, thoughts move towards detail shots. Working hard to see the images within the expanse of rock formations covered with weed is enjoyable and further pushes ones craft. Using the low contrast to reveal the natural forms, both zoological and geological is fascinating and challenging at the same time. As such, it is also most rewarding when accomplished.
Any land or seascape images are mostly tat with these conditions, however there is one genre which will work most of the time irrespective of the flat light. In Sydney some years ago I was faced with similar conditions. Having flown halfway round the world, again faced with days of no discernible directional light to work with, the self enforced pressure was again high to capture shots of the city with available time running out.
As day turns to night however, directional light, albeit mainly artificial, plus colour returns to the fray. Even with the sky totally covered with cloud, however thick, the indigo can still be captured. This was my resort on Mull as well as Sydney. Waiting for the balance of tones between sky and land or reflection to become more or less equal, enable good exposures to be obtained. But don’t leave it too late. If you do, you will be punished with burnt out lights and a black sky – too much contrast and insufficient detail.
Balance, whether in composition, exposure, life and even the weather is important. It enables high pressure systems and scenarios to be dealt with, the rough with the smooth, the water with the whisky to release the flavour. Now, I need much more practise getting that right! I’ll start right away.