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Travelling far

I haven’t travelled all over the world, despite what people may think. Yes, I am fortunate that I’ve travelled quite a bit in pursuit of images to fulfil a brief, ten countries in one year being my record, but there are frequently clients on workshops have travelled far more extensively and further afield. The demise of the stock image market has certainly curtailed the expense/income travel investment for me that’s for sure. Now, this opener may seem a tad crass as I write this sitting at a desk in swimming trunks overlooking English Harbour in Antigua, but this is the first time I have ventured to the Caribbean, not for a holiday mind you -I don’t do those – I am here to photograph the Panerai Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, but read on.

Now, you may think that these photography jobs are all the same, well they are I suppose but you can’t, or I can’t anyway, just rock up to a gig, take the photos then head back to the office. You need to get a feel for the place; understand where that all important light is or is going to be. How harsh or soft is it? When does it break the azimuth of the hill? What happens to the sea when the sun comes up? All these aspects are important and, whether for landscape or sailing photography, even before you add in the additional aspects such as which holes are you going to stick your tripod legs into for the dawn or dusk shots.
And then you have the local nuances.

Last night I headed off to Pigeon Beach, over the hill from the main collection of colourful wooden shacks harbouring weather beaten, tousle haired sailors enjoying cool beers or iced rum cocktails. I’d recce’d the location earlier in the day. Here, seaward of the main beach is a pale planked jetty leading to the western volcanic hills across the mouth of the inlet - a perfect, if stereotypical lead-in to the colours of post-sunset clouds and indigo sky.

All I needed were the right type of clouds and the job was as good as done and dusted.
I love low light photography. The first light of dawn is to me, always a cleaner light, fresher and more distinct, whilst sunset or post sunset takes on an added film over the scene to a certain extent. This ‘film’ can add more red or orange to the sky and its reflections as the light bounces off the atmospheric murkiness, which we can of course use in our images. Anyway, that was the plan - the proactive venture to a symbolic picture in my minds’ eye.

As I slipped off my shoes to walk along the wave cooled beach towards my plot, I noticed two local nuances. First, the moored yachts in the bay were using the pontoon as a mooring platform to get ashore. A fact I had totally ignored in my recce earlier in the day when it was devoid of life and property! Secondly, the pontoon gave shelter to canoodling couples getting to know each other! Job thwarted. Trying to push an image with these constraints was doomed to fail and so it proved.

Dawn would be a much safer option with less chance of mooring RIBS and I would wager nil chance of canoodling couples. But, the light would be in totally the wrong position for the envisaged shot. Such is life.

A year or so ago, when I had planned my trip to Yosemite, I relayed the details to an interested party who said that she also had been to the area. When asked the duration of her stay, she replied, “Only a couple of hours, we were on a tour”. No doubt the trip was memorable! For many, spending large sums of money to travel long haul inevitably sets into motion the mind-set that you have to cram in a much as possible, visit many different places on the tourist trail to tick the boxes. For the photographer this inevitably leads to grabbed ‘record’ shots taken to prove that you have been to a place, no doubt shot in the wrong light at the wrong time of day with little or no opportunity to wait for the conditions to improve.

In fact, to really get under the skin and make the most of the trip photographically, you are usually better in my view to localise your visit and start to get to know the place and plan your photography. As in composition, the ‘less is more’ mantra can more than often be beneficial, enabling you to come away with more, both culturally and photographically.
Maybe something to think about when you plan your next trip?

Keep practising,
I am

Ian
“It’s all about the light.”