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 Nature Photography :: Essays :: Relaxing


Kosciuszko Cloud

I was driving along The Alpine Way when I saw these clouds. “Damn it” I thought, “the heater’s just warmed up, The Moody Blues are wafting from the stereo, I’ve just started a new tin of ‘Kool Fruits’, and it’s really cold outside”. Time to make a decision? Not really, not when there's the chance of a good photo. I pulled over and the events that followed went something like this.

There was a mad rush to find a good vantage point, then panic to get the camera set up, I agonised over whether to use a filter or not and what zone to place the brightest part of the clouds.

Having made these decisions, I inserted a double-dark. In the rush I pulled the rear darkslide by mistake and found myself staring at a sheet of FP4. Cursing profusely I reached for another double-dark only to find that I was already holding the last one. I re-inserted the double-dark.

Now with only one sheet of film left I carefully checked the camera settings (the settings I should have checked before but was in too much of a hurry) and found that I had not tightened the rear standard. It would certainly have moved when I inserted the double-dark.

Bugga!

I opened the aperture, opened the shutter, removed the red filter, removed the double-dark, put my jacket over my head and checked the focus. Yep, it had moved.

I refocused, closed the aperture, closed the shutter, cocked the shutter and test fired it while looking into the lens to ensure that the aperture was closed and the shutter was firing correctly. I cocked the shutter again, re-inserted the filter, re-inserted the double-dark, removed the darkslide.

I waited, five or ten seconds to allow any vibration to die while hoping the light didn’t die as well: it was fading fast. I fired the shutter.

Got it!

Careful, there are still some opportunities to screw up. I inserted the darkslide, black side out to indicate the sheet was exposed. Then I had to re-check everything. I opened the aperture, opened the shutter, removed the red filter, removed the double-dark, put my jacket over my head again and checked the image.

It was OK. “Thank goodness” I thought, “now I can relax".

"Wait a minute, did I allow for the filter. Bloody hell”.

I was in such a hurry I didn’t record the exposure details and I had already opened the aperture to check the image so could not read the setting. “Let me see now, what aperture did I use?” I try to remember before looking at the meter so as not to have my memory biased by its setting. “Hmmm five seconds at…five seconds at, mmmmm…” I gave up and looked at the shutter for inspiration. “…five seconds at f32. That’s my guess and I’m sticking to it”, now let’s look at the meter.

The dial read a quarter of a second at f32. Oops.

“Don’t panic. Allow three stops for the red filter. That’s two seconds. Allow for reciprocity. That’s five seconds”. I sighed with relief. In the heat of the moment I must have coolly calculated the correct exposure. Gee I’m good. Let’s write that down for posterity, the exposure details that is.

“Now I can relax and enjoy the sunset”. Too late; it’s gone.




This experience brings to mind one of the paradoxes of the landscape photographer, that of being drawn to the landscape because of its beauty then often being unable to take the time to truly enjoy it. I seem to be always rushing to get somewhere before the light, the cloud or the wind changes. When I arrive there’s equipment to set up, exposures to be determined, decisions to be made, and when it’s all over I stand there wondering if I chose the right filter.

Seldom do I just sit there and enjoy the view.

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