In the last few years, with the increasing range of very dark neutral density filters, there has been a tendency for seascapes to look misty and calm. They capture that feeling of peace, that many of us feel when we take a stroll along a windswept beach. But in a storm the beach can be a dangerous place, with huge waves surging in, crashing onto the beach only to be pulled back by the next wave. Every year people get into trouble, caught out by its power and its ability to surprise.
I wanted to make an image that captured the more menacing side of stormy beaches. With a front surging in to the coast and the waves growing in strength and size, it looked perfect. The turmoil in the clouds above, promising that this was just the start.
What do you think when you see a forecast predicting rain and showers. Is it something that you avoid? Sure there are sometimes where the flat grey skies that some storms bring or heavy rain and wind make a trip out less worthwhile. But rain and showers, particularly when it is mixed in with fine periods can be great conditions for creating stunning landscape images.
Weather prediction is also about experience, local knowledge and the various weather forecasts available. Most people who know me, know that I like to keep up with what the weather is doing. To help me I have a number of websites that I follow, which combined help me to get a better picture. I think a fascination with the weather goes hand and hand with being a person who is interested in landscape photography. The hope is that through this interest, I might be able to see possible opportunities that I can take advantage of.
Do the best images come from the meticulously planned adventures or in those off the cuff moments of inspiration. I guess it depends on the circumstances, without those plans you might turn up in a location at the wrong time, you might miss out on that perfect moment or more practically you might wind up on a beach trapped by the rising tide. But on the other hand, if you stick to tightly to the plan you might miss out on those great moments that just happen.
I guess in some ways you need a bit of both in every adventure. Start out with a plan, with as much or as little detail as you feel you want. Then keep your eyes open for the unexpected, the stories that surround us waiting to be told.
If you read any introductory article on composition, they will all suggest you avoid placing your subject in the center of the image. Some even call the center of the image, the dead center. Some people even think the risk of putting a subject in the center is too much for them and therefore never explore this bold composition choice. So does this mean we should follow this advice?
Placing the subject in the center, means the dynamic energy for the composition must come from the relationships between the subject and the other elements in the image. The secondary subjects, lines, and other shapes in the composition must lead the eye around and provide interest. This emphasizes these secondary elements and enriches the story that can be conveyed by the image. This can lead to powerful compositions which are hard to beat.
In the case of the image above, I enjoyed how all the elements swirl and radiate out from the volcano, drawing attention to and emphasizing the effect that the volcano has on their landscape. From the lava flows in the foreground to the broken sky above.
The volcano itself seems to occupy a quiet space in the center of the composition, a place of calm and rest. To me it feels small and resting, a sleeping giant that is happy just to lurk in the background. It's time has not come yet. There may be movements deep under the crust, pressure may even be building, but for the moment the giant sleeps. What will happen next, who knows?
Landscape photography can often be a frustrating passion. Where sometimes your luck holds and sometimes it doesn't. Of course there are tools that can help improve the odds, forecasts, common sense and a little bit of local knowledge, but in the end you just never know. That is part of landscape photography's charm, the mystery and surprise that goes with it.