There is no doubt that with landscape photography, a little planning can help you get luckier. But even the best planning in the world does not guarantee you the perfect results. In the end you still need a little luck on your side. Maybe there is a lesson there, it's not always down to us, luck will always play a role.
When someone says something like "wow, you were lucky to get that image!". It is tempting to think of the planning and effort that went into it and feel that putting it all down to luck is somehow wrong. But on some level it is true and they have a point. On the other hand, when we come back from a day out and the images lack that wow factor, secretly which do we blame?
So after a busy start to the year for both of us, Les and I decided a few weeks ago to head out on a scouting trip around Taranaki. With the weather forecast average at best, our expectations for great images was pretty low. There was a chance of mist to the north east of Mount Taranaki, before the rain set in, but in all honesty it was a very slim chance, with the speed the front was supposed to arrive.
But scouting is an important task, something to be invested in. It's how some of the better images start, a task to be enjoyed. It was interesting to see how the Mount Taranaki had influenced the landscape around it. In many ways the influence of this volcano was quite different to the way that the volcanoes of the central plateau. The deserts of Ruapehu, and the other volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park, have not been replicated here. The ridges and valleys radiate away from the central vent, descending into lush forest and then fertile farmland. I was expecting the same high cliffs that dominate the south Taranaki coast to continue around the western and northern coast of this province, but in many cases the land just slopes into the sea.
While we were taking a look at Lake Mangamahoe, still soaked in the early morning light, Les saw in the rear view mirror a strange cloud forming around the mountain. By the time we got out of the ute, the view was spectacular. The lenticular cloud oddly rotating, spinning around the mountain with Taranaki's peak poking through it's centre. It was hard to imagine what forces were at work to create such a cloud.
Now Lake Mangamahoe is a beautiful place in it's own right, with lush plantings, beautiful trees and a large lake. Could you ask for a better foreground? Sure if you were being picky, the sun could have been a little closer to the horizon, but to me the light looks perfect for a morning walk. In some ways the image composed itself.
The final image is a made up of five images captured with my Tamron 70-200 f2.8 lens, panoramicaly stitched together. I decided to capture this with a telephoto lens over a wide angle because of the distance to the mountain. Telephoto lenses effectively compresses the distance between the lake and the mountain, bringing the mountain closer if you like. Wide angle lenses also have a habit of diminishing mountains, making them appear lower, smaller, less grand. Volcanoes to me, dominate the landscape that they inhabit, they transform it with a moments notice.
I am really happy with the finished image, how Taranaki dominates the image, above the rest of nature. The detail and texture of the mountain, contrasting against the swirling cloud and the softness of the trees.The trees and lake in the foreground, for me are symbols of the fertility that this volcano brings to the surrounding landscape, the richness it adds. With the current events in Hawaii, it is a reminder that this bounty is a gift but that gift comes with a price, when the mountain stirs, another phase of renewal will begin and not all will enjoy it.
The cloud stayed for a little while, but within 15 to 20 minutes it had vanished. Right place, right time, we were lucky. But then sometimes that's all you need. Of course if we hadn't taken the time, made the effort to explore then all the luck in the world wouldn't have made a difference. If we hadn't developed the skills or thought processes to capture the image in the way we did then the image could have turned out quite different. Luck on it's own isn't enough, but it is a key part.
Below is another crop of the same image which I quite like, focusing more on the details in the peak and cloud. Which composition do you prefer?