The story behind the circumstances that led me to take the best landscape image I had ever taken.
Yesterday circumstances combined to allow me to capture, what I think anyway, is a superb image. Probably the best I have ever taken? A beautiful image of a guy stood below a waterfall surrounded by greenery. Yes, it's a good image, straight out of camera, no post processing adjustments, but ultimately a photographer has to be in the right place at the right time. How this all came about makes an interesting story.
I tend to go against the grain. When mobile phones became "de rigeur" for taking images I reverted back to a trusty camera. I had had various cameras for years but, although I could compose a good photo, I was ultimately a point and press merchant. During mountain days, usually with groups of people I just didn't have time to think too long about the image I was trying to capture. I got some good shots but more by luck than judgement.
A heart attack three years ago forced me to retire from work and slow down. This opened the door to a more relaxed way of enjoying the mountains. I decided I would learn how to take a photograph. Not just put the camera on "automatic" shoot mode, but to start to understand the way light affects the component parts. To understand exactly how an image is formed.
After much research I bought a Sony A6400. A lightweight APS-C camera that would give me full control over the image but without the weight penalty of a full frame system. After buying and reading some books, watching countless YouTube presentations and going "bogged eyed" on internet forums I was ready. My mind was full of the mythical Exposure Triangle, that "Holy Trinity" of Photography. Or rather, "Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO". I switched the camera onto Manual Mode and off I went.
Three years later I had obviously learnt a great deal and also spent a great deal as I had also bought a Sony A7iii to supplement my images. I always use my Sony A6400 though in the mountains as I just love the lightness and compactness of it. Still lots of mistakes and errors but I had a steadily building portfolio capturing my mountain adventures and experiences. They were good shots. But, I still hadn't got that image that said, to my mind anyway, ... "WOW"!
That changed a week ago when I dropped my newly bought Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 lens into a stream. This had been a replacement for the standard kit lens Sony 16-50mm f/3.5 and was meant to improve the image quality. Now the Sigma sits forlornly in a wardrobe, unable to talk to my camera. Doh!
I had a rethink, did yet more internet research, changed direction and decided to buy a Prime Lens as a replacement for the, now drowned, Sigma. A Sony 35mm f/1.8 (Full Frame 52mm equivalent). This was a departure from the easy world of zoom lenses to a fixed focal length. Internet sources suggested it would make me a more creative photographer, the lens was light, small, relatively cheap, worked well in low light and was sharp. There were major downsides of course, the biggest one being that the standard focal length means you can't just shoot exactly what you want, as it doesn't fit in the viewfinder!
Yesterday was my first day out with the new lens. I had no idea how it would come out but looked forward to the challenge. I tagged onto a Spanish Highs Guided Walk from the Hoya del Portillo in the Sierra Nevada down to the Rio Bermejo in the Alpujarras. An easy, varied and relaxing walk in beautiful surroundings with nobody else around.
At the end of the walk we had a spare 45 minutes before the bus came to collect us. I suggested we go look at a waterfall I had visited a few weeks earlier. We arrived at the site and I was initially disappointed, the waterfall was in the shade and didn't look as stunning as it had the week before. Chris Stewart, of author fame ("Driving Over Lemons"), went down to view the base of the falls. I lifted the camera to my eye.
Turned out I was very lucky. Firstly the shot was framed absolutely right. This was very fortunate as I was stood on a narrow platform and unable to move forwards or backwards. The 50mm focal length was perfect for the shot I wanted.
The new 50mm lens also performed really well lighting up the dark interior of the waterfall itself. Would the, sadly now defunct, Sigma f/2.8 have been able to perform similarly?
I was also very lucky that Chris Stewart enjoyed looking at the waterfall. Why? This kept him still. I had not brought a tripod and had shot at only 1/20th of a second, so any movement on his part would have resulted in a blurred figure in the image.
Aperture f/9, ISO 100, 1/20th sec, 52.0, 35.0 (lens)
So there we are. I was in the right place, at the right time. Lighting conditions were perfect and the human being behaved perfectly. I had the right lens with me and shot at the right speed, which blurred the plunging waters somewhat. Even what Chris was wearing worked as had he been wearing dark colours he wouldn't have stood out as he did.
Conclusion: A good image requires either a lot of patience or a lot of luck!