Saturday, September 18, 2010

Soft sky at Aldeburgh

click photo to enlarge
When, many years ago, I first started to take a deeper interest in photography I began to think more about the weather, and particularly about the sky. Until I put more thought and effort into my pictures the importance of these two things hadn't really struck me. I'd read about light being the key to good images, and had seen how light can transform the mundane into something special. But, in every example that illustrated this point in magazines and books (no web then) it was either sunlight or flash that was the light source working its magic. Contre jour lighting, a low sun, flash pointed at the camera, deliberate flare, deep shadows contrasted with illuminated areas, and other techniques were very alluring, and fixed in my mind the value of a bright light source as a way of achieving drama.

What was never said, or at least I never read, was that soft, natural light, the sort of light that is spread evenly across a scene by a thick covering of cloud, can also lend a scene a delightful quality that has an appealing, understated beauty. But, over the years, I came to appreciate this kind of light and the weather that produces it. However, not just any old clouds will do. Low, uniform, stratus offers little to the photographer: the clouds have to have shape and shadows or include thinner, brighter areas. When this happens the colours on the land below are muted and highlights are few; the landscape can appear to have been drawn on dark paper with pastel crayons. A couple of days ago I had one of these skies as I was photographing on the beach at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. The shot I secured could never be described as dramatic, but it does have that calm, subdued softness that I like.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 19mm (38mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On