Landscape photographers: Never do what I did

Landscape photographers should always stick to their plan.
In particular, if you have to travel to get the image you want, it will take so much work and resources to get that shot that it would be silly to change plan at the very last second just because you suddenly see something potentially more appealing.
Basically, doing so would be equivalent to trading down days, weeks, sometimes even months of careful planning for an entirely new idea that crosses your mind out of the blue.

I was on Faial Island (Azores) to capture two images of the Bay of Caldeirinhas, the first at sunset (my main goal, click here to see it) and the second with the Milky Way in the background (click here to see it).

Long before I went to Faial, I wrote in a note that I should strictly follow two indications, so important to be considered rules:
1) Set up my tripod exactly as planned and never move it during the shoot (which is essential if I want to be able to blend several exposures to create my final image).
2) Start shooting with my camera in landscape orientation, to only switch to portrait orientation when done with the sunset picture (so that I could capture more of the sky in the Milky Way shot) .

These rules are the take-home lesson from this post, along with an extra one: do not trust photographers, as they often do not practise what they preach.
Especially me. I mean, in particular, you should not trust me. 

I could not take my eyes off an amazing cloud I saw behind me and, after I spent ten minutes staring at it, I took my camera off the tripod and shot it handheld.
It all happened well before I was done shooting my scene at sunset, thus breaking the second rule.

Was it worth it? Considering that I have rarely seen such a cloud in my life, well... it was probably worth it.
But what if I had missed the shot I really wanted? Would it have been worth it?
My answer is no.

I know what you think. The risk was low. That's what I thought too but, still... 

Would YOU have taken your camera off the tripod to shoot the cloud instead of THIS?
I am curious to know. Comments, emails, even smoke signs are welcome.

Cheers,
Enrico

Landscape photography: never give up until it's over

...or why bother playing the game?
It is a lesson I learned playing tennis all my life and it applies just as well to Landscape Photography.

At the moment it is cloudy, very cloudy indeed. What a pity. According to the weather forecast it should have cleared up already...
It is 10.00pm and I am pretty much done with my sunset shot of the Bay of Caldeirinhas.

The reason why I am still here is that I want to make the most out of my 1-night stay in Faial, which means I would also like to have a go at the Milky Way here and, hoping it is not too much asking, take a sunrise image of Mount Pico from Porto Pim.

One thing at a time. The Galactic Centre of the Milky Way (which is the brightest part of it) is supposed to rise above the horizon around 11pm.
Well, no doubt it will rise above the horizon around 11pm, I am just not sure at all I will have a chance to photograph it.

While I am waiting, two people park their car close to mine. The guy approaches me and politely asks - What is it so interesting in the ocean that you keep shooting? - 

Good question. I reply that I find the bay very beautiful and I hope I will be able to blend several long exposures to produce the image I have in my mind. Also, after this I will try to take a Milky Way shot of the same scene.

- The stars? Well, it's not gonna happen! It's cloudy, you see? -
Sure I see, but my answer is not just a yes.
- This is landscape photography - I say - A lot of frustration for a few priceless moments. -

There is always hope and there is always risk, but things can change very quickly when we are talking weather and light. Sometimes conditions change for the better, sometimes for the worse. It does not matter, really, since I am absolutely determined to stay here until I know the Milky Way will have moved so much to the right-hand side of the frame to kick my composition out of existence.

I stay because I simply have no choice, since I never give up until the game is over.
I would never forgive myself for having left too early and missed the opportunity to take the picture I wanted, especially since I do not go to Faial every week and not even every month.

So, this is why...

...I waited till 12.16am.

Baía das Caldeirinhas - Milky Way shot (25th July 2017, 00:16)

I have to thank my friend and great photographer Luciano Catozzi for the feedback he provided on the image, as that allowed me to produce a better final version of it.  

Sure enough, the morning after I woke up early to shoot Mount Pico from Faial at sunrise.
Guess what? I was not as lucky as the night before and that is OK.

Mount Pico only showed its peak for a one minute, which meant about four 16s exposures.
I wanted the whole mountain, but it did not happen.

Here is my shot:


Fábrica da Baleia de Porto Pim - Faial, Azores

Until next time.. ciao ragazzi!

Enrico

Behind the shot: Bay of Caldeirinhas

If you don't want to read the story and just want to see my final image, scroll down the page past the first picture.

In April 2017, I visited Faial for three days to shoot Capelinhos, the volcano at the very end of Europe.
During the last day of my stay, I knew I was going to take the ferry back to Pico before sunset and therefore decided to simply wonder around and scout for future shoots.

Below you see one of the pictures I took of the Baía das Caldeirinhas in harsh, unflattering light.


Bay of Caldeirinhas - snapshot

There were two things I very much liked about Caldeirinhas:

1) The water in the bay was so transparent that I could see the seafloor in its shallows, a characteristic I knew I could greatly enhance by using a polarising filter at sunset. Why at sunset? Because the bay faces South and the sun sets at 90° to it - i.e. West. In case you did not know, you get the maximum effect of glare removal with a polarising filter when the sun is 90° to either side of your lens.
On the other hand, the effect is very small or zero when the sun is right in front or behind you. 

2) The Baía das Caldeirinhas is a no-access Marine Protected Area, giving me extra motivation to portrait its beauty through my photography.

I started to plan my sunset shot of Caldeirinhas as soon as I got back to Pico.
Of course, any day with a potential for a nice sunset could have worked. However, I thought it would be a good idea to also try to shoot the Milky Way above the horizon, which requires dark skies (no moon or no much of it, basically).
Due to several factors, such as bad weather, too bright skies and being busy with other things, I only went back to Faial on the 24th July 2017.

The weather forecast looked nice but, as soon as I boarded the ferry from Pico to Faial, it started to rain. The sky cleared during navigation and, when I arrived in Faial, the weather was even too nice: not a single cloud in Caldeirinhas, which was a hit to my hope for a nice sunset shot.
I knew I should not worry too much, though. The weather in the Azores can change so quickly that you should better be quick at complaining about it :-) 
Indeed, after a short drive to my location, I found myself again in a light drizzle.
Fortunately, it did not last long and around 8pm I got set up, ready for the golden hour to happen.

I knew already I was going to shoot at 18mm. Since I am an APS-C shooter, it is the full frame equivalent of 27mm. Furthermore, I knew I wanted to shoot lower than in the snapshot above, especially in case I had a nice sky, so that I could include more of it.
Last, but not least, I wanted the water to be very smooth and I therefore planned to use a 6-stop neutral density filter, along with the polariser.

This is the shot I got. Click it to see the picture on my portfolio website:


Baía das Caldeirinhas - final shot

I must say that I am happy with my image.

I shoot this exact scene for almost 4 hours, all the way from before sunset to complete dark. I did that because I knew my final shot was going to be a blend of at least two exposures:
1) A long exposure for everything but the sky, so that I could get very silky waters (6-stop neutral density filter + polarising filter)
2) A second, much shorter shot to expose correctly for the sky (no filters).

There is a time when you first think of a picture you would like to take. At the beginning, it is just in your mind. Then you start planning the shot and, if you are lucky, one day you will capture the image you dreamt about for so long.

When that happens, it is hard for me to describe the feeling of accomplishment and it is definitely the aspect of photography that motivates me the most.

Later on that night I tried to shoot the Milky Way. I knew its Galactic Centre (the brightest part of it) would appear above the horizon from about 11pm. But this is another story...

Cheers,
Enrico