I’ve been missing for two weeks. I’ve been elsewhere, and those of you who know me well will have figured that I was away in the European Alps, as is usual at this time of the year.
I’ve just been sitting in front of the computer for two hours or so, uploading hundreds of new images and this is the first one processed. Perhaps not what you might expect from 10 days in Zermatt – home to the Matterhorn, which, if visible, would be just peeking over the horizon towards the right edge of the image. We had good weather, and not-so-good weather – this was one of the not-so-good days. But this was an image I really wanted to work on.
I had viewed this line of trees in previous years (they are visible from our hotel bedroom across the valley); I probably walked past them about eight years ago. I have often thought: that would make a reasonable picture if I could get the right angle. It’s a fifteen to twenty walk to get to them and so one morning with the weather looking unsettled I decided to take a closer look.
This year I made the decision to take two Nikon SLR bodies on holiday – an old D80 and a newer D7000 and two lenses: my ultra-wide 11-18mm Tokina and a 18-250mm Sigma. These lenses are a good pair, between them they just about cover every eventuality, but when I’m carrying just one camera body, I am constantly switching lenses; and in a harsh environment where there is always the risk of dust getting on the sensor, it’s a nuisance to keep uncoupling one lens and attaching another. And often I just can’t be bothered, with the result that I have probably missed loads of images in the past. So this year I have done most of my walking with two cameras slung round my neck. I don’t enjoy the extra weight but I’ve enjoyed the options that two lenses provide.
I wonder how often you have seen a potential image some way off, envisaged how it would look, and then when you got close up discovered that finding the right point of view was difficult if not impossible. It happens. And this was one of those occasions.
I envisaged the line of four trees against the sky – no competing ridge lines, just trees and sky. I looked from this side, and the other side. I stood well back, I got up close. I moved up and down the hill. I used both lenses. There was no position that enabled the image I had in mind. What you see above was the best view I could achieve after about fifteen minutes of trying. It had the bonus of bringing a fifth tree into view.
I had an image, but I wasn’t too hopeful that I could extract a good picture from what I had captured. In colour the leftmost tree merged into the hillside in the distance. But, I had always ‘seen’ the image as having potential in B&W. And Silver Efex has delivered the goods as it so often does. There are, I think, 37 presets to flick through in Silver Efex. For any given image thirty of those will be rubbish, but there will always be a few that are promising and often just one that hits the sweet spot. And that is what I found with this image. One option gave me exactly what I wanted – tonal separation between the trees and the distant ridge-line, the right amount of contrast, and a powerful sky into the bargain.
It’s so nice when it all comes together. This was shot at 22mm film equivalent, F16, 1/180 sec, ISO 320.
More images will follow over the next days and weeks.