[840 Words | Reading time: 4 min 10 seconds]
It is not always easy to take a photograph that is able to communicate the sensation you have when you feel the power of the elements. The weather in Iceland is very capricious. All the meteorological phenomena can be experienced in a single day. You can see changing continuously short sunny periods after snow, hail or a heavy downpour hitting the windscreen of your car. In addition, the wind is strong enough to make the door of your car flip over, and usually very constant. These are not the most comfortable weather conditions to work in, but the best to get interesting landscapes.
I saw these dark clouds moving on the horizon and I concluded that the combination of plain terrain, mountains, and clouds was worth a photograph, so I decided to stop the car. I went out of the road at the first place I found. I had to park at the beginning of a dirt road, not far away from the touristic lagoon glacier of Jokulsárlón.
All the clouds you see in this scene come from the Sea, which is out of the frame on the left part of the image. Strong winds move them at high speed to the mountains and glaciers that conform the range of volcanic rock and ice in the center of the Island.
"The most important aspect of this image is the shape of the clouds above the car: dark on the left and bright an open on the right, mirroring the shape of the terrain, acting like an arch that closes the top of the scene."
The key to this image is choosing the moment of convergence of the position and shape of the clouds and the small car. I needed this last item to set the scale of the image, so I waited a bit for a car to appear on the road (traffic is not very constant in this part of Iceland at this time as most people is having dinner). The most important aspect of this image is the shape of the clouds above the car: dark on the left and bright an open on the right, mirroring the shape of the terrain, acting like an arch that closes the top of the scene.
I cannot recall if I shot on a tripod, but looking at the EXIF data of the image, I believe I did not. Had I had the time to set my tripod I would have done it for sure, but had the premonition that I was going to miss the shot if I spent my time setting it on the lava ashes (I have lost so many beautiful moments for not being fast enough to take the camera out of the backpack). This composition needed a long lens, so I mounted my 80-200 as fast as possible and went out of the car under a light rain. The metadata of the picture say I shot at 1/500 of a second at f7 ISO 200. I can infer that I shot hand holding the Nikon D800, maybe leaning my torso on the side of the car to get more stability.
"Clouds are the main character of the image. The car and mountains are needed, but just as supporting actors."
The blackness of the clouds, their size and shape, and the low height they travel over the horizon make of them a graphic symbol of Icelandic weather. The clouds are the main character of the image (the car and road, the mountains were just companions to create contrast with them), so I gave the clouds most of the frame. The car and mountains are needed, but just as supporting actors with a minimum presence on the corners of the frame. They set the scale and ‘anchor the scene’ to the ground. Without them, the scene is simply too abstract. You have to give the eye of your viewers something to compare the clouds with.
"Your viewer is not going to send you a Whatsapp message to ask you. BE CLEAR. Make him easy to perceive the meaning of your image."
Please let me give you an advice: If your sky is powerful enough to sustain your photograph, give it as much frame as you can. Forget the rule of thirds. Following it will take you to a meaningless, powerless and vacuous composition. In photography, you have to be clear in your statements. The viewer has to see directly why you stopped a car, went out to the cold, mounted a lens and shot an image. Remember: he is not going to send you a Whatsapp message to ask you, he has too many things more important than your photograph to think about. BE CLEAR. Make him easy to perceive the meaning of your image.
One minute after I shot this image the clouds you see had gone to the right and the whole horizon was completely dark, full of a curtain of shapeless black clouds. The composition had disappeared: the road was empty, the scene was plain, and the luminosity of the scene in front of me had diminished to the minimum. There was nothing left to photograph. The combination I had captured had lasted for less than a minute. Landscapes based on weather phenomena are usually ephemeral. Think and shoot fast.
It was time to dry the camera, turn the heating of the car on (heated seats seem to have been invented for landscape photographers), and go back to make my dinner at the guest house.
"Remember: Landscapes based on weather phenomena are usually ephemeral. Think and shoot fast."
Related Images: Other cloud photographs I have shot throughout the years…
Camera Model: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 80-200 AF used at 86mm
SETTINGS: Aperture: f7 | Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds | ISO: 200
LIST OF USED GEAR
Tripod: None, handheld (I believe).
Backpack: LowePro with rain cover (absolutely needed in Iceland)
Filter: B+W 77mm Graduated 0.6 Neutral Density Filter 2 points, soft transition
Memory Card: Sandisk SD Extreme 64Gb
NEXT SCHEDULED POST: Seagull and clouds, near Jokulsárlón, Iceland.
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