I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
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Reactive Shooting


‘St Mary’s Lighthouse’, St Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, 30 seconds @ f/16, ISO 100
LEE 3-stop ND, 2-stop ND & 2-stop ND grad filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod with 405 three-way geared head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“Becoming more productive as a landscape photographer relies on our ability to shoot ‘reactively’, making the most of whatever is presented to us.”

Reactive Shooting

I’ve spent far too many days changing my plans and staying at home rather than venturing out for a planned shoot because I thought the conditions weren’t favourable. With the help of my smart-phone, I believed I could accurately predict detrimental lighting and weather conditions, avoiding the disappointment of a failed shoot. How wrong I was: weather forecasts are best ignored.

Landscape photography isn’t easy, there are thousands of pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting photographer. Given all these difficulties, it seems sensible to try and eliminate as many potentially troublesome variables as possible. When considering our on-location workflow, eliminating errors like camera-shake, mirror-slap, inadequate depth-of-field, and myriad other issues is critical to success. We learn from our mistakes and slowly hone our technique over the years until we achieve competence of craft. It’s perhaps not surprising then, that we extrapolate such considerations back to the planning part of the process when considering the weather before leaving the house. However, depending on our personal degree of pessimism, following such a ritual can potentially result in us missing thousands of opportunities. Alternatively, a huge dose of optimism before embarking on a shoot, and making sure we get out there, regardless of the weather and the light, is a fantastic recipe for success.

Becoming more productive as a landscape photographer relies on our ability to shoot ‘reactively’, making the most of whatever is presented to us. When we repeatedly immerse ourselves in the landscape regardless of the prevailing conditions, our confidence slowly grows and our skill-set develops; enabling us to create compelling imagery in conditions that would have previously seemed impossible. Photographers with this kind of outlook are often the most productive, they approach every shoot positively and optimistically, with acceptance rather than resistance. A positive relaxed approach benefits creativity, we happily make the most of whatever unfolds, and curiously ‘fate’ seemingly starts to work in our favour.

I very nearly didn’t get out of bed on the morning I shot this image, there was rain forecast and a significant cloud-base, so I thought it unlikely I would benefit from any crepuscular spectacle. I couldn’t believe my luck when I arrived at St Mary’s Lighthouse to find it illuminated in bright pink light as part of a campaign to promote awareness for breast cancer research. I emphasised the colour palette in post-processing, helped by the gentle twilight colours. I learned a valuable lesson that morning, that in the world of landscape photography, fortune favours the brave.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.