ViewPoint

Article text

An abbreviation of a trip

Well that will probably end up being a WOTAM. Julia and I have just spent a week in the Canaries, Tenerife to be precise. The plan was for some good coastal shots with windy, rough seas, conditions synonymous with this volcanic isle off the coast of Africa at this time of year. Coupled with that, some moody, misty and outer world imagery from the Teide National Park, peaked by the eponymous mount herself, capped with a dusting of snow… still one hoped. The usual pre trip planning had taken place - I do find I’m using Google Earth more and more nowadays in this endeavour - and arrival on the island provided confirmation that the wind was here as were the waves. So all I had to do then was JDI. The following morning started with some leg work as is usually the case. It’s alright to drive around finding locations, but in the end ‘a la pied’, Shanks pony, treading it, is the method that gives results. In so doing, I found a location to give some of the wave shots I wanted. This, augmented with an ever changing light through a cyclonic sky provided the information necessary to capture and produce the images I visualized producing. Even if this meant getting soaked in the process through an extremely heavy deluge, albeit short lived. It felt like we were back in Queensland in the rainy season! A trip to the north of the island was planned for the following day. Again I knew where I needed to be, what shot I wanted to get, with just the fine detail, i.e. legwork to undertake. Alas, it was not to be. In yachting parlance, mal de mer in short. I won’t now verbose in bar room phraseology to further expand upon this, suffice to say that I got sick! Knocked out physically. The Lowepro and contents remained untouched by human hand, (I wish the same could have been said for the food maybe?), but there is a plus side, Julia managed to finish one of her books as opposed to her usual occupation of scribing maps and location notes for me! Two days passed before a Rich Tea passed my lips signalling the initial signs of recovery. And along with it, the clouds rolled in. Not thick and varied cumulus or even cumulonimbus which you can do something with photographically, but a flat grey shroud from horizon to horizon. Bugger. The following day, having taken some protein on board, the Teide National Park beckoned. It was raining on the coast but the clouds were moving. In any case, I didn’t want to start shooting for eight hours or so. As we started to climb through the rain clouds, 2000 mtrs above Newlyn, (sea level), along the Valle de Oratava, the cloud remained. Almost an hours climb later along sinewy, mountain roads, we came to the start of the National Park, and a ‘Road Closed’ barrier! Do we write yet another day off? We had to try and recover something. I’d have regretted it if not. This meant retracing our steps plus an extra two hour drive around the western end of the island and climbing to the park again. Commencing our assent just inland from the Gigantiques, massive rocks that rise 600 mtrs shear from the waters edge, our first glimpse of Teide. A parting in the cloud showed her summit, snow capped, against a clear blue sky. A glimpse only mind, before the cloud closed in again. We climbed again through the mist, rain and cloud, through the Canarian pine forest, mysteriously finding purchase amongst the lichen on the larva bedrock, overtaking the inevitable cyclist trying to create his PB. Around 1800 mtrs, the cloud level, although petulant in its movements, being driven by strong winds, was reached. The pine forest gave way to a landscape of larva, some round and boulder like; some black, jagged and eerie. Stopping adjacent to one of the extinct volcanoes, Samara, fleetingly between waves of cloud and bitterly cold mist, Teide was visible. For my purposes, I’d have to wait for the sun to make its way round and light the more snow covered western elevation, but that was fine. Moving around the peripheral road, this landscape is quite unique with plenty of photographic opportunities - once the tourists have gone of course - it was heaving, particularly on the eastern side. The Roques de Garcia, massive needles of rock, jutting up through the larva fields at the base of Teide and the cable car to the top were providing the main attraction. Anyway, back to Samara to begin the wait. The plan was for the scattering of small pines to be side lit, illuminating them through the waves of rolling mist with enough break in the cloud cover to reveal the snow clad, slightly pink summit rising majestically to an azur blue sky. Some hope! The Giottos was up, camera and 24-70 lens mounted. Mirror lock up and cable release attached and F 11 for starters. However, Julia and I couldn’t see 10 feet away let alone the 4 kilometres we needed. Julia was back stop. Looking behind me ready to give me advance warning of a possible break in the cloud. I was still hoping for enough break to compose the shot! I hadn’t a clue whether I would have the mountain peak in frame or not. I knew where I was going to start the shot in the frame so at least could get a good idea of focus distance, when it cleared enough for me to do so. Camera meters tend to underexpose for mist, so I had dialled in plus 1 exposure compensation. The Lee Filter was on, a 2 stop ND hard grad, approximately lined up. It is easier to take it off than put it on, hence doing it that way. I knew that if the break did come, I’d have to work quickly, but at present there was no abatement. When it came, advised by Julia, it was fleeting. By the time I’d honed focus, filter and composition, I only managed 6 frames, (are they frames any more?), before the mist closed in again. A few minutes later the sky opened a bit more but the misty swirling in the trees had disappeared, so it was on with the 200mm lens for a simple, clean shot of the summit, using the KIS(S) principle. Then the lights went out as we were shrouded in the clouds again. It was a good job they had cairns along the ridge or the compass would have had to be used. Julia made her way back to the car as the cold was biting. I hung on trying for a final fling before the sun was due to subside, but it didn’t happen. So what am left with. Some waves, some mist, some trees and a mountain. Was it worth it? Probably not. I could have spent the available time taking the usual tourist shots, filling memory cards like they are going out of fashion, but that’s not the point. I knew what shots I wanted. Circumstances hindered me but that’s the way it is sometimes, just WWI. The other overriding and final accronism, which is equally at home in our composition most of the time, certainly something I preach on PhotoTreks and workshops, is LIM, less is more. By the way. WOTAM means waste of time and money; JDI means just do it PB means personal best and WWI means work with it. The first two may occasionally be supplemented with another letter to add emphasis, in suitable company of course, the 6th in the alphabet.

Keep practising