A rewarding autumn afternoon

It’s Saturday morning October 29; the day after my birthday. As I am driving my two youngest daughters to their violin lessons I can’t help but noticing the light outside. It’s beautiful, but as is only too often the case, I can’t do anything with it other than enjoy it while keeping myself and my daughters safe in traffic. It’s still early and not that busy on the road so an occasional peek to the left is possible. In that direction, the sun is trying to break through the clouds and every now and then it succeeds. Even my daughters agree it does all look rather splendid. During the violin lessons, a plan for capturing the autumnal display of colours is forming in my head: into the woods! After violin lessons, orchestra rehearsal and some shopping, we return home somewhere around two ‘o clock in the afternoon. I check the weather forecast and realize the plan needs changing. A picture of autumn colours, low light and a partly cloudy sky is in my head now. I’m planning on following the Damsterdiep canal from the village where I live (in the province of Groningen, The Netherlands) towards Appingedam. I’m going to stay on the south side of the canal so the sunlight will shine on the trees on the north side. Near the village of Winneweer I find what I’m looking for.

That’s part one of the plan completed and the afternoon of shooting is off to a good start! I continue driving towards Appingedam until the dashboard clock tells me it’s time for part two: the sunset at lake Schildmeer. Driving to Steendam, at the East shore of the lake, took less time than I expected, so there was plenty of time left before the sun would set over the water of the lake. I have been to Steendam a couple of times before, but now I have extra time to explore the area behind the beach somewhat more. There’s another photographer on the beach, who appears to be interested only in the sun setting over the lake. I have that on the menu as well, but it will have to wait because I spotted a line of trees with some great potential. The sun is behind the clouds that are now rolling in, but with patches of blue in the sky it’s only a matter of time before some beautiful low light will hit the trees. I set up my tripod in the shadow of a tree, making sure there won’t be any long shadow of either the tripod or me when the clouds move out of the way. A large dog appears and I get a bit anxious. The dog appears to be friendly, but I can’t help thinking of that time in 2012 when another friendly looking dog wetted my camera bag. No damage was done to the gear, but the bag was smelling funny for weeks. Just to be sure, I quickly put the bag on my back. A couple of seconds later, the dog’s owner arrives. She also has a camera with her, to capture images of her dog. We chat somewhat, until the sunlight starts hitting the trees and I start shooting. The lady asks me what I am seeing and I realize that what is obvious to us landscape photographers, is likely not so obvious to others. I explain it to her by showing one image I shot before the trees were illuminated and one with the light shining on the trees. She sees the impact it has on the image and comes to the conclusion that now the light is there, I probably want to continue shooting. She’s right, of course…

By now I am already very pleased with the results of my afternoon of shooting, but I’m not done yet! I turn my attention to the sunset itself, taking place over the lake. The other photographer I spotted earlier is still there on the beach. He’s using a jetty as a lead-in line. Nothing wrong with that, but I have already done that during an earlier visit to this location so I am now looking for something else. I do find another spot but I’m not that pleased with the results. After sunset, the other photographer left the scene but my plan had a fourth part up its sleeve still! I walk East until the end of the beach and set up the tripod for some long exposure photography. With a one minute exposure (61 seconds to be exact), I create the final image of the day. A very rewarding afternoon of shooting!

The first part of this blog appeared in the december 2016 issue of David Noton’s ‘Chasing The Light’ magazine. This can only be viewed when you are a member of the magazine.

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