Ephemeral Landscape

I often joke that I photograph landscapes because they move slowly enough that I can capture them. This isn’t really true. While (in general) the features of landscape don’t change, the light does, and it can change fast. There are plenty of shots I miss simply because I’m not in the right place at the right time with the right equipment. There are plenty that aren’t what I’d like them to be because I’m not in the right location. A couple of times this year I missed shots completely because I was too slow. I decided to walk when I should have driven. Or I’ve spent time on a location that was less transitory and missed the very light I went out for.

Today has been mist and rain and a bit gloomy. I’ve had plenty of desk work to do, but I work facing a big window showing Hiorthfjell. This evening I noticed subtle gradations in light on the mountain’s flank that I really liked, combined with a dramatic cloud formation. I thought about going down to the beach, but decided that wouldn’t give me the high angle that I liked, and I didn’t think it would be as interesting a composition without the buildings. I also had concerns about how long this particular combination of light and cloud would last. So I stepped out on my balcony and took about 8 shots of this scene. I felt the two shown here are good examples of the ephemera of landscape.

Example 1
Example 2

They are taken within minutes of each other, but in that short time you can see the light on the mountain has flattened, and that the dramatic clouds have started to blow off. The earlier one is a bit more dramatic, the framing is looser, the shadow on the mountain is more contrasty. The later one is already flatter, the sky is less dramatic and has a pink flush to it, and the light is less warm. I also framed this one tighter. I like them both, for different reasons. They each have a different mood.

In the time it’s taken me to write this the light has changed completely. The mountain is now almost a uniform color again, and the clouds are not interesting, at least not to me. To me, while I will always find this mountain beautiful, it’s no longer interesting enough to photograph. Some lighting effects are so fast, they are gone before you can get your camera out. There’s simply no time to change lenses or think too much about composition. You have to take the picture, or choose to be in the moment, and not photograph it at all. There are plenty of times I do that as well. Sometimes I think it’s important to just look at things with no plan or expectation beyond the pleasure of the moment.

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