By Ellen Wissink
Wizzinc fotografeert – www.wizzinc.nl
December normally is the month in which I will be preparing our travels for the new year. Now that we are all confined to our homes because of the coronavirus and are not allowed to travel, I find that my thoughts are irrevocably wandering to all those locations where I cannot go now, locations where I would love to take photographs. I dream about empty spaces and my thoughts wander off to spectacular views from high mountain tops. It’s unstoppable, in my mind I plan all kinds of journeys of which I have no idea when I will be able to make them again. I realise that these are first world thoughts, and that it is a luxury problem, but I miss it very much this year. Because preparing for our trips always gives me a lot of fulfillment and pleasure.
If, like me, you have a soft spot for landscape photography, you know that a large part of the travel preparations is about finding the right locations to take photographs. That requires many hours of very pleasant research, digging through Google maps, scouring photography sites for unique locations and scrolling through travel blogs for suggestions from other travellers. Finding a travel destination is often not about whether there is ‘enough to do for the children’ or whether there are ‘enough bars and restaurants’. On the contrary, the absence of these things increases the chance of unobstructed views. Safety is always a dilemma in this respect. When does remoteness become too inhospitable? And how much snow is too much to plow through in your own car? In other words, when does the urge for expansiveness become too risky? After all, we’re not survival experts, and we can’t save ourselves from a predicament like MacGyver with a clothes peg and a piece of iron wire. Sometimes my plans are too wild, and I have to hold myself back a little.
When photographing landscapes, I generally adhere to a number of well known basic rules. For example, I have a good full frame camera, with a good quality wide-angle lens (14 – 35 mm), which allows me to capture the whole area properly. In addition, I make sure I have portable and waterproof gear, charged batteries and an empty memory card. Something I hardly ever use, however, is a tripod. The landscape photographers among us who read this probably now hold their breath in shock. No tripod?! Yes, that’s just too much of a hassle for me. I am not a photographer who is going to spend half an hour on a single photograph, fiddling with grey filters and lengthy shutter speeds. I can forget about that. After just one minute my family is already behind me, impatiently urging me to move on:
“Mom, it’s taking too long, start walking!”
“The picture has been taken by now, Ellen. Knock it off!”
Look for changeable weather
What kind of landscapes am I after? First of all, I like to go to countries and places where the weather is as changeable as possible. That may sound odd, since most people prefer to go to places with a high guarantee of stable weather and sunshine. However, erratic weather conditions will often lead to much more interesting photographs than just sunshine and clear blue skies. Sunny weather is so one-dimensional. It really gets interesting when the elements add something to your photograph. Clouds, wind and rainstorms often provide very beautiful lighting. Nothing is better than a amazing landscape overshadowed by a heavy rainstorm, preferably with the help of a few rays of sun and a rainbow.
Less is more
I think it is a challenge to put as little in the picture as possible – less is more. It’s very satisfying when there really isn’t a lot in the photograph, and you can’t stop looking at it. A cloud, a few lines in the landscape and an object – that’s all you need.
Mountains and water
I am always looking for mountains and water, preferably right next to each other. Rocks that rise straight out of the water into the air for hundreds of metres. Reflections of rocks in water. And steep abysses, preferably seen from above. But the latter often means that I’ll have to conquer many altimeters on foot, and that is a guarantee for muscle pains and suffering! (also see our blog on hut hiking in the Alps)
Finally, I am always on the lookout for locations where you can drive far away from the motorway. Places where the two-lane roads and paved roads also end. Then you will know that you will have the best views for yourself. This is why I love the north of Scotland, the North of Norway and Iceland so much. I prefer to bounce around in our old rattling car on unpaved, small roads with sharp bends and places that feel like the end of the world. Delightfully remote and lonely.