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Landscape photography : why it’s NOT about luck

As a landscape photographer, you often hear that if you got a nice picture it’s because you are lucky (or that you have a good camera…). Even if luck can sometimes play a role in landscape photography, it isn’t what makes a great picture (same for the quality of the camera).

So what is important to create a beautiful image ?

You obviously need to master your camera and the art of composition but more importantly, you need a good sense of observation and a lot of patience. Why ? Because photography is all about beautiful light captured with the right timing.

The picture below is the perfect example of what peoples would call “a lucky picture”. Let me tell you the story behind this picture to show you luck played only a little role in order to get this image.

Arcus cloud above a tulip fields (Noordoostpolder – Netherlands)

Last week-end, I went to the Netherlands to shoot the blooming of the tulips. I had only two evenings to get a nice picture but the weather wasn’t quite promising. I decided to go to the fields the Saturday evening.  When I left, it was sunny with only a few clouds. That’s actually the weather I wanted to get a nice sunstar and beautiful light on the tulips. After driving an hour to the Noordoostpolder, it was looking quite promising except a lot of wind. Here is a picture taken one hour before the other one.

As you can see, nothing could let me think it will be that stormy. I looked at the weather forecast and I was supposed to be sunny around 20h for sunset (20h40) and then suddenly big clouds and rain at 21h. I thought it was a bug of the app and didn’t believe it will change that fast. So i kept taking pictures of the sunrise for 30 minutes. I took this one approximately 25 minutes before the storm arrived.

After there were too many clouds in front of the sun. I was sure the sun will not appear again before the sunset. Two other photographers were there but they left quite quickly after the sun disappeared behind the clouds. Nothing interesting was going in the sky so I decided to go back home.  I had a last look all around that made me spot some really strange clouds. They were far away but as it was quite windy, I decided to wait. I moved closer to my car since I was afraid it will rain.

After waiting 20 minutes, the sky started to looks completely crazy. It was dark and windy as the storm was approaching. I took this picture that is already quite dramatic.

I kept looking around and I saw that the front of the arcus cloud would soon align with the tulips. So I quickly changed my composition to get the shot.  In these kinds of situations where the cloud move extremely fast, you only have a few dozens of seconds to compose and shot. I had to take two different shot to get the tulips sharp. One at iso 1600 to have a shorter shutter speed and another at iso 100 to get a noise-free picture. Here is the before and after.

 

Just after the last picture, I filmed the storm to give an idea of how fast the cloud was moving.  After that, I ran as fast as possible to my car since it started to rain heavily.

That’s just an example of how patience and observation are a lot more important than luck. The two other photographers could have got that shot but they didn’t look enough around them.  They could have waited longer to see what will happen.  So next time you’re thinking going back home early because nothing will happen, look twice around and maybe wait a little extra longer 🙂

Aliaume

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