I like to drive around taking photos of things of beauty that catch my eye. No plan. I take random lefts and rights and often have no idea where I am going until I get there. That’s the core concept behind Somewhere In Niagara – I like to see where the road will take me. I surprise myself.
Of course, I have favourite spots. Know the best times to be in certain places. As I drive around, I see potential future photos. “That would make an awesome shot, if I came back…” is a sentence that may end with ‘Winter Spring Summer or Fall’, ‘sunrise’, ‘with my drone”, or any other variable.
The point is, not every image just happens when you drive by. Some require planning. A little effort. Logistics. In this episode of Somewhere In Niagara I took, quite literally, the photo of the year. Now, let me be clear. That is said without arrogance. I don’t mean it’s the best image to be taken in 2021. I mean that it could only be taken during a very limited span of time, a couple of minutes at most, before the one-time window of opportunity closed. Possibly for this year, or possibly forever. Let me explain.
The path of the sun through the sky changes each day. As seasons progress it rises a little earlier, or later. Climbs faster, or slower. Takes different trajectories. Earth itself wobbles as it rotates, because it’s an imperfect sphere. Think of a spinning top slowing and starting to rotate off-center. Axial or Apsidal Precession are astronomical terms, which you can look up for yourself. The Precession of the Equinoxes (‘this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius’) marks this little blue marble’s roughly 2,160 year cycle of movement through the galaxy as sun and stars and Earth and planets complete their far from circular dances and start all over again. That’s Precession. You can almost set your watch by it.
Take out the guesswork
As you can imagine, knowing where everything will be in the sky at any given moment can be a challenge. Much easier now than it used to be. Phone apps take out the guess work and can pinpoint exactly where the sun and stars will be at any chosen time or date, now, then, or in the future.
Google Earth is great on the desktop and the phone. For more features, many photographers (including me) like to use an app called Photo Pills. Used in combination, apps can make sure you are in the right place, at the right time, camera loaded and ready for action. With time to stop and make a grainy pre-dawn video along the way. Because, you know. Planning.
Which brings me, finally, to the point.
Setting the scene
During one of my travels down a dirt track I saw a scene I liked and took a few shots. Noting to myself that later in the year the sun would backlight this scene beautifully at dawn, I looked it up. A couple of apps and some math later I had determined when it would be right behind the building just as the sun broke the horizon. With an alarm clock and a calendar reminder, I was set.
Rising early on the predicted day I grabbed a Timmies and headed out, arriving in time to get out of the car and set up my gear. The weather, for once, cooperated, as the clouds that had worried me all the way to this moment began to lift. And the sky lit on fire.
Planning paid off. Exactly where I wanted it, exactly when I wanted it, the sun came out from under the last layer of cloud and shone between the buildings. It did give this old heart of mine a flutter, I can say. The sun moves faster than those that have never watched it realise. You can see it moving. I moved fast too. I had positioned myself almost perfectly. A few steps to the left, recompose. 2-second timer, don’t touch the camera, hold your breath… boom. Nailed it.
I’m still holding my breath. This is, so far this year, my not-Photoshopped favourite image.
I went through many versions before choosing this high contrast silhouette to really bring out the sky. This image was taken at the single fleeting moment when it could have been taken: This exact view will not be seen again for at least a year. Perhaps never. Hence… Photo Of The Year.
This image reminds me of the farmers and farmworkers we depend on to put food on our tables. Often overlooked, working every waking hour in all seasons come whatever nature throws, without them we would not be here. I called this ‘Agriculture’, a term encompassing all types of farming from crops to livestock and forestry, nature conservation and beyond. Thank you. Thank you all.
After the planning came the reality, and the reward of seeing that sun peeking between the buildings. A feast for the senses: I saw a unique sunrise, heard birdsong. Smelt manure. Tasted Tmmies. Touched infinity.
A beautiful start to any day.
Here’s the video of the making of this shot. I hope you enjoy the 4K final image. It does look really nice on my 52 inch Smart TV and would grace any office wall.
This image and others can be found on our photo site
Image Of The Week: Agriculture