Making of 40 Photographs #4

This is #4 in my series 'Making of 40 Photographs'. I travel with a fairly lightweight and compact Medium Format outfit: Mamiya 7II. I have three lenses for this outfit: 50 (wide), 80 (standard) and 150 (telephoto). It's fairly restrictive in terms of long distance shots since the 150mm lens is equivalent to a 75mm lens in 35mm land.

Considering that everything in Photography is a compromise, I made a decision years ago (which I still fight with) to try to travel as lightly as I can. I hate having too much gear on me and I'm a believer in having less equipment (to a degree) means you produce better results. You have to put up with the limitations of what you have, and work within those constraints. It isn't easy, but neither is having too many lenses and too many choices either.

So I guess you're wondering why the preamble?

Well I do think that sometimes you're forced to making shots that you wouldn't ordinarily choose if you had more options, and this image is a perfect example of that point.

To set the scene: I was in Bolivia earlier this year on a two week scouting trip in the south west of the country. It's an incredible landscape, otherworldly, surreal, mars like, whatever. The place in the photograph is Laguna Colarada. It's a sedimentary lake that is often red when the wind is blowing and there are often lots of Flamingoes there too.

We'd got there early and I had a couple of hours to kill until the light got really special, so I decided to research the basin and see what might come up later on, when I noticed the moon was visible. It's great to try and get the moon in your shots, but often it's hard to get detail on it because it's a day lit subject and the contrast range is too wide. Not in this instance.

being restricted to no prominent features in the basin, I decided to set the moon at the top of the frame and show a bit of the lake in the bottom of the frame, hence the portrait composition (apart from the fact that most of my images, inc landscapes are portrait anyway). I stuck on the 150mm lens to try to get the moon a little bit bigger in the shot, although I knew that with such a weak telephoto, it wasn't going to be that prominent.

And it was just as I was going to make the shot that I heard a group of Flamingoes take flight and head into the area of my frame. I was already thinking how I needed to capture them just as they passed but I also knew my shutter speed was too slow to freeze them. I placed a 3 stop hard grad over the top of the frame and had metered it with an external light meter before hand. Something I tend to do is keep re-metering every few minutes to notice if the light is changing. It was fairly constant during the late part of the afternoon, but I knew it would start to change quite quickly as sunset began.

So this is the result of a 'chance' encounter. I already had the strongest lens mounted on the camera, and although I would have been tempted to zoom in for the flamingoes as they went by (had I an SLR zoom on me), I'm glad I was restricted. I had to make a shot about the moon and the birds, not just the birds, which I feel is much more interesting than just a close up picture of the birds. I like context to an image or a subject. I also love primes for the fact that they force you to work withing the confines of a preset mm.

Like I said, having less equipment is often a blessing.