Making of 40 Photographs #28

This is image #28 in my series of ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. This is what started the whole ball rolling for me.

Five Sisters, West Lothian

Back in the late 80's, I was around 21 years of age and had shown a mild interest in Photography (I was really a musician and had been playing and writing music from the age of 12). A friend of mine came round one day with a book by Ansel Adams and It was the first time that I'd seen beauty and art in a photograph. Up until then, photographs had always been 'documents' or ways of remembering family occasions.

My youngest sister Fiona tells me that I've always had a camera, which really surprised me because I simply didn't see it that way, but sure enough, I do remember having a little instamatic when I was really young - perhaps 8 years old.

Still, I digress, but with the aim of setting the scene. So there I was at the age of 21, having acquired my first SLR - a Canon EOS 650 - a super-duper auto-focus, state of the art camera (which by the way you can now pick up for around £25 on eBay). I'd just got my first wide angle zoom - a terrible 28-70 lens made by Canon with my Grant Cheque (I was an IT student at the time).

So one August evening I looked out the window and saw a thunder storm coming. It's often the case that the light is at its most dramatic during August - the sun is now beginning to set low in the sky around 9pm and it casts long dramatic shadows across the landscape. So I went for a bike ride and took my new Camera with me.

What I find interesting about this shot are the following points:

1. I didn't use an ND grad for it (I had no understanding that the sky is often 3+ stops brighter than the sky

2. The sky was dramatically darker than the ground, aiding me considering that I didn't use a Grad

3. I shot a full heady roll of film at this location, and although all the shots had dramatic light and great subject matter, only one (this one) stood out.

Yep, it was the composition. Using the bale of hay in the right hand side of the frame to 'fill the foreground', and the diagonal shape in the sky acts as a perfect reflection to the long cast shadows on the ground, I'd made my first good composition.

Point 3 alone, was a massive learning curve for me, and I now feel that this image set me on the course I've been on ever since.