One of the biggest frustrations of being a photographer when traveling is often being at the mercy of others around when and where and for how long you can stop. This is particularly true when you’re traveling for work, not fun. And the frustration only grows when the landscape you’re passing through is visually spectacular.
The key to any good picture, and definitely true to landscape photography, is the need to move yourself into a position to make the most of a scene. Is that tree better placed on the left or the right? Should I get in close and use a wide angle, or stand off and zoom? If I wait here another five minutes, is the sun going to break through and hit that particular part of my composition and make it take off? Photography is the art of scribing light. You need to be in the perfect position, and the perfect moment.
And that perfect position and perfect moment is almost never through a car window. Or a car windshield. Or, for that matter, an airplane seat.
I’ve sadly had to score my fair share of shots from car windows. I hate it. They are always sub-standard to what I would like, or the vision I have for the scene, and unless you’re very fortunate, there’s almost invariable motion blur, particularly in the foreground. On my most recent trip through north-western Ethiopia, it was doubly painful. Not only was the landscape glorious, but the lighting was spectacular. It was variable and changing, we were on the road early and late as the light turned golden, and you really would have struggled to find more dramatic combinations of scenery and sunlight at times. I just wanted out of that vehicle and to be taking my sweet time framing up the shots I wanted to take.
Alas, there are only so many times you can ask the driver to stop and your colleagues to wait patiently in the car while you grab your snaps.
And the toilet-break excuse has a ceiling.
Sometimes you just make do with what you’ve got, however, and in this case, several of this little series of light-captures were snapped from the moving vehicle, the others grabbed during brief moments when we were stopped at the side of the road. Not my favourite option, and given the quality of the light, I wish I could have positioned myself better- there were some epic opportunities. But thems the breaks. Here’s what I got out of them though, and I quite like how some of them turned out. As much luck as anything. One of these days I hope to be out on the road myself here, able to stop whenever I feel like it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these ones.
1. The Golden Hour: Morning haze gathers in folds of the landscape lit by a morning sun just on the Amhara side of the border with Benishangul-Gumuz
Note: If you click on this image, I’ve included the link to a larger size of this image which is worth linking through to- the small frame doesn’t capture the landscape well.
2. Traveling Light: Shooting straight into the sun, hanging out of the side window of the Land Cruiser
3. Out of the Burning Dawn: A man walks along a road at sunrise not far from Chagni, in SW Amhara Region; shot through the car windshield into full sun.
Note: Same for this one- click through for larger image.
4. A tree, captured out of the side window of the truck, stands silhouetted against the overexposed sky, smoke and dust from the road swirling at its roots
5. Metalled road west of Chagni, Amhara Region, at dawn
6. A painted truck, caught with the rising sun ahead of it, through the windshield of our four-by-four
7. Truck headlights at dusk in Mandura Woreda, Benishangul-Gumuz
8. Smoke and clouds blend at dusk above a burning rubbish tip on the outskirts of Bahir Dar