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The best laid plans of mice and men as they say. As photographers we often plan the hell out of shoots only to find our plans lie in ruin when we arrive on site. Very often this is because of the weather, rain, dull light and wind can all contribute to making us feel very negative about a shoot. Sometimes however perseverance is the key, to coin an oft used phrase, Keep Calm and Carry On.
A couple of years back I did a travel photoshoot of Ghent and Bruges in northern Belgium. Both gorgeous cities, the shoot was in early September. This is often a fine time of the year for photography in the northern hemisphere. Indeed my three days in Ghent were perfect, great light, beautiful locations and some fine beer to boot. Arriving in Bruges, just 30 minutes north, the weather had changed. It had become overcast, dull and very uninspiring. Still, I went ahead with my planned shoot and this is how it panned out.
My chosen location for the my first Bruges shoot was one of the iconic ones. The junction of Rozenhoedkaai and Braambergstraat overlooking the Dijver Canal. This location gave a beautiful view of both the Belfry of Bruges in one direction. In the other, the Church of Our Lady. Both are great looking shots and with a camera on a tripod you can simply pan between the two as the light changes to suit. The problem was the light.
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The weather was not bad, but the light was. It was that mid to low dank overcast that often covers northern Europe making even black and white shots look poor. I had arrived late afternoon. On Saturday's this means thousands of tourists all vying for space in the limited corner to shoot the same scene. Having found a good spot, I waited for the tourists to vacate it and firmly planted my flag there, aka my tripod.
Of course many of you who shoot with tripods, will know that far from keeping people away, they are tourist magnets. Soon I was surrounded by people not only trying to line up the same shot as me on their iPhones but also interrupting me and asking me to take their photo. Combined with the dull light I was beginning to feel quite negative about the whole thing. As I only had three days and the weather had the possibility of livening up, I persevered.
Getting the Shot
The plan had always been to shoot from late afternoon, through the golden hour into the blue hour. As mentioned the late afternoon was pretty dull and uninspiring. The golden hour was very much the same, the overcast blocking any golden sunlight that might have been around. Towards the end of the golden hour though, there was a sudden break in the clouds in the direction of the Belfry. With the camera locked off, I started to shoot 5 image, 2/3rd stop brackets. The sky was still dull but by using a graduated 3 stop ND, I was able to punch out some of the late golden hour colour into it.