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by Andy McInroy
Photograph Of The Month - February 2009

Whitepark Bay, County Antrim
IR405, Whitepark Bay, County Antrim

"Go Light and Spare"

To the primal wonders
no road can ever lead;
they are not so won.
To know them you shall
leave road and roof behind;
you shall go light and spare.

Nancy Newhall

These inspiring words are a reminder to me that landscape photography is primarily about enjoying the landscape itself. For me, the joy of exploring the outdoors is as important as the photographs that I take of it. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the techniques and equipment that go hand in hand with landscape photography. We may find ourselves at the stage where the huge weight on our back makes moving around the landscape far from joyful. We then become joined at the hip with our cars, a situation which restricts us from connecting fully with the places we are trying to photograph.

"Light and spare". This line from Nancy Newhall's writing says it all. It can be a liberating experience to go back to basics and to explore the landscape on foot with a single lightweight camera. Stick a rain jacket and packed lunch in a bag and we are all set for a day of inspiring walking, free from the restraints of where the car can take us. Now we can really look around us and be inspired to photograph by the journey itself.

On a cold February morning I set off with some friends along the Causeway headlands. Our route took us from the long sweep of Bushfoot Strand, along 10 miles of rugged coastline, to finish on the magical sands of Whitepark Bay. A bitterly cold arctic weather system was approaching from the east so we kept on the move and followed the coastline. For most of the day my camera stayed in my rucksack and I was content to just walk while admiring this magnificent stretch of coast. As we approached our journey's end at Whitepark Bay the haze lifted and the late afternoon light illuminated the final stretch of our journey along the strand. Without a tripod, my shutter speeds were starting to get longer in the fading light. I boosted my camera ISO up to 200 and opened the aperture up to F6.7 to get a working shutter speed which I could handhold. I fired the shutter and continued my journey.

The freedom of being able to work the camera so quickly, without the burden of tripod and filters, brought a simplicity of approach which I have missed more recently. Having been on the move all day, it seemed right that my journey should not be interrupted at this late stage in the day. This photograph is what I would call a "snapshot" although perhaps that word does this type of photography a disservice. Rather, it is a straightforward and sincere record of a journey through the landscape. An inspiring journey which was both light and spare.

Technical Details
Date/Time: 4.20pm, 1st February 2008
Aperture: F6.7
Exposure time: 1/60th sec
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 16mm
Lens: Pentax 16-45mm DA
Camera: Pentax K10D
Support: Handheld
Filtration: None

Text and photos © Andy McInroy