On Tuesday 20th April, we welcomed Alex Nail on Zoom!, all the way from Bath, to give us his presentation entitled “Mastering Mountain Photography”.
Originally from Peter Tavey, in South Devon, Alex became interested in photography after seeing long exposure images during a rugby trip to the Antipodes. On his return, he started venturing out onto Dartmoor making images of tors all over the region. In search of original images, he went deeper into the moors, off the beaten tracks, and began to realise that remoteness was becoming important to his work. So he started travelling to, and camping in, Scotland, shooting among the Munroes and remoter mountain areas.
Alex gave us an insight into his trip planning process, describing an 18-day pack raft and hiking trip to Greenland. Starting with Google Earth, he searched for likely photographic subjects in remote areas. He then did further research using Ordnance Survey maps and, in this instance, Harvey’s Maps which he said were the best for Greenland. Having decided on his target, he found out about other trekkers experiences and decide on his route. He planned his kit, organised transport and food drops - and left his job at Airbus!
Showing us loads of fantastic photographs, Alex described some of the difficulties he and his friend encountered on the trip. On the first evening, his pack raft drifted off on the high tide and disappeared down the fjord requiring the help of a local rescue service. Having found it and continued on the trek, they also encountered near impenetrable birch forest, and energy-sapping boulder fields, before they reached a suitable camping spot where he could take an evening shot of the view of Ketil mountain that he had originally seen on Google Earth.
Giving us his thoughts on composition, Alex felt that balance in the image is the most important issue. While the classical concepts such as the Rule of Thirds, symmetry, separation, repetition and leading lines should not be overlooked, getting a good balance to the picture is something that can become natural and intuitive.
Alex then went on to talk about “working a location”. Using a wild and photographic location known as Mbundini Abbey in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa, he showed a series of images taken from essentially the same position in different lighting conditions. There were shots at sunrise; with cloud inversions; crepuscular rays; an approaching hail storm; rainbows; and night shots. He also broke the vista down into smaller sections by zooming in and focusing on compositions within compositions, such as pillars of rock against a ridge and a series of receding ridges.
Alex ended his presentation with an illustrated account of a workshop he led to Holmselern in Southern Iceland. The group stayed in a Mountain Hut in this remote, picturesque area of Iceland and went hiking each day to find photographic locations. The area is vast and it can be difficult to get a sense of scale, so he showed us images of the group trekking within the vista. While there were days when they were soaked in rainstorms or had to stay in the hut, Alex suggested that bad weather can create some fantastic photographic opportunities. He finished his talk with some of the most wonderful images of Maelifell, a conical volcano standing in black sand and surrounded by glacial rivers.
After a question and answer session, our Chairman thanked Alex for an awesome presentation and highly entertaining evening. Our members were unanimous in their agreement and provided a round of muted applause. DF
See Alex's amazing images