One Dreary Day

Everyone has probably heard by now that the best times to shoot landscapes and wildlife are early morning or late afternoon to evening. The best light is at sunrise and for two to three hours thereafter, or two to three hours before and including sunset. So armed with that knowledge, many photographers will check the forecast the night before a scheduled sunrise shoot. If the weather looks like it will be overcast and dreary they will opt to stay in bed and sleep through it; after all, the light won’t yield anything special. I don’t subscribe to that theory. Every sunrise and every sunset will yield something — you just have to look for it.


I remember shooting this scene a couple of winters ago in Alberta while I was on a photography vacation. The morning was as dreary as you could imagine, and cold — the perfect recipe for staying in a nice, warm bed and dreaming about beautifully lit mountain peaks during a perfect sunrise. Today this was not to be, so I gathered my gear, as did the other photographers in our group, and we made the best of it. We were shooting Abraham Lake during sunrise. We arrived at the lake in the dark, chose our locations and prepared for the sunrise. Did I mention it was cold, and dark, and dreary? Yeah. Real nice. Why was I here again? Oh yeah, making something work, no matter what. Part of the process was to get out of this mood and begin enjoying what good ol’ Mother Nature had prepared for us. Once I did this I began to see. The dreary sight became converging lines in the clouds. Then I began seeing in my favourite compositional shape, the triangle. I composed my shot with several triangles in mind. Can you see them? Now this was coming together for me.

Sure, the light was not super-magical, but it was pure and clean and as crisp as the cold morning air. The ice had a beautiful turquoise cast to it, which played nicely off the browns in my foreground. To finish off my scene the shadowy mountains in the distance provided a mood, which was echoed in the clouds. A winner? It is for me.


Sometimes large landscape vistas may not speak to you, and you just don’t feel the moment. In times like that I change my perspective and shoot something more intimate and close up. Take this image, for example. I isolated the ice and the water, creating a juxtaposition of hard, static ice and moving water. To further accentuate this juxtaposition, I used a slow shutter speed on the water to give it that soft feel.

I also used a polarizing filter, which made the water darker by removing the glare. My image then had the elements I was after – hard vs. soft, static vs. movement and light vs. dark. This image was originally shot in colour, but I changed it to black and white to further tell my story.

What do photographers feel when they take a photograph?

Recently I had a reader ask me a few questions: Why did you take up photography? When are you the happiest while shooting? And what do photographers feel when they take a photograph? I answered in the following way.

I have always had the artistic bug within me, so to speak. I tried drawing and painting and found I didn’t have the talent for it. I realized, at least for me, I needed to do something that I could identify with, something that would allow me to speak through my art. It was not so much my hands that would allow this expression, but my eyes, mind and heart. Photography allows me to do just that. In the beginning the technical was a bit frustrating to grasp, but practise, practise, practise got me through it. Then one day it all came together and I was able to express my innermost feelings of a place through my photography.

I’m the happiest when I am in nature – anywhere in nature away from the city. Nature’s sounds, the temperature of the air, and the quieting of my soul is what draws me there. Nature brings me a sense of peace that’s found deep within me. When I need to recharge my batteries, I go shooting. To take this one step further, I’m most happy when I’ve composed my shot and I trip the shutter. Whether the shot turns out or not isn’t what draws me, but rather the process that leads me to that point. The peacefulness that photography brings me is my reconnection with nature, and that’s my happiest time. The “good” photography comes with practise, but the process, which allows me to reconnect with nature, is what matters most to me.

So to answer your question of how photographers feel when they take a photograph…I can’t speak for all photographers, but I find that nature speaks to me through its trees and babbling brooks, so I answer with a photograph.

Photos: ©Roy Ramsay
Top photo: Main Chutes, Chutes Provincial Park, ON
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 35mm, ƒ18@0.3 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer
Bottom photo: Minor Chutes, Chutes Provincial Park, ON
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 105mm, ƒ18@1/6 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer

Bikes, Photography and a Murder of Crows

When a photographer friend of mine invited me on a recent photo trip she asked me if I have a bike. I do, but haven’t ridden it in over a year. The idea was to ride our bikes from the car, parked at one end of the intended trail route, and ride along the roadways to the other end of the trail. We would leave our bikes at the far end of the trail and hike back to the car along the five-kilometre portion of the Dufferin Hi-Land route of the Bruce Trail.

   The Bruce Trail is Ontario’s longest hiking trail, beginning in Queenston, ON to the south and ending 885 km away in Tobermory, ON to the north. The idea of incorporating my bike into my photo-hiking was an intriguing one, so I eagerly agreed.

hoto: ©Susan David/

   We unloaded our bikes from the car and pulled on our backpacks full of photo gear, ready for our ride to the other end of the trail. Within the first minute of setting off, my bike’s back tire came off and jammed itself against the frame. Without tools to fix the problem, my bike was out of commission. Mental note: Make sure you tune up your bike before you set out on a ride in the middle of nowhere. Looks like we were back to hiking the usual way — sans bike.

   The Bruce Trail is an amazing route that takes you through many regions of southwestern Ontario. As I mentioned, we tackled a five-kilometre section within the Dufferin Hi-Land region, which of course became a 10-kilometre hike after we had to retrace our steps in the opposite direction. There are benefits to walking a trail in the opposite direction, as everything is different coming from the other way. You can photograph things you may have potentially missed the first time.


That day we saw much and shot some of the things that we found interesting, like this forest clearing, and an old, abandoned power generating house. The vegetation in the area was reclaiming its territory by the looks of things.


   Before we ended our hike back at the car, we became acutely aware of why crows in a bunch are called a murder of crows. The sound of what seemed like 100-plus crows cawing together is not a sound I would like to hear again anytime in the near future; it chilled me to the bone.

Photos: ©Roy Ramsay
Image info:
Forest clearing: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 45mm, ƒ18@1/5 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer

Abandoned power generating house: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 24mm, ƒ18@1 sec., ISO 200, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer