- May 16th, 2011
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Canon 5d mkII EF24-105 at 32mm ISO100 f22 1.0 sec
Every type of photography has its unique challenges. One of the challenges for a landscape photographer is finding the best vantage point for their photo long before the sun has risen leaving them unaware of some of their immediate surroundings.
One of my favorite corners of the globe is the Monti Sibillini National Park in Umbria, Italy. Of course the food’s amazing. But so are the people, the mountains, wildflowers, skies, and much more. Near the top of one of the passes is an area called Forca Canapine. It’s a ski resort in the winter and a wonderful vista all year long.
One spring morning, I headed up to the Forca Canapine to capture the scenery at dawn. I was able to scout the general area the day before and knew that there would be a fair amount of ‘4-wheeling’ involved in order to get to the location that I wanted.
At 5am it was still very dark at the top of these mountains, but the eastern ridge showed a bit of light in the sky – I knew the sun was on its way. I pulled the car off the trail (it sure wasn’t a road), grabbed my camera bag and tripod and headed off through the fields.
Using a flashlight (torch for my English friends) I found a patch of wildflowers that would work great as foreground and began to set up my tripod. All the while, I was unconsciously ignoring the faint sound of tinkling bells that seemed to carry on the breezes.
The wildflowers that I was using in the photo were just inches off the ground – so my camera needed to be positioned right in the grass. Using a combination of live view and peering through the viewfinder, I was able to frame my shot – but only by laying in the grass with my head on the ground. I took a couple test shots and viewed the histogram to confirm my exposure settings. So intent was I on the shot that I didn’t notice the tinkling bells getting louder. I kept my eyes glued to the far mountains…
The sun started to rise. At that moment I knew I had mere seconds to get the shots before it was too high for the effect that I needed. I had the composition that I wanted as well as the exposure settings, so I blasted away with multiple bracketed shots for about 30 seconds. Then it was over – time to move off to a different scene.
I rolled onto my back and started to crawl out of my prone position when I glanced over my right shoulder to see 50 or 60 pairs of eyeballs. Of course, the bells. The whole family was staring at me; Bessie, Molly, Bossy, Rosie… they were all there, munching on grass and wondering why this crazy person was laying on the ground in the middle of their pasture.
The initial shock was the worst part. I know that grazing cattle are not going to hurt me, but that still didn’t stop the adrenaline from racing through my body. My brief panic and quick reaction caused the poor animals to jump. The ensuing stampede was really more of a group jog down the hillside, and then partway up the adjacent hill – but impressive none-the-less.
As I gathered up my gear I looked around the area and saw multiple ‘signs’ of cattle. The really shocking thing was that I hadn’t had the misfortune of laying in any of it. I was lucky.
I made a number of other photographs that morning, spending an hour or two in the area. Long before I started to head down the mountain in my rental vehicle, I was already planning my next trip to the Forca Canapine. It’s one of those places that need to be visited more than once. Just remember to pay attention to those bells.