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Magazine Of The Nikon World

Nikon Owner Issue 17

IN PRAISE OF BOULDERS by John Archer-Thomson

John Archer-Thomson states the case for boulders.


My dear wife Sally thinks I'm a little odd, and after ten years together she could be described as an expert witness. This oddness might be true generally but we'll focus photographically for the purposes of this article. She thinks I am unhealthily preoccupied with boulders and will laugh shamelessly when I approach aforesaid subject matter with photographic intent.

I offer the following in my defence and will illustrate appropriately with pictorial evidence. Boulders don't usually move (anyone who has attempted butterfly photography must appreciate this quality). They come in interesting shapes, sizes and colours with occasional added bonuses of mineral veins and lichen cover. If you look on the underside of most boulders they have "foreground interest" stamped somewhere unobtrusive. All they ask is that you have a little patience and wait for the right light to come along.

Gateholm sunrise

"Gateholm sunrise" [right] is a case in point. My intention here was to get early morning light on the old red sandstone rocks of Gateholm and I needed some interest in the foreground. The boulder-strewn shore was the obvious choice especially as there was a range of tones from black tar lichen-covered darkness through to the white of the quartz veins. I was fortunate that the sweep of the shoreline, leading the eye towards Gateholm, should carry on through the rather cooperative clouds top-left of the frame. The clouds also balance the composition; a featureless blue sky here may not have been so pleasing. The early light just catching the foreground lichen on the left was a deliberate, favourable ingredient! Front-to-back sharpness was essential so I used f/22 on my 20-35mm lens at the 20mm end. I never take a landscape picture anymore without a tripod - long shutter speeds coupled with slow 50ASA Velvia film make one essential, but it's better than just having to use one. A tripod slows the picture-taking process down (this sometimes produces harsh language) and allows the whole frame to be scrutinised for compositional detail, crisp packets etc., before the shutter is fired. For this image the light was so beautiful that I wanted to capture it as it was; hence I did not use a polariser on this occasion.


I should like to add that I suffered for this image. I knew that the early morning light would be at a favourable angle for the back of Gateholm in June. This meant that I had to get up at four in the morning to be in position at the appropriate moment. I was strolling groggily along the coast path (secretly rather enjoying the tranquillity of the morning) when I heard a loud rustling in the hedge nearest to me. Out popped a badger about three metres away. I'm not sure who was more surprised but after a short period of mutual appraisal we both went about our business (in different directions); my heart rate was about triple the rate of five minutes previously. I'm not sure about the badger's.