I'd been wanting to write a little blog about this topic for a while having encountered a good example to share whilst in Scotland, but it was upon seeing a fellow Twitter 'Tog' Russ Barnes (@gblandscapes) mention something similar today that I knew I should get on and write about it.
So, I once heard Charlie Waite say that he often took a little step ladder out and about with him on his photography travels. The idea being to change the perspective slightly, and to help aid separation where required. In fact I automatically think of one of his images made at Rydal Water (view image) in the Lake District where I know he used one, and another in Bolivia where if I'm not mistaken he actually stood on a table to make the image (view image). I've also seen various pics of David Noton atop his Land Rover on a customised platform for similar reasons but seeing as EasyJet wouldn't allow either a step-ladder or a Land Rover into my hand luggage en route to Inverness I had to improvise back in November when I ran into a small but not insignificant separation problem...
There I was enjoying a gorgeous Scottish morning in The Highlands, I'd found a nice little spot on the edge of Loch Droma and I set about making a composition. The light was playful without being overly dramatic, there was a little bit of cloud interest and I found a nice curving foreground to play with. The morning sun was catching the reeds nicely in the still water and so far so good.
So, I'm feeling pretty good about this composition but whilst my eye is wandering around the frame it crashes into a 'red alert' zone as I like to call it. A cardinal sin, a schoolboy error, a rookie mistake. It was as if Charlie was in my ear saying "oh dear boy, such a shame about the lack of separation, just think what could have been".
So, after cursing EasyJet (and indeed Charlie a bit for being so shrewd and always having his ladder magically up his sleeve!) I decided to make this one a victory for the 'Centre Column' crew. My tripod was already extended to full height, but it was a simple case of winding up the often maligned centre column on the tripod to elevate the camera around 10-12 inches and hit the self timer and voila! Problem solved (see below).
The log remains despite it being a slight break in the reflection but it was there in real life, and so it stays in the picture. Dust spots, specks etc I'm happy taking out but otherwise I'm fairly resolute on leaving all original components as they were whenever possible.
It's a small difference in height and clearance, but for me it's a massive difference in the success or not of the image. Of course there may be other issues or reasons to dislike the image or find fault, but this was a clear case of spotting a specific issue at the point of capture, finding a solution and it paying off. The moral of the story? Always listen to more experienced Photographers than yourself and remember what they tell you! Oh, and I'm currently in negotiations with Land Rover and B&Q about a joint sponsorship deal :)