Tony Worobiec is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and one of our Fotospeed photographers. He has won awards for photography both in the UK and internationally, and has authored 16 books. In this blog post, adapted from his RPS workshop, "The Landscape Photographers Calendar", Tony tells you what to look out for in March. Tony uses Fotospeed’s Platinum Baryta and Platinum Matt.
You can find out more about Tony here.
March is a strange month in-so-far as we have left winter behind, but the weather can still prove disappointingly cold. It is also a month when we are still starved of colour. Yes, it is the time of year when daffodils begin to emerge, but most of our trees are still in bud and there is a sense of perpetual greyness. But the purpose of these blogs is to identify the positives each calendar month has to offer and March is no exception, so without further ado let’s dive into what March has to offer...
When looking back to the many images I have taken in March, a surprising number of them have been printed as monochromes. One of the advantages of having a "colourless" month is that it encourages you to see in tonal values, which of course are best expressed when printed in black and white. With generally grey skies, the lighting is perfect for monochrome, which of course can be applied to virtually any landscape location. If I have a favourite genre at this excellent time of year, it is coastal photography. Aim to avoid the obvious, but look instead for those intriguing rock formations one often finds within the inter-tidal zone. Do remember that, unlike colour, you can afford to stretch your tonal range from 0 to255, thus ensuring you have a full tonal range. A touch of pure black and pure white works wonders within a monochrome print. With respect to papers for a perfect black and white, there are none better than Fotospeed's Platinum Baryta, which is about the closest paper I have ever used which mirrors the darkroom classic Agfa Record Rapid.
In weather terms, another hallmark of March are the gun-grey skies, but just at the moment grey is considered extremely stylish. What we need to understand is that grey is not a discrete colour, but a range of highly desaturated colours, which when viewed sympathetically appear wonderfully nuanced. Occasionally it is worth staring up at a grey sky for a few moments and value the gentle subtleties that exist. From an aesthetic standpoint, grey skies work well when set against a grey foreground, so once again, this is where an under-stated coastal location can often work. When printing gray, it is so important to ensure that your printer is accurately profiled; do remember that Fotospeed offer a bespoke profiling service whenever you purchase any of their papers.
Weather and the time of year go hand in glove, and something that we should be aware of is that early spring is a period when we are likely to experience heavy showers. From a photographic standpoint, these really are a blessing from the gods. Whilst of course it is difficult to photograph during a deluge, that period immediately after a shower produces some of the most dramatic skies imaginable. Whether you are photographing a landscape or within an urban environment, the tonal range and dramatic colours one can capture truly makes this a great time to be taking images.
If you have had a period of heavy rainfall, search out some waterfalls. I live in Dorset, a county not noted for waterfalls, but even here we have one or two coastal locations that feature worthy waterfalls, particularly after a spectacular period of rain. It is also another one of those landscape features that work equally as well in colour or in mono. In this example I have elected to retain it in colour, but of course it can equally as well be converted to black & white. Often waterfalls such as this are located in dells where the light is relatively low; this of course is a plus, as it allows you to use a relatively slow shutter speed. Anything between 1/4 second to a second works well. If you are concerned about getting spray on your front element, use a telephoto-lens.
One weather feature just about every landscape photographer complains about is a blank white sky, something we get a lot of during the month of March! It needn't be a problem. The best way to look at it is to see it as a white sheet of paper. If you allow me to develop the analogy, a pen and ink drawing works fantastically on a white sheet of paper, and so it is with a white featureless sky. The skill is to find a location that is best complimented by a large area of white. In the illustrated example, the tracery of the branches, which could so easily have been drawn with a fine black pen, are complimented by a simple white sky. Had the sky been blue, or dramatic in any way, the delicacy of the trees would have been lost.
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