A couple of photographers I follow online were speaking of meeting to capture the sunrise. The next day I saw their instagram story’s that they had been to the Lighthouse Het Paard van Marken. This is a famous Dutch location for landscape photography I have been here before but not in wintertime with snow and ice! It was freezing for a week now and the conditions were getting perfect to shoot an sunrise shot over at the lighthouse with the famous icestacks that happen there when lake IJsselmeer freezes over..
The images that popped up at social media were spectaculair! Awesome color in the sky and amazing structures in the ice close to the lighthouse. In my mind a plan came up to finally get that shot I’ve been dreaming of for a couple of years now.
The opportunity rose soon enough, me and a friend planned on going two days later to the lighthouse. The forecast was not great, cloudy skies but we decided to go anyway. My friend was keen on capturing a shot of the famous Icebreakers and we set off. We arrived at the island of Marken around 6:30, an hour before sunrise. It was pretty clear the forecast was correct and it was not going to be as colorful as the days before. But since we were there anyway we embarked on the small hike to the icebreakers. Walking in-between the traditional Marker houses felt a little awkward since they were built so close together that you feel as if you are walking through someones backyard. Especially the last bit we almost got lost in-between a set of 10-12 houses. But we finally found our way… stepping up onto the dike it was freezing cold, temperatures were -5C and strong winds made it feel a whole lot colder.
The icebreakers were an awesome sight. It was quite special since you could just go stand on the ice, next to the icebreakers to get a different perspective than usual. Of course I also went for the classic symmetrical shot with five of them in the frame.
When I had the shots of the icebreakers I came for I headed out to the lighthouse another 15 mins walk. The light was not improving and although the blue hour provided some color in the sky I knew that this was not going to be as I had envisioned/hoped.
I decided to ‘go with the light’. Take it as it is & skip the vision of the purple skies I had in my mind. Arriving at the lighthouse there were many other photographers that had the same plans as we did and even though a lot of them were already on their way back there were still many that persisted. I started shooting, first of all the compositions that I had planned, but after this I tried loads of different compositions than I probably would have if things were perfect. In the end I came away with more interesting shots than I would have if things were perfect. Even though that world-class-jaw-dropping-dramatic-image of the lighthouse on Ice was not among them I still felt I made the best of a bad situation.
When I started to edit the images I was tempted to try to put in a different sky and create the vision I had in my mind. When I did it worked perfectly and it is a very convincing and powerful image. I had shown it to my friend but I’m hesitant to release such an image online because in a way it feels like cheating to me. I probably would not feel as comfortable receiving peoples comments and likes. My friend and I were having this conversation on the subject and he put it like this;
I think it comes down to you (or my or anyone’s) goal: do you want to communicate a story or vision?
This edited version is a story that could have been.
Or, do you want to accurately document the moment as it was? Without adornment, the photos would be functional, accurate, but also not very interesting .
Where to draw the line?
I think it’s a choice every photographer makes for themselves. I have yet to chose a side and am quite happy were I am at the moment… I do see a lot of shots online that have clearly been edited. And I must say that many of my shots do fall into that category as well… The last months I try to resist the urge to create awesomeness with the help of software. And edit with a lighter touch… Enhance things that were already there and keep it ‘real with a hint of contrast’ But every now and then, I cave in and I still go for maximum radioactive colors. Nobody likes boring images right?
So tell me how heavy are you on your edits? How much Photoshop/Lightroom is too much? Do you replace skies? Are you a storyteller or a documenting-photographer? Are you a realist or a visionist?
While writing this I still do not know wether to show the vision or just keep it for later… I guess you know now by reading this post..