© 2018 Mark Maio
Critical Distance Blog Post
© Mark Maio
There's been a gap in blog posts over the past few months as I recently accepted a new position with an ophthalmic medical device company (Haag-Streit USA), as Director of Diagnostic Sales and Marketing. My new responsibilities in addition to travel has consumed most of my time. I'm finally at a point where I can devote thoughtful time to writing again.
Having a second home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland for the past four years has allowed me as a photographer to acquaint myself both with the island and with the extreme and constant changes in weather patterns. Although it's seldom really warm there, there are times when we can literally go through all four seasons in a single day.
Photographically, the clouds, light and atmosphere continually combine and constantly challenge me. During our very first visit in 2008, exploring a new location with a limited number of days left me more confused than connected. The landscape was completely foreign to me (think of a combination of the Big Island of Hawaii and Grand Teton National Park). None of the roads go straight anywhere and given the zagged coastline, you can be driving towards all four compass points within five minutes.
It took a few years for me to get a feel for the island photographically. Learning about tides and their affect on the rugged coast; judging where the sun was going to be at a certain time of the year; or how a weather front was moving across the island, took extended time on site to fully understand.
Extended trips also took the pressure off me from feeling like I had to be constantly photographing. If the light or the weather wasn't right, all I had to do was wait a few hours or until the next day. More importantly, I always have my camera in the car with me.
"Levitating Cloud" was made on a trip to the grocery store, which is twenty miles from our house. Other than a few homes, there is nothing along those twenty miles other than some of the most beautiful landscape you can imagine. Skye is a volcanic island and the northern peninsula we live on is often referred to as "Jurassic Skye" because of the rock here being formed during that period 170 million years ago.
At the half-way point of my drive, the road passes by the most visited site on the island, the Old Man of Storr. The "Old Man" is actually an enormous flamed shaped piece of rock towering over the adjoining mountain range. It is the one place that always seems to have its own climate. Snow, rain and at times clouds flowing over the side like a waterfall.
Beyond the Old Man, the road dives straight down to sea level, running for a few miles along a "loch" and the ocean. Driving along the loch I watched as two storm systems started to come together with a window of sunlight between them. A cloud appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and hovered just above the loch.
Previsualizing my ultimate image, I initially noticed the scene and the tall grass in the foreground was being lit by the same rays of light hitting the cloud. Now it had disappeared.
With the two weather systems becoming one, my window of light was fast disappearing. Continuing to frame and compose the final image in my viewfinder, I made a series of exposures until, for one brief instant, it was as if someone had turned a light onto the tall grass in the foreground. I had time to make one more exposure before the light and the cloud disappeared.
Standing there, I was reminded of Ansel Adams and the events leading up to his famous image "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico". Ansel saw the image as he was driving down the road and had just enough time to set up his view camera and make one exposure. By the time he flipped his film holder over to make a second exposure, the light was gone.
I am often asked which is the best camera. Like many photographers, the answer I give is: "The best camera is the one you have with you."