GUEST POST: This week is a guest post by landscape and travel photographer Graham Fisher. Graham is a friend and fellow St. Louis-based photographer. We’ve spent many hours chasing wild horses in the Missouri Ozarks. Graham is filling in while I’m off traveling. Enjoy Graham’s fresh take on these weekly challenges and photos from all around the world. He’s given you a lot of ideas!
The challenge this week is to:
Photograph the Wind
We see the effects of wind and moving air all around us just about every day and, in the days of sailing ships, sailors depended on it. In certain parts of the oceans are areas known as Doldrums where there is often no wind at all and ships got trapped for days or weeks waiting for sufficient wind to drive them on their journey. In this challenge, thankfully, we are not concerned with that particular problem, but we could think about what we mean by wind. When does an air current become wind?
Some forms of transport still depend on the wind. Hot air balloons for example, unlike airplanes, can only go in the direction of the wind. Definitely not suitable for the commute to work but surely much more fun!
The pilot uses a gas flame to create a hot air updraft filling the balloon and making it lighter than the surrounding air which in turn raises it to higher altitude where it may find different wind speeds and directions. To land the pilot has to wait for the hot air to cool, thereby making it heavier so the balloon becomes less buoyant and slowly falls down under gravity. Car chasers on the ground have to follow to bring all passengers and the balloon home.
If your home has a fireplace, it too has a wind, well at least a draft, associated with it, assuming the chimney is working properly. Air from the room is sucked into the fire and then goes up the chimney.
Photographing fire can be interesting provided it is controlled. In the case of wildfires, the wind fuels the flames and turns it into a deadly inferno as we’ve seen recently in California and other places.
The fire shown here, with flames dancing in the wind, was in a purpose made pit on a beach by Monterey Bay. It was professionally handled by the staff of the adjoining restaurant. Taking the shot at night adds contrast and drama. By taking tighter crops than shown here, it is possible to create all manner abstract art, if you like that sort of thing.
At air shows we can sometimes see smoke trails left by stunt pilots. In these cases, they rely on the absence of, or at least only light, winds. Any strong air currents would disperse the smoke making the trail diffuse and unimpressive. The shot below was taken at an airshow in 2007 on a day when there was very little wind.
In complete contrast, when driving around the country, wind farms are becoming more common as we try to move away from dependency on fossil fuels. There are examples of just one windmill supplying a single home of factory up to to several hundred supplying a small town. The picture below shows a windfarm in Colorado.
In order for wind farms to generate electricity there must, of course, be wind and, although we know wind varies from zero to hurricane force, over timescales of days and months its cumulative impact over archeological timescales can be significant. Below is a picture of Stonehenge on Salisbury plain in England. Built by druids between about 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C., these stones, each weighing up to 25 tons, have stood in rain and wind for more than 4000 years and we can see the slow but sure impact of the weather.
Photographs often take on more dramatic moods in the presence of wind. In the picture below, we see the effects of wind on the snow-capped Fuji-san in Japan. Revered by most Japanese and held as sacred by some this beautiful mountain is often concealed by clouds. On this day the wind helped render it visible for onlookers to enjoy. The blowing snow coming over the top from the other side is clearly visible.
Wind usually accompanies thunder storms which also produce conditions for dramatic photos. While the following photo doesn’t show the wind directly, we know there’s likely to be some wind and rain in the area.
If this shot was taken during the day, we would see clouds more clearly and notice their movement with the wind. Such movement is not usually visible in a single photo but with time lapse photography, even on a calm sunny day at ground level we can see clouds drifting by at higher altitudes. The following link takes you to an example of such a movie I shot from my back yard. Here you see not only moving clouds but the tree quiver in the wind too. In real time, while shooting this, the tree movements weren’t noticeable at all.
Sometimes we can even see the effect of wind at night. In the photo below from a July 4th celebration we clearly see the smoke being blown in one direction and being lit by the fireworks exploding nearby. If you’re visiting, the trick is to view from up wind or well to the side!
Finally, here’s a shot from Waikiki beach in Honolulu. Sailing in good weather can be a very peaceful experience which I thoroughly recommend. Only the sound of lapping waves on the side of the boat and the creaking of the masts and sails.
What a nice way to spend a relaxing evening!
How many photos can you find that illustrate the presence of wind or air currents? On a good day with a following wind, probably dozens. After all it’s an ill wind that blow nobody any good!
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Guest Contributor: Graham Fisher “I mostly like to explore landscapes and wildlife but I try my luck in other areas too.” Follow Graham @grf51