The Angry Corrie 12: Apr-May 1993


Great Photographers of the Mountains No. 1: Walter Poucher

Photographing Scotland's mountains probably looks easy to those who have scanned a few of my books. Blue skies and glorious vistas have become my trademark but they hide the long hours of patient waiting, hair plastered to the face, dinner frying to a crisp in the Sligachan kitchens and my make up cascading down my rugged countenance.

Always obey the the rule of golden proportions. This is sometimes incorrectly known as the rule of thirds. If the distance from the main subject of your picture to one edge is X and to the other, Y, then the golden rule states that the ratio of X to Y should be the same as Y to (X+Y) (the width of the frame). Solving the quadratic equation gives the result that X should be 1/2.618033 of the frame width. Certainly not 1/3, but someone who has never cowered beneath the Great Pyramid at Cheops may be fooled by 1/3. Precision is worth the effort in almost all areas of human endeavour. When I ask the mechanic to set the spark gap at 3 thou on my Bentley and he complies I am rewarded by an awesome throaty roar. Sadly trends are away from such craftsmanship. While studying some popular paintings of charging elephants and dusky maidens in an art shop called "Frames and Things" it became clear that 1/2 seems to pass muster these days. Probably the slide rule has been deserted in favour of the Super Nintendo which doesn't do quadratics. Study the illustration above. The figure is placed at the optimum point as regards the horizontal, but furthermore if one could somehow calculate the centre of mass of the gigantic Torridonian chieftain I think it would not be far away from the optimum for both orthogonal axes. Anyway position your subject at this point. Preferably this will be one of your good companions, a ghillie or, if shooting from the roadside, your Bentley Roadster. Much is made these days of the telephoto lens and certainly some of these reach a standard of clarity unheard of in my heyday. However, in the mountains of Scotland, my beloved Coolins for example, there is rarely a vantage point where the panorama is not so bewitching that the widest angle lens available is called for. Stand with me now in Corrie Lagan at dusk. The dancing gloaming fractals of light on the Sound of Canna are in contrast to the brooding titanic mural precipices of the corrie and this dichotomy balanced by the twinkling of the same stars which witnessed Nicholson, Collie et al. What would you exclude dear reader to simply achieve that party gimmick the condensed depth of field? I recommend a Leica 27mm Visaflex F1.2 at 1300 and Kodak ASA 1000.

Now a word about Scottish conditions. I have travelled extensively in the Alps and the South Americas and never have I encountered such a deterrent to studied photography as the Scottish Midge. The only known repellent is the compound Dexahydromethylene Dichlorotoluene. I discovered this quite serendipitously. Coincidentally it is also the principal ingredient in Yardley foundation cream.

Next Issue: "Lord" Lichfield


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