How do you capture the mistral?
- Posted Oct. 12, 2009 by Stefan Fletcher Viewed 4459 times
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The mistral is a strong, dry and cold northern and westerly wind that blows from the Alps down the corridor created by the Rhone to vent its energy in the wide plain of the Rhone delta and outwards in the Golfe du Lion. It explains the twisted, narrow streets in Provençal villages and those long lines of plane trees on either side of those country roads in the South of France, where the line of trees on one side is always bent inwards. The name means “masterly” in Provençal and it’s easy to see (and feel) why.
I heard locals in a bar (old habits die hard) talking about this week’s mistral - scheduled to last forever - with respect. As a former kite designer, I can now confess another reason for moving here: I want to fly big bastards (some measuring up to nine metres in diameter) in a masterly wind.
In the move to France I lost a curiously shaped plastic widget without which my sewing machine cannot work. More importantly, I haven’t yet found a supplier of spinnaker cloth which is the best material for making kites (and, presumably, sails). But I do have a camera. So I went out to try to capture something sharp (a road) and something moving (trees whipped by the wind) in the same image. I think I wanted to combine permanence and movement, but the degree of whippiness I wanted would have required hurricane winds which even a mistral can’t produce - at least on land.
This was an attempt at returning to “serious” photography now that my life is becoming a bit more settled. I am disappointed by the result. All I seem to be able to do is salvage poor compositions with a few half-learnt Photoshop tricks. The “old” adage that post-processing can’t make a bad picture better, only different, does apply - but feel free to contradict, and boost my ego, in the comments… The wonderful thing about photography is that it’s incremental; doing something slipshod teaches you how to do better at the same time.
More importantly, if you have tried to capture the effect of strong natural phenomena such as wind or water, add a link to your contribution so that I can learn from you.
The mistral scrapes clouds away and creates an empty, bright sky made all the more interesting in the changeable and delicate autumn light. I used a 3-stop neutral density filter to slow down the exposure and boosted the clarity, vibrance and saturation - none of which compensated for the fairly poor composition. Oh well…
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