doesn't really exist - or at least never seems to when you're somewhere in bloody awful light!
Very often when we're travelling we spend only a limited amount of time in our destination and have to make do with what nature provides us. There's always a friendly local to tell us, "oh you should have been here yesterday!"
The trick is to choose the right subject for the right light. The thing NOT to do is to ignore what the light is telling you and photograph the right subject in the wrong light.
The picture at left is a perfect example. It was taken at the beautiful Shiretoko Five Lakes, in the far eastern side of Hokkaido, Japan. This is a glorious natural reserve, World-Heritage listed and full of bears and deer. I was on a pretty rushed trip through eastern Hokkaido on assignment for a magazine and I had my wife, 2 year old son and father-in-law for company. My father-in-law had my son in a backpack on his back, my wife Chiharu carried the supplies (nappies, bottles etc you get the drill!) and I had the cameras.
Before I arrived I had seen all these wonderful images of snowy mountains lit up by afternoon sun, bathed in golden light with gloriously green forests and crystal blue lakes in the foreground. As you can see that ain't what I got! So how could I turn this horribly cloudy, tourist-filled day into something memorable? By forgetting about any pre-conveived ideas of what a place should look like and really opening my eyes.
I noticed the way the grey sky by itself was pretty boring, but was reflecting beautifully in the lake, as were the mountains. Not quite enough by itself but getting there. There was still the problem of the busloads of tourists. Did you notice them in the picture? Pretty hard to because I pretty much got rid of them with a really wide-angle lens - which has the effect of shrinking the apparent size of things far away from the camera. The only other thing I needed was something to provide a bit of foreground interest. Voila - a pyramid-shaped rock and silhouetted tree branches. I deliberately underexposed the picture to almost silhouette all the details and bring out the reflections in the water and produced an image that I'm really proud of.
It might not be golden light, or bright and colourful. But it's a personal interpretation of a well-known site and possibly more individualistic than what I would have got with perfect lighting conditions.
So don't blame the weather for ruining your travel photos - work your way around the heavens and point your camera at an appropriate subject for the light.