Dodging squalls

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Mike on bike: check out those clouds

I spent a very pleasant few hours on Thursday in the company of my friend Mike Baker, who'd commissioned me to make some cycling photos.

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We met at his delightful home close to the river in Kingston, south-west London - having taken the last-minute decision to go ahead in spite of an iffy weather forecast ("heavy rain showers").

Over coffee, I delivered a print of a frosted waterfront scene in Essex that he'd admired.

I explained that he was getting three for the price of one, in effect, because the photo had been made using a bracketing technique - merging three from five exposures taken at different settings to cover the wide light range in the scene.

It had been raining when I'd left home but was much brighter in Kingston - when I arrived, that is. By the time he'd got changed and met me down on the riverside, it had begun raining there too.

We stood for a while eyeing the gathering clouds then decided the better option was to invert our plans and have an early lunch, in hope the weather would clear somewhat. No sooner had we agreed that than a squall hit and the raindrops were bouncing three feet off the road. 

Our haven was the Boaters Inn nearby, with an excellent range of beers and fine food. And sure enough, that particular belt of precipitation did pass over. 

We set to, Mike making pass after pass in front of the Sea Scouts' boathouse while I fiddled with tripod, flash (strobe) - on a stand, to offset it from the camera - and medium and wide zoom lenses on the Nikon D3s.

Adding to the challenge was the wildly fluctuating light: changing every few seconds as the clouds hustled past in a blustery wind.  This meant it might drop by several stops as Mike began a run past me, going from bright high contrast to dull and flat. 

I did some straightforward panning runs then switched to wide-angle close-ups. These involve teasing a moment out of a movement, requiring sharp timing in the framing - ideally anyway. In that lies the excitement of the process. 

Mike looked incredibly well, I have to say. You can follow his progress against cancer on his special blog, here