Be prepared / by Mario Mirabile

Two minutes and sixteen seconds. That's all that separates the first image from the second. I'm not holding these pictures up as great art, particularly as they were shot through a dirty office window. I'm just making the point that when great light happens, you'll miss it if you blink. You have to be ready to grab it, and grab it quickly. It's not going to hang around and wait for you to get your camera settings right.

I encountered the most amazing combination of light and sky as I cycled past Brighton Yacht Club just after dawn on a still and frosty winter morning. The clouds had formed intricate and delicate patterns, and even though I was looking west, they caught the dawn light in a spectacular orange display. Coupled with the still water and reflected yachts, the scene was breathtaking. I pulled over and fished out the Olympus C-8080WZ which at the time was my take everywhere camera. An almost pro level camera in its day (2003), it was showing its age by 2011. It had a fine lens and good image quality, but was hampered by its ageing technology. Slow and hesitant autofocus, ISO that needed to be kept to 100 or lower, a tiny LCD, ho-hum viewfinder and insanely slow card write times (14 seconds for one RAW file!!!!). It didn't help that just as I pulled over, my riding companion arrived from the opposite direction, so, rather than take what time the light allowed, I rattled off a series of shots and was on my way.

When I checked the images, all I found was a mass of blur - I'd been shooting at 1/8 second. I can't remember why the camera was set the way it was, but since then, I've gotten into the habit (most of the time) of resetting my camera to a default state before I turn it off. That way, when I turn it on I know what I'm starting with, so hopefully I won't be caught short next time great light happens.

Tech talk
Both images Olympus E-30, 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 mk1 lens, aperture priority at f4.5, -.3EV,. The extra blue tint probably comes from the (admitedly not too clean) office windows.