Scotland is one of Drew Gardner’s favorite travel destinations. This time he took along his wife, son, dog Wriggle and the new ZEISS Batis 2.8/18.
The Isle of Mull in northwestern Scotland is one of the most beautiful places on the British Isles, says Drew Gardner. And he should know. The photographer has traveled to many corners of Great Britain and Europe for his photo shoots, and frequently to the Scottish islands. Anyone who likes hiking, wet-windy weather, a good whisky and the cheese typical of the Highlands is in the right place here. In December there are few tourists, making it the ideal time of year for a short trip away with the family to take some pictures with the new ZEISS Batis 2.8/18.
Drew is a fan of premium lenses and likes to compare them to other models. So he was eager to find out how the new lens would stack up against the ZEISS Loxia 2.8/21, which currently occupies the space in his camera bag for the wide angle lens and has been his favorite lens until now. “Those are two lenses with a very different character,” he says. But both must fit the character of the photographer. The surprisingly lightweight Batis is the ideal lens for people who are often on the go, want occasionally to be able to take pictures of moving objects, and therefore appreciate having an autofocus. “The Batis is a limousine with automatic gear box, while the Loxia is more of a sports car with manual shift.” The imaging quality of both lenses he found fantastic.
If you travel to Scotland in December, count on rain. And if you want to take good pictures, you’ll sometimes have to deal with a wet ground. To take this photo of the abandoned fishing boats, Drew stepped into the lake until the water almost reached the top of his boots and then looked for a secure spot to place his tripod. Under these circumstances, the extremely long exposure time of 57 seconds feels even longer. But the effort was worth it: the clouds are softly blurred and the water lies there like a calm milky lake. The picture is in focus, even though more and more rain drops collected on the lens during the exposure.
The rain was nevertheless welcome “because normally you meet a lot of tourists here, but on those days we were alone.” As a result, Drew could photograph one of Scotland’s best-known motifs at different times of the day and from different perspectives, without anyone to disturb him. On the second picture you see all three boats, but the third one – which appeared large on the first photo – peeps through the triangle where the two other boats at the front butt up against each other, stretching out ominously towards the sky. This time Drew could stand on dry ground, as it was low tide.
According to mythology, Scotland is home to many elves and fairies. In this shot, the photographer was able to capture the shroud of water fairies – almost invisible to the naked eye – thanks to the excellent imaging quality of the lens. Or is it simply that the water shines due to the long exposure time, which means lots of light is reflected from the whitecaps of the stream? The latter version is more probable – though the first one makes for a better story.
The second premise is supported by the many enchanting forests that can be found in Scotland, a country that by no means consists of just windy, barren highlands. Areas that today teem with forests used to be inhabited by farmers, but they moved away generations ago. Since then, nature has been able to spread uninhibited and remarkable colors and forms have developed.
“This is what life must have been like 300 years ago,” surmises Drew. The knotty tree covered entirely with moss is a pretty eye-catcher – and a technical challenge for the photo equipment. The tiny leaves of the moss are so delicate that the camera’s 42-megapixel sensor and the precise optics are pushed to the extreme. Both passed the test brilliantly. You can zoom into the image almost endlessly, without recognizing any blur worth mentioning. “The focus and color rendition remind me of a medium-format camera, even into the corners.”
Action photography is not really a genre that lends itself to a wide-angle lens, which is normally used for landscape or architectural photography. But no rule without an exception: thank Wriggle, the dog of Drew’s sister-in-law, for transforming a slightly boring picture shot in the highlands into a real eye-catcher. Like a black monster, the animal emerges from the shiny blue lagoon to chase after a stone. The dog’s movement and splashing water drops appear frozen. “I held the camera very low in order to strengthen the impression that Wriggle is flying.” For a lens with an 18-millimeter focal length, that’s a pretty unusual motif. “But the Batis 2.8/18 is a crazy lens,” says Drew with a wink.