I use an AF-zoom for reasons of convenience, as I have to carry the camera everywhere I go onboard the ship (so something reasonably "compact" is called for). I knew the lens was going to trick me into firing off way too many shots, i.e. shooting with too little attention to the quality of light, and to composition and framing.
This is one of the reasons (the other being image quality) I always shoot primes, despite my aversion towards lens changes. I've always found that changing lenses annoys me and disrupts my "flow", while oddly, setting up a tripod and focussing manually, the way I shoot whenever the situation allows it, don't. In fact, in my experience, they force me to ponder the scene a lot more thoroughly, resulting in less images that don't survive the culling process.
Anyway, the lens is doing exactly as I feared: tempting me - with more than some success - to keep on pressing that shutter, without paying due attention to the fact that I'm not used to the light I'm presented with, and that the light doesn't fully support my subject. I really want to capture the urban landscape, so more often than not, a patch of barely textured sky finds it way in. I try to fit it in, convincing myself that somehow I'll pull back the little detail there is in post. Never mind the fact that by doing so, it's remarkably easy to land up with images that don't really look right.
I backtrack and take a walk through Tinganes, the tiny peninsula where to this day, some parts of the Faroese government are located, housed in rather humble red buildings with sod roofs, some of which dating back to the 17th century. Keeping politicians with their feet on the ground, no doubt. I like that.
Occasionally, the place comes alive when stray rays of sunlight hit the foreground, producing only a hint of shadow and depth, which I welcome with open arms. Because the transition between foreground and background, between some definition and a total lack of it is so soft and gradual, the drab backgrounds and featureless skies tend to catch the attention even more. It's nothing at all like those lovely well-defined patches of light gliding across an open landscape, or inversely, the crisp shadows of clouds throwing part of a vista in relative darkness.
The darkish mist, visible only in the distance, is something I don't see at home: living in a region that's basically one big, mostly fairly low-density city, you typically only notice the fog once you're caught in the middle of it. In a scene with a bright foreground and a dark misty background the natural or expected light distribution is almost reversed (barring certain edge cases, the sky/upper part of an image is usually brighter than the ground/lower part), which I find a bit disconcerting.
My inner voice says I should focus on more abstract compositions, leaving the sky out. With so much around me being new in some way (the building styles, the way the buildings and the various urban functions are spatially arranged, the sea that is just shy of flooding the lower walkways of old town, ...) however, I really want to leave the place with images that capture a wider scene.
The inner voice has largely been ignored and when I arrive back on the ship after wandering the streets for 3 hours. As it would turn out, I took twice the amount of pictures in Tórshavn in the few hours I was there, that I would do on a full day in Iceland. Looking at my shots, I realise the internet must be flooded with pictures of Tórshavn taken in the kind of light I had been hoping for, so there was really no point in me pushing for context rather than abstraction. Actually, I just checked, and even the Google Streetview footage meets that criteria!
Mental note: don't fight the light, and let it guide you. At the very least, if it doesn't get you some keepers, it will lead to practice and experience. Ironically, if it weren't for that nagging fear of coming home from a "big trip" with no decent pictures to show for it, I would have heeded my own advice without further ado.
When the ship leaves port, the fog pushing over the mountain ridges in the distance is joined by the bluish grey smoke produced by the ship's diesel engines, dulling our view of the houses dotted on the hill sides. As I look upon the various islands passing me by, I think of them as a mini version of what I'll see in Iceland, and look upon my 3 hour photo trip in Tórshavn as a general rehearsal, a gentle reminder that, because I'll be passing through rather than finishing a list of very specific shots that I absolutely want to nail, I'll have to adapt to scenery as well as lighting conditions that are very much new to me.