I wish I could say that my best photos are solely the result of my skill as a photographer, but the fact is the best images are a combination of light, subject, and weather. My talent only comes in to play to the extent that I have to have a fairly good idea when those aforementioned elements are about to come together and enough experience and practice to get a shot in the moment where everything else (an you’ll pardon the pun) just clicks.
The image to the left is a perfect example of how all of the elements plus a lot of luck came together. This past summer, my wife and I were on a drive through Colorado National Monument at sunset. I had my camera with me because we were mountain biking near Fruita that morning, but I didn’t have a tripod with me. When the sun started to set, I pulled over the car, and barely remembered to put it in park before jumping out an bounding across the slick rock looking for just the right composition. I knew I was limited by not having a tripod, so I looked for a place I could set the camera on the ground. When I came across the pool of water with the reflection of the clouds in it, I piled up a couple of rocks to cradle my camera and was able to get just a few shots in before losing the light.
Early this summer, I was travelling through the Silver Thread area of Gunnison County with fellow photographer, Todd Powell. This was Todd and mine’s first visit to the Silver Thread and we came across this waterfall in the middle of the day which was invisible from the road above it. We decided to make a detour and check it out. It was still early summer and the water was really raging over the falls, however, the light wasn’t that great. We decided to come back later in the evening to check it out.
The light still wasn’t that great. The sun over the horizon was too bright, and the falls were in deep shadow. I decided to stick around a bit longer, and use a graduated neutral density filter to balance out the exposure between the waterfall in the foreground and the setting sun on the horizon. The sun was still to bright, but a few minutes after sunset, the sky turned a nice purple and orange and the difference in brightness and shadow was within the range of my filters. The result was this image that shows the falls under an orange sky.
This is a perfect example of how I wish I could say that I read the weather reports, set up a camera in the perfect spot, and had my friend sail is boat into the scene at exactly the right moment in order to create this image. Unfortunately the reality is much less dramatic. I had gone out to get some things at Target with a friend, and on the way home I noticed the sun starting to set. I had all of my camera gear in my car from a portrait session earlier in the day, so I figured why not pull off on the I-70 overlook and try to get a photo. I had my camera set up on a tripod, and I used a pano setup from Really Right Stuff. Once I got everything set up the light turned this beautiful purple and pink color and a single sailboat was making it’s way back to the marina. As Louis Pasteur (and often repeated by Ansel Adams) used to say, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”