I was listening to the radio the other night, and an old song by the Rolling Stones came on that made me think about one of my recent images. The song was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. I know it sounds kind of strange right now, but I promise when you finish reading this post it will make complete sense, so stay with me.
Last week we finally got a decent storm here in the southwest. This winter has been extremely dry, and almost void of any storms. Excited by the possibility of getting some great photo ops, I loaded up my gear and headed out to one of my local haunts. The storm was starting to break (so I thought), and I expected to capture the sun breaking through the clouds right at sunset. After driving fifty miles to my location, I was greeted by a thunderstorm complex building off to the south. The drama I wanted was starting to set up. Problem was, Mother Nature had different plans. The storm rapidly moved north, and filled in the entire western horizon. My hopes of getting that burst of golden light at sunset were gone. As I always do, I took my shots anyways, working with the light I had. When the rain started to hit us, we packed up and hiked back to the truck, disappointed. My moment of photographic glory never materialized. Or did it?
Sometimes I think as professional photographers we get so wrapped up in chasing that magical moment in time, that we completely forget what we’re doing this for in the first place. We love nature, and we love to create images of it. Every moment in time has its own unique qualities. It’s our job to capture these moments, and not expect them to be something else. Sure that golden hour light creates some extraordinary images. But so does a dark and stormy day, or a crystal clear morning with red rocks contrasted against a blue sky. They’re just different. Unique.
From time to time, I think we need to remind ourselves what this journey is all about. It’s about a passion for the great outdoors. It’s about a love of the photographic arts. It’s about combining the two so that we can share our experiences and passion with those that are not fortunate enough to experience it for themselves. We need to cherish each moment for what it is. After reviewing my images a couple of days later, I was quite surprised to find the image at the top of this post captured exactly what I experienced. In fact, it really has grown on me. My only regret is the feeling of disappointment that I felt that day out in the desert. I, as well as any other nature photographer reading this, need to make a vow to ourselves not to let this happen. Don’t kill that passion and spirit just because things didn’t turn out the way you wanted.
Not every trip is going to produce the images you envisioned. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to get some great shots. To finish off the chorus to the song I started out with: “but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need”. This pretty much sums it up. Mother Nature always gives you what you need. Enjoy it, capture the beauty that exists in that moment in time, and the images you create will hold that memory for the rest of your life.