Part of being successful as a landscape photographer is learning to react to conditions, as opposed to expecting things to happen. When we expect things to happen, we naturally get upset when they don’t. Getting upset kills the creative spirit, and we tend to abandon what ever it was that we set out to do. On the contrary, when we learn to react to a situation, we will strive to do our best with whatever conditions are at hand. That is exactly the mindset I had the night I created the two images in this post. Let me explain.
I originally set out to photograph the Grand Wash Cliffs area about an hour and a half away from my house. This is one of my favorite locations close to home to shoot, and I’ve been there many, many times. While traveling out Stockton Hill Road, a very long desolate stretch of road, I got “squirreled” by God’s Rays breaking through the clouds to the west. Those of you who liked the movie Up will know exactly what I meant by …. Squirrel. After shooting there for about twenty minutes, we continued on our journey. Upon reaching Pierce Ferry Road, and having about twenty miles left to get to our destination, I realized we weren’t going to make it by sunset. Instead of getting upset, I reacted to the situation, and immediately started searching for an alternate location to shoot. Problem solved, and creative spirit still intact.
After finding an alternate location to shoot, I began my normal routine of scouting the area for potential compositions. I always try and find at least two-three different compositions, and one that is fairly open, and uncluttered that I can set up quickly if I need to. The image at the top of this post was my prime composition, and I caught it with the perfect clouds and the last light of the day glancing off the distant Cerbat Mountains. Shortly after I took this shot, the clouds started breaking up and didn’t compliment the scene anymore. I then started shooting some close-up shots, all the while keeping an eye on the sky to see what it was going to do. This close-up of a Joshua tree was one that I kind of liked. All of the sudden, one of the broken clouds in the sky decided to light up like a fire ball.
Remember the open, uncluttered composition I talked about earlier? That was my quick reaction composition for a situation exactly like this. I snatched up my camera and tripod, and ran about thirty yards across the desert to that location, set up and began shooting. The first two frames I shot, I didn’t fully get the cloud into, as they were moving fairly quickly. Since I had a wide open space to work with, recomposing was easy, and the third shot I nailed it. Shortly after, the light faded and the nights shoot was done. In my opinion, that image turned out to be the best one of the night.
So, the moral of the story is quite simple. React, don’t expect. When you can learn to do this, good things are bound to come your way. Mother nature is very unpredictable, yet in her own unique way, always beautiful. React to her nuances, and your images will take a giant leap forward.