DON’T FORGET TO LOOK BEHIND - 24 Feb 13
Pastel Colors at Santa Elena Canyon - Big Bend National Park, Texas
I haven’t shot much recently. Certainly I haven’t done much in the way of landscape photography. I have lots of excuses which I won’t bring up here. All that’s important is I’m working on it. Photography is like any skill sport, it takes practice. Even with practice, you’re good at what you’re doing, you still have to warm up. Well, this last weekend in Big Bend National Park in West Texas, this last point was supremely obvious. Things you might’ve taken for granted before when you were proficient might be lost and you don’t even know it.
I did a short trip last weekend to visit friends in San Antonio for a couple nights. Then, on the return I spent a couple more nights in Big Bend NP. I hadn’t been there in over year. I was due a visit.
I knew before heading out there my skills as a landscape photographer were a bit rusty. Before I left made sure my gear was in order. I probably spent more time on that then normally because not all my gear was where it was supposed to be--too much time not being used and things got misplaced. As it turned out, the extra prep time paid off. I didn’t forget a single thing.
The first night there was almost a complete bust. What I envisioned didn’t pan out. Without a cloud in the sky and dead calm winds, the sunset images were uninspiring. In fact, the best image of the night was of my lit-up tent with the half full moon in the background. Everything was hard. Setting up the camera, setting focus properly, using the tilt and swing mechanisms on the lens, everything was hard. Not only that, I probably wasn’t all that attune to my creative talents because of all the distractions of the gear. That’s my story at least.
The next morning was a bit better though still not all that productive. Sure, I got a couple nice shots of the Milky Way and the tiny Mexican town across the Rio Grande. I was happy even though I knew I could do better because I was still recovering my physical memory of working the camera.
That night, well that night would’ve could’ve been so awesome except I missed one of the key tenants of nature photography, look behind you.
You see, I decided to shoot at Santa Elena Canyon on the western edge of the park. I’d been there several times before and had a keen idea of what I wanted to make. Of course, none of my ideas panned out. What I wanted was canyon in the foreground with a large dramatic colorful sunset in the background. Sure, the dynamic range issues would’ve been challenging. But, I figured why not. So, I sat there for an hour facing the canyon which was west of me making unproductive practice images. The whole time I was oblivious of what was developing to the east.
You see, I was completely oblivious the high cirrus clouds I was hoping for over the canyon where actually developing behind me to the east. I sat there staring at the canyon not entirely satisfied and actually gave up for the evening when I finally turned around and saw the image you see at the top of the blog.
The camera was already put away. The tripod was collapsed and in travel mode. I was ready to hike out when I saw this sight. Working fast, I was able to get the image. I like it but there was potentially so much more.
The color was incredible and fleeting. If I was more on top of my game I would’ve focused more constrained image than the wide field you see here. You see the rocks on the far shore? Perhaps a close of them with the water reflecting the nice light would’ve worked. How about a long exposure close the water, almost horizontal, would’ve been nice--the long exposure would’ve made the water blurry, pillowy like. There were a number of possibilities and I executed none of them. I saw the rocks but didn’t think I could’ve shot them. Turns out, I could’ve if I simply made the decision to do it.
You see, I have plenty of previous experiences where I simply grabbed the right camera with the right lens, serendipitously had the right settings set on the camera, pointed, pressed the trigger and captured awesome imagery. I just didn’t in this situation.
Even thought the image is quite nice, I think there was more potential there I failed to capture. That’s okay. I was getting back into the swing of things. I’ll see this color again on another day.
In the mean time, don’t forgot to always look behind you. You never know what’s developing.