The one that got away (what? Another one???)
Ansel Adams, the godfather of American landscape photography said
“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.”
Christmas morning rolled around and I woke up well before dawn, as is my usual routine, and poked my head outside to see if there were any clouds. It was pretty heavily overcast and I had doubts about the potential for a fully illuminated cloud underbelly but…
I was already up and had my gear packed and ready to go by the door.
I made coffee and headed out on the drive through the rain to Red Rock Canyon. I drove to an area I’ve been scouting called First Creek. I hiked out from the trailhead about a 1/4 mile to the area where Joshua Trees and some really big Yucca are growing and scouted a good location with Red Rock Canyon in the background and a nice few plants as foreground elements.
Then I waited with crossed fingers for the rain to stop and the sun to underlight all those beautiful clouds.
Apparently there weren’t any big breaks in the clouds out east for the sun to poke through. The under-lighting never came. This happens. You don’t get the light you were hoping for but… you’re out in nature with very few other people (I only saw three that rainy christmas morning) during the quietest part of the day. It’s not so bad!
I checked the app I use for sunrise times and watched the clock as the time for cloud under-lighting, and then actual sunrise, came and went. As I hiked back to my truck I noticed, off to the south, some breaks in the clouds where the sun could possibly rise into and produce some golden sun rays - what we photographers call God Light.
So I made a decision to drive around to where another trail head is and take the dirt road down to a viewpoint I know. As I drove away from First Creek I checked the rearview mirror and I saw it!
The sun had broken through while I was driving and lit up the cliff in a gorgeous soft orange side light and… on the edge of the illumination… a crisp, bright rainbow!
BRAKES! U-TURN! HIT THE GAS! Race back to a pull out! TRIPOD, CAMERA BAG! Sprint across the street and through a (still) dry creek bed to the barbed-wire fence. Set it up, frame it - oh no the light on the cliff is fading… I only have one shot.
“Get your composition right, Jones”.
Push the button. No click. WTF? Inspect! Dead battery??? NOOOOOO!!!! How could I let this happen? WHY RIGHT NOW??? I already wasn’t in the right place - I had to have an operator induced malfunction on top of it??? And by the time I got a new battery inserted into the grip of my DSLR the light on the cliff was gone.
So I captured this record shot. It’s just a small taste of the image that I could have captured had I been in the right spot. It will haunt me for a while and will, hopefully, always serve as a reminder that there’s benefits to following your gut and being more patient (either one of which, I feel, would have put me in a better spot that the front seat of my truck when this light broke through the clouds for 2 minutes).
I packed up, walked back to the truck and sat there for several minutes asking “why?” I sat there behind the steering wheel with my face in my hands feeling dumb and numb and thinking of the incredible image that I didn’t capture and thus, couldn’t relive.
It was an extremely disheartening experience and made me pretty mopey Christmas morning. I was saddened that I didn’t get to see more of it or capture it properly but gladdened that I got to witness it at all.
I am fortunate. There’s no doubt about it.
I got to witness this miracle of life that I’m sure very, very few people got to witness and possibly, even fewer still appreciate on the level that I do.
Like the big fish tale that you heard your uncle talk about when you were little - about the one that got away.
This is my big fish tale. I wish it were a success story - not only for myself, but for you too.
Thank you for being a part of this photographic journey of mine. It’d be great if you left a comment and shared your big fish story. Maybe it’ll make me feel better about mine.