One of the best things that you can do for your images is to learn to accept the conditions that you’re given. Too often photographers arrive at a scene with a preconceived notion of a particular shot. This is especially true of workshop attendees or people on that “once in a lifetime” trip. Nearly everyone who embarks on such a trip has an idea, in their head, about the shot that they want to get. Pre-visualization is a powerful creative tool but sometimes it can obscure your vision.
Landscape photography is all about light. Ignoring the quality of the light can mean the difference between a really nice fine art image and a travel snapshot. Unless you are content with the travel photo, sometimes you need to step back, evaluate the light and rethink the shot. That isn’t to say that you should ignore your pre-visualization but it is important that you know when to say “not today” and move on.
This image was taken along the road in the Rock Creek area. Rock Creek is between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop CA in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. I was in the area while assisting on a Gary Hart workshop last fall. It was a warm sunny day. We stopped to allow Gary to teaching folks how to take back-lit close-ups of the Aspen leaves. After making sure that folks where getting the hang of the technique I started looking around for ideas. The light was really harsh and there wasn’t a cloud around for miles so I knew that big wide open scenes weren’t going to work. I stumbled upon this Aspen that was tucked away in a grove of much larger trees. The result was a really pleasing dappled light.
To make the exposure I used my Canon 24-70 f/2.8L at 70mm. Rather than try to take in the whole vista I focused on what I considered to be the essence of the scene; the stark white bark and the rainbow of colors in the leaves. If you’ve even seen an Aspen tree, in the fall, this image is instantly recognizable. There was a gentle breeze and I wanted to capture some motion in the leaves I made my exposure 2 seconds at f/16 and ISO 100. It resulted in a nice softening of the leaves contrasted against the crisp texture of the bark.
It wasn’t the shot that I was expecting to take that day but by being open to fresh ideas and not being blinded by my own expectations I was able to come away with one of my best selling images.