Friday, July 31, 2009

To wait or not to wait

It is a question every photographer faces: Do I wait for the clouds to part?

It’s never an easy question to answer. Usually by the time you’re faced with it, you’ve already invested a few hours carrying heavy equipment deep into the wilderness only to find the spectacular mountain you came to photograph is hiding behind a cloudy curtain with a bad case of stage fright.

Do I admit defeat and hike back to my car with nothing to show for my effort?

Do I invest even more time waiting for the stunning sunrise or sunset that may not show?

As a nature photographer, I don’t think there’s a worse question to face. Sometimes you wait and get nothing. Sometimes you give up and then witness the most amazing sunset you’ve ever seen from the comfort of your car.

At Matheson Lake in New Zealand, I waited. Three other photographers did not.

We were all there to catch the sunset. When the weather is just right, the lake is a fabulous place to capture Mounts Cook and Tasman, New Zealand’s tallest peaks. As we waited for the sun to set, one series of clouds after another blew in, blocking our view of Tasman or Cook or both.

When our watches said the sun had set, we briefly talked about whether we should wait. I was optimistic; they were not. The only clouds in the sky were around the mountains. Sometimes, when the heat from the sun is no longer stirring up the air, clouds like that tend to dissipate.

This time, I was right and I got a great image of the mountains bathed in alpenglow, reflecting in the still lake.

I’m sure it was tough for the other photographers to see the mountains come out of the clouds as they were driving back into town, but we’ve all been there. And the times we're wrong only make us appreciate the times we're right all the more.

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