Monday 2.24.14 ...
I find myself high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, as the sun starts to peek over the horizon bathing the tallest visible peaks with beautiful pink light that will be quickly turning to gold. I have scouted my spot, using particular apps on my iPhone that predict both cloud cover and which peak faces will be hit with sunlight at a given point in time. I have packed the right gear: a heavy-duty tripod, two cameras set with plates for said tripod, one with my wide angle lens and one with my telephoto (to achieve a couple different perspectives in composition). I have my shutter remote in hand and have already snapped some pre-sunrise long-exposures, but the true realization of my vision is about to burst forth with this sunrise ...
... And then the wind comes.
So strong my tripod can't even fight the shake, the air so frigid my hands can barely adjust anything on those solid metal pipes that were supposed to be my anchor! I need stillness for the speeds I am shooting, and I'm not going to compromise depth of field by changing my aperture to compensate. Ice pellets caught in the wind pelt the filter on my lens, as well as my face, and even as more light makes its way into the frame, allowing for a faster shutter speed, adjusting the dials for this is painful on freezing hands (liners are the only non-awkward gloves I had ha) and I'm just not getting it done quick enough.
Though I am being hammered with rough mountain elements, I am witnessing one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Long's Peak lights up with a soft pink glow fading into a warm gold, as the surroundings below seem to be on the verge of awakening. It's just as I imagined it ... yet I can't capture the moment. For all my investment in study, equipment, travel, practice and planning, I can't nail this one. Because I should've used a heavier lens, because I should have had some more user-friendly-but-warm gloves, because I should've had some kind of wide-angle wind shield (don't laugh but I don't know if this is even a thing). Because I should've had a couple go-to settings already programmed on my camera. Maybe a number of other things, most of which I didn't even think of until actually facing this situation. What is going through my head is that after all that I've put into photography over the last ten years, there is still so much more to learn, to practice, to invest in. The moment I was looking for came and went, and all I had to show for it were images with either motion blur or water spots from melted snow and ice.
So frustrating. Yet ... so beautiful. ...
I will never forget that day earlier this year, because with it my attitude toward photography took a very positive turn. Mostly before this day, I was always concerned with getting the "home-run" shots, always waiting for anyone to see my work until I had the best, most dramatic interpretation of a scene that I possibly could. My dream of becoming a great photographer, possibly even a nationally published one, has been only trumped by the unrivaled desire to be a faithful follower of Jesus and the best husband/future father/family member that I can possibly be. But perhaps, at least somewhat, I've allowed a faulty sense of success to govern how I feel about my craft in photography. Perhaps it’s not something that can ever be truly "mastered," but instead is a way we continue to develop our vision, just as our worldview becomes more refined over the course of our lives.
As I trekked through the snow by a mountain lake later that morning, it hit me that I was doing what I had always dreamed of. I was making my way around in a remote area on a beautiful day, with two bags packed with super fun equipment to use. All the work I had put in, risks I had taken and determination to live a life fully alive had led me to this. Whether I captured the essence of such a beautiful experience or not was a moot point. I was there and I was enjoying being alive.
I finally realized that photography is hard (Ansel Adams once said "Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer), that it takes a long time to get good at (especially if it's not your full-time occupation), but that the process is just as exciting as the journeys of our lives are, and every step down that road can be an enjoyable one if you'll embrace it as such.
So, without further ado I present to you my work so far: both the great and the simple, the planned out and the spontaneous, the shots that seem mastered and those that are only the earliest of steps in my exploration of new locations or photographic genres (I do ask your patience with those)!
Thanks for being a part of my journey, and please feel free to holler - I love to chat about everything from philosophy to composition to technique and equipment . You will find posts on this blog about each of these as we move forward, including how all of this has also been a huge part of my personal faith.