Being There

April 13, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

To the non-photographer, landscape and/or nature photography might seem somewhat confounding.

Photographers keep weird hours. It's not unusual to spend a lot of time braving harsh weather. We sometimes hike for miles through difficult terrain to access certain locations. We must be patient, sometimes waiting hours - or months - to make a photograph. We accept that not every work session will generate a usable photograph. 

Oddest of all? Nature photographers have no control over the weather, the lighting, or the subject. 

When out in the field, the only thing over which I have complete control is myself. I dictate where and when I show up. (And whatever the conditions, it's up to me to notice interesting subject matter and determine how to capture it.)

Challenging? Sure. But at the same time, it can be energizing.

Being forced to adapt to whatever Mother Nature is delivering on a particular day can lead to the creation of more unique images. Especially when FramedFRAMEDHoodoos create the frame; the patch of snow in which the fir tree stands further enhances the vignette.

Bryce Amphitheater at Sunset Point
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
working in over-photographed locations (which seems to be just about everywhere anymore), this benefit shouldn't be discounted.

There are certainly things one can do to improve the odds as far as conditions are concerned. To begin with, the better you know an area, the more you'll be able to predict what to expect there. Familiarity is helpful. 

Keeping close tabs on various forecasts is, of course, useful: for the weather, for cloud cover, for wind, for tides. Outside of the tides, though, I wouldn't bet the farm on the accuracy of any of those other prognostications.

As for "timing" things like peak foliage or bloom seasons, that's inherently difficult.

And if you're heading to a far-flung location with firm travel dates, all of this is academic. You're going to get what you're going to get. You're not in control!

When faced with demanding conditions, I recommend three things:

1) Don't be too quick to pull your camera out of the bag

Slow down. Be present in the moment. Every location has something to say if you're listening. You're more apt to notice things if you've given yourself a chance to get in sync with the landscape. Taking some time to connect with the surroundings - without the camera - can be useful.

2) Think differently

Going smaller can solve a lot of problems. Often the sky is the culprit. If it's uninteresting (Robin's egg blue without a cloud in sight) or bland (flat and white), exclude it. If you'd hoped to capture a sunrise but it's completely overcast, use the soft light to your advantage and look for a more intimate scene. 

Dealing with a high contrast situation? Consider black and white. 

Perhaps you missed peak foliage. What other seasonal stories can you find?

Try not to go into shoots with too many preconceived notions and/or expectations. Think of the situation as an opportunity: what kind of photograph can you make given particular conditions?

3) Value the experience

Despite your best efforts, you won't walk away with a photograph every time. Still, simply being there is worthwhile: what you saw, what you heard, how you felt. Spending time in nature is never a bad thing. Appreciate those moments.

In Local News

One of the local (Jackson, WY) papers had an interesting post-mortem on this winter - which isn't quite over. In short:

It was the coldest November on record in Jackson, with a mean temperature of 17 degrees. Every month following that was colder than average - some significantly. Nearly 45% of the mornings over the past five months began with temperatures at or below zero. The coldest day of the season occurred at the end of January with an official reading of 33 degrees below zero.

As for snow, nearly nine feet of it fell in town over the course of the winter (148% more than the average). Total snowfall recorded at Jackson Hole Resort from October 1 through April 1 was a whopping 527 inches. The next day, April 2, that number climbed up to 583 inches. The record for a single ski season had been 585 inches: since closing day was Easter Sunday and it continued to snow after the 2nd, it's probably a safe bet 2022-2023 will go down as the mountain's snowiest winter. 

This should go a long way toward addressing the water shortage.

On the other side of the Tetons, most of Eastern Idaho is considered now to be out of drought. 

 


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