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on Feb 15, 2013 in Friday Thoughts

Rewards of Chasing the Light


I’m often asked how I approach a location such as Death Valley. The basic scenario is one has just a couple of days to make the photos, the clock is tickin as soon as your feet hit the ground. How do you make the most of that time? The first issue with this is the pressure to produce. How many photos do you need to have from a locale to say simply in your photos, “It was gorgeous?” Do you need 1000, 100, 10? I would contend you need only that 10 if that many. Think about it, when you show off images to your friends about a location you were just at, don’t you grab your smartphone, bring up that one image that exemplifies all that you were saying about that location? If that’s the case, then how many images do you need from a trip to really say, it was gorgeous? One?


With that in mind, when I go out to shoot, it’s just that one image that I’m looking for. That means chasing the light is just that, a chase for that one image. In this example, we left the Furnace Creek Inn and pulled out to Hwy190 and I looked right, I looked left and based on what I saw in the clouds, we headed south (turned right). I was looking for just that one shot, the one with the light that would simply say, gorgeous. Now in this pursuit we don’t always succeed but there are benefits going on this chase with this goal in mind. When you’re looking for the handful of images rather than the cards full, the pressure is off, the spending time looking at crappy pictures in post is gone, the guilt of trying to make those crappy pictures that you took that you feel you need to fix since you have them, is gone. At the same time, the failure rate it higher since you’re going on an all stakes adventure.

We had some clouds and more importantly, some sky. It had socked in all around us and there is nothing worse than that. So we turned up Artist Drive and hiked up the ridge and sat. Ya, sitting is a favorite shooting technique of mine, watching life unfold. In this case, watching the light paint across the landscape waiting for that one little beam to light up or not light up the foreground. So we went out for the afternoon and put all our cards in making the photo into this one location, this one time. And this time, the photo Gods rewarded us with a couple of photos that simply said, “It was a gorgeous afternoon.” So perhaps the next time you head out if you’re looking for a path, focus in on the light and making just that one solid, clean, romantic click. You might just experience the rewards of chasing the light.