Have you ever been frantic? Frantically looking for something that you have to find right at that moment? Or racing against a clock and you know the buzzer is about to go off? Or trying to get somewhere and you're running late and you keep getting caught by all the traffic lights? It's stressful, right? And you're not sure how it's going to turn out. Despite the odds, you hope that somehow it will all come together, that you will prevail, and everything will be OK. Surely luck, or fate, or God, are on your side and they wouldn't let you down. Would they?
Photography can elicit that same stressful, hopeless feeling. Because light makes or breaks an image, you want to make sure you're ready to go before the magic light appears. But let's be honest, sometimes that just doesn't happen. Like a basketball player can be on fire sinking 3 pointer after 3 pointer, photographers can be in an image-making groove. The shutter is hot and it seems like every image you take is better than the last. On the flip side, taking photos can be epically frustrating: you can't find the right composition to capture that beautiful landscape as the sun rises; the magic light lasts only 30 seconds and you're still trying to get your tripod set up; you forget to change a setting in your camera and the shot is ruined. The frustrations can be endless.
Whether you're taking pictures or shooting free throws in a clutch situation, you don't give up. You persevere and trust that, in spite of your present failure, your prior successes have gotten you where you are today and your future success will take you to even better places.
The other week I was driving up to Woodland Park, Colorado, anticipating a beautiful sunrise on Pikes Peak. About 20 minutes away from my stopping point (and 30 minutes until actual sunrise) I started noticing a hint of color already appearing in the sky. I realized in that moment my first mistake. When I awoke that morning, still undecided about making the 45 minute drive, the sky was blanketed with a thick layer of clouds and to the east there was already some clearing. This is usually, but not always, a recipe for brilliant sunrises. It was then that I had to make the quick decision: hop back in my warm bed or get in the car and go. I chose the latter, knowing that I would be pushing it time-wise. Sure enough, as I drove into Woodland Park, the colors of what would be one of the most epic sunrises I have witnessed over Pikes Peak were already showing themselves in the early morning sky. I began to panic and ask myself why I didn't get up earlier. I finally reached a familiar pullout and grabbed my camera bag and literally started running down Rampart Range Road, trying to find a spot that would do justice to the morning's sunrise. Meanwhile, the pink and purple hues were lighting up the sky and the clouds were brooding overhead. I knew it was going to be magical. And I knew I was running out of time. By the time I finally settled on a location, a location from which I had never photographed (my second mistake), I realized I had missed it. I didn't miss the colors or the sunrise itself, but I missed putting it all together. The compositional elements and the foreground features were boring and they fractured the cohesiveness of the one image I did make. I had failed. I had failed to capture one of the most stunning sunrises I had seen along Colorado's Front Range. Here's the forgettable shot from that morning:
Fighting the urge to throw my tripod as far as I could, I packed my camera bag and headed back to the car. "You can't win 'em all." Wise words spoken by somebody...who probably never failed at capturing one of the grandest sunrises ever. It's true, though, albeit frustrating. Life would be too easy if we never failed. We would become complacent, passive, and lazy. So we keep at it. We swear we won't repeat the same mistakes and we practice and get better. Failures and setbacks come along again at some point, but we don't relent. We push on and pursue that which breathes energy and life into us. I have had far too many moments out in nature when I have been able to capture the mystifying essence of this beautiful world. So, to end on a positive note, here are some of those photos: