The Three Ps of Nature Photography
This is the third and final entry of a series on the mental approach to photography.
As with any artistic endeavor, truly successful nature photography requires uniqueness, something the world doesn't see every day. But you won't achieve uniqueness when and where everyone else photographs, no matter how beautiful the scene. Distinguishing your work from the masses requires a willingness to suffer, an ability to forego the comforts of conventional living to position yourself for the shots others miss.
When I say "Pain," I'm not suggesting that you risk your life. A better word might be discomfort (but "The Two Ps and a D of Nature Photography" just doesn't have quite the resonance I was going for).
It's an unfortunate fact that the best landscape images come at times most people would rather be inside. Sunrise, when we'd all be happier in bed. Sunset, when dinner beckons. And during crazy weather, when we'd simply love to be anywhere else.
Today's picture is of a crescent moon rising above Yosemite Valley. I took it from Tunnel View, probably the most popular photograph location in Yosemite, and (justifiably) one of the most popular photo spots in the world. Finding beautiful images here is a piece of cake; making unique images, not so much. But I can't tell you how many of my favorite (and most successful) images have been captured right here, when I've been the only photographer present. The reason isn't rocket science, nor is it heroic. It's simply that I'm willing to endure a little hunger, cold, wet, or sleep depravation when I think something special is possible.
For today's image, a little research (preparation!) told me a crescent moon would rise above Half Dome on this May morning. I recruited several past workshop participants and photographer friends, and the afternoon prior to the moonrise we drove to Yosemite. We photographed sunset from atop Sentinel Dome, waited for total darkness and photographed star trails, then walked (a mile or so) back to the cars in pitch dark. By the time we returned to our rooms it was nearly 1:00 a.m.
I wanted to be in place before the moon rose, so we were back on the road the next morning, cold and cranky, at 4:15. The eastern horizon was dark and empty as we set up at Tunnel View, and the first hints of daylight a few minutes later were little comfort to our weary bodies and minds. But the moon's delicate tip pushing up from behind Cloud's Rest was a perfect (and immediate) antidote. We photographed all the way until the advancing day overpowered the moon, but the real treat that morning was simply the experience of being there and feeling like we were witnessing the most beautiful thing happening on Earth at that moment.
Oh yeah--breakfast was particularly good that morning.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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