Two Minutes of Light

September 17th, 2013
by doinlight

You read this story again and again.  The setting may be different but the plot is always the same.

It’s a dreary, overcast day.  You had planned this photo session for months, scouting it on Google Earth for the best location, checked the sun position on TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris), and received inspiration from the photographs of other photographers.  You made travel plans and booked lodging.

You arrived early at the iconic location, having traveled across the country and driven many miles in a rental car to get there.  But as you approach the sky turns dark with low hanging, gray clouds.  The light is a disappointment but you walk out to a viewpoint and set up anyway.  You keep telling yourself that good fortune happens to those who are prepared.

The minutes tick by and the sun, unseen behind a thick cloak of clouds, continues its inexorable decent to the horizon.  Other photographers join you and you ask each other, “Will it happen?”  Most shrug their shoulders and reply, “It doesn’t look like it will.”  It turns chilly and a cold breeze starts blowing.  Many photographers mutter, “It’s not going to happen,” pack up their gear and head back to their cars and a warm meal waiting them in the comfort of a nearby restaurant.

You begin to feel a little foolish yourself as the crowd dwindles, holding out against what are sure to be enormous odds.  You check the time which is quickly running out.  You don’t want to come home empty-handed so you look around for other options.  There’s something going on behind you.  It’s not nearly what you had hoped for but you set up and shoot it, trying to make it work. At least you’ll have something, even if it wasn’t what you had come for.  You get absorbed and almost don’t look back over your shoulder at your primary subject.  But when you do, it’s happening!  It’s glorious beyond your wildest expectations.  You grab your tripod and run.  You set up and get off one shot.  Then you grab your tripod and run again to a location with a better composition, set up and get off one more shot.  You take 20 seconds to recompose and get off a third shot but the light has already started to fade.  And then, in less than two minutes, the drab gray of the overcast day reclaims the landscape.

Everything happened so fast that you pray that in all the rush you didn’t make a fatal mistake.  You know you checked your exposure (it’s a habit of yours to always check your histogram) and you were very careful with the focus.  But still, you can’t wait to see the image on your computer.  That evening in your hotel room you upload it and have a look.  BINGO!  You sit back, smile, and then go to work.


McWay Cove, August 2013

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Posted in Journal | Comments (1)

  • Gord McKenna says:

    How true, especially when the sun peaks out from under the front.

    “A group of oil sands folks travelled to Perth to attend the 2007 Paste and Thickened Tailings Conference and to visit eight tailings and reclamation operations in Western Australia. My role was to organize the mine tours. Jonathan arranged a trip to Beanup Mineral Sands for early Monday morning, necessitating a stay in the nearby resort village of Margaret River for the weekend. Perched on low sandy limestone cliffs, the resort overlooks the Indian Ocean. We spent much of Saturday sipping flat white coffees at the beach café.

    That evening, we strolled down to the cliffs to catch the sunset. But clouds had moved in, and the warm glow of the resort’s bar/restaurant beckoned. Bill, Jonathan, and Wayne were lured by the wafting aroma of grilled seafood, the call of cold beer and the friendly young Australian waitresses dressed in black, and were lost from the expedition. I pressed on alone, rewarded by ten minutes of dramatic, ever-changing light as the sun finally peaked out at the horizon. As the last rays vanished, I headed back up to the bar with 400 photos and this story.”

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