Unstick that photo mindset

Picture: Stormy sunrise over the La Sal Mountains and Washer Woman Arch from atop a mesa, Island in the Sky section, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

I refer to the story behind this image to every single workshop client or at public speaking venue that I give. The concept I am trying to teach is to not get so caught up in the idea of shooting a subject for the sake of missing great light somewhere else. This shot was actually taken at the famous landmark Mesa Arch, a mecca for landscape photographers to line up and catch the classic golden red glow on the base of the arch. On this particular day, the sky was overcast, and the standard line of photographers were all standing around talking and sipping coffee. No one was taking pictures because there was no glow on the arch. I saw all this as I walked right past them to the side of the arch and began to photograph the sunrise. No one else took a picture. I was surprised, but secretly happy. They were all so focused on the subject that they came to get, that none of them thought to photograph the most important element in any photo; the light. Sadly, the great red glow never materialized, and all but two of the group left without ever shooting a frame. The two that remained did get a little glow and a few pictures, but more important for me, they became models for an assignment I was on at the time.

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2 Comments on “Unstick that photo mindset”

  1. Richard Says:

    That is truly bewildering Gary. At the least they could have used the silhouetted arch to frame this awesome scene if they were so hellbent on getting Mesa Arch pictures. The arch is incredible no doubt but I doubt I’d be interested in jousting for position early in the morning w/ those people.

  2. Adolfo Isassi Says:

    Very true. I have encountered the same “scene” in many landscape settings.
    I think the last time I came across this was on the “Snake River Overlook” in Grand Tetons National Park. Everybody was waiting for the pink sunset behind the Tetons, while the last rays of sunlight where literary lighting-up the Aspens flanking the Snake River with counter-light. I started pointing my 400mm at them ans shooting. After a while a couple of other photographer noticed and went: “Oh! yeah, look at that…” and started shooting also.

    My experience at the Mesa Arch in 2006 was harrowing. It was a crowded morning, and everybody was getting in everybody else’s way.
    But thanks to this adversity, I was able to shot a very unusual angle of the arch.

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