What about Bob, or When Life Hands You Lemons

Picture: Photographer next to tracks left by mysterious moving rocks on the dried flat mud at the Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California

Photographer next to tracks left by mysterious moving rocks on the dried flat mud at the Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California

Last fall I had my first chance to visit the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park. While walking out on the Playa, I met a photographer I’ll simply refer to as Bob, since I can’t recall his real name right now. Anyway, it turned out that Bob lived fairly close to me, and we struck up a conversation. I noticed on several occasions that Bob would come up to where I was shooting and start working the same scene. After sunset, we hung out in the parking lot, shared some nice conversation and libations. All in all, despite feeling slightly intruded on in a couple instances, I found Bob to be a nice, pleasant, and personable guy.

The next morning at dawn, I was back on the Racetrack, shooting the mysterious moving rocks and their distinctive tracks. Sure enough, just at the critical moment as the light was about to transition across the track I’d selected, changing from shadow to sunlight, Bob walks up & starts taking pictures. I’ll admit, at that point I was silently upset & frustrated. I was too polite to say anything, so I stood there biting my tongue as the sweet light quickly approached. Suddenly I remembered another photo when I’d returned to a previously scouted photo only to find an entire family sitting exactly where I wanted to put my tripod. At that moment, I decided rather than move, I would photograph the scene as it was in front of me. With a quick shift in position, I was able to make the photo about Bob, and the experience of being a photographer out in that magical location.

Surprisingly enough, what I first thought was a complete lemon of a situation, turned out to be one of my better photos from that morning. Furthermore, the inclusion of a person make the image all that much more unique from an editorial perspective.

So the next time life hands you lemons, just remember how good lemonade can taste on a hot summer afternoon.

See more of my Death Valley Photos in my online web gallery.

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10 Comments on “What about Bob, or When Life Hands You Lemons”

  1. Tweets that mention Gary Crabbe / Enlightened Images » Blog Archive » What about Bob, or When Life Hands You Lemons -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Goldstein, Gary Crabbe, photo blog feeds, Ken Snyder, Bret Edge and others. Bret Edge said: Good read! > RT @enlightphoto: What about Bob, … or When Life Hands You Lemons; now posted at http://bit.ly/ciqjPy […]

  2. Richard Wong Says:

    Despite Bob’s annoying behavior, I’m glad you made the most of it Gary. Btw, that Bodega Head photo is one of your best travel photos IMHO. Probably more memorable than if you hadn’t included the family.

  3. John Wall Says:

    I thought the moral of the story was going to be, “Don’t bother going to the Racetrack in the fall.” 😉

  4. Patrick Smith Says:

    haha! Another photo about the use of public lands that will hang in some public building!

    I’m not sure why, but I’ve read that lots of photographers get really upset when others are around. In this case, there are miles of possibilities. If it is critical, I just ask them to move for a second.

    Of course, in the places where I normally shoot, nobody would be crazy enough to be in front of me but still…..


  5. Todd Fitchette Says:

    In cases like this do you simply carry model releases and have them sign the release so you can use the photo later?
    I wonder if “Bob” would have been that patient with you had you simply moved in front of his camera. I’ve sometimes thought that having people in landscape photos can help some images. But that’s the photojournalist in me speaking, not the landscape photographer.

  6. Carl D Says:

    Hey Gary

    Is that the lemon in the foreground?

    Nice photo – though that line running vertically thru the image is kind of distracting. 🙂



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  8. David Leland Hyde Says:

    Hi Gary, great outlook and good point. Not only is that photograph editorially attractive, but it is a brilliant comment on the times. It illustrates exactly what is happening at the iconic photography locations and why it is worthwhile to steer clear of them, unless you want to photograph more photographers. Maybe you’re on to something either way.

  9. Dolly Says:

    Hi Gary, I had a similar lemon experience. I waited for the setting sun and suddenly, there was this girl right in front of me. flickr.com/ph.../4384760382/. The photo turned out to be one of the most popular ones in my photostream!

  10. Todd Fitchette Says:

    Gary… I think you’ve stumbled upon a theme here. I love Dolly’s photo of the sunset, along with your picture of “Bob.” I think if the truth be known, there’s a lot more of these “accidents” and lemons made into lemonade photos floating around out there.
    Here’s one I took from Zabriskie Point one evening. flickr.com/ph.../4498147497/ I have no idea who the woman is in the photo although I seem to recall hearing her speaking German to someone else at one point. She appeared just as I was getting ready to set up right where she was standing. It startled me enough that I simply chose to watch her take pictures and photographing her literally running from spot to spot instead of shooting landscapes.

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