How many times have you heard or said to someone upon seeing a beautiful photograph, that they were in the right place at the right time? Certainly for me, more than once have I said that.
Something I have discovered in capturing beautiful photographs, is that so often, one has to be in the right place at the wrong time in order to be at the right time in the right place. That’s a bit of a tongue twister I know! And maybe at first glance, it doesn’t even make sense. But hopefully in short order you will see the sense in this slightly nonsensical saying.
A friend had suggested an idea of visiting a bunch of the old California Spanish Missions as part of Easter week. That sounded like a fun project to me, there is so much cool history in those old Spanish Missions. When I found out that there were only 21 of them, and that we had 3 or 4 days for this trip, I came up with what initially sounded like a crazy idea, but I said, let’s visit them all! We did some mental calculations and realized that it was possible to see them all in just a short period of time. We knew we would have to be disciplined, but that it was possible to do.
Adding to the challenge and the excitement of this project, I knew that we would see some wonderful country as we traveled starting in San Diego and finished up in Sonoma, in the heart of the wine country. I then began the task of mapping out all of the missions, with distances between them, plotting out the best courses. In addition, very importantly I also scouted out via the map, where we might be around sunsets so that we could also hopefully get some really nice Landscape sunset shots in the process.
And so on Day two of this adventure with God and country, we were up in Soledad shooting the Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad late in the afternoon. This was mission #13 in our journey. We finished about an hour before sunset and as I looked around, the clouds looked kind of heavy to the west. We were in an unfamiliar part of the country, but I knew from having looked at the map, there were a few side roads we could take that would put us out deep in the heartland of this beautiful farming community.
The idea I had was of a shot of a farm field with the rows of crops leading off into the sunset. Getting back on the 101 and heading north, the farmland just kept looking better, so keeping one eye on the map and one eye on the road I exited the 101 freeway and headed west, winding my way through a few roads until we got back out into the farmland.
Now at this point, there was some interesting looking clouds to the south, I still wasn’t sure if there would be any color at sunset, but I liked those southern cloud formations. As I drove, along these back roads along various fields of crops, I was keeping an eye open for some crops that had been planted in a southern direction. My idea was to be in a place where I could get the rows of crops leading into the shot with the clouds just in case the clouds caught some color. Time was running short now though as sunset was fast approaching, so I turned around and back tracked on the back road. I had been taking mental notes of the fields that offered the most promise.
Making a U-turn and heading back the way we had come, I pulled off the road at curve in the road I had made a mental note of, and it offered the best of both worlds! There was a field with the rows heading west, and just 30 feet to the south as the road curved, there was a field with the rows heading south. So now where ever the color showed up, I had all my bases covered.
Now setting up quickly, the color came to the clouds, first actually to the west, so I set up for that shot first. There were irrigation pipes in the fields, so there was a bit of running around to get a composition where the pipes would not be seen in the fields. After taking a dozen shots or so, I observed that the cool clouds to the south were getting some color now, so I ran quickly down to that field and set up to get those shots. With heavier clouds in the sky, the color often doesn’t last too long, and to be able to get in two solid compositions like this was really awesome.
So as I packed up my gear and headed back to the truck it occurred to me how I had been in the right place at the right time for some beautiful photographs. But as I walked I also reflected on how I first had to get to this right place at what was looking like the wrong time. I took the chance to explore some new country, putting myself in a location that would offer opportunities for some great compositions. But I also took a chance that the color would happen. There was no guarantee that color would come to the clouds, in fact for a time it had looked like there wouldn’t be any color. But when you take the time, even when the conditions might not seem to be in your favor, that’s when that wild light can show up!