This is the beginning of a new blog series. This series of blog posts is planned to occur on Mondays and Thursdays every week for the next thirty weeks (if my math worked properly).
Since the beginning of the fabled road trip in May 2018, I knew I needed to re-create an image I shot back in 2014, which was the second time I had gone to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was an image of Long’s Peak, one of the iconic points in the park.
On the first day of the road trip, the boys and I set up camp somewhat hastily, such that we were only staying one night, and golden hour was starting very soon after we began loading out. We hopped in the beloved pearl-white Chevy Suburban and headed off to the nearby Bear Lake.
Right before we got anywhere near leaving the campground, we got distracted by a group of elk grazing in the meadows near the campground. However, as someone not too interested in wildlife photography, I looked south toward Long’s Peak, and I saw the light.
Golden hour was at its peak, and we weren’t even close to our destination. If we were lucky, we’d have gotten the tail end of golden hour by the time we got to Bear Lake.
I shot this photograph hand-held. Set to f/11, 1/40 of a second, and ISO 100. My meter was telling me I was properly exposed, I focused, and clicked the shutter. I thought I had it in the bag. I didn’t take a second image, knowing we needed to get to our destination within minutes.
Fast-forward a few weeks after the road trip, when I began editing the files. I came across this image that I was absolutely certain came out the way I planned it to. I was so far from the truth. The photograph was fuzzy. I tried everything to bring it back, desperately going back and forth between the unedited and edited image, telling myself it still looks okay. I couldn’t get past the clear motion blur, missed focus, and lack of attention.
Though the average viewer wouldn’t notice these problems, especially when displayed on a phone screen, I felt very strongly - and still feel strongly - that this image was not cut for my portfolio.
There were a few lessons I learned from making this image.
Always double, and sometimes triple check your focus
Always make a second, third, or even fourth exposure, making adjustments as necessary, to ensure you have fall-backs if one doesn’t come out properly. (A luxury of digital I don’t have in film)
Use a tripod for shots like this. This was zoomed all the way in at 200mm, f/11, and 1/50 of a second, hand-held. There is only one thing wrong with that sentence.
No matter how happy with an image you may be when shooting it, you may come back to it later and find a user error or two. Sometimes, it’s okay, but other times, times like this, it’s not, and unfortunately becomes an image for the archive instead of the portfolio.