Oftentimes, my best image of a location doesn't happen the first or even second time I visit a location. Sometimes it takes many, MANY times to achieve the image I had envisioned.
I recently moved to Utah, and while I am familiar with the layout of the land, I confess I am at a loss as to the intricacies of the states endless potential. Scouting locations has quickly become my greatest time investment. I still aim to come home with an image of the location I am exploring, but at the end of the day, if I find a place to come back to when the elements for a great photograph exist then I am happy. One such location exists in Uinta-Wasatch Cache National Forest. Above one of the many lakes in the area a cliff rises to offer a dramatic view of the surrounding area. Knowing how the light would fall as the sun went down afforded me the ability to pre visualize what the scene may look like at sunset. I snapped a reference photo and pinged my GPS coordinates.
By doing this it allows me to return to the exact location when optimal conditions exist. You may ask why I didn't stay and wait for conditions to present themselves. The answer is simple. I was in unfamiliar territory deep in the backcountry, with a long exit hike in the dark if I waited for optimal lighting. Those three factors can be a recipe for disaster, and have the potential to become life threatening. It is alway best to understand an area before committing to a long hike in the dark. Even experienced hikers can find themselves lost in the wilderness. Besides, as I mentioned before, I was scouting. I already had a photograph planned for that evening some 15 miles away from this location that I had scouted the day before. That image can be seen below.
The other day I found myself sitting in a field of wildflowers, being eaten alive by mosquitos, waiting for the magic to happen. As the light faded away and darkness descended I had only taken one image, a rather flat image that felt to me as though it was missing something. I left with the idea of returning the following day to attempt to produce a better image. The image I created that first night, some may say is beautiful and a good image, but I knew it could be better. And so I returned the following morning. Understanding how the light fell a little better, I was able to deduce that the morning light would create a much more dynamic scene. I waited (again being eaten alive by mosquitos) for the perfect moment to create my image, and was happy with the outcome.
© Andrew Lockwood 2018
The blank sky in the first image, while not ugly, leaves a weird negative space that lacks interest. As you can see, the way the light hits the the rock face in the second image, along with the cloudy sky make it seem more dramatic. The second image is an improvement over the first. I believe however that I can create an even better image than the second given the right conditions. I will continue to monitor the weather and see if another chance is in the cards. As you know wildflowers don't have an infinite lifespan and sometimes it can become a race against the clock.
© Andrew Lockwood 2018
Here is another example of going back for seconds. In this case I felt as though the first image was perfect except for a few small things. It was Fall, and I was attempting to express that fact through the change in color of the leaves, however I arrived to find them still mostly green. There was also a lot of wind on the water, obscuring the reflection. I took an image anyway because the light was immaculate, but knew I wanted to return to capture the change of season better, and hopefully get a good reflection. The second image does that, and thankfully I was awarded with some good light and no wind on the second evening! Both images are strong images, but for me the latter depicts the creative vision I set off to capture.
It is important not to simply settle for your first image of a location, even though it may be good. Chances are the as you begin to gain an intimate knowledge of a place from repetitively photographing it, you will also develop a better understanding of how to create a better image as well. Even if you do happen to capture your best image of that location on your first go around, you can't really be upset with being back in an amazing place. Can you?