It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to get out shooting with my camera. This morning I ventured up to Boulder to photograph sunrise on the famed Flatirons from Chautauqua Park. However, let me tell you about how this particular photo shoot echoed a life lesson in preparation—or lack thereof.
Like a good photographer, I had been planning my trip to Boulder for the last week. I researched the times for nautical and civil twilight and sunrise. Although I used to live there, I looked up the location on GoogleMaps just in case for some reason I forgot where Boulder and Chautauqua Park are located. I also kept an eye on the weather forecast. All week long the local news outlets were talking about potentially the biggest storm to hit the Front Range this season arriving on Saturday. The impending storm didn’t really phase me too much because I would be able to catch the sunrise on Sunday morning with a fresh blanket of snow covering everything. I would capture one of those quintessential blue-sky filled Colorado winter photographs!
Continuing my preparations, I also went through my camera bag to be sure my equipment was in order. Camera? Check. Batteries charged? Check. Tripod? Check. Filters, lens hoods, and head lamp (a pre-dawn necessity)? Check. Warm winter clothes, hat, and gloves? Check. I laid everything out last night because I knew I would be getting up this morning earlier than my normal wake time. Oh yes, did I mention that Daylight Saving Time started today? Reset clocks? Check.
So, here’s what happened…
I grabbed my gear, loaded it into the car, and made it to Boulder with plenty of time to spare. I put on my coat, hat, and gloves. I reached for my camera bag (backpack really) and then suddenly realized I had left my tripod sitting on the floor of my office at home! Despite all of my apparent preparations, I had forgotten what is arguably the second-most important piece of equipment for a landscape photographer. (Yes, the camera is the first-most important piece of equipment.)
Without a tripod, I would be forced to hand hold the camera. My hopes for a tack sharp image were now pretty much impossible because of the longer shutter speed required for shooting in the low-light pre-dawn environment and the smaller aperture required for the depth of field I wanted.
Once I stopped kicking myself for my absentmindedness, I decided to get out there anyway and make the most of a less-than-ideal situation. First, I increased my ISO to 400, but didn’t go higher to keep as much noise out of the image as possible. Second, I found a flat rock that I could lay my backpack on and, with the help of a blanket from my car, I created a platform that allowed me to set my camera down. Combined with a 2-second delay and a remote shutter release, I had about as a stable of a platform as I was going to get without a tripod. I took a series of shots with this setup. Finally, once the sun hit the horizon, I had enough ambient light allowing a fast enough shutter speed for me to hand hold the camera.
So, the first life lesson reinforced by this morning’s photo shoot is to always be prepared. Preparation is important. The second life lesson reinforced by this morning’s photo shoot is that you can’t prepare for every possible scenario. Sometimes you have to take what you know, apply it, and adapt to the situation life presents you with. You may not get what you originally expected, but the outcome can be just as rewarding.
In my case, I got out in the fresh air surrounded by some amazing scenery. Plus, in the end, I still got my quintessential, blue-sky filled Colorado winter photograph!