The weather here is like it was yesterday, hot all day and cool at night. It’s beautiful here and as I will show you, it’s even more beautiful at night. The sky glows with a reminder of the daylight, as the sun sets slowly over the Sierra Mountains. The winds protest at first then they too decide it’s time to retire for the evening and wake up fresh the next morning. Even the bugs go home to their buggy family and tell stories of the day. But that’s when we just get started to see the world in a different way.
As the temperature drops, the excitement builds and the uncomfortably of the body fade quickly. Presence takes over and vision begins a new. The mind is quiet and the eye is roaming with a blank canvas as the world floods in with data. It’s all compared to previous ideas, images and thoughts yet quickly and without effort sort themselves out into a stream of just being with what is there, right in front of me and now only my emotions are in control. I can’t think about this, I have to feel it. Then, my heart quickens as something inspires me to my core, everything seems to be falling into place and the tripod magically opens, the camera is ready, the careful, technical dance of checking every detail before making an exposure is swift yet precise.
Then, as my vision flows through this tiny hole in the back of my small machine a emotional peak is hit. The camera is focused, locked down and a test exposure made. Ten seconds later, I see the results of my fit of passion. It’s good, not great or perfect but a good start. Change positions, visualize what could be with added light from my Sure Fire flashlight, try again. Now it’s perfect.
Set the timer, 10 minutes typically and now…. Get busy. I move to the left and “paint” the surface of my subject. Wait, I should do it from the side to add texture. I literally run to the next place I need to be with my flashlight, carefully doing the inverse square math in my head to figure out distances, times and intensity.
Careful to cover everything, yet trying not to over do it. From spot to spot, place to place, 20 seconds of light on each surface, always hidden from the camera so not to show signs of my physical presence in the frame, then I wait….. I hear the shutter click and I wait about another 10 seconds for the camera to display it’s gift. No, it wasn’t perfect, I set up again, carefully noting what could be fixed, I duplicate my steps with corrections. Time melts away faster then slower then faster, before I realize I spent an hour and not quite perfect. Doesn’t matter, when will I be here again, with these perfect conditions, this lighting with an able body and strong vision? Who knows. I am here now, I don’t go until I am done.
Then, I look, 3 tries later, it’s good, really good. Sigh. A nice image, my prize, my soul on the back of a camera soon for all to see stripped of pretension and status, just a picture from my soul and heart…. to yours.
The light on the distant Tufas are my flashlight, the light on the closest tufa is the moon light with a little help. The white foam that looks like snow is there and part of the mono lake ecosystem.
I look at my watch, it’s 1:00 am, that’s 4:00 am ET, and I am tired but too excited to sleep. Just one more, I will try one more, see what I can find, my comes to me, what makes my heart sing.
Most photographers describe a similar experience and that’s why we do this. You may write, draw, skydive or sing, you feel the same way when you do. It’s the creative process and the juice we get from that expression.
This image was lit in several places and is much different than the others. It’s on a path, in a literal forest of Tufa’s which outcrop all along the tiny south end of the lake. Sometimes plants die and are more beautiful in death than in life. See if you agree.
Notice the star trails, that’s the earth’s rotation creating that streak, which night photographers take great pride in getting perfect. This image was lit in several places, the inside of the dead plant was hit hard, probably for 15 seconds, along with the spiny remnants of it’s pulpy surface. The path was lit for 5 seconds total, the surrounding shrubs were “touched up” as were the tufa’s to the left of the subject.
Tomorrow, I will show you what it looks like from 10,000 ft up on the Yosemite trail.