One thing I’ve come to terms with over the years is that when in the field no matter how psyched or enthused I am, I end up having a comical internal conversation with myself to wake up for a sunrise photo. Mind you this isn’t all the time, but the frequency is greater when I’ve been putting in long hours the day before. Case and point was my recent trip to Montana and Wyoming where I was frequently putting in 20-22 hour days that included driving, research, hiking, setup, shoots, file transfers and file backups.
Logically I know the time, place and gear to use for sunrise photo shoots, but that doesn’t make getting up any easier. For your entertainment here is a window into one mental conversation I had with myself for the following subject/goal:
Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park
Photograph sunrise for single still images and time-lapse. If circumstances permit shoot short video sequences.
(2) tripods with tripod heads, (2) Canon 5D Mark II cameras, (2) cable release/intervelometers, Zeiss f/2.8 21mm lens & Canon f/2.8 24mm tilt- shift lenses via Borrowlenses.com, Singh-Ray polarizer and my camera bag with a few other spare lenses just in case.
How the Inner Conversation Unfolded
Alarm clock goes off at 4:30 and I quickly turn it off.
(Note: I set my alarm at 3 different times 15 min apart just in case. I do this to make sure I get up if I’m tired from consecutive long days.)
My eyes open and I instantly get a view of the pitch black sky to see what the weather conditions are so as to evaluate whether the days photo shoot is a wash or not. This always prefaces my inner morning conversations.
Good Jim: Hmm weather looks good. It’s clear to the west for morning light to pour into the valley, but there is wind. Looks good albeit not perfect for the shot I envisioned.
Bad Jim: Oh man! It is way too early, dark, cold and I’m exhausted. That wind is going to blow any chance for a glass reflection this morning. Let’s do this tomorrow.
Good Jim: Dude! Weather conditions are going to be dramatic with the weather front coming in, especially seeing that it’s clear to the west. Looks likely clouds are going to be hugging mountain peaks that will glow during the blue and later golden hour. No sunrise is ever exactly the same. Let’s go.
Bad Jim: Let’s see how things look in another 15 minutes.
Good Jim: Dude we have no time to waste.
I run a quick mental calculation run to figure out travel and setup time.
I can’t leave any later than 5am if I’m going to get 1st choice in location and properly setup.
Bad Jim: Seriously I can get this in tomorrow. Just a bit more sleep…
Good Jim: I did not come all this way flying 1000 miles and driving 9 hours yesterday to miss an opportunity to photograph this sunrise or the next at Glacier National Park. Get the lead out. There will be no missed opportunities on this trip!
At this point I snap into gear and quickly get my pre-prepped equipment together, run a double check on gear and clothes and drive out to the lookout point. As it turns out there is one car already at the lookout with a photographer resting inside.
Good Jim: Dude! I could have been here first if I wasn’t wasting time debating with myself first thing this morning.
I quickly collect my gear, locate a spot for the best view, set up, take test shots to fine tune focus and exposure, and wait for the light.
As I knew conditions were perfect and sunrise was unbelievably beautiful. Everything went perfectly. I got great stills, a time-lapse and short video sequences. Thinking back that I’d have opted for sleep rather than being there to photograph this amazing sunrise is beyond me and a reminder that I can be my own worst enemy. The key is not to let that happen with a great deal of discipline.
Sadly I’d like to say this is a one off situation, but it’s not. This type of inner conversation happens more times than I’d like to admit. Fortunately from experience I know that great things happen when you push yourself, get out of your comfort zone and remain disciplined.
Looking back at many of my images I don’t just see the photographed subject, I see the experience and remember back to similar early morning thoughts that I could capture this another day. Nature never shows reruns, every show is one of a kind. I remind myself of that often particularly on cold dark mornings when I’m dead tired and a new sunrise awaits being photographed.
[tags]photography, philosophy, real-life, inner voice[/tags]