More often then not, most people never hear the stories behind the photos I take. I don't usually say much when I post on Instagram or on Facebook. The only real way people actually hear them is if they ask me in person and if I am feeling a bit generous about telling the story.
Today I will break this trend and share with you my six favorite images and the stories behind them. Some have sentimental value, others was the experience. All of which had an impact on me and my photography.
These images span across many years. Some have been taken with family in tote or with a friend who accompanied me; but often I was alone. These experienced changed my photography and I hope you can get a better understanding of who I am as a photographer because of this.
Also, in order to celebrate these images. I will be doing a discount on these six images for one week (my birth week to be exact) to celebrate their awesomeness.
Lets dive in.
1-The One That Started It All
I often reflect on this image as being the image that began all of this. It began my quest for great shots with great light. It sealed in my understanding of composition. And most of all it taught me to go back out even when the conditions are miserable because at those moments, magic can happen.
I can point to this image as the moment when I stepped away from the camera and said "I can do this."
The image begins with the first fall storm of the year. I was still in school, I was recently married and I had a camera to explore with. All the day it had been raining down in the valley, but in the mountains I could tell there was some snow. Just before sunset I headed up the hill towards Cedar Breaks and found myself in the main parking lot.
The park had closed, temperatures were barely above 30F and I was not prepared for this cold. I had been enjoying temperatures in the 70F-80F range and dressed a bit accordingly. I knew it would have been colder up top so I brought a hoody, but I was freezing when I took this image.
When I got to the top I explored the main lookout, set up my gear and decided whether I should take the shot. I debated and then said no and headed back to the car. I spoke with my wife about it (she wasn't going to come out of the car, it was cold) and decided to scout the area one more time. After looking at the main view area again and saying no again, I wandered down a side trail where I saw this little viewpoint that was framed by these trees with freshly fallen snow.
This is what I wanted.
It was perfect, it had a great foreground, mid ground and background. Everything was lining up perfectly. The light lit up the rocks with that wonderful glow and I was blown away. I took a bunch of images and scurried back to my car with what I got.
It turned out fantastic after a couple edits.
As I looked at this image I said "hey this is as good as many of the pro's out there. I can do this I think." Still to this day I credit all my success to this image.
2- A Shot That Almost Never Happened.
Many sunsets and sunrises don't turn out in photography. Some of them require a lot of planning some require very little. This one required planning, driving, freezing, panicking and finally reward.
I had been working a seasonal gig that would end just before Christmas. With that in mind, I planned a three day photography trip with a buddy where we would explore the wilderness of Escalante and photograph the slot canyons and arches of the region. With bags packed and winter clothing gathered we head off into the wilderness.
Upon arrival, we made camp near a famous area known as Devils Garden. We began exploring and romping through the countryside seeing some amazing things. Eventually we made our way to this arch. The day before this image was taken we scouted out the spot to see what it had to offer, and frankly it was awesome. After checking the alignment with the sun, I knew sunrise was the time to visit this arch.
The next morning we woke up at 4:30AM and got into the side by side and headed towards the location. A few things to note here: This side by sides did not have heat, it is winter with temperatures around 25F, there are no side windows on this vehicle and it is night time.
This goes down as one of the coldest drives of my life. For one hour we blaze down this road freezing to death as the cold winter wind cuts through our clothing. After we get to the parking we get the camera gear ready and then head towards the arch in the dark.
It's two miles of open country to the arch but we made good time and set up the composition. I dialed in everything I wanted now I just needed the sun. I knew sunrise was at 7:40 or so in the morning so when sunrise came I was ready. But as the sun rose nothing happened.
For a few moments I thought the distant clouds had killed my sunrise. I was fully expecting that they had blocked the sun and we would get a dud of a morning, but then the clouds parted and glory happened. I began taking shots and suddenly realized that my Polarizer on the front of my lens was creating a strange lens flare to shoot across my image. So I frantically pulled it off and took a few more shots and then the sun dissipated. I had maybe five minutes of light.
I called my wife and said I got the money shot after that. I was not wrong.
3- A Shot In The Making
This shot was planned months in advanced. I was looking around on my photography app when I stumbled across this structure. I had photographed it before as a tourist, but never as an artist. So I began to track the sun and see what it would do at this location. As I watched the sun swing across the horizon I realized that in winter, this shot would line up and create what would be an all around amazing sunrise. But it had to be winter. So I set a date and waited.
Winter arrived and the shoot date arrived as well. My buddy and I headed to the location and the sky cleared up and the clouds left. Not what I came here to do. So we continued on our adventure where the above image was taken. So I began to scheme again.
When I got back home I looked at weather and the sun position for the next two weeks. I had about one more week of opportunity to get this shot and luckily for me there was a day with clouds. So the alarm was set and at 4:00AM I got up and drove up the mountain.
I arrived 30 minutes before sunrise and put my backpack in the cold so my camera could adjust to the temperature. It was 5F that morning. It was bitterly cold trying to work that camera. As planned though the sunrise delivered and to this day I still consider this to be a one of a kind image that I have not seen replicated by anyone else.
4- To Go Or Not To Go
This was another example of planning and waiting for things to all combine for the shot. I had found this patch of cactus tucked up on the Kolob side of Zion, but they were not ready to bloom. I made a mental note of the spot and began visiting it once a week for a few weeks seeing if they were ready. After about 3 weeks the blooms kicked into gear.
Now I needed weather. I tracked the storms for a week out and on the following Monday and Tuesday I had thunderstorms at sunset. Perfect conditions!
When Monday arrived I was tired from spending all day in the river for work. My wife kind of wanted me to stay home, but I knew I only had these next two days to pull this off. I debated to just stay home and go out tomorrow. I then said to myself that if I get it today I don't have to go tomorrow, so I packed up and headed out.
I arrived one hour before sunset and began looking for the perfect cactus. While I was searching the thunderstorm rolled overhead and began to rain on me. Not the greatest conditions to be standing out in but you do what you have to.
I finally found this spot and set up my gear and waited. Soon the sun dipped below the clouds lit up the hill and suddenly a rainbow appeared! A cherry on top of planned out shoot. I would have been glad with just the nice color display, but the rainbow just made the whole thing worth it.
5- On Thin Ice
The first attempt to get this image was in December. I had read that this canyon often gets water so I planned accordingly. I brought chest waiters, dry bag and went when there had not been rain for a bit. The problem with that plan is that in winter water just sits and does not leave... and it freezes.
When I arrived to the canyon I was suddenly presented with an ice covered passageway with unknown water levels. So I geared up and used my tripod as an ice breaker and began punching my way through the ice.
As I got further into the canyon the water levels keep rising so I bailed and came back out. But determination was eating at me so I stripped down to my underwear and tried to go further. The ice kept being relentless and the water kept getting deeper. Soon I was topping my waiters and I was screaming like a little girl and called it quits.
Defeated I left without ever seeing the canyon that year.
The following year I returned in the spring and made the second attempt. My wife did not join my on this one because she was too pregnant, which turned out good, because this canyon is skinny.
This time the photo shoot went off without a hitch, but I will always remember that icy cold first encounter.
6- End Of An Era
This photo has so much feeling wrapped up into it. I set out to take a photo from an iconic view in Zion and walked away with an image totally unique and separate from anything I have ever done.
When I set out to Observation Point in Zion I fully intended to take the image from the main overlook. When I arrived though, there were 4 or 5 couples hanging out and at least two of them trying to do the standard instagram shot of the girl sitting on the edge of the cliff overlooking the amazing scene.
I saw this and said no. Never will I be that person who photographs those spots.
So I began exploring and discovered this spot.
Once I found my composition I sat and waited for the magic to begin. While I waited 6 vultures glided gently around me riding the air currents coming off the cliffs. It was a moment of pure bliss.
This shot was the last shot I ever took as a professional full time photographer. Now I am professional part time photographer. It marked an end of an interesting era for me. One I might revisit in the near future or many years from now. Only time will tell.
I hope you enjoyed these stories. In order to celebrate these images I will be setting up a special sale just for these images. The sale runs through Monday June 25-29th, 2018.