Scouting out your location

Finding the perfect place to photograph a scene when you’ve never been in the area before can be especially daunting, especially if it’s pouring buckets of water all over you and your equipment.

I think the hardest thing about photographing a location that’s new to you is finding the best place to set up for sunrise or sunset. You can read other photographer’s blogs, research the area online, map it all out with a pretty good idea of what you want to shoot, find the location, then realize that it’s bigger than what you expected, or the clouds are in the wrong position for what you thought was going to be the perfect composition.
That happened on my first day in Oregon last week. After driving to my hotel in a torrential rainstorm, which felt almost like a hurricane, dropping off my luggage, unpacking, then changing rooms because there was a party going on next door, I finally headed out the door at 4pm. I found the Tom McCall Preserve, and started hiking out into a beautiful field of flowers. The sun was still high, the clouds were thick, the wind was still steady and strong, I had plenty of time, so after an hour of dawdling there, I headed up the trail, passing photographers in another field of flowers that overlooked the Columbia River. Little did I know that I should have stayed there…
The climb up the Rowena Crest Trail was consistently steep, and slippery in a few spots, the rain kept coming and going, and the wind kept the fields of flowers dancing, making it hard to photograph. I kept passing signs that said the path was closed for reconstruction, so somewhere near the top, I turned around to make my way back down to a beautiful area that looked just right for sunset.
By this time, the sun was starting to vanish behind clouds, and I realized that the sunstar I was planning to shoot was going to happen sooner than I expected. I started running downhill.
I stopped when I saw the sun disappear behind the clouds, and pulled out my Sony, which I never use, but it had the wide angle lens on it, so I cranked up the ISO to 1600 to try and freeze the wildly dancing flowers, and hand held these images. I wasn’t where I planned to be, that field was another 5 minutes down the hill, but the light was right, right then, so that’s where I stopped for sunset.
I came back to the open field of flowers that overlooked the Columbia River the next morning for sunrise.  It was indeed beautiful, and there were about 20 other photographers spaced out all over the field.  Mainly men, (what’s that all about) ?  and a few latecomers who kept pacing around looking for the perfect shot, (basically a flower in the foreground that’s facing the camera).  One person was still walking around looking for a spot as the sun crested the mountains and washed out the scene, ruining the beautiful soft light that happens during magic hour.  Certainly there were still plenty of options for beautiful images, and I stayed there another hour playing with macros and compositions to the west where the sky was deepening into a beautiful blue.
I did hike up to the top of that hill the next day when the winds had finally died down, but that’s another story.  OR Rowena Crest Trail Sunset 96 dpiOR Rowena Crest Trail 2 sunset 96 dpi

Author: Dotty Molt

A Photographer, Yogi, Lightseeker. Based above Lake Tahoe, Nevada in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, I travel cross the country with a camera, gathering stories, memories and beautiful images.

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