Sometimes, the shot you see in your head doesn’t show up until after you’ve packed up and headed back down the mountain. Last Sunday, at sunset, I shot the crazy clouds around Mount Hood for about an hour, before turning my attention to the actual sun setting in the west (see the previous entry). It was getting cold, and the light was draining from the sky, so I carefully packed my gear back into my bag and started walking down the stairs to the car. As I turned towards Hood one last time, I saw this scene and snapped a few quick shots with my phone, which I had in my hand.
Of course, once I got to the car and looked at what I had, I cursed quite loudly to myself. Why I didn’t take the time to set up the shot with my “real” camera, carefully on the tripod? Then, I certainly would have gotten the photo that was in my head.
Clearly, I’m not the photographer I think I am. Well, here’s the reality of that moment: it was dark; I was tired from the day’s 200-mile drive through the Gorge; my shoulder was screaming at me; I was chatting with a photographer I had just met; I wasn’t sure there was even a picture there; et cetera et cetera. So I clicked a few frames and moved on.
All of that angst was for naught, however: this is a good shot. And who cares that it was taken with an iPhone? Would another 12 megapixels made it that much better of a shot? No, because I would have lost the rapidly dwindling light of the blue hour, and would have taken too long to figure out which lens to use and set up the scene. And, the painterly quality of this photo gives it a glow that might have been lost with a 24-megapixel camera and fine Zeiss glass. (Plus, I got to put a version of this shot up on Instagram right away.)
I’ve been going up to Larch Mountain for more than 10 years, and what’s really funny is that I can’t find a single image in my photo library taken from this vantage point. It is probably the stairs, which are quite busy at sunset, but you’d think, after all the times that “Use the foreground!” has been pounded into my consciousness by photographers better than me, that I would have tried it once or twice. It took a cameraphone to help me think a bit differently about a place I’ve been shooting for years.
Now, of course, I’ll be checking this viewpoint every time I go to Larch. I’ll mark the photo in my library with the ‘revisit’ tag, but, like many of those images, the best ones are always the original.