Last week, I drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park (about an hour from my home in Northern Colorado) on a great weather day. By great weather day, I mean stormy – rain, thunder, and lightening moving through the area in the late afternoon and early evening. Stormy weather often creates great conditions for landscape photography, in the form of dramatic cloud formations, interesting plays of light, etc. I envisioned these elements superimposed on the already stunning landscapes of the Trail Ridge Road area, and was really looking forward to seeing some expansive vistas and grand landscapes.
What I found when I arrived was – none of that. The cloud deck had sunk down below the tops of the peaks, and the entire area was fogged in. Thick, soupy fog of the kind where you can hardly see the taillights of the car on the road in front of you. There was nothing to shoot, because there was nothing to see. I figured the day was a bust and was about to turn around and go home.
But then I remembered a stretch of the road where there was a large grouping of tall, bare trees that, from a distance, look like a collection of matchsticks. I had photographed these trees before, but was never pleased with the results. The frames always looked cluttered (I never could seem to find a simple, clean composition), and the light on the trees always looked too harsh and with too much contrast to my eye.
How would these Matchstick Trees look in the fog, I wondered? Quite nice, as it turned out. The fog reduced the distracting clutter in the frame, enabling me to create more simplified compositions. And, naturally, the fog diffused the light substantially, evening out the overall contrast in the scene. My vision for the image was to create a high-key, almost abstract rendering of these trees, and the foggy conditions really played right into that.
When confronted with unexpected conditions, it can be difficult for me to let go of my expectations and adapt to what’s going on around me. But, it’s my feeling that there almost always is something worthwhile to photograph, so I’ll have to remember to remind myself that it’s just a matter of being open to seeing it.