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August 10, 2012
Last February, Kevin McNeal was on his way to California to photograph “the coast,” but changed his destination when he heard there had been a big snowstorm in Yosemite National Park. We’re grateful he did, because when he got there he captured this cool Yahoo! Travel Photo of The Week.
Let’s face it, many of our travel photos are the result of good luck; we are hoping for a good photo, but we don’t know exactly what it will be. We traveled to an exotic location; we observed the natives and their customs in an African village of grass huts; we admired the gentle arc of soft pink sand along an island shoreline, the emerald water and distant reef. Then, something totally unexpected happened: A dozen singing native women walked by, each with a beautiful basket balanced on her head; or a beautiful two-masted schooner sailed into the bay completing the picture-perfect scene. Luck: We hope for it because we know it can turn an ordinary photo into an extraordinary photo.
Luck Favors The Prepared. In the instances sited above, our photo was lacking that certain something, je ne sais quoi, something special. We could have easily captured what we’re seeing at the time, wished for more and gone looking for a sandwich. But…we waited, just long enough for something special to happen.
All Things Come to Those Who Wait. Personally, the longest I have ever waited with camera and tripod in place, knowing that the clouds would part and provide a perfect photo, was four hours. Then there have been other times when I waited several days before setting up my tripod in the chosen place; and, there have been times when we have waited for the season – the tilt of the Earth – to change. Granted, we don’t always have days and weeks; sometimes, our flight home is tomorrow and we won’t have another chance.
Learning from Kevin. When he heard about the snowstorm Kevin wasn’t far from Yosemite and he seized a special opportunity: The California coast – and there’s a lot of it – had nothing but its ordinary grandeur going for it, but there was a special SNOW in Yosemite. We’ve all seen photos of Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome in pretty weather, but what if a photographer managed to get there when there was snow?
The lesson. We should listen to our instincts. We should take the time to let something special happen as we make our photos: A bird might alight with widespread wings; the sun may drop below the gray cloud deck and light the landscape with magical colors; after we have picked a perfect city-street-scene, a man wearing a bright blue sarong might pull his colorful rickshaw into view and pause just long enough for you to capture the moment. Now your photo has been elevated to a whole new realm of conveying information in a beautiful and elegant way. Look at it this way: Suppose Kevin hadn’t positioned himself downstream from the bend in the creek. What if he had found himself a nice warm spot in the sunlight? Instead, he gave us a view of Half Dome that isn’t just beautiful; he gave us a view with drama; dramatic because from the angle he chose we can feel the temperature difference; sense the stillness of the air and hear the soft sounds of the moving water.
Tip: On the back of your digital camera there is an LCD viewer. Unless what you are attempting to photograph is rapidly changing, take a few minutes to study your photo on the LCD. Think about how it could be improved; use your imagination; think “what if I…” There’s a genie inside every digital camera, learn the magic words and your wish will be its command.
Alabama-based Michael Clemmer has been a photojournalist/travel photographer, landscape and golf course photographer for over four decades. Once a Senior Travel Photographer for Southern Living Magazine, he has also worked as an assignment photographer for the National Geographic Society and his photographs have been used in fine publications around the world. He currently specializes in golf landscape photography — visit his web site at www.michaelclemmer.com
- Travel & Tourism
- Cameras & Photography
- Yosemite National Park