Photography and Luck
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 by Reed Hoffmann
I've got a friend who's fond of saying, "I'd rather be lucky than good." I know what he means. Last week I had a workshop to teach in Berkeley, so flew in two days early to take a quick trip to Yosemite with some friends. And boy, did we get lucky.
Yosemite can be great in winter, but you also have the risk that you won’t be able to get in or out due to weather. A few days before our trip there was a big storm that dumped several feet of snow in the Sierras. By the time we got there it had passed, and the roads had just become drivable again (with four-wheel drive). Lucky break one.
Snow was knee-deep in the valley and the trees were blanketed in snow, which made beautiful pictures. By afternoon the first day that snow was gone due to sun and temperatures near 50. Lucky break two.
The heavy snowfall, combined with the sunny days and warm temperatures following it meant the waterfalls, often dry this time of year, were running. Lucky break three.
If you’re a fan of Yosemite photography, then you’ve likely heard of Horsetail Falls. It’s a small waterfall that runs off the eastern side of El Capitan (the most famous large wall of granite in the valley). Every year in late February there’s a small window of time where if everything happens just right, you can make an amazing photo of it. With water running and a clear sky, the setting sun lights it up in such a unique way that it looks like fire spilling off the cliff. I’ve been there a couple of times at the right time of year, but either it was dry or the sky was cloudy at sunset, or both. Guess what happened this time? Giant lucky break four.
And finally, I had a great group of friends to share the adventure with – Bob Pearson, John Omvik and Wes Edwards. Yosemite’s a fabulous place to shoot pictures any time of year, in any conditions. I’ve been lucky enough to visit there many times, and made some nice photos. Being a good photographer means being prepared with the right gear and the knowledge of how to use it. But you can’t beat a little luck.