Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trigger Finger

Chasing my way towards Central Iowa in brilliant sunshine in route to an assignment, my mindset was bent on arriving before sunset. Even though the assignment didn't start until morning, it's always nice to try to catch that warm light just in case you are not blessed with the clarity of today's light tomorrow. The weather forecast called for warmer conditions in the morning but a pesky low pressure system was pushing North and rain and even thunderstorms were in the forecast. In December! For those of us living here in the upper Midwest, that's just freaky. Its just wrong to rain in the end of December.

My alarm goes off an hour before sunrise. I peak out of the hotel window overlooking this small Iowa town of West Union, and a eery glow blankets the town. Snow depth here is well above average. The warm air mixing with the ample snow cover created a thick fog hovering over town like whipped cream on a latte. Perhaps it will burn off, perhaps it won't. If I had to guess, it won't.

Now, I'm thrilled I arrived at sunset and was able to fire off a few frames of Main Street. This foggy light was poor for what I needed to photograph. Sometimes fog can be mesmerizing. Other times, it can be f/dark. I needed shots of town, the surroundings, the town square as part of this coverage. Repeated storms had delayed this shoot several times. Now, with a deadline looming, it was do or die.

Long story short, coverage of town and the necessary portraits were accomplished as best could be done in this light. As the daytime hours faded new concerns arose. The drive home to Minneapolis.

The fog was so thick you could not see half a city block and the wet streets were accumulating freezing drizzle. A stressful drive lay ahead. The assignment under my belt, I decided to carefully inch my way home. With any luck maybe the fog would expose something magical for my lens on the drive back. Capturing a good photograph would no doubt ease the tension filled drive.

The Iowa landscape is beautifully simple. The fog was fascinating as it shielded rolling cropland, the occasional clump of tree's, barns and livestock. Struggling to find definition in these scenes, the subject's contrast fall off was immediate into the bright glow. Fences, barns, and cows, seen up close-up revealed sharpness, but anything more than a baseball toss away was glowing in the fog. And, the brightness of it was hard on the eyes.

Yet, I could felt if something just popped out at me, I could make a memorable image. This kind of light can do that. And, it doesn't come often, especially in winter with everything coated in white. This simplicity to the landscape, the foggy conditions, were all ingredients for something cool to record.

While I should have been calmed by the exciting conditions, I actually felt anxiety creeping in. How can I be offered this amazing light and I find nothing to photograph? Mile after mile I spotted potential photographs. But, something continuously kept me from firing off a frame. A errant fence or tree, a bad background that blended into the softness and disrupted the mood, the simplicity was becoming chaotic and ever opportunity seemed to infected by a visual intruder.

In today's photography world, its so easy for many to simply say, "I can take that out in Photoshop." I must be old school. I still cherish finding the moment LIVE. Even if it does give me an ulcer!

Time after time I slowed, stopped, got out the camera and pointed my camera at various landscapes. None captured my imagination as I had hoped. I kept hoping that next hill might produce the moment like the next bend bend in the river will yield a big fish. Daylight was waning and my hopes were fading. It felt like I had a basket of fresh Georgia peaches within reach but couldn't grab a single one. It was killing me.

My trigger finger was exercised. But, I missed my target. Some days its "just like that." Here's a few images I gave a whirl.

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