As photographers we’re constantly presented with choices.  What lens should I use..Is there a better point of view…Will this subject look better at a different time of day…Underexpose, overexpose, bracket, or go with the histogram?  The choices fly at us seemingly without end and most times the right choices can make a good image into a fantastic image.  Hang with me and I’ll take you through my thought process for making a simple decision in the field.

Saturday after Thanksgiving was overcast and dull.  I slept in, mainly because the sky didn’t really lighten a lot but when I finally got up it was just another gloomy day.  I had a few chores to do around the house and then some errands to run so I was on the road around 2pm getting stuff done.  It was warm enough but still overcast but I did notice that the cloud deck ended before it touched the western horizon.  A little thought, years of experience, and a great deal of luck led me to realize that if it stayed clear on the horizon this cloud deck was going to be set on fire by the sun in a couple of hours.  My job, should I choose to accept it, would be to find a suitable subject and be in position to capture it when it happened.  After a bit of thought I decided to head down to the creek behind my house and find a suitable tree to use as a foreground object when the action happened.  I had a new (used but new to me) lens to test and this would be a perfect opportunity.

I finished my errands and headed home.  Dogs out and fed, I grabbed my backpack and tripod and hiked across the park about 200 yards to the creek and started looking for locations.  I found some twisted cottonwood trees that would be great silhouettes and got things set up.  Now we wait, but not for long.  As I’d hoped, there was an area of clear sky between the cloud deck and horizon and as the sun passed through this gap and started sinking I started making exposures.  After a couple more minutes the sky started getting colorful and I got the image you see at the top of the blog but there were still a couple minutes before complete color.  And that’s when it happened:  I glanced over my shoulder and saw the creek behind me was illuminated with a wonderful warm glow.  The colorful light was reflecting off the clouds and lighting the whole landscape.  Time for a choice.

Those of you who have regularly photographed colorful skies at sunrise or sunset know that most times the perfect light can last only a minute or two, sometimes only a few seconds, before conditions start to deteriorate and the color is lost.  And here I was on the horns of a dilemma.  Did I have an exposure I was proud enough of to leave the changing sky and set up a shot of the creek?  Did I have time?  Was it worth taking a chance that I would miss both shots?  I glanced at the creek again and made a decision:  Hell yeah!  I had been shooting from a pretty low angle so I started extending the tripod legs as I walked 40 feet to the bank of the creek.  A quick look to locate an acceptable point of view and composition, set up and shoot. And here’s what I got:

Was I successful?  You bet!  I got the image of the silhouetted cottonwood trees against a colorful sky and a great shot of the creek lit up by alpenglow.  Yeah, I think it worked okay this time.  And best of all….the new lens is a sharp one.

Have you ever had to make a decision like this?  Was it successful?  Leave a comment and we can swap stories.