I’ve been doing this photography thing for a long time. I bought my first “serious” camera in 1972 and got my Certificate of Achievement from the Glenn Fishback School of Photography in 1978. I spent most of the next 20 years working in various capacities in the photographic industry. I was Lab Manager at 2 custom photo labs. I photographed weddings, portraits, and anything else that would pay a buck. But that’s just background.
In the days of film I, like everyone else, had my share of “oops” moments. You know, the ones where you realize you are shooting 100 ISO film but your meter is still set at 800. Or you didn’t grab enough of the leader and the film never went through the camera. Dumb stuff like that. Today in the digital age there are still a lot of chances to do dumb stuff. The ISO thing is still prevalent and it’s possible to change file size and thus change resolution.
One would think that after 4 decades of experience in the field I’d be able to eliminate most of these gaffes and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of minimizing them. But every once in a while I start concentrating so hard on capturing the scene before me that my brain goes into full freeze mode. Take today for example.
A famous Colorado photographer once said “Anyone can learn composition and exposure…but how many are willing to crawl out of a warm bed when it’s cold and dark to get on location in time for the magic light?” That thought kept going through my mind as I was getting dressed at 5:00 AM on New Year’s Day. I tried to avoid looking at the outside thermometer but couldn’t ignore that it was a whopping 8 degrees and very dark outside. But I pressed onward…I was meeting some friends at Garden of the Gods. The drive was uneventful and as I headed south on I-25 it appeared that we would have ideal conditions for a colorful sunrise. The Eastern horizon was clear allowing for sunlight to come through and in the West there was some cloud cover which I hoped would color up nicely.
I rolled into the Mesa Overlook about 6:40, right on time and made note of Todd “Cloudman” Caudle’s truck already in the parking lot. A few minutes later Bob Falcone rolled in and the gang was all here. We talked for a few minutes then started setting up our gear. I found a nice composition and waited for the magic to happen. Pike’s Peak was shrouded in clouds but Todd assured me they would disperse when the sun came up and we’d have a grand look at the Peak. Sure enough, when the sun started hitting the top of the Peak at about 7:15 the clouds started moving off.
I was about 10 exposures into the morning when a scary thought hit me: I had used my camera to shoot some things for posting on craigslist a few days earlier and remembered that I was still shooting small jpeg files instead of RAW. Oops..not going to be able to enlarge these files.
A few more exposures and here comes another frightening thought: When I set the file size to small jpegs the other day I also set the ISO at 800 for low light shooting. Noise….If I enlarge these files I should be able to connect the dots with a crayon. Oh well..another quick adjustment.
FINALLY! I have my camera set correctly for file size and ISO. Time to make some fabulous images…fortunately for me, the quality of light was still great. Not too harsh…a bit ethereal with the dissipating clouds…it was a great morning. The morale of the story is this: No matter how good you are, no matter how experienced you are, you still need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Wonderful weather, good friends, and a sparkling beginning to a New Year. If the quality of this sunrise indicates anything about 2013 it’s going to be a great one. Have a Happy and prosperous New Year everyone.