October 2, 2020
I know all the rules, one of which is you take care of that expensive camera and pieces of glass you're toting around with you. Don't wipe off the lens with your shirtsleeve, clean your hands off before pawing the camera, clean the camera after every trek into the dusty outdoors. Your breath is fine for warming your hands, but to clean your lens? Not so much.
For the most part I'm relatively diligent in following those rules. But "relatively" is a relative term.
Another golden rule is "take the time to ensure the gear is properly secured"!!
(Emphasis added). That's an important one.
Picture this. You're out in the wilds somewhere and you see what you hope will prove to be perfect light with that tree, the clouds and those boulders in the right place at the right time. The clouds are parting and you are sure shafts of sunlight will highlight the main focus of the image forming in your mind. But the spot to set up is 200 yards away and you've got to hurry. You throw on the backpack, sweep up the tripod and sling the camera over your shoulder then make a mad dash to the appointed spot. You arrive just as the streaks of golden light begin to paint the far bluffs and accent the leaves of the trees while making the boulder you spotted earlier glow like an opalescent gem. The attendant deep shadows of the copse enhance and lend depth to the entire scene. Your breath catches in delight. Even the streaks of clouds are cooperating by moving to the perfect location. You've only a few scant minutes to capture the magic so you quickly scout about to discover the correct angle and location. At the same time, you are pulling out the legs of the tripod and cursing when the legs hang up (because you didn't properly clean the sea water off them after your last shoot).
Finally, everything is in place and the light is just now reaching its climax. You put the camera on the tripod, compose the shot, calculate the exposure and press the shutter release. The tripod sags. And sags some more. In your haste you didn't tighten the legs enough and they sag ruining the composition. By the time you re-secure the legs and recover the composition, the light fades and the magic moment is gone.
Well, that's one thing that can happen. You lose a shot. Lesson learned. No matter the rush, there is always time for the basics. Landscape photography is so much a combination of creative thrill and "hurry up and wait" that I tend to forget (no, let's be honest, I tend to ignore) that little maxim.
This is my story. I spent an absolutely gorgeous afternoon slowly hiking around Convict Lake in the Eastern Sierras, grabbing a few nice shots and scouting about for likely spots to take some night shots. I just took my time and soaked it all in. Then amble back to my campsite for a snack and a rest. It was just as you might picture it - a relaxing undemanding "let the world roll off shoulders" kind of day. And I think I got some shots with some potential.
Afternoon Snack ©2020
The majesty of the lake was incredible.
There was the delicate and colorful as well. There really is nothing like the feeling you get when you are able to duplicate your feelings into an image.
And the night shots? Oh, my. It was classic. A perfect night with a slight breeze, warm air and no hurry to head back to camp. I spent a lot of time out there and found some good results.
Moonset over Convict Lake ©2020
But it was time to head back for some shut-eye. It had been a good day. I was completely chilled, knew I had a couple of winners and frankly, though invigorated, I was gassed. Time for bed. The moon had set, it was getting pitch dark and the last thing I needed was to trip over a boulder in my weariness.
But damn. I was ambling back to the campground when I came to a little bridge overlooking the lake. The night sky was reflecting across the waters framed by the mountains. I'd already had my camera stowed, the tripod collapsed and I was looking forward to a good night's sleep. As often happens though, the lure of the scene was just too much. Out came the camera and tripod. With practiced hands, I quickly set them up, mounted the camera and began to compose. I reached to get the remote release and "bang!" A sickening crunch. I had not cinched the clamp holding my camera to the tripod and down it went. My heart sank and I honestly didn't want to look. That strategy did not make the busted up screen go away. The screen was a lost cause.
Off to Nikon General Hospital. Stat! And a couple of weeks later, good as new! Better, actually. I think a lot of backglogged cleaning was done while it was there.
But even with the busted screen, wonky controls and a less than stellar end to a fabulous day, I still had some creative juices pumping and I set up the camera, lined it up as best I could, composed and hoped for the best. I shot a few frames of the lake from that cursed bridge. I won.
Midnight at Convict Lake ©2020
Did I learn my lesson? I like to think so. But it did prompt me to start putting nickels into my piggy bank for that new tripod I've been Jonsin' for. After all, we all know it was the tripod's fault.