As I write this I sit in my hotel just outside the entrance to Zion National Park. At the moment, we’re waiting out a torrential downpour. On the other end of the park it’s snowing – in late May. Who knew? I planned this trip six weeks ago. Of course I had no idea what the weather would be like, but I didn’t care. I figured a good time would ensue. It may not sound like I was right, but I was. Why?
Like I said – It rained.
Yep, my pals all said, “Too bad you’re going to get rained out in Zion.” Another friend said, “I wish you’d been there last week, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”
So here’s the thing. Bald blue skies in a landscape or scenic photo are BORING! In fact, they’re the last thing we want. What we want is WEATHER. We want clouds and yes even rain. These are more interesting. So “not a cloud in the sky” is almost always bad news for landscape shooters. You want to pray for rain. Now here’s the bad news. When it does rain, it can make it both easy and tough to get the shot you want. You have to be patient. You have to wait for sun-breaks and bits of clear sky to make an appearance. If you have patience and persevere you usually will be rewarded.
One morning we went to a popular spot in the park knowing it was rough weather. There were ominous black clouds filling most of the sky. The sun was nowhere to be seen. It was raining. There looked to be little hope of getting anything good, but we decided that if nothing else, we’d consider the morning to be a scouting mission. If that’s all we got out of it, we were ahead of the game.
But then, as it often does, the weather changed. In fact, it changed about every five minutes. Tiny holes would open up in the clouds letting just enough light through to make some dramatic shot possibilities. It was exciting. But then the weather would change again – for the worse, and we’d sit and wait. We did this the entire morning. We got drenched, but we ended up with some great shots. Note that our actual shooting time was a ratio of about one to four. One hour of shooting during a four hour stretch. So what did we do for the three hours we didn’t get to shoot? We waited. Yep – we waited. And it was far from terrible. We sat along the banks of the Zion River and listened to the water. We watched the sky. We smelled the fresh air. We looked for frogs and cactus flowers. We marveled in nature’s majesty. Then we’d get 10 minutes of good light, we’d run around like chickens with our heads chopped off and we’d shoot. Then it would start all over again. The sky would turn black, we’d wait, then the sky would open up again and we’d shoot.
This process repeated all morning. The shots I made during the day are some of the best I have from Zion. It all boiled down to patience and perseverance, and a little weather.
The next time you go out to shoot, don’t turn around if the weather isn’t just perfect. Be patient, persevere and be thankful for the rain.
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