Waiting for a Window

Islands and Arches, Olympic Peninsula, WA

Sometimes, pictures take planning. I have been wanting to photograph this location at dawn for over a year, but conditions have never come together…until today.  Access requires a minus tide at dawn, which only happens a few days a month if at all, as well as clear skies, which happens almost never…

Typically, when high pressure moves in to the Pacific coast, so does the fog.  So for weeks I have been consulting tide charts and NOAA weather maps, looking for the right combination, passing up several opportunities when, although the tide was right, the weather was not.

This week looked promising enough: a window of opportunity. The tides and timing were right, but I had to move quickly before the building high pressure brought the inevitable fogbanks. I also had to do my own weather research. The forecast for the coast was for mist and drizzle, but a quick look at the satellite pictures – and a couple of coastal webcams online – told a different story. The sun was shining!

Getting up at 4 am, and hiking out in the dark, I arrived before the first light. As it was, the fog hung just offshore, giving me only a few minutes of dawn before the warm light vanished in the gloom. Still, I got some pictures I’m pleased with, and  I’ll try again tomorrow.

My point is simply that there are dozens of tools on the internet that can help with planning a shoot: tide tables, weather maps, webcams, road condition reports. However, it is also possible to sit at home, staring at the computer and find excuses not to go; in the end, there is no substitute for simply being there.

Elephant Rock, Olympic Peninsula


    Kevin, I agree that there is nothing like being there. I just had an experience where I drove 250 plus to the Alabama Hills to shoot the rock formations and try some night photography as it was going to be a moonless few nights. Well, little did I know that a fire on the west side of the Sierra (started by lightning back on July 8) would make me come home early. The smoke came over the Whitney range, totally obliterating any view of the mountain from Lone Pine and filled the entire Owens Valley. Could not see stars at night. So, came home, but glad I tried.

    Hey Steve,

    Yeah, nature (and human activity?) can throw you a curveball now and then. Then again, your next time out it might be stunning, right? I suppose that at some level, this kind of unpredictability is what makes photography rewarding. Who wants a world where all the sunsets are the same? OK, this is small consolation for an unproductive trip, or paying $4/gal for all that gas. I know… Hey, I’ve been there -as you know well.

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