So, when the going gets tough, I remember that note painfully stapled to my forehead, and I force myself to get going. For example, one day while photographing Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, gale force winds roared through the area, whipping up blowing sand into a frenzy. Almost everyone else visiting the dunes that day, photographer and tourist alike, stayed well clear of the churning sandstorm. Not me. Instead of turning back, I narrowed by eyes, squared my jaw, and purposefully strode into the howling maelstrom, trying my best to look the part of a Hollywood action hero in order to impress the scattering of onlookers. Brave? Perhaps. Stupid? Definitely. Either way, I endured a wicked sandblasting: each gust felt like sliding down sandpaper, mercilessly tearing hair from my arms and legs, and screams of pain from my lungs. I can assure you that they were extremely manly screams, not high pitched girlie-man screams as some scurrilous rumor-mongers have alleged. Well, so much for looking like an action hero.
In the end, however, it was worth braving the elements. I was able to photograph plumes of sand arcing gracefully hundreds of feet over undulating dune crests, backlit by the setting sun. For the photo below, I made sure to shoot into the sun for creative effect, thereby adding color, contrast, and drama to the image. To me, the photo captures something of the wild essence of the epic conditions I experienced that day.
By the way, there's a great picture taken by Joseph Rossbach (of Wilderness Warrior fame, from the June 2010 issue of OP), on the bio page of my website, showing me climbing the dunes during the sandstorm. While I was high up on the dune crests exposed to the full blast of the sandstorm, the "Wilderness Warrior" was hiding down below out of the wind, sipping piña coladas. Okay, so maybe he was teaching a private workshop client and therefore had a valid excuse for not going into the sandstorm, and maybe he and his client still endured some fairly wicked winds at the bottom of the dune field, but in my version of the story he wimped out and decided to enjoy mixed drinks at the bar instead.
Perhaps I'll replace the "going gets tough" quote with a new one that has a somewhat more positive spin: "Epic conditions produce epic photographs." Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Now if I could only remove this painful staple in my forehead. Maybe next time I'll try super glue instead.
Chasing the Light: Essential Tips for Taking Great Landscape Photos: A 62-page downloadable PDF eBook filled with informative text, stunning full-color images, and plenty of insights and inspiration.
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