Generally speaking, when you see something you want to photograph, it is more prudent to get the shot right then and there rather than putting it off for another day. But sometimes it is just beyond your control. A few weeks ago, I drove into Raleigh early on a Sunday morning to photograph the Memorial Auditorium as the sun rose, striking the columns with the first rays of dawn. (Click here to go to Urban Landscape)
But when I arrived, the beautiful building was illuminated in a kind of purple light that was simply striking! My excitement at this unexpected bonus was short-lived because as I was getting my gear together for the shot, the lights went out! The opportunity was lost. Although deflated at the time, I vowed to try again, and this past Sunday I repeated my effort, this time leaving home much earlier, arriving while the sky was still completely dark. I was fortunate that the air was completely still as it was the first time, leaving the water in the reflecting pool mirrorlike, but the high humidity immediately condensed on the cold (a/c in the car) lens necessitating wiping it off with a chamois cloth. Although I managed to “get the shot” by exposing about 2/3-stop below the light meter reading with a 2-stop split neutral density filter to balance the reflected light in the pool with the actual building above, I was not completely satisfied with the image because there wasn’t any interest in the dark sky…that something extra to strive for in the image. Luck was with me as 6am passed and the lights remained on where two weeks ago, they went off at that time. They must have been on a light sensor rather than a simple timer and the sky began to lighten revealing some very light clouds. I managed to get off two bracketed sequences before the lights did go off, that revealed some blue in the sky and the long shutter speed blurred the movement of the clouds a bit. I ran the exposures through some HDR software, through Photoshop for clean up and a little more work in Lightroom to get more detail in the obelisk and its reflection in the water. Now, if only I could get a beautiful sunset sky behind the facade with the fountain on (if that is what the long rectangle in the water is) and the building illuminated!! However, there would be no reflection but it would be fun to make the attempt.
The image above was more a revisit “look” than a physical return to the location. I saw these trees last autumn along the side of the road on the Blue Ridge Parkway and found them compelling enough to pull over and record them. The main draw was the reflected light on them. Although they were completely in shade, they were lit by the morning sun bouncing off the opposite hillside behind me. But viewing the image on the computer screen later simply failed to garner any of the initial excitement felt that morning, and I moved onto other images from that trip that did. Recently, I came across it again and decided to make an attempt at recreating the glow they exhibited that morning, and after quite a few attempts, including cropping and eliminating some small elements that, to my eye were distracting, managed to reveal that glow and the saturation from the downpours overnight; the trunks actually appear as wet as they were.
Sometimes perseverance pays off, both in the determination to return to a location again to get a “better” shot, or making many attempts in the digital darkroom to get the “look” you were originally seeking after several failures. It is simply the manifestation of the drive to make the work the best it can be and yet, never be completely satisfied.