On this beautiful morning in the Tetons, we met a professional photographer who makes "$10,000-20,000/weekend from selling landscape prints to high-end clients." Read: Extremely wealthy homeowners and office spaces.
He was surprised to see others at that spot (Heron Pond), because he's "scouted the spot before, has never really seen or heard of people photographing sunrise from this lesser-known location, and wanted to be the one to make this location popular, photographically."
More power to him - that's dedication!
The sun rose a few minutes later, casting amber light through moody clouds onto the Grand Tetons. I was filled with joy! I vividly remember moving around the pond, working the scene, and taking in this magnificent sight!!!
All the while, the other photographer was "bummed."
He was disappointed with the light. He was disappointed with the clouds, which blocked morning rays from fully hitting the mountains.
He made it clear that a different location might have been better for photographing that morning's sunrise.
I'm pretty sure he didn't take a single image, which I can understand. Many photographers venture into the field with an idea in mind, or at least have personal standards of when to press the shutter.
Even so, I couldn't imagine the silliness. How could this scene not be worthy of an image?!
Here I am. Marveling at and photographing one of the most beautiful sights I've been fortunate to witness in a long time ... Not to mention listening to and seeing a variety of animals and calls seen and heard before, during and after the sunrise. And, at the same time, a landscape photographer, witnessing the same exact spectacle, was disappointed with the scene!
I felt a bit of sadness for him...
One of the most beautiful aspects of photographing outdoors is being fortunate enough to capture serendipity. Isn't this what makes photography fun, anyway?
I totally respect the idea of scouting scenes to photograph. I am not bashing this in anyway. Scouting gives the photographer an idea of how a potential scene can play out, the best place to position oneself, essential lenses to bring, etc.
I'm sure his time as a full-time professional landscape photographer is a bit more valuable than mine. So scouting locations is most likely extremely beneficial for him.
But, scouting also can create unrealistic expectations for something (nature) that is completely out of a human's control.
Yes, OK, the sunrise wasn't "perfect." Glowing, amber light was not cast onto the mountains for a sufficient (photographically) amount of time. Clouds made the mountains and light a bit less "postcard-perfect."
Compositions could've been better. The foreground didn't see enough light. The list can go on-and-on.
It can be argued, however, that these "imperfections" and "obstacles" only added to the scene's magnificent beauty. Morning light reflected off clouds, which slowly lifted higher and higher like a veil revealing a bride's face on wedding day. The dark foreground, in contrast to a bright middle and background, made the sunrise appear more dramatic. The entire scene felt moodier due to the "imperfect" weather.
I think it's important to document moments in nature that aren't necessarily "perfect." Soft light isn't always blanketing mountains during golden hour. Clouds appear. Rainy days occur. Life can suck, sometimes.
These aren't reasons to put the camera down. If anything, the shutter should be pressed more often during "imperfect" conditions. It's important to be reminded that not every day is great. Iconic landscapes don't always look flawless.
On social media, TV ...essentially anything with a screen... a "perfect" life is often represented. It can be difficult to connect with a landscape or person when one thinks of it/he/she as flawless, perfect ... ideal. Because, well, nothing and nobody is.
That morning, I showed up to the pond because it was the closest vista of the Tetons I could get to from my campsite. That morning, the other photographer arrived with an idea already imagined in his head - an idea he wanted to make a reality.
This is fantastic! Visualization is crucial. But, visualization shouldn't simultaneously ruin the beauty and unpredictability of nature.
I'm certainly guilty of disappointment due to visualization. But slowing down, being fully present, and maintaining a positive mental attitude is absolutely invaluable.
I felt as if the other photographer was at the lake that morning to capture a scene, in order to produce a print, in order to make money.
In contrast, I was at the scene for the experience. To witness a miracle that happens each day. To be fully immersed in nature. To be a part of the sunrise.
For me, producing pretty (and hopefully powerful) pictures always has been and always will be a positive consequence of experiencing natural wonders. Of being in the right place at the right time.
I don't want to sound as if I'm bashing his, or any other photographer's, artistic approach. I completely respect and support any artistic endeavor.
But as we packed away our cameras and collapsed our tripods, the other photographer, in disappointment with the "not-so-perfect" sunrise, couldn't believe his eyes. He wished to be someplace else.
I, in awe at the stunning sunrise, couldn't believe mine. I felt I was a part of the place itself.