Sunrise on the edge of Yellowstone


So I managed to sneak up to the Beartooths for a couple of days again, this time a bit more prepared though. As noted in my last post here, I had taken notes from my first trip so that I would know where I wanted to explore when I came back. This is crucial when exploring an area that is not in your own backyard. From the previous trip I knew that I wanted to try and compose a sunrise photograph of these mountains with the river in the foreground. Upon driving back out there, I spent the better part of the afternoon scouting the area for the right spot. Like taking notes, this is also crucial. In fact, most professional outdoor photographers will tell you that when they are not shooting the best light, they are driving around scouting for that evening or the next morning. Thus I drove, and climbed, and scrambled, and waded through frigid fast moving water until I found this spot. Only problem was that there was bear tracks all over the sandbars of this braided river, and knowing that I would be coming back before dawn definitely had me a bit spooked.

In order to save time and minimize the possibility of missing this shot, I just slept in the back of my truck on the side of the road. This of course also saved me the 10 bucks that I would have needed to pay to camp at one of the national forest campgrounds as well. All night long, I dreamed of bears. Even though it is July, I woke up to a frosty predawn morning. When its 34 degrees outside and your facing the immediate prospect of scrambling down a talus slope in the dark and then plunging into an ice cold river with grizzly bears feeding unseen in the willows, it can be difficult to crawl out of your nice warm sleeping bag. Despite all of these variables screaming go back to sleep, I managed to drag myself out of the bag and onto my feet. With tripod in one hand and bear spray in the other I began the not so graceful 20 minute trek to the place I had scouted the day before.

In retrospect, I believe that I could have done better. Really what I am saying, is that with a bit more scouting of this exact location, I could have found a better foreground composition. The rocks weight the photograph down, but upon reviewing the photographs I would much rather of had the rocks leading the eye out into the picture and on towards the mountains that towered above. Leading lines are a crucial element in landscapes that can quickly turn a photograph from great to amazing. For this reason, I will go back in the next couple of weeks.

With the thourough notes I had taken before, and the couple of hours spent searching for this location I was able to capture a pretty nice sunrise. Though even after all of this, I could have planned the shot a bit better by attempting to figure out exact compositions that afternoon so that way when the light was getting good, I was not scrambling around in the water and on the rocks looking for appropriate foregrounds. This just goes to show you, there is no such thing as doing too much homework for a shoot!



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