Every once in a while, conditions and circumstances align perfectly and some unexpected, amazing sight happens while I’m taking pictures. It rarely happens more than once a year, but it’s always memorable. Below, I’ll share some of my favorites and invite you to do the same.
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Deer in Yosemite
I just got back from my second ever trip to Yosemite National Park in California, and although I’m still processing my photos, I wanted to write about the amazing moment that I saw during my first morning there.
As I took some pictures of El Capitan at sunrise with a friend of mine, a few deer wandered around the field behind us. I took a couple photos of them in the distance but mostly concentrated on capturing the landscape.
Before long, the deer had approached much closer, with a picturesque view of the valley and mountains behind them. I had never seen wild deer this close and immediately felt like it was one of those “moments” I mentioned where something amazing happens.
Experienced Yosemite photographers are probably laughing that I call something like seeing a deer in Yosemite Valley a serendipitous moment. From what I hear, it’s pretty common for them to get relatively close like this. But something about it felt very special to me. It was as if I were invisible while I watched the deer go about their morning routine with such an amazing backdrop. They didn’t pay any attention to me at all – neither sniffing me out for food, nor wary and running away.
I’ve taken photos that I like more, but rarely do I experience a moment in photography that’s so pleasant and memorable.
I’ve written about this one before, but one of my all-time favorite photography moments was watching a sandstorm approach in Death Valley, then finding myself engulfed in it. It was a humbling and frightening experience, though thankfully I was in little danger of getting lost in the storm since I had more than one GPS with me.
Sometimes, I find myself categorizing the world into “nature” versus “civilization” which really isn’t accurate. People have built some pretty good shelters against the elements, but nature still holds all our lives in her hands. This experience in Death Valley crystallized that fact for me. My outlook on the natural world hasn’t been the same since.
After a cold, windy hike through the rain, I remember standing with my back to a small lighthouse in the most sheltered direction on the Faroe Islands (and still not sheltered enough). The day so far had been very dreary – lots of rain and hardly any sun. It looked like it would be a non-sunset.
But right as the day ended, the sun broke through the clouds in just the right spot:
A rainbow soon started to form. I frantically set up my tripod while Nasim started to fly his drone, and both of us managed to take a few pictures in quick succession as the conditions grew to be practically perfect for photography.
The rainbow lasted long enough to allow for a multi-image panorama, while Nasim managed not to lose control of his drone in the tricky conditions.
Something about standing in the dullest of conditions in the cold, then suddenly seeing one of the best sunsets of my life, struck me as very emblematic of my experiences with landscape photography. Never count out a sunset, no matter how bad the conditions may look. It could always surprise you.
Fog in the Desert
Another unexpectedly good moment I experienced as a photographer was on our Middle East workshop in early 2020, the last time before the pandemic that I was able to do any meaningful photography. Our group was in the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi during a very foggy sunrise, and we had mostly been taking pictures of camels and camel herders. The golden light from sunrise never reached us, but it was fun to take some foggy desert photos anyway.
As we were about to leave, a bit of sun started peeking through the fog. I decided to fly my drone just in case, although I didn’t expect much because it seemed to be foggy in all directions. The initial video feed from the drone confirmed that impression – just clouds and fog everywhere I looked.
Then the drone climbed above the clouds, and a towering view of sand dunes was visible below.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw it on the monitor. As much as I like the photos and videos I took that morning, there’s something about seeing a live feed and controlling the drone’s flight pattern that can’t be replicated online. It was like looking down from the window of a plane, or even flying a plane. Although I know that not all photographers love the idea of drones, that moment made me understand their potential to see the world in a unique way when used carefully.
Your Favorite Moments?
I’d love to hear your best and most memorable moments in photography, whether landscapes or something else. It’s a good time for our readers to have some inspiration! If you need to link to a personal page to complement the story you tell, feel free, and we won’t delete it if it’s not an advertisement (although the comment may be held for approval first). I hope you enjoyed reading about some of mine.