"dang...this was a bust..."
i had made my way to echo lake this night. july of 2018 was the last time i was there when i made one of my more favorite images. in fact, it was one of my cards for 50% off as part of the may promo i have going on. that card has been sold but here is the image....
i've wanted to return to this lake for some time in another season as i really love the location. this particular night, the northern lights were forecasted with a high probability of being seen on the horizon. there was just one very big obstacle: the moon was in its full moon stage and it would be very easy for the lights to be washed out.
anytime you plan to make images of the northern lights, you should always have a plan b. before the two times i saw them and wrote about them in a blog a month and a half ago (see link below for that blog),
i've had no luck seeing them for the previous five years since moving back to minnesota. i either couldn't make it out or where i went out was not where they were visible. the northern lights play by their own rules. so, plan b. very important!
my secondary plan involved making images utilizing the open water on the lake. perhaps catching whatever stars might be visible (remember this is a full moon night and stars can be washed out) reflecting in the lake water; perhaps trying to recreate the image above but at the beginning of spring instead of summer. there were several possibilities ruminating around in my head. i headed up north, hoping for the best but ready to implement plan b. have i emphasized the importance of plan b enough yet? lol.
about 4 hours later, i arrived at the location. actually, i almost missed seeing it and had to turn around to go back to it. it's amazing how things look different in different seasons and time of day. oh, and there was another big problem that torpedoed plan b. the lake wasn't just frozen over; it was covered in snow. i had made a big miscalculation. just because the water of lake superior was open didn't mean the inland lakes were ice-free. temperatures inland can be and often are much colder. even with the warmer temperature and snow/ice melt, inland can be a whole other story. i got out of my car and laughed, not a laugh of "that's funny!" but a laugh of "oh boy, i just drove four hours and plan b is not even in the cards." hence the "dang...this was a bust..." but, i was there and i was not about to turn around with nothing to show for it. especially as i had driven almost 15 miles on an unpaved road in a ford focus now covered in mud from the recent melts on this road!
i continued to hope for the northern lights and started challenging myself to make some compositions in the meantime. i've recently latched onto a phrase i read from someone i follow who talks about "sketching images" in the process of getting to the end result. in the case of photography, it means making images of the same scene with different settings and compositions to help determine where to go to further refine the end result. the idea is much like a writer writing several drafts of a scene or a painter experimenting with several color palletes to find the right mood to convey. with no plan c, i had to improvise.
two hours later, i had produced nothing of interest to me. i was thinking about packing it up and taking off. the northern lights were still a no show. then, i saw something happening. something i had not seen before even on other moonlit nights though i have seen it occasionally in other images. "whoa!" i thought to myself, "what is happening?" shadows! that's what was happening! the scene before me was being lit up beginning with the trees on one side of the shoreline and working its way out onto the snow-covered lake. as it was being lit up, the shadows of the trees on the opposing shoreline began to form in an elongated shape. it was like watching a sunrise slowly enveloping nature in light where darkness had been prevalent. except this was not a sunrise; it was a moonrise. i was super stoked to see this incredibly cool event happening!
the moment was quite surreal for me; a moonrise that is so bright so as to produce an effect that we often take for granted with the sunrise. and yet, it was also an ethereal moment for me. far above the initial soft lighting and shadow display unfolding as the moon rose, the stars competed for attention with their always stunningly bright display in the heavens before the brightness of the moon would dampen their glow.
after marveling over this grand gesture of "good evening!" from nature for over an hour, i turned to see where the moon was and realized it was still ascending from behind the trees. i shifted my attention to see if i could make an image of the moon between trees as it continued its ascent.
one thing that can be a challenge, whether making images of the sun or the moon, is lens flare when shooting straight on at the light source. lens flare is not a bad thing if it adds to the artistic vision. done well, it can really elevate an image. it can also be an ugly mess if it is not done right. for me personally, i'm not a huge fan of lens flare. it's easier to show than to explain so here's a couple of links. one is an explanation and one is various images with different types of lens flare.
this image is the end result of trying to minimize the lens flare i was getting. i spent an hour with the camera trying different compositions following the moon's ascent and trying different angles. i also had to do some post processing work to remove the lens flare as i could not completely block it out while making images. i think i did a pretty good job if i say so myself. keep in mind what i was trying to do with the post processing was get the image to what i actually saw as i remembered it looking through the lens of the camera - minus the lens flare. there would have been no lens flare when the naked eye is looking at the scene. this image was made with a very narrow aperture that helped to produce a moonburst effect. i just love the silhouette of the trees in this image. if you look closely, you can see some areas on the trees that catch a slight side light effect. another ethereal image for me on a beautifully moonlit night.
i was feeling blessed that night. a night that was quickly turning into a dud ended up producing two images that i am privileged to share with you here. four hours after i arrived, i packed up my gear for the four hour drive home. for my car, it was no big deal getting splattered as i returned over the unpaved road. it couldn't get any worse than it already was!
there's a saying that "good things come to those that wait". have you ever arrived somewhere to be a bit disappointed only to have things change for the better? it doesn't just have to be a place. it could be a circumstance that started off poorly but changed for the better. it could be a friendship that seemed to begin with polar opposites but ended up being good friends. it could be any number of things. i'd love to hear about your experiences in how something that initially was disappointing worked out to be a good thing down the line. i'd also love to hear about your reactions/thoughts/comments to my experience i shared here regarding the blog and/or images.
these images are available for purchase for your home, business and/or that special person(s) in your life. know someone who loves the moon and moonlit landscapes? either of these would be a great choice! check them out in my online store by clicking on the link right here. Then choose landscape greeting cards or landscape metal prints.
thanks for your continued support of my blogs and my photography business! i will be doing another quick post soon as i have a gift i want to share with you all for supporting my endeavors as a photographer! be looking for that soon!
i will see you soon with more "images from a quiet world"!