Sometimes things just don’t work out (aka lessons for the future).
Let me set the scene for you. We'd been up to the Photography Show at the NEC in Birmingham the day before and I was keen to use the weekend away as an opportunity to enjoy a rare day or two in the mountains. Rather than heading North from Birmingham, we opted to sample the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, mainly as it was closer to home.
Now, the Brecons are not easy to shoot. At all. They certainly *feel* like mountains when you're dragging 35lbs of camera gear from the valley to the peaks, but they don't offer much in the way of dramatic vistas. The skies were pretty dynamic on the afternoon we slogged our way to the tops and I was optimistic of getting the shot I'd envisioned, however, such was my focus on getting one specific shot, I completely ignored the warnings of 50-60mph winds. I also misjudged the contours on the map and we ended up meandering several miles off course. Eventually, we took the direct route to the ridge I'd planned on shooting from which took us over unforgivingly boggy terrain. As we approached our destination, the winds whipped up carrying with them pellets of snow and ice and when we reached the ridge we were literally struggling to stay upright and quickly abandoned the idea and sought shelter. We were at least a mile away from where I'd planned on being for sunset and the skies began to close like leaden blankets as the winds intensified.
The shot I envisioned was never going to happen. I was so busy beating myself up on the long trudge back off the peaks that I failed to shoot a moment of beautiful light that opened up in the valleys, kissing the treetops with its golden glow. I almost always shoot with my tripod, and so habitual has this become that I simply dismissed any idea of going handheld and bumping up the ISO a little. As a consequence, it felt like I came back completely empty-handed with the exception of the image that accompanies this piece.
As we drove home, my head in a funk and my quads raging like fire, I reflected on lessons I could tweeze out of our mountain day.
1. It's worth acknowledging just how challenging it is to shoot areas that you've never shot before - there really is no substitute for familiarity and local knowledge.
2. It's always worth spending a little more time in a location if you want to get anything other than the basic iconic shot that everyone else has.
3. Flexibility and adaptability are the most important assets you have as a photographer. Don't be dead set on capturing one image - be willing to think outside the box.