• Craig Getchius

Chasing the Light

A few years back when I decided to concentrate my photography on landscapes, nature and wildlife I figured it wouldn’t take long for me to become an overnight success.  I envisioned a life of visiting exotic locations, creating photographs that Ansel Adams would be proud of.  I saw myself camping out under the stars and eating in small diners where the cliental and staff would be enamored with my photography and my philosophy of life.  I would meet attractive middle age woman who because of my profession and success would have teenage-like crushes over me.  In the evening I would frequent bars across the country and have wonderful conversations about photography and about the location I was visiting.  I would give lectures on my photography.  Tell stories of tracking bears and how to photograph mountain lions safely.  Galleries and art museums would plead with me to have the opportunity to showcase my work.  Yep, back then I had an active imagination. I must admit that even today I do too much daydreaming.

Daydreams are rarely based on reality.  I learned quickly that photographing landscapes, nature and wildlife is neither glamorous or easy.  Photographing landscapes and nature is about “chasing the light and waiting.”

Which means when you are on location you get up before dawn.  Yep, sometimes the best light is just before the sun peaks above the horizon or just after it sets in the evening.  You race to your location only to sit and wait for the light to be just right.  You shoot your subject wide then zoom in. Just when the light is perfect  the sun peaks out from a cloud or goes behind a cloud.  You are a paparazzi photographer of nature and there are many times God and mother nature do not want to cooperate.

When on location your day will start out with having a breakfast bar or doughnut or if you are really lucky an Egg McMuffin for breakfast.  You drink coffee, which I have never acquired a taste for, or down a cola, which I love but my stomach hates. You do this for the caffeine, just to get the blurriness out of your eyes and to erase the cobwebs from your brain.  While drinking such beverages you are racing down a dusty country road in the dark trying to get to your destination before the light. Then you arrive and you wait.  While you wait you look up, you look down, you look behind you because there is just something that might happen that needs to be captured.  Then the moment comes to take the photograph and stuff happens and all your planning goes out the door.  You are shooting by instinct. Afterwards you either get in the car and drive or set out on a hike searching for that perfect undiscovered location.

Then you’re tired.  If you are lucky you are not sleeping in the car or at a campsite.  You go to your motel for four or five hours of sleep.  You pull the curtains to block the sunlight.  You lay in bed trying to rest as tourist walk the hallways, babies cry, teenagers laugh, couples fight and worse of all the motel maids ignore the “do not disturb” sign hanging on your door.  Then a few hours before sunset you are back on location.  Finally around ten you try to find a place to eat.  If you are luck you end up at a bar and have a beer, hamburger and chips.  You see people in friendly conversation but you are just too exhausted to engage.  Finally back to the motel. You download the images onto your laptop.  You delete a few images, set the alarm for four in the morning and go to bed.

That is typical of my life on location as a nature, landscape and wildlife photographer.  It sounds rather mundane.  In actuality it is a blast.  For you see when you chase the light and then actually capture the light as a photographer you experience a sense of euphoria.  When you get back to your digital darkroom and you process the print and you mat and frame the print the feeling of satisfaction is overwhelming.  When the public states their approval of your image and your work starts showing up on people’s living room walls you have a great feeling of pride.  Yep that is what it is all about.

Chasing the light and waiting is a wonderful way to enjoy one’s own life. – CLG