April 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Monument Valley at sunset, in the middle of a dust storm
I almost didn't take this photo.
Until this day, our trip had gone smoothly and according to plan. We'd hit our sites and experienced good weather, but this day was different.
When traveling for photography, it's more important than ever to keep an eye on the forecast. This particular Wednesday called for a "Dust Storm Warning," a term which I'd never previously heard growing up in the midwest.
Some days don't go according to plan
We initially planned to go to Antelope Canyon in mid-morning, but the guides told us that the dust pouring into the canyon would wreak havoc on our cameras and keep us from getting any shots. We thanked them for their honesty and pressed on toward Monument Valley.
As the hours passed, the dust and wind only intensified, sometimes bringing the visibility down to zero. By the middle of the afternoon, I lamented on Facebook that some days just don't go according to plan, and I feared that we would have to scrap all of our locations for the day. We drove around for a while looking for alternate spots, but I just wasn't seeing anything.
Finally in the late afternoon, storms moved through bringing rain to settle some of the dust, but water is not much better for cameras than dust.
The storms ended with about half an hour to sunset, and we decided to drive back out to Monument Valley. We drove from sunlight back into dust, and finally storm clouds as we approached the entrance road. I don't exaggerate when I say we had just five minutes of light to work with while winds gusting up to 50 mph trying to push us down into the valley. I did as much as I could with those five minutes before the light left for good and rain began to fall.
Just one good moment
I say all of that to say: don't give up on a shot. There were lots of times that day I should have called the whole thing off, but one of the great things about photography is that you don't need a whole day to make a shot - you need one good moment of light, and the sense to be there when it happens. Storms and bad weather make for some of the most dramatic and interesting light you'll see.
Be smart and keep yourself safe, and if the weather doesn't destroy your gear, you just might get something good.
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