An Important Lesson for Landscape Photographers

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I have a short story to tell and a lesson to go with it for each landscape photographer out there. I was getting ready to teach a night photography/Milky Way workshop a few weeks ago. The weather forecast was, let’s say, abysmal. We had had several weeks of near constant rain. So, when the weather apps all said that we’d have thunderstorms during the workshop, my hopes for a clear sky diminished. For a brief moment, I considered canceling it. I actually had a couple of folks back out of the workshop, one of them strictly because of the forecast.

But one thing I’ve learned doing nature photography for years… you can’t trust the weather forecast. Sometimes, you just have to take a chance and GO! I have seen probably the best skies of my life after a tropical storm or hurricane passed by our coastline; thankfully not actually hitting us. Unfortunately, I saw it from my kitchen window… and not just once, but multiple times over several years. I’ve learned that, when a storm passes, DON’T STAY HOME! I’m still kicking myself for not heading out back then for the sunset.

So, with those past disappointments in mind, I kept the workshop on the calendar and tried to reassure my students that you never know what might happen. Your chances of success increase dramatically when you simply SHOW UP!

Well, we were rewarded for our perseverance. We arrived at the beach and noticed a group of people huddled near the dunes. Curiosity made me go over and see what was up. Sure enough, a sea turtle nest inventory was going on. We were all able to see 7-8 more loggerhead sea turtles dug out of the nest and released to the sea. They were given a head start in a challenging life. It was such a special moment and if we had stayed home, we never would have seen it.

Example of unexpected find for a landscape photographer

Baby Sea Turtle heading to the Atlantic.

Soon after that elation, we noticed that the clouds were breaking along the horizon. Suddenly, my heart started pumping a little faster. We were all getting excited about sunset possibilities. The clouds and sky put on quite a show for all of us over the next 30-45 minutes. It started subtly enough, just some pink hues behind the dunes.

Unexpected opportunities for a landscape photographer

Folly Beach Sand Dunes

A few minutes later, the sun danced across the sand and the clouds turned brilliant shades of orange, yellow, lavender, blue, and pink. I was running from student to student helping with compositions to shoot both wide angle (to get the grand scene) and telephoto images (to isolate smaller segments of the landscape).

It was truly magical. That doesn’t happen every day for a landscape photographer.

  • Sunrise on Atlantic Coast

    Sunrise on Atlantic Coast

  • A magical sunrise for Landscape Photographer on atlantic coast

    Sunrise on Atlantic Coast

We were having so much fun that we almost forgot this was a “Night Photography” workshop. If we had not seen the stars at all, we would have left extremely satisfied.

But what do you know? The clouds scattered after the sun went down and we were graced with stars, satellites, Mars, and even the Hubble Telescope crossing the core of the Milky Way. (We used the SkyGuide app to tell us what object was passing through our images.)

Night Photography for Landscape Photographer

Night Photography for Landscape Photographer

So what’s the moral of the story?

Don’t rely solely on the weather forecast. You never know what may happen and what good fortune may come your way. After all, if you stay home, you get nothing!

And then you see that awesome sky out of your kitchen window and you find yourself kicking yourself for giving up. Never again!

About Author Kate Silvia

Kate is a professional landscape photographer and educator based in Charleston, SC. Her intense passion for the natural world is matched only with her desire to share that passion with her students. "Being a great photographer is not about what kind of camera you own. It's about studying the light, crafting a great composition, and expressing your vision through practice and education"