The best landscape shots can require planning and preparation, but when the shot doesn’t come together, photographers can still walk away with something valuable.To get ready for the lunar eclipse, I spent a couple days going out and scouting locations. I knew that the moon would be high in the sky at the peak of the eclipse, so I needed something tall to anchor the foreground.
I’m not good at visualizing locations based on the angle measurements most resources provide. The moon being at 63 degrees doesn’t cut it for what I was trying to do. With that in mind, I finally got around to buying PhotoPills, an app that came highly recommended. It feels expensive for an app, but I found the visualization tools really useful. I found a perfect saguaro, a tall cactus native to my area. It’s iconic, and the limbs of the cactus would make a great foreground element.
With my shot planned out, all that was left was waiting for the moonrise. Unfortunately, we had patchy clouds, and they were only getting worse. I still made the drive out to the location, hoping things would get better, but realized I was entirely clouded out.
I stuck around for a while, and was feeling pretty disappointed that I wasn't going to get a shot. I walked around, and tried to work some different angles, but the clouds just ruined any chance at a clear image. I had already missed a good portion of the eclipse, and was going to pack it in, when I noticed a little gap in the clouds. I decided to wait another few minutes, and was rewarded with my first real view of the moon that night.
This shot isn’t going to win any awards — there were still some wispy, high altitude clouds, and I had missed my chance to include a foreground element, but I’m happy to have gotten something.
Looking back, I’m almost happy it turned out this way. I got to learn a new tool for scouting locations, and I still had a good time out under the stars. I wish the shot that I planned for would have worked out, but sometimes you need a reminder that landscape photography is equal parts planning and compensating for the conditions out there. The next eclipse in my area isn’t for a few years, so I’m hoping for a clearer forecast then. Until then, however, I’m happy to apply my new, more patient mindset to some other images.
Have you had an experience where you failed to get the shot? If you at least learned something from it, whether that thing is big or small, you should still take it as a win.
Lead image by Chuttersnap