Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.Seneca
In this week’s article I’ll share how a little bit of luck helped me create this Milky Way photograph in Big Sur.
California is an incredible place to live for many reasons. As a landscape photographer, California provides an endless amount of beauty to capture. It’s also great to finally live someplace that friends want to come visit!
In July 2018 some friends were taking a road trip through California. My girlfriend and I made plans to meet them for a weekend of camping and exploring Big Sur.
I’d had the chance to do some work in the area, so I suggested several locations for us to explore. Also, as part of the trip planning I checked the moon phase to see if we could see the Milky Way. To my delight, there was going to be a new moon during that time. This meant we were going to stay up pretty late one night watching and photographing the night sky.
For this part of our trip, I’d scouted a great stretch of beach that was away from light pollution. This is an important consideration because too many city lights can make seeing the stars impossible. With the location selected, I started to plan the rest of the necessary details.
THE NIGHT ARRIVED
On the night of the trip we left camp around 10:00pm to reach the planned spot. Stepping out from under the trees, all of us let out an audible GASP at the sight of the night sky. Not only were we treated to the multitude of stars, but the Galactic Center of the Milky Way stretched as far overhead as we could see.
After marveling for a while at the beautiful night sky we made our way to the spot I’d planned to photograph. Reaching the destination I set up my camera and tripod, composed my frame, then started teaching my three new assistants about working in the dark. For the next several hours we happily worked together to light paint various features of the scene.
As the night turned into early morning the energy of the group started to wane. With a sense of satisfaction at the work we had done, I started to break down my equipment for the trip back to camp. However, something made me stop what I was doing and put the camera back on the tripod.
A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK
Unbeknownst to us, a person arrived near the end of our photoshoot. None of us noticed him until the first flickers of his campfire started casting a warm glow on the scene. As the fire grew so did the intensity of the orange light that illuminated the landscape.
I had this feeling that the color of the light would be a pretty cool photograph. So, I snapped a few frames. I was blown away! To thank the stranger who had made such a cool impact I showed him the resulting photos on the back of my camera.
This is not something that I planned for, but it sure made the scene look truly unique. I felt extremely lucky to have had the chance to see and capture this moment beneath the stars in Big Sur, California.
I hope you enjoyed this lesson on how, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. Have you ever had a similar experience? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time, see you on the trail.
Matt is a creative fine art landscape and commercial photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He stepped away from a successful engineering career in the midwest and moved to California to chase his dream of becoming a full-time professional photographer. Over the last two years, Matt has traveled the world chasing light and capturing one-of-a-kind landscapes.
He enjoys sharing his adventures with family, friends, and strangers along the way. When he is not hiking to a remote location, Matt enjoys volunteering for local and national conservation organizations. His mission is to share the world with people, inspire a sense of adventure, and to make a difference for the planet.