SOMETIMES IT’S BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN GOOD

Two large rock formations, bathed in warm, orange light from a nearby campfire. The Milky Way is centered between the two formations.
BIG SUR MILKY WAY | BIG SUR – CALIFORNIA

LUCK

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.

STORY

A valley filled with yellow flowers overlooks the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Big Sur, California.
BIG SUR FLOWER BLOOM | BIG SUR – CALIFORNIA

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.

Foreground of green and red succulents looking over a natural stone arch battered by the Pacific Ocean.
BIG SUR STONE ARCH | BIG SUR – CALIFORNIA

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.

Two large rock formations, partially illuminated by flashlight. The Milky Way is centered between the two formations.
BIG SUR LIGHT PAINTING | BIG SUR – CALIFORNIA

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.

Two large rock formations, bathed in warm, orange light from a nearby campfire. The Milky Way is centered between the two formations.
BIG SUR MILKY WAY | BIG SUR – CALIFORNIA

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.

THANK YOU

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.

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