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Chasing the Light

As a part time photographer and full time financial marketing consultant, the amount of hours available in a week to create images can be limited. Some weeks afford more opportunities than others, but with the end of autumn approaching, I felt compelled to get out and produce a "fall" piece before it was too late. As I go about my day to day hustle, I'm always on the lookout for intriguing compositions and today was no exception. I was wrapping up a few items at the "office" (I work from home) and was preparing to pick up our daughter from school. I run downstairs, grab the keys and my "kit" (photog lingo for camera gear), as we're going winter clothes shopping this afternoon and I was confident that with all the store hopping required to locate "legit" (kid speak for great things) items that an incredible image would be found as well.

As we bounced from store to store picking up sweaters, pants, and various other essentials I was focused on quality time spent with her along with something that would inspire a brilliant image. As the afternoon progressed, meaningful photographic ideas were no where to be found and time was running out. We would need to head home shortly to get ready for the Pinecrest game this evening. High school football in Pinehurst, North Carolina is almost as popular as the golf courses, and this year more so than ever as the Patriots are in the playoffs! 

As we headed home, passing the numerous golf courses associated with the Pinehurst Resort, our daughter comments on the sunset, which felt like salt in the wound at the time. She was right though, the light was near perfect, but locating something interesting to shoot with it was absent...then there "she" was! Out of the corner of my eye, across the fairway and just beyond a putting green, I see her standing alone, confident, with brilliant orange and yellow leaves shifting in the wind and sparkling with the sun. I knew this is what I was searching for, but I was also well aware that time was not on my side, as this moment would not last long.

I abruptly pull the car to the side of the road, grab my kit and frantically run towards her. A gentlemen on the course hits a towering 9 iron towards the green as I dash under it and across the fairway (I'm certain he thought, "this tree hugging hippy has lost his mind"). As I approach her I begin searching for the perfect composition. I parade around in every direction examining potential angles, like a detective investigating a crime scene. Typically, I would never compose a shot with the subject smack dab in the middle of the frame, but the simplicity and symmetry worked with my vision for the image. I decided a long lens (70 - 200mm/f4) was just the instrument needed to compress the scene and really make her stand out.

Once I settled on the exact composition, I grabbed my tripod and assembled my gear. I swiftly meter the light (cameras ability to measure the amount of available light) and adjust my settings. I set the aperture to f8, shutter speed to 1/15th of a second, focal length of 165mm and ISO 100. With the sun drifting below the tree line and the light fading quickly, I began to shoot. With each shot, the sun lowers closer and closer towards the horizon and the "perfect" light begins to fade. The feeling of defeat settles in, as I tweak my settings after each shot to account for the depleting light, but after multiple adjustments and seven images later I had captured what I felt was the perfect exposure. A huge relief - I knew I had accomplished what I set out to do - it was a success! 

With the timing of this image, days before Thanksgiving, I've been thinking about all the many blessings in my life and how fortunate I am to have my family. Those that I live with, my wife and children, along with those that I don't. In a perfect world, all family members would be together during the holidays, but that's seldom the case. As life advances, loved ones pass and others grow in different directions, but the closeness can always be found no matter how great the distance. I came across the below text that fits perfectly, not only with the image, but also with what I'm most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

  Family. Like branches on a tree, we may grow in different directions, but our roots remain as one.

I hope your holiday season is filled with joyful time spent with loved ones, both near and far.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Mark