Wind Turbines, Sunset Clouds. Altamont Pass, California. February 05, 2011. © Copyright 2011 Steven Tze – all rights reserved.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much prep time you put into a day of shooting, opportunity and luck play a large part in capturing the best photos of the day.
Having driven through Altamont Pass between the cities of Tracy and Livermore several times previously, I had finally scheduled a day of shoot there. My usual checklist of tasks days before include printing out satellite images of the area from Google Maps, checking sunrise and sunset times and using TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris) to pinpoint those times for specific locations/geography, looking through Flickr for any location highlights from other photogs, and finally marking up my maps with not only spots to shoot at but also the direction to shoot from.
In theory, I should be prepared, right?
Yes and no. If you’ve never been to a location before, everything I’ve done able is a good starting point. It helps keep you on a schedule of sorts. If you’re through most your shooting day and have only hit 2 of 15 shooting locations, you have to the make the decision to either scrap some, most, or all of the remaining spots. Maybe 1 or 2 of the locations are sunset or evening specific; then those can remain.
More often than not, you ADD locations when you’re out and about shooting. Out at Altamont Pass on this day, railroad overpasses, turbine reflections off rain puddles, a winery in Livermore, and random alignment of turbines caught my eye and forced me to stop and shoot.
After an aside on those potential ad hoc shots, this photo is NOT one of them! This specific cluster of turbines, on N Midway Road just south of the defunct and infamous Altamont Speedway, was 1 of 13 I had wanted to shoot and had indicated on my map as both a potential sunrise or sunset area. I had first passed this cluster midday while on my way to shoot the speedway and passed for a third and final time at sunset when the color in the skies caught my eye. The shape of the clouds mirrors the blades of the first 3 turbines and reminds me of those winged women statues atop pillars in France.
EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 45mm, ISO 200, 1/13 sec, f/5.6