Same but Different

It certainly doesn’t come as any surprise, but I’m still sometimes intrigued by how different the same basic subject can appear from one day to the next.

I’ve spent the last few days teaching various subjects at the California Photo Festival in and around San Luis Obispo, California. On two consecutive mornings I led a group of photographers on a sunrise photo shoot.

The first sunrise shoot was atop the hills overlooking the valley between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay. It had been raining off and on for several days leading up to this outing, and it was a little foggy on the drive up to the hilltop. I was feeling a little nervous that we’d be fogged in, as had happened the prior year at the same location. Fortunately, the fog and clouds turned into a positive, and we were fortunate enough to get a stretch of beautiful golden color.

While I spent most of the time offering guidance on identifying areas of the landscape all around us that offered photographic potential, keeping tabs on the development of the rainbow that appeared behind us, and offering a play-by-play of what I expected the color and light to do based on the clouds on the horizon, I did capture some images along the way as well. I mostly focused on the backlit and very colorful landscape below, leaving the sun out of the frame and instead focusing on the fog and clouds that blended with the hills to create an almost fiery appearance.

The next morning I led a sunrise photo shoot at a winery in the North County not too far from San Luis Obispo. While the pre-dawn skies were clear over San Luis Obispo, as I got closer to Paso Robles that changed, and there was patchy thick fog and clouds. Again, I was nervous about what the sunrise would look like.

We were once again in a slightly elevated position, and fortunately that put us above the fog and clouds. The result was an incredible landscape with hills and fog blended together. So once again I focused on the landscape itself, intrigued by how the fog reduced visibility but actually enhanced the “layered” appearance of the landscape, providing a greater sense of depth.

As the sun rose higher the fog and clouds also rose higher, so we never got any real color. It was a huge contrast from the previous morning that offered up tremendous color. And yet it was similar in terms of the interplay of clouds and fog with the landscape.

There was a lot of similarity between the two sunrise photo shoots. Both were, of course, at sunrise. Both were at an elevated position. Both involved a hilly landscape with scattered fog and clouds. And yet the experience and the photographs were dramatically different.

Have you experienced the same basic subject at about the same time, but with remarkably different results? Feel free to share your comments below, including a link to some of your images if you’d like…

About Tim Grey

Tim Grey is in the business of making photographers smarter and happier. He is the author of more than a dozen books on digital imaging for photographers, has written hundreds of magazine articles, and publishes the Ask Tim Grey e-mail newsletter as well as the Pixology digital magazine. He also speaks at a variety of events and leads photography workshops around the world.
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2 Responses to Same but Different

  1. Mario says:

    Gorgeous captures! I’m going back to Big Sur and the Central California Coast in December for my third trip in as many years. Morro Bay is a phenomenal place.

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