Posted by: kerryl29 | February 11, 2019

Second Chances

As I’ve noted in the past on this blog, one of the primary advantages of photographing at nearby locations is that you can return with relative ease.

In my experience, the best photographic opportunities pertaining to a location are rarely realized on a first visit.  Exploration and growing familiarity with an area can’t be overrated when considering their impact on imagery, for a variety of reasons:

  • You can better predict how certain elements will look under different lighting conditions at different times of the year.
  • You have a better sense of when certain flowers or flowering trees will bloom and when fall colors will develop; or when rivers and creeks will be relatively high or low.
  • Where the sun will come up and where it will set.
  • Etc.

The benefits of experience are nearly limitless and the more accessible a place is to to you, the better you’ll be able to capture its essence.

But what about all of those places that aren’t nearby?  The familiarity advantage is essentially universal, but what if you can’t apply it due to the inaccessability of locations?  When it comes to distant places, we’re mostly left to consider, with much chagrin, what might have been…

But I’ve been lucky enough to have had a second chance at a number of locations that I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to revisit.  This afforded me the occasion to act on the experience of the first go-round at the same spot.

Here are my three most meaningful–and memorable–recent examples of opportunities to revisit specific, distant locations under what I hoped would be specific conditions, to experience something that I explicitly missed on the first go-round.

Lake O’Hara & the Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara from the West Opabin Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

The most consequential of these examples was at Lake O’Hara.  On my first visit to the Canadian Rockies, I managed to snag a single day pass to Lake O’Hara at something close to the last minute.  (Access to the area is restricted; you can read more about the details here.)  As I noted in my post covering the experience, after great anticipation, I was “treated” to absolutely miserable weather conditions (in the form of an all-day soaking rain).  If that didn’t entirely ruin the experience, it did put me knee-deep in a year-long retrospective of what might I’d been denied.

Hungabee Lake Outlet Stream, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

I felt so strongly that I’d missed out on something truly special that I managed to finagle a return visit to the region the following year and was able to book access to the Lake O’Hara area on three separate days–a hedge against the notoriously fickle weather.  It paid off spectacularly.  I will feel forever lucky to have experienced time on the Opabin Plateau on a picture perfect Indian summer day.

Cascade Lakes Reflections, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Redwoods, Rhododendrons & Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

During a visit to the Oregon Coast (see below) in early May a few years ago, I made a brief side trip to the coastal redwoods region of far northern California, since I’d never been there and I was so close…and who knew if I’d ever have another chance to go again?  Although I knew I was probably too early in the month, I had hoped to catch the bloom of the Pacific rhododendron that is so prolific (and beautiful) in this area.  I had also hoped to experience the redwood forest in fog (which I had been told was ubiquitous).  All three–redwoods, rhododendron blossoms and fog–would have been sublime.  But I ‘d have settled for two of three.

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I got the redwoods, of course, and they were spectacular.  But I got little beyond a few rhododendron buds and saw almost no fog, despite spending parts of four days in the forest.  Amazing as the forest was, I had to admit to a bit of disappointment (though I tried to tell myself otherwise).

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

So, when I returned to California in May of 2017–ostensibly to spend time photographing in Yosemite National Park and the Eastern Sierra, I specifically built in a few days to make the extremely long and entirely inconvenient drive all the way to Crescent City in the hopes of catching the rhododendron bloom back in redwood country.  Some fog would be the icing on the cake.  The “inconvenience” of adding far northern California to the itinerary was completely forgotten when, on the final morning of my time there, everything came together so marvelously that I couldn’t possibly have imagined anything better.  It was a transcendent experience.

Oregon Coast

China Creek Beach Sunset, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I had visited the Oregon Coast, as a bit of whirlwind, over parts of four days (it’s not nearly as much time as it sounds–just two full days, plus an afternoon/evening and early morning) back in 2009, at the tail end of a trip to the Pacific Northwest.  It was, in essence, a lesson in over scheduling.  When I decided to try to make up for a combination of inadequate time and subpar conditions by rescheduling a trip–limited entirely to the southern coast area–in 2015, I was absolutely committed to the idea of learning from my earlier experience:  I gave myself much more time and limited myself to a far narrower area.  This paid off.

China Creek Beach from Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I timed the trip, in part, to avoid the seemingly endless Pacific summer marine layer, which had plagued me so relentlessly during my first go-round on the coast.  This ended up being a good call, as I saw very little of the mist the second time, which made for an entirely different experience on the beaches and viewpoints.  In essence, I had the opportunity to simply view–and photograph–scenes that had been entirely hidden on my first visit.

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

These second chance opportunities have been some of my most satisfying photographic experiences, and not merely because of the opportunity to leverage the benefits of earlier times at these locations.  There’s a real sense of fulfillment that accompanies seeing something through, even if it takes years to scratch a festering itch.  These aren’t occasions to tick certain “get the the shot” items off of a list.  They are, at least for me, reflective of the chance to experience something unique and memorable and I hope to have more such opportunities in the future.


  1. The first trip is essentially a scouting mission. Subsequent visits allow you to dig deeper, concentrate on certain elements and bypass others, and come away with a feeling that it was worth returning. Often you talk about not just the decision to go to a particular place, but the lost opportunities to spend the time somewhere else. I’m sure that is always on your mind when making a return visit, but you have demonstrated that these were wise decisions. Alaska 2020 beckons!

    • Yes indeed. The examples I cited in the post were cases where something was eating at me, long after having made the first visit–instances where I’d felt I’d really missed out something. And, each time, the return trip emphatically verified the point.

  2. Fog and Reflections are always my favourites.

    • Thanks, Jane!

  3. Beautiful Kerry. My wife and I over the past couple years have managed a couple quite brief but specatular visits to Yoho, on our way from coastal BC to Alberta. We plan a few more. Your photos here show how sublime it is. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Bruce!

      Yoho’s very nice, and given its location can easily be combined with trips to Banff and Jasper NPs. Do note that the Yoho images in this post depict locations that require special access. But there are plenty of other spots–Natural Bridge, Emerald Lake, Takkakaw Falls, Wapta Falls, Wapta Marsh, etc.–in Yoho that don’t require any special permits or scheduling and are well worth checking out.

      • Yes Kerry. It’s the easier access sites that Fran and I have begun to check out. We’d like walk around Emerald Lake, or a portion of it – we stopped in November and discovered it’s beauty. Also, we’ve yet to visit Takkakaw Falls. It’s amazing that I’ve driven though the park on the Trans Canada Highway probably a dozen or more times in my life, but only recently took the time to stop and see. We also only recently discovered some of Jasper NP’s wonders. Cheers to you for sharing your images and for the reminder of all the beauty that surrounds us, amidst the some time chaotic and crazy world.

  4. Wonderful photos! Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks very much!

  5. The first photo, Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara, that is one stunning shot. It has the look of painting.

  6. Great tips and beautiful images! The Oregon coast is an ever-changing favorite of mine.

    • Thanks very much!

      And, agreed; the Oregon coast is the very definition of a place suitable for second chances…and third, fourth, fifth (ad infinitum) chances, for that matter.

      • Yes! I love the rocky coastline around Gold Beach, especially.

        • The last time I was on the Oregon coast (May, 2015), I spent a week based in Gold Beach. If you’re interested, you can follow this link to access the first blog entry I posted from that trip, and if you simply follow the link at the bottom of the text forward you can access the rest of the entries from that trip.

        • Thank you, Kerry! I’ve saved it for later—like dessert! 😊👍

  7. Although getting the weather right can be important, I think there’s a feeling that develops for a particular place that can’t be put into words, but that can be just as important. And I think a sensitive person can start to get that after just a few visits. Certain features that might have grabbed the eye the first time drop away a little and others come to the fore, and the whole gestalt makes more sense. It’s just a never-ending delight, photographing outdoors.

    • Interesting thoughts. My sense is that the less spectacular (and the less iconic) a location is, the more one is inclined to tease out the nuance. But I definitely agree; the more frequent the visits, the more likely the nuance is to reveal itself, regardless of the subject matter.

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