Posted by: kerryl29 | July 9, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Conifer Silhouettes

During our trip to Alaska late last summer (early fall in Alaska), Ellen, Debbie and I dealt with more than our share of poor weather.  We encountered rain in some form or fashion on at least half the days of the trip, with two in particular near total washouts.  The heaviest rain day came during our transition from the Denali area back to Fairbanks in preparation for our foray north into the Brooks Range.  It was raining when we got up, it was raining when we loaded the car, it was raining during the entirety of our drive back to Fairbanks, it was raining when we unloaded the car that afternoon when we arrived at our hotel, it was raining when we made what seemed like our millionth trip to the camera store in Fairbanks, it was raining when we made our (futile) attempt to avoid having to take our rented vehicle to a car wash before returning it by cleaning the SUV ourselves…well, you get the idea.

We were sitting in the hotel that evening, when I noted that the rain had finally stopped.  I was in a chair but half-turned toward the window, when I noticed that the light was starting to look interesting for the first time that day.  Within a minute it started to look really interesting, and I said something to Ellen and Debbie before racing to my room to grab my backpack and tripod.  Ideally we would have set off for an interesting location–a return to Creamer’s Field, perhaps?–but there wasn’t time.  It would have taken us about 15 minutes just to drive to Creamer’s Field and who knows how much longer to advance by foot to an interesting spot.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the very last thing I want to do when the light is great is to be in a vehicle attemptimg to arrive somewhere before the spectacle fades.

What there was time to do was race down a flight of stairs into the hotel parking lot.  I had noticed, upon arrival, that there was a very nice stand of conifers right next to the lot and with a nice sky…let’s just say it had possibilities.

Hands down, this turned out to be the best sunset of the trip.  It was unfortunate that we weren’t somewhere else, somewhere spectacular–the Denali Highway, for instance–during this impressive display, but it was an opportunity to implement another maxim I’ve come to appreciate over the years:  don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Sunset Sky, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska


  1. Absolutely agree — always take the shot you have, before searching for something else/better. And the flip side is to not stop with the first composition; keep looking for something better/different, as long as conditions remain interesting.

    • “always take the shot you have, before searching for something else/better”

      In the past, I’ve referred to this as the “bird in the hand” approach to photography.

  2. Quite right! Seize the day (or moment)

  3. A lot of wisdom in a short space-and spectacular sunset!

  4. “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” – words to live by, Kerry. Gorgeous photo.

  5. The perfect description of how to miss a wonderful shot – trying to be somewhere and miss it on the way. Happens all the time to me. I wish I’ve learned my lesson by now.

    • Don’t beat yourself up too badly–it happens to all of us. On this very blog I’ve detailed a number of occasions when I’ve found myself in the car chasing the light for one reason or another.

      It’s torture, but the goal should be to minimize the number of times this happens because eliminating it entirely appears to be impossible. 🙂

  6. Amazing!

  7. When you get good light, even in a hotel parking lot, it’s time to be thankful. It was an amazing sunset that would have been beautiful on its own, but the tall conifers silhouetted against the orange sky gave it dimension and a sense of place. Thanks for the great memory!

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