Yesterday started so well. America decided to open it’s National Parks again so I get to see Yosemite after all. A final breakfast at Renaud’s, a fond farewell to my airbnb host, a lovely trip along PCH1 towards Santa Ynez. I stopped at Cachuma Lake where the staff were courteous and helpful.
I spent a happy couple of hours taking photos by the lake, I bought some lunch from the store there and sat down to eat it while looking at the fabulous view below. I went back to my car. I didn’t have the keys.
Taken where I ate lunch moments before things went pear-shaped
I only had pockets in my jeans and they were not in there. I went back to the bench where I’d eaten my lunch and they were not there. I walked back to the car and guess what? They were not there, either.
I’m not given to panic, especially but it was at this moment that the growing swell of anxiety issued forth in a groan I’m surprised you didn’t hear back in the UK. The car hire documents were, of course, back in the car. The prospect of an entire afternoon spent trying to sort this mess out loomed large and miserable before me. I had obviously dropped the keys somewhere on my travels. My travels that encompassed a couple of hours wandering around near the lakes below, as you may recall. The words needle and haystack sprang to mind. A few colourful metaphors may have passed my lips as frustration joined anxiety for a party at the back of my brain and the pit of my stomach. I won’t repeat them here for you, dear reader, for I know you are a sensitive soul.
So it was time to stay frosty and retrace my steps. I was at the car and decided to do the whole thing backwards. Lunch was the last thing I had done before noticing the keys were missing. So, even though I had already looked there, back to the lunch table I would go, scouring the ground as I did so. Twenty feet into the search, there were my keys, lying on the ground between the bench and my car. ‘Thank Donald Duck!’ I shouted. That’s rhyming slang in Blighty for… well, you can work it out.
Relieved, I began my journey again. One of the nice things about travelling alone is that you really do just suit yourself and on a journey where you want to stop every now and again to take photos, that solitude is perfect. And this is exactly what I did, several times on my trip to Arroyo Grande; pull over when something caught my eye and take photos of it. I employed a favourite technique of mine, long exposures with narrow apertures and low iso. Drink in colour and detail, composition is King. I had a great time indulging my passion.
There was another mishap, though. I’m using a Sony NEX6 and had it mounted on my Manfrotto tripod by the roadside. I had just put my mount for my ND grads on it. I turned back to the car and picked up the wallet with the grads in it, turned back round… and my tripod had blown over. The camera was fine but the ND mount… broken. I have learnt not to stress such things, however. A new mount won’t cost much and at least the grads were not in it at the time.
The astute amongst you, though, will have pieced together the clues in the text above and realised what my third mishap of the day was to be. Even the most experienced photographer can get caught out by a combination of elements and yesterday, that happened to me.
I carried a light/mid-weight tripod to the States with me from the UK. The CSC I’m using doesn’t need anything larger and carrying it on my back all day at the age of 52, neither do I. It was a windy day. I was using long exposures, like I do back in the UK where I have a heavier tripod. When I came to review my shots in the evening on a screen larger than my camera’s eyepiece, small amounts of camera shake were evident on about half of them. In the afternoon, when I was pulling over in the open spaces around PCH1 and the wind was higher, the effect was worse. It was such a disappointment. Carefully composed shots blurred. Images of places I’ll never go back to again unusable.
Like I say, it can happen to the most experienced and is a lesson learned. For you, dear reader, I hope it’s learned by reading this and not by losing precious memories. And you can guess who’s going to be buying a new tripod today, can’t you?
Take a look at more of my work at www.billblack.co.uk