I got up well before first light in Yosemite the first morning I was there last weekend and set out to find, quickly, a good spot to set up for sunrise.
I caught this waterfall from Swinging Bridge but the light was flat and disappointing and I immediately started to get frustrated. I don’t know how many times I need to be reminded that I’m in the right place at the right time as I relate to the universe before it drills into my head, but this was another one of those mornings. I know I can’t be the only one who experiences this, and I think my excitement and enthusiasm builds up so far that it crashes down into frustration when I realize, for example, that maybe this sunrise was going to be a biff and I’d need to start over the next morning.
Fortunately, light in Yosemite Valley seems to move slower when it comes to sunrise given the high mountains surrounding the valley and I had time to start moving locations. And, thankfully, Michele went back to get the car as I walked up the road quickly in the mostly dark to position in a meadow. I emerged to find Yosemite Falls directly to my left and I realized that the sunlight at first light over the mountain would hit the falls.
Not bad, I thought, through a cloud of disappointing frustration. Now, I don’t want to use the word “tantrum” because it wasn’t quite that bad, but Michele calls it my Donald Duck fits.
This was more like silent fuming but the day hadn’t even started. It was diffusing by the time I was shooting the falls and I realized, again, that I can’t start off getting frustrated just because everything isn’t perfect right off the bat. After all, I watched an entire episode of Peter Lik’s show where he hikes all day to a spot only to realize he busted his lens when he dropped his pack down a hillside – and at least on camera – he wasn’t overly pissed.
Of course, Peter Lik gets to travel the world every day to take pictures, I get three days every quarter if I’m lucky and spend the rest of my days at my desk pimping video games.
So all of these thoughts were going through my head when out of the corner of my eye to the right I saw motion. I turned to look and simultaneously I saw a raven swooping in super low to the ground, and a bobcat coming right for me.
Now, for the uninitiated, there are several different species of Lynx and bobcats are usually 20-30 pounds (like a big housecat) while males can be 30-40 pounds (like a cocker spaniel.) But, this cat was coming right for the shelter of my tripod as this raven was coming down to rain hell upon her. I saw a bigger cat in Sedona, but this one must’ve been a female, it wasn’t much bigger than Sir Elvis.
I didn’t know what natural conflict was going on around me but I didn’t want to scare the cat. Seeing it so up close (I could have reached down to touch it) was so tremendously amazing and I was so grateful for the few seconds I had with it as we locked eyes. It froze, I froze.
My tripod was fixed at Yosemite Falls — moving it would have spooked the cat and I’d have never gotten a good chance to photograph her. So I let her slowly back away (the raven had flown off) and go around me. She never took her eyes off mine but when she realized I wasn’t going to make a move to do her harm she slowed down like it was no big deal. Fucking cats.
I slowly but efficiently (practice makes PERFECT) unhooked my camera from my tripod and moved it from M to S and upped my ISO within nanoseconds of smooth, nonsudden movements.
She was about 12 feet away from me now, heading into the meadow. The sun broke onto the waterfall behind me, first light unnoticed. I paced the cat as she jumped up on to a log and scrunched up and posed.
With places to go that morning she didn’t stay long and eventually meandered away after a minute or two, but not before I fired off several dozen shots freehand, desperately trying to get one in as crisp focus as possible (lest we forget my complete black bear fuck up in Aspen.)
And then she was gone. And I stood there in awe of the lesson I had to learn AGAIN: I’m in the right place as I am meant to be and there’s no reason to get so frustrated:
Go with the flow.
Be the waterfall, dummy.