Aging the New Moulton Barn Roof in Lightroom:

The Powerful Adjustment Brush in Action!

Bright New Roof

Crews just finished roofing the main part of the T.A. Moulton barn along Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park. Earlier in the year, volunteers replaced the shake shingles on the two sheds on the same barn. Unless the Park stains the new portions (especially the most recent additions), it will take Mother Nature a year or so to naturally age the bright new panels of rough sawn pine. The image above shows its current state.

Photo purists might frown on modifying the image, and that’s perfectly fine, but if it annoys you and you are willing to spend a few extra minutes in Adobe Lightroom, you can at least reduce the bright glow of the roof. The steps are fairly simple — and the same steps can be used regularly on a variety of images and projects.

Adjustment Brush

The Adjustment Brush is found on the far right of the Tools. (Shortcut Key: K) In my opinion, it is the most powerful and versatile tool of the group and perfect for this project.

Show Pins

Once the Adjustment Brush is selected, a new set of fairly important choices appear near the bottom (under the photo). For each new edit with the Adjustment Brush, an “edit pin” is added to the screen. I prefer “Always”. This allows me to see all of the pins and select the one I might need to adjust. The shortcut to toggle the pins on and off is the H key (think of Hide). Similarly, you can view a mask indicating where the adjustments are made. The default color is red. The shortcut key to toggle it on and off is the O key (mask Overlay) or simply click the check box on or off.

Basic Menu

The basic Adjustment Brush panel looks something like the image above. The Up/Down arrows shown in the large oval allow you to pick from one of dozens of adjustments. For this initial step, I chose Exposure. Just to the right is a small triangle. Clicking it will either expand or collapse the additional adjustment options. The illustration above shows it while collapsed. Knowing I would be trying to darken the roof, I put in a negative amount by dragging the slider. The amount entered is really not that important initially.

Brush Size

The three sliders just below the Amount slider control the brush size, feather amount, and flow. Notice I have Auto Mask checked and Density set to 100. Drag the Size slider left or right to change the size, or click the open and closed bracket keys on the keyboard. Hold down the Shift Key while clicking the open or closed bracket keys to increase or decrease the amount of Feather the brush will have (hard or soft edges). Also, you can use your scroll mouse to adjust the brush size including holding down the Shift Key to adjust the Feather amount. The Flow slider imitates how quickly the effect is applied. For this project, a setting near 100 is fine, but you might lower it when darkening skies. Auto Mask helps keep the adjustment inside well defined borders.

First Brush

With the settings from the previous image, I simply painted over the roof with a mid-sized brush. The image above shows the first click before dragging the cursor around. I used a mouse for this project. A Wacom pressure sensitive tablet might be even better for this kind of editing.

Red Mask

When the Overlay Mask is turned on, you’ll see where you painted. Click O to see it or hide it. The Auto Mask feature allows you to be a bit sloppy. Also, notice the new little circle (edit pin) at the top corner of the barn.

-.76 Results

With the Overlay Mask turned off, you can see the results of the -.76 Exposure adjustment.


To darken the roof a little more, I went back to the slider and changed it. The adjustments are dynamic, meaning you can see how the adjustment is affecting the image.

-2.38 Adjustment

This is the result of the -2.38 adjustment from the previous screen.


To fix the problem of the stroke outside the roof, I needed to erase a couple of areas. The Erase button is just under the main slider.

Erase with Overlay

With the Erase feature turned on, the Overlay Mask comes in handy (O). Notice the minus symbol inside the cursor. With a hard edge and sufficient flow, it is possible to erase parts of the Overlay by clicking and dragging. Adjust the size of the tool by using the left or right bracket keys.

Erased Results

With only a few strokes of the Eraser tool, I was able to fix the problem areas.

Shed Adjustment

For the shake shingle shed portion of the barn, I clicked the word “New” under the Adjustment Brush tool, adjusted the brush variables and then clicked somewhere inside the shed portion of the roof. The first click sets a new pin. The original pin changes to a light gray circle while the new active region’s pin is filled with black. I simply repeated the steps from the main roof. The image above shows the roof just after cleaning up the overflow areas with the Eraser tool.

Third Pin

The image above shows the shed portion of the roof without the red Overlay Mask, and it shows a new third pin. This time, I reduced the brush size to the approximate width of the bright plank. (Look closely at the previous image) To make a delicate line, I clicked once about where the new black pin appears above, then while holding down the Shift key, I clicked at the top of the diagonal board. Lightroom connected the two clicks with a (straight) line. Presto! I clicked again at the top of the barn to set that point, and then again (while holding down the Shift key) just below it.  Note: the Eraser tool works equally well if you need to erase along straight sections. Click the H key to hide or show the pins.

For all practical purposes, the adjustments are complete! But to see some more of the power of the Adjustment Brush, let me add a couple more adjustments.

Expanded Adjustments

Click the small arrow to show a much longer list of possible adjustments. For this project, I wanted to desaturate the main roof. With that pin selected (click on it), I dragged the Saturation slider down a little. For this portion of the roof, I dragged it to -76. For the shed portion, I clicked that pin and dragged the Saturation slider down to -24. Every image will be different, of course. The important point here is to realize you can adjust any of the settings in any of the three pins by any amount at any time. If you don’t see your pins, hit the H key to toggle them on and off.


But wait, there’s more! Near the bottom of the Adjustment Brush’s expanded menu, click the small Color chip. This brings up a familiar color chart. Click anywhere in the chart to set a color. Once the color is selected, drag the slider to control the saturation. You’ll have to experiment to see how the color affects your pinned selection.

Adjusted Image

This is the full view of the adjusted roof sections. Scroll up to the top to see the original image.

Final Comments:
I have been using the Creative Cloud version of Lightroom for quite a while. The most current version includes the Auto Mask feature and I use it regularly. I am not sure how far back that feature goes, but it would still be possible to do this kind of project in earlier versions by simply using the eraser tool if you go out of bounds. Adobe is gradually adding new features to the CC version of Lightroom that are not included in the boxed versions. They are obviously coaxing people to switch to the Creative Cloud option.

I didn’t mention it above, but it is possible to save “Snapshots” of your work at any time or any stage. Click the plus next to Snapshot (in the left panel) at any time and give the current state a name….like Begin New Roof or Finished Main Roof. You can return to any state at any time and begin again at that point. The Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is very impressive! I am a long time Photoshop user, and quite honestly, I could do this same set of adjustments better and cleaner there. Faster? Maybe.  However, all of the adjustments I did to create this image are just “code” applied to the original raw file. The adjustments are non-destructive and they require very little additional memory, unlike a layered Photoshop document.

Lastly, these tutorials can make a project like this look long and drawn out. In real time, this set of adjustments might take three or four minutes.

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Hiking in Yellowstone National Park

Hiking Trail in Forest

Hiking in Yellowstone National Park can be extremely rewarding for a number of reasons. Most obvious to many people is the quick access away from the crowds. Another is having the opportunity to hike in a pristine wilderness that hasn’t been altered by human hands, and has remained so for centuries. For others, it’s just the opportunity to explore a new wilderness. Whatever the case, hiking in Yellowstone is highly encouraged to get the most out of your visit. At the same time though, there are some important things to know before beginning your trip off of the main roads.

Bear Spray – Carry It. Seriously.

First and foremost, always carry bear spray whenever you’re hiking anywhere in the area, whether it’s Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park, Shoshone National Forest, the Beartooth Mountains, or anywhere in the region. It’s not a touristy novelty item like some people have horribly surmised. Instead, it’s actually the most effective defense against a charging bear. In the last five years, there were two people that both died from grizzly bears. Neither was carrying bear spray and both went into the backcountry defiantly leaving it behind because they’ve “lived here long enough to know how to act around bears.” That’s not what bear spray is for though. Bear spray is for those unexpected encounters when you don’t have time to do anything else but pull it out and fire.

Because of the ’88 fires, much of the new tree growth is very dense and extremely hard to see around. This is how people surprise bears. It’s recommended you hike with someone, and make noise as you’re hiking. This doesn’t mean excessively yelling and ruining the experience of being out in nature for others on the trail. Having a casual conversation at a normal decibel level is enough to let a bear know you’re in the neighborhood.

Oh yeah, leave the bear bells behind. Bears don’t pay any attention to them and the only thing they’re good for is annoying hikers that know they don’t work.

Mountainous Areas vs Caldera Regions

Yellowstone Map

If it’s big mountainous hikes you’re looking for, you may be a little disappointed if you drive in from the south or west entrances. For those that may or may not already know, Yellowstone is a supervolcano. It last erupted 640,000 years ago, and prior to that 1.3 and 2.1 million years ago in its current area. As a result of all the eruptions, the mountains that were previously there have been completely obliterated. Where the Absaroka Mountains had covered the landscape, a massive volcanic caldera is now in its place. This has left much of the southern part of Yellowstone primarily hilly in nature.

This means if you’re looking for large mountains and canyons to explore, you’re best bet is to stick to the northern and eastern areas of the park. That’s not to say that there’s not a lot to see in the caldera, there’s just not a comparable amount of elevation gain and loss. There are, however, still some amazing features, lakes, and remote geyser basins to be found. Also, with over 1,000 miles of trails in the park, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a couple of simple walks off the beaten path, or epic multi-day adventures, Yellowstone caters to everyone.

I only bring up these differences so that you’re aware of what kind of terrain you may be planning for.

Boardwalks vs Hiking Trails

Due to the unpredictable nature of the thermal areas of the park, many of the more popular area trails are raised on boardwalks. This is primarily a safety reason, since the constant earthquake activity can cause a once stable area of land to become completely unstable and collapse with a minimal amount of pressure. This has resulted in the park itself having to reroute many different trails and boardwalks frequently. Thus, it is strongly encouraged that you always stay on a boardwalk when one is present. These are typically some of the more visited areas along the roadsides. In essence, the boardwalk trails are intended to be enjoyed by everyone, whereas the hiking trails can range from easy to very strenuous and challenging.

People on Boardwalk at West Thumb

Many hiking trails also lead to backcountry geyser basins. It’s assumed that you will use common sense back there. Some of them will have natural barriers that have been placed there, so you cross them at your own risk, but again, it’s recommended you not do so for your own safety. What could have held a bison one day may not be able to support you the next, and you could wind up scalding yourself to death from steam. The precautions are there for a reason.

Aside from that, the main difference is that the boardwalks are typically in frequently visited geyser basins, whereas hiking trails tend to lead off into a more remote and natural setting. Because the boardwalks are so frequently used, you could probably get away with not carrying bear spray on them, but it’s strongly encouraged you have it always just in case. It’s not uncommon for a grizzly bear to visit the Mud Volcano area, for example.

Also, when on a boardwalk, leave the bacteria mats alone. If you think it’s a good idea to kill a bunch of bacteria by writing your name or some other message that only you’ll understand, then stay off the boardwalk. Similarly, don’t feel the temperature of the water. At worst, you’ll burn your hand. At best, you’ll just be demonstrating how little respect you have for the park and its staff. Enjoy the park for what it is.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace

Anyone with any experience hiking should already be well aware of this policy and practicing it upon any outing. For those that don’t know, Leave No Trace means just that. Leave the area just as you found it. That means packing out any and all trash, which includes fruit peels, toilet paper, food, etc.

But fruit peels are natural. Why pack them out?
The air in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is extremely dry. Unlike in more moist environments, the fruit peel won’t get eaten, and won’t deteriorate at a rate suitable for the soil. It essentially becomes litter, so please pack it out and throw it away once you’re off the trail.

You expect me to carry out my dirty toilet paper?
Yes. Bring a Ziplock bag and make it your trash bag. If that’s too much to ask, then stay off the trails. The last thing anyone wants to see is someone else’s dirty TP. If you try to bury your litter, it will get dug up by an animal and left out near the trail. In addition, you also leave a scent that will attract multiple predatory animals, making the trail unsafe for everyone else.

Stay Hydrated

As mentioned, the air is very dry here. This takes its toll on humans too in the form of dehydration setting in much quicker than many people are used to, also thanks to the high elevation. I’ve literally watched people get sick just from sitting all day because they didn’t drink enough water. Having to go to the bathroom a few more times a day is significantly easier than the alternative.

Get Out of Your Car

Roads are not meant to be the primary vehicle for seeing a national park. Roads are there to access other areas of the park quicker. Parks are meant to be seen on foot (or horse or bicycle).

While visiting Black Sand Basin recently, I watched a car pull into the parking lot and the passenger took a picture of Cliff Geyser as it was erupting, then they drove away. A friend also told me a story of a couple who came back to the Mammoth Hotel, said they drove around the park that day and saw everything, and were wondering if there was anything else to do. In their case, no. They should leave. But if you really want to see the park and experience why it was protected, get out of the car. Walk the boardwalks. Hike a few trails. Read the informational signs that are available. Talk to (and thank) a ranger. Make Edward Abbey proud. That’s how you experience a national park. A car should only be used to get you from one point to another.

Person on Boardwalk and Elk in Grass

To see more images of Yellowstone, check out my Yellowstone National Park Gallery here.

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Swift Creek to Shoal Creek Loop

Twilight Over Mountain Peak

Swift Creek Elevation Profile

Elevation change on the Swift Creek Hike
Elevation profile and route below courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance (loop): 18.9 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Best time of year: Summer, Fall

The views at the top of Swift Creek, leading to the Crystal Creek and Gros Ventre River headwaters are easily some of the most epic mountain views in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but it doesn’t come easily. This loop is both extremely rewarding, but equally challenging, making it one of the most enjoyable trails in the Gros Ventre Wilderness.

Many people prefer to hike up the steepest parts and go down the most gradual parts, since it’s typically much easier on your knees. I opted to go that route, heading up Swift Creek, but certainly the better way for increasingly better views and scenery would be to go the opposite way, heading toward Shoal Falls and up Shoal Creek, then connecting with the Swift Creek Trail to descend. Having rushed through part of this trail, and also having apparently missed a turn taking me on a slight detour, I expect to hike this again next summer that way. However, since I hiked it going from Swift Creek to Shoal Creek, that’s how I’ll be describing it.

A Word of Warning

It is highly recommended that you bring along a good topo map. There are a few places where the trail disappears and cairns are required for finding your way, and there’s more than one cairn trail in the vicinity, so following the right one is crucial. Signage is also inconsistent. There are also a few forks (one of which I apparently missed) which will keep you on the proper route so you can experience the trail as best as possible. Finally, this trail is not at all intended for novice hikers, unless you have an experienced hiker with you who can help guide you through the tricky spots. Either way, be ready for lengthy, steep ascents and lots of exposure to the sun.

On With the Trail

From the parking area, head toward Swift Creek to the north where a dirt road with a “Road Closed” sign is in place just before a bridge crossing the creek. After the creek, only a couple of dozen yards up, look for the trail to veer off to the right from the dirt road. If you miss it, you won’t be on the trail.

After strolling through a large meadow, you soon begin gaining elevation as the trail pops in and out of small meadows and forests as you climb with Swift Creek, occasionally crossing over it. After crossing the creek farther up the trail, you’ll notice a well-trodden trail heading off to the right. This is an unmaintained trail heading up to McLeod Lake, well off of this route, so continue straight. The trail soon begins its steep ascent up into the canyon where Swift Creek originates. For the most part, this trail is well-forested with limited views for a couple of miles.

Trees and Rocky Cliffs

At roughly mile 3.8, the trail finally begins to flatten out to give you a break from climbing as you emerge into a meadow where there’s even a camping spot. Enjoy it while it lasts though. Just up the trail, the trail begins another very steep climb. Watch your footing too. On multiple occasions the ground gave out from under me, the dirt completely slipping from under my feet.

For the next mile or so, the trail will continue to flatten out and climb steeply while the views finally begin to open up. The massive peaks and canyon walls surrounding you begin to appear as the trees slowly become more sporadic and short. The views to the south also open up as fantastic views of the Wyoming Range begin to emerge. If nothing else, the views certainly make for great excuses to catch your breath.

At mile 4.8 or so, you begin to reach the treeline where views to the west are dominated by Antoinette Peak. After a bit more pushing and climbing, you finally reach the divide where all your hard work and effort are payed off in a breathtaking view of the Gros Ventre Wilderness ahead of you. A massive basin is below where Crystal Creek begins its journey toward the Gros Ventre River, which, interestingly enough, is beginning its journey just a mile to the east. The entire view is filled with large alpine peaks and great forested valleys. It’s truly one of the best sights to behold in the Gros Ventre Wilderness and beyond.

If you were only out for the day, this is where you’ll want to poke around, have a meal, and then head back down before taking in all the views one last time.

Milky Way Over Mountains

As for me, I went up with the intent to camp up there, and that’s just what I did. My main goal was in hoping for continued northern lights activity from the night before, and also just to experience the night sky in such a remote place. I stayed up into the darkness to see just how brilliant the Milky Way could shine, and it didn’t disappoint! For those with a little camera knowledge, the area was so dark that I was able to crank up my Canon 5D Mark III’s ISO to 10,000 without producing more than a minimal amount of noise. As for the northern lights, they weren’t out by the time I was ready for bed. However in checking the data later the next day, they were out in the middle of the night. Serves me right for not doing a time-lapse up there just for the fun of it. Lesson learned!

I woke up the next day after sunrise unfortunately and expecting a mellow day, took my time getting back on the trail. In looking at where I was to go next on the map, I realized a had a big problem: I brought along the wrong map. I had three options:

Shoal Creek Elevation Profile

Elevation change on the Shoal Creek Hike
Elevation profile and route below courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

  1. Play it safe and head back out
  2. Keep my camp as a base camp and explore the area, then head out the next day
  3. Be stubborn and complete the trail, assuming that I would find the remaining route

I’m pretty stubborn in the backcountry, so I went with #3. I packed up after breakfast, and made my way over the next divide, but not before being treated to a glimpse of the highest Teton Peaks peeking over the mountains to the northwest.

Over the next divide, I stood there overlooking the headwaters of the Gros Ventre River, completely blown away by how vast, intense, and grand the scenery became. I immediately began wondering if I should spend my next night in this area. In hindsight, that probably would have been the better choice, but I was eager to continue on and see more.

Heading up to the divide, the trail fades in and out and is assisted by an easy set of cairns. As the trail climbs over the divide with Black Peak emerging to your left, the trail becomes much more obvious, with a couple of large signs pointing out different destinations. One will even direct you down toward Shoal Lake, but shortly thereafter, the trail becomes a long series of cairns as it traverses over a large alpine basin, hopping over various creeks that all help to create the Gros Ventre River.

Creek Flowing Toward Mountain

It was along this stretch that I didn’t notice the trail fork, and wound up going slightly out of my way. Following the cairns through a large flat area, I noticed a path leading off to the right over a ridge. My curiosity was piqued, so I went to go check it out. As I reached the crest of the ridge, I saw the trail dropping into a large canyon, but which canyon? I took out my phone hoping for a signal and was actually able to get one! I downloaded a topo map on my phone and noticed that this spur trail that I had scoped out was actually the Shoal Lake Trail that I wanted to be on. Following the cairns would have taken me much farther east to Dell Creek, and significantly off my path. Thank you technology! Looking back, I noticed a series of cairns leading back a different route from where I had come from.

The trail begins a quick descent down toward a small pond with bright blue-green water reflecting the peaks. Passing around another bend from that, Shoal Lake emerges far below a couple of switchbacks, offering only a few teasing glimpses. It’s not until you’re much closer to it that it’s actually able to show off its magnificence, surrounded by tall Gros Ventre Mountain peaks. The shores beg to be rested at, especially a small cluster of trees at the southeast end of the lake shielding a nice small outcropping of boulders ideal for sitting on just after you cross over the runoff.

Hiker at Glacial Lake

Beyond Shoal Lake, the trail begins a long descent farther into a large mountainous canyon, passing through many forests and meadows. At one point farther down, the trail winds down a steep ridge, exposing a couple of dramatic waterfalls on the other side of the canyon. The trail continues its lengthy descent and ultimately brings you to the top of some high grassy hills.

There were two things at this part that I missed. One was a place to camp, another was the proper fork to access Shoal Falls directly. According to a map I referenced after the hike, there should have been another trail in this area connecting me directly to the falls, but I completely missed it. This took me on an extra mile or so detour, bypassing the falls. I was unaware of this at the time, and instead focusing mainly on finding a campsite. However this late in the season, the hills were completely blanketed in dry vegetation of different grasses and wildflowers anywhere from a couple of feet high to several feet high. As I continued down the trail, I found a fork marked by an unmarked post. Wondering if that could have been the original fork I was looking for, I decided to scope it out and then saw Shoal Falls in the distance, about another mile or so to the north, and much bigger and more grand than I had expected. I continued on that path and came to another fork, pointing me north toward Shoal Falls with left heading out back toward the trailhead. With no place to camp in sight, and realizing I had what I thought were only a few miles left, I made the poor decision to just head back to the car without checking out Shoal Falls. It was at this point in hindsight where camping up at the Gros Ventre River headwaters would have been the much better idea. After admiring some beaver dams and ponds downstream from the falls below the trail, I crossed over the creek and began a rather brutal 700 foot climb up a hill.

Shoal Falls

After crossing the creek, the trail relentlessly climbs up the side of the hill to the west of Shoal Creek. Views become more plentiful and scenic the higher you climb until the trail finally levels out at a pleasantly shaded grove to rest in.

It was here that I realized I was much lower on water than I had thought and I had completely neglected to check after crossing the creek, now far below. I was feeling dehydrated and as a result, was experiencing the “I just wanna be out” feeling, unfortunately the exact opposite of that morning, and never how I want to be feeling on a trail. Fortunately, it was only another mile and a half to the next creek, mostly a gradual downhill, where I was able to rehydrate and take a much needed rest before the last stretch.

From the top of the hill, the trail begins a gradual descent through meadows, forests, and aspen groves, often providing great views of the peaks to the north. It makes a small dip to pass over a creek before making a small ascent back up. As the trail starts to descend more consistently, it enters into an old forest dense with evergreen trees. In continues this descent through the forest for the next couple of miles, bringing you to a fork to either head back up Swift Creek (just in case you want to try the loop again), or back to the trailhead parking. From there, it’s only .5 miles back to the parking area where the loop is completed.

A Few Things I Learned

  1. Bring the right map. You’ll need it.
  2. Though possible in two days, or even one, this loop is best experienced over two nights.
  3. The loop probably unfolds better heading to Shoal Falls first, then up Shoal Creek and down Swift Creek.

I also hiked this trail at probably the least scenic time to be hiking it and was still blown away. All the wildflowers and ground vegetation were dried out and dead, but only a fraction of the aspens were beginning to change. To really get the most out of this trail, either hike this in early August when wildflowers are peaking, or in mid-to-late September when the fall colors are peaking, provided you can stay warm enough.

To see more images from Swift and Shoal Creeks, check out my Gros Ventre Mountains Gallery here.

Getting there: From Jackson, take Highway 89 south for about 13 miles to the Hoback Junction where you’ll take a roundabout. Pass the exit for Alpine and take Highway 191 down toward Pinedale. Continue on that road for about 11.4 miles and just before the highway crosses the Hoback River again, you’ll see Granite Creek Road on your left. Take that road and continue on it for about 7.6 miles, which will roughly follow Granite Creek the entire way. Be sure to avoid the road following Little Granite Creek. At 7.6 miles, you’ll come out of some trees and there will be an immediate right turn pointing toward the trailhead, as well as a nearby ranch. Follow that across the creek, and when the road forks, head left and you’ll see the trailhead parking.

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Randy’s Journey – Motivation to Get Out of Bed

Being an academic that has never followed a blog, I have a problem: I keep thinking I should have something “academic” to say, or teach, in every blog. For those of you who read/write blogs, I’m sorry to come across as such a stuffed shirt. Feel free to guide me in a more informal direction with a comment or two … please.

So here is my non-academic blog post that we can both learn from (or should that be “from which we can both learn”?) The homework from my last blog asked you to explore what motivates you to improve your photography. Since that blog post was about practice and the homework was about motivation, let me share my journey the last week and how it was impacted by practice and motivation.

Those of you who live near the Grand Teton National Park remember that early last week we had four days of pretty much all-day rain.   Since we had clear skies for a couple weeks, most of my landscape photos were fairly bland blue-bird-skies. I was looking for something more dramatic so the first day we were supposed to get clouds and afternoon rain, I set my alarm for 4:30 am and drove the 90 minutes to the park for some exciting sky. Nope, it wasn’t dramatic at all. I didn’t get any photos that were even slightly interesting. Killer for motivation !

Luckily my wife, dog, and I had reservations in Stanley Idaho for later that week – right as the rain was supposed to stop. I was excited to have a beautiful new environment in which to shoot (not that the Tetons aren’t beautiful) and when we arrived in Stanley the clouds were lifting, although it was pretty humid. I bumped into a fellow Teton Photography Group colleague (Aaron) and he told me there had been a lot of fog over Redfish Lake that morning. No worry, it will all be gone tomorrow morning and I’ll get great shots of a new environment. I set the alarm for 5:00 am since I was only a few minutes from Redfish Lake.

I got up the next morning, put on my clothes, and hurried out to the car. Whoa, I couldn’t see a thing! The fog was so thick I had
Fog at Redfish (1 of 1)to drive at 20 mph on the highway and when I got to the Redfish Lake I couldn’t even see the shoreline. I setup my tripod and camera (and didn’t fall in) and figured I could wait-it-out. I took a few photos but I couldn’t see the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains at all. After an hour I left.

As I was driving back to the motel I saw a group of cars parked at Little Redfish Lake so I stopped to see what they were doing. It turned ouLifting Fog at Redfish (1 of 1)t to be a photo workshop that had driven from Oregon the day before (a 12 hour trip) only to be socked-in with serious fog. I waited with them for more than an hour, but it was a bit easier to wait since I now had people to talk with about the lake, the fog, and photography in general. But by 9:15 they got hungry and left for breakfast. I was by myself and left a few minutes later. I had taken some photos but they fell far short of my goal; two very early rises with nothing to show for it. Bummer.

At dinner I bumped into a photographer from the area who asked me about my photography. I told him I was disappointed with all the fog at Little Redfish Lake that morning and he asked me what time I was there. I said I finally left at 9:15 after wandering at the lake for over two hours. “Too bad you left so early. I got there at 9:30 and the fog was lifting. I got some great shots of the mist over the lake with the mountains catching the light just perfectly.” Bummer! That’s what you get for leaving early.

How many times have you been discouraged when you got up really early, or drove really far, or made some other sacrifice only to get nothing in return? Not getting a “reward” after making a sacrifice can really undermine your motivation. So what should we do after such motivational discouragement?

Sunset at Stanley Lake (1 of 1)

That night I drove a few miles and set-up for the sunset over Stanley Lake. I was hoping for some clouds and they showed-up. I was hoping for some sun on the mountains and a nice sunset and it worked … and I felt better and maybe even a little more motivated.

And the next morning I had a little more bounce in my step when I got up at 5:00 am to go back to Little Redfish Lake for sunrise. There was a little fog/mist on the lake and watching the Sawtooth Mountain Range come alive as the sunlight came down the Sawtooths was rewarding enough even if I didn’t get any good shots – but I got some.

Sunrise at Little Redfish (1 of 1)

So what did I learn? It was something I already knew but getting the lessons once again boosted my motivation. Are you experiencing these lessons?

  1. Don’t Pack Up to Leave Quite Yet – This is a very tough lesson to learn since you can never be sure when things will change. I always try to stay “a little longer” and find something else to see or think about in the fog or smoke or rain or …
  2. Don’t Ask Yourself if You Should Get Up – Make up your mind the day before. Put your gear near the door or in the car. NEVER ask yourself if you should go out on a shoot when you are in a nice warm bed; the answer will always be “Sleep a few more minutes” and you won’t get out of bed.
  3. Have a Shoot-Partner to Meet – It is easy to go back to sleep but not if someone is counting on you to meet them. Photo workshops can be very helpful for many reasons and one of them is that others are counting on you.
  4. Reflect on Your Own Motivation – One of the key “strategies” to improve your motivation is to think about your own motivation. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What brings you back for another shoot after an uneventful day? How have your photos improved over the last month or year? What have you learned that has improved your photos?

And tomorrow I have an early morning shoot. I’ll leave home at 4:45 am and pick up an old college friend in Jackson at 5:45 to drive up to Oxbow Bend. It won’t be tough to get up and take a 90 minute travel because: I had some success last weekend; I have a friend to meet; and I’m confident the color of the vegetation in the park will give me a great opportunity to take some great photographs. And even if none of my photographs were great, the beauty of a sunrise at Oxbow Bend with an old friend will make it worthwhile.

A Little Help for Randy to Reach OUR Goal

I received eight comments to my last post, (and quite a few have been added to the first post.) If you are one of those folks who took the time to add a comment, thank you very much. Since I am such a raw rookie on blogs I need your help to achieve our goal of helping amateur photographers. I was looking for comments to include in my posts but that is going slowly. So rather than wait, I am going to try to put up a post every two weeks with a bit more about my journey. I also received some suggestions about including photographs; that is why I have added a few of my photos and I will probably ask for yours sometime in the future.

The next post will be about how to improve your motivation. Please respond with comments to the last post so I can include how YOU improve your motivation. Don’t worry. If you feel like you have no motivation, put that in a comment and I promise I won’t mention your name. 😉