So, as you may have guessed from the title, this image and post have been quite a while in the making. This all started while I was looking for the ever elusive lone tree to silhouette against the night sky. I had scouted this location using a combination of Google Images and Google Maps and finally planned it out to capture the Milky Way behind the tree.

This is the tree I originally scouted - Instagram Post Here

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I spent a lot of time looking for unique locations to make ideas that I have come together. That time is split between being out in the field scouting or just diving into any resource I can find online. Like I mentioned above, I often use Google Maps to find locations. That starts with picking a spot that I know might have a good view of the stars and then just looking at the aerial view for possible compositions in the direction I would need them to face. If I find something interesting, I'll look further and try to find images or even watch videos of people hiking that might pass by the spot I found. 

After that, I check the dates for when a shot may line up and I make my way out to do some in person scouting. That's how I ended up standing next to the tree in the image above.

That image was pretty much the only one I had pre-planned. I was there a lot earlier in the day, but I normally get pretty laser focused in situations like this. I find what I'm looking for and zone out other distractions. So, while I checked out the rest of the area, I wasn't really thinking about other photos at the time.

It wasn't until I was finished shooting this image that I began to look at other shots. I noticed some other trees in the area and set up underneath them and took a huge pano at 14mm. This was back in 2019. You can see that pano just below

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"I never posted it and planned to go back the following year."


It kind of worked and I was excited, but I instantly thought it could be better. I wanted to capture the Milky Way without it being blocked by those trees on the right side and for the arch to be a bit lower, too. Unfortunately, Ii was already late in the year to capture those lower arching Milky Way panos.  Not a huge deal. I never posted it and planned to go back the following year. 

I was bummed I would have to wait for the shot, but this was on my calendar for early in Milky Way season 2020.

Unfortunately, the window for capturing that low arching Milky Way pano was right around when covid hit. Which meant that this trail was closed and I would have to wait. So, as things started to open up, I kept checking daily. I'm sure it wasn't, but it felt like this trail was one of the last to open.

When it finally did open, the window for capturing the shot had already passed by a few weeks. I went anyway, just to confirm what I already knew.

The shot wasn't going to happen in 2020.


Fast forward to 2021. I made my way back at the earliest possible date and even got there a few hours earlier than I needed to be there. It was very unnecessary to be there so early, but I was excited. I brought two tripods with me so I could find the exact spot I would need to set up and then go wander around a bit. I knew I wanted to be able to tell this story...somehow.

So, I also took a couple behind the scenes images and a few other photos as I anxiously waited in the cold.

I never shared these images either as I wanted to have something more than just the final image to go along with whatever I would share in the end.  

I lost count of how many times I've been out on this trail. I came back for that lone tree more than once. I made a stop here while Comet NEOWISE was visible. This pano was the last image I really wanted to capture in a spot that I really loved exploring.

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Why The Chase Matters

It's kind of a funny thing to chase an image for so long, isn't it?  This isn't the only photo I have a similar multi-year chase to either. Which probably sounds a little crazy. For one reason or another, somethings just don't work out. It could be timing, it could be weather that isn't cooperating, or just something going wrong with gear in the field. 

There are endless ways for things can go wrong. 

I think, for me, that journey of sometimes failing time and time again, but then finally succeeding encompasses so much of what I love in photography. Most of the time, I'm not chasing iconic locations or even locations that most people would recognize. I chase images that mean something to me. I chase them knowing that when most people look at them, they may not even know what went into capturing it. I hope that it's enjoyed, but I know that it will always have personal meaning to me.   

My friend Ben Checketts from Rhone shared a post this morning that really falls in line with this, so I'm going to share the quote he used.

He quoted Theodore Roosevelt saying "there is no effort without error" from the speech, Citizen In A Republic. 

So, with all that said, here's the photo I took 3 years after my first attempt. It felt like the start of the year was a good time to finally share it. I'm using this as a reminder to myself that success is found through continued effort and often the struggle goes along with it. It's easy to get caught up in seeing highlights of success, but a lot happens before those moments. 

Our journey isn't always perfect and that's perfectly okay. 

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