(click on the image for a nicer view in lightbox)

Sometimes getting the right shot is all about being there.

I’m not going to brag about this photo being some kind of amazing composition…because in reality, it’s pretty simple. At the time I was actually wishing I had something better to get into the frame than just a few saguaros. Like maybe a glacial lake in the Himalayas (whaaat?)  But sometimes all it takes for me is a killer sky. And killer skies aren’t always easy to come by.

I remember seeing photographs and always being jealous that they somehow lucked out to get that beautiful sunrise or sunset.

The fact is…they were there to get it. That’s all it takes really.

I’ve grown to love getting up before dark, packing my gear, grabbing a coffee, some snacks and heading out down some desert road to see where the morning finds me. Sadly, it just isn’t something I can do all the time. On this particular morning, it was around 33 degrees out, I was bundled up, hiked down a short trail and waited for the sun to peak over the Superstitions.

If you ever are wondering how you might decide whether or not there will be cool clouds the morning you decide to do a trip like this (esp when it’s dark out still), usually times during or after a rain storm can be perfect. Yeah, it might be raining, but it will likely break here and there and offer stunning shots. In this one above, you can see rain falling on the left horizon, headed my way. You can also look at infrared radar to see if the skies are cloudy around your area before you head out.

Of course, a lot of this is based on Arizona. I know in places like Oregon or the east coast…just because it stops raining doesn’t mean the skies wont stay gray.

Then again…if you aren’t out there waiting for a spectacular moment…you’ll miss it.

Oh, if you are wondering about the title…it’s from Lord of the Rings. If you figure out what it means, it kind of fits the image perfectly.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 18mm, f/16, iso 100)

  • Chris Nitz

    Man, you’re not kidding. That is one killer sky. I do like how the cactus forces a break in it though. Beautiful image man!

  • Jesse

    Magnificent sky. The simple composition works because the clouds and sky steal the show so there arent too many competing elements. Nice write up as well 🙂

  • James Brandon

    Beautiful Mike, I’m always a sucker for simplicity like this. Great sky my friend!

  • Jim Denham

    Great advice and a beautiful image Mike!

  • Scott Ackerman

    You’re exactly right. Often times you hear photogs say it was luck or right place, right time but the fact of the matter is, you are the one that woke up before the sunrise to be ready for the shot. Or you were the one that stayed around for an hour to catch just the right light. I think it’s all about you putting yourself in the situation to get the shot. Oh, and great capture! 🙂

  • Justin

    Thanks Mike, great tip on early morning weather planning!

  • Jason Hines

    Flame of the west. Beautiful shot and thanks for the sunrise tips. Sunsets are always easier to predict.

  • Mike

    Thanks so much everyone…and Jason wins with “Flame of the West” 🙂

    Sunsets are so much easier to predict for sure. Sunrises can turn into busts and you wasted all that time getting up early, making the drive, etc 🙂

  • Jim Nix

    That is all kinds of beautiful! Jim

  • Sean

    Fantastic Mike! Love early morning shoots! Thanks for sharing

  • Heath O’Fee

    Fantastic work, man. As usual, you’ve totally rocked the sky, and the composition is spot on, too. Good tip for sunrise shooting as well 🙂

  • Steve Beal

    You and the sky are one 🙂 Beautiful image man, wow!

  • Kay Gaensler

    For some this is only a saguaros but for me this is a fantastic find! I never saw one of these in real life and I cant wait to visit this area in May! This is an amazing shot Mike! I love the beautiful vibrant colors and the clouds are great! There is this special mood in those morning shots.

  • Chris Kenison

    Absolutely stunning. I’m constantly wishing I was the type of person that can get up early and go take some shots. You’ve inspired me to do more of this, Mike! Especially now that spring/summer is coming up.

  • Mike

    I would just add…getting up is a pain, but once you are on the road, sipping on a beverage…perhaps with your iPod on, headphones in and listening to the tunes that get you going…it’s so relaxing.

    I’ve grown to love it…I hope someday I can bring my daughter along…let her doze off in the car and just enjoy the morning with me 🙂

  • Mark Garbowski

    Seems to me you should have plenty of opportunities to shoot the Secret Fire out where you are too, Mike. Love this. And while I’m no big Woody Allen fan, his remark that 80% of success is showing up is definitely applicable to photography.

  • Gerry Chaney

    Really nice colour and composition Mike!

  • Mark Blundell

    Lovely image – great sky and the saguaros silhouetted against the sky works really well. You’re right to be VERY happy with this one.

  • murphyz

    I’m certainly much more of a sunset man than a sunrise, simply because I love my bed! Great sky here, and I had to Google the title to see how it relates 🙂