The Background Becomes the Subject / by Brian Beck

 

We got cell service along the side of the road in Yellowstone just long enough to get the message that Quimby’s closing got pushed out a week so she was taking option A—a flight from where we’d stranded her in Whitefish to Jackson Hole to spend the weekend with us.  The kids let out a yell and we headed out the west entrance to Yellowstone for a long drive through Idaho.  A large wildfire was burning between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, so the road that connects Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, 50 miles to the south, was closed.  The only way was a circuitous route to the west.  It added 200 miles to our journey and took away the scenic drive I’d been anticipating, but our spirits were high nonetheless.

The weekend with Quimby in Jackson was leisurely, the way we had hoped it would be in Montana.  We had some nice lunches and dinners and worked in some horseback riding and a long hike around String Lake in Grand Teton.  As I finalized plans for our next leg on Sunday night, I realized that the campground/waterpark in Salt Lake that was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday was closed for the season, so I scrambled to make alternate arrangements.  Remembering how we had enjoyed Bryce Canyon last summer, I hastily made camping reservations and we set out on Monday for a longer-than-expected drive—almost 600 miles—south to Bryce Canyon.

We had already seen it, but I figured we’d do some swimming, sleep in a teepee and maybe, just maybe, I’d come away with a photo that rivaled the gorgeous shot I took last summer of the old Indian in front of the teepee with the Milky Way streaming out above it.  It was a signature shot if ever there was one and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that with the car parked in almost the exact same spot, I tried it again.  It’s an important lesson in life that you can't focus on the past.  If you have success, celebrate it, but then go try something new.  I don't know why I thought I could improve upon that shot but after the first few exposures I recognized the futility.  I won’t show you the outtakes; maybe I should, because it illustrates the point, but once I saw them I knew that I needed a new shot, one that took the beautiful sky that is the background of that shot and made it the subject.  I decided right there to try it the following night, even though it required dragging my kids out to the edge of a cliff well after dark and setting them up on their iPads.  It was two hours past their bedtime when we hiked back through the trees with a flashlight but I came away with a new killer shot.  The background became the subject.

 The Beck Gang is on the loose!  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 30mm, ISO 400, f9, 1/800 sec.

The Beck Gang is on the loose!  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 30mm, ISO 400, f9, 1/800 sec.

 Pronghorns look cautiously at yours truly in Grand Teton National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 300mm lens, ISO 640, f10, 1/800 sec.

Pronghorns look cautiously at yours truly in Grand Teton National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 300mm lens, ISO 640, f10, 1/800 sec.

 View from String Lake in Grand Teton National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 24mm, ISO 200, f8, 1/640 sec.

View from String Lake in Grand Teton National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 24mm, ISO 200, f8, 1/640 sec.

 Parker and Samantha play in String Lake, Grand Teton National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 120mm, ISO 200, f4, 1/600 sec.

Parker and Samantha play in String Lake, Grand Teton National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 120mm, ISO 200, f4, 1/600 sec.

 Dad sets up his gear on the edge of a cliff in Bryce Canyon National Park waiting for the sun to go down.  iPhone 6s.

Dad sets up his gear on the edge of a cliff in Bryce Canyon National Park waiting for the sun to go down.  iPhone 6s.

 The background becomes the subject.  The Milky Way reaches above the southern end of Bryce Canyon National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 17-35mm lens @ 17mm, ISO 1600, f2.8, 15 seconds.

The background becomes the subject.  The Milky Way reaches above the southern end of Bryce Canyon National Park.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 17-35mm lens @ 17mm, ISO 1600, f2.8, 15 seconds.