The making of a great photo 

Figuring out how, where, and when to take a photo takes a lot of planning. You can drive to a scenic lookout, roll down the window, point your camera, and shoot. Will this be a great photo? I doubt it. It takes research. This why we have to scout out each location prior to actually doing a photo shoot (or prior to bringing a group of people on one of our Gluten Free Photography Journeys). The last thing we need is to arrive at a location before sunrise (in total darkness), set up our cameras, and find out we misunderstood the directions and need to be a mile away. We need to scout.

Our first scout

Many years ago, Jeff saw a picture of an amazing rock formation. Jeff looked at me and said, “I want to shoot that!”.

I thought, me too! But with only one photo to go by, it was a bit of pipe dream. After much research, I located the rock, called the “The Wave”. It was 40 miles outside of the nearest town, requiring traveling 8 miles down a 4WD high clearance dirt road, and then hiking 3 miles into the wilderness (with no trail). Gosh, Jeff, could you make it any harder?

There was one more catch. To have the privilege of this adventure, one needed to enter and win a lottery for one of the extremely limited day permits into this wilderness area.

Enveloped by the Wave

The Wave – Worth all the trouble to get here!

The photo, says it all – we won and we made it!

Free time on the road

So you might ask, when we aren’t shooting, processing our photos or writing a blog post, what are we doing with our free time?

If you guessed, “trying to catch up on our sleep,” try again. If you guessed, “scouting for a new shoot location”? Now, you are on track.


If you read our post, “The Great Ascent”, we scrambled up a ravine as part of a scouting trip. The goal: to figure out how to get there, and once there, what exactly to shoot and what gear is needed. We captured some good shots of Yellow Rock, but it has the potential for great shots. It is now on the list of places to revisit.

Delicate Arch

In Arches National Park, the iconic shot is that of Delicate Arch. It is a moderately strenuous hike (without photography gear) up steep slick rock and along narrow paths on cliff faces. In addition to the hike, it has hundreds of people roaming around at sunset, a steep setup area and the potential for gusty winds. This location is fraught with challenges. So we wanted to locate an alternative. We extended a hike from the lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint, and found a perfect location. Plenty of room, few people and a good angle.

Delicate Arch from our self created viewpoint

Delicate Arch from our self created viewpoint. Yes, those ants are really people.

However, scouting trips don’t always work out as planned.

La Sal Mountain Loop

Looking for potential sunrise and sunset landscape shots or views of the mountains, we traversed the La Sal Moutain loop outside of Moab. A cloudy day in the valley turned into a drive with barely 100 feet of visibility in the mountains. Hmm, it is hard to scout a location when you can’t see.

An unsuccessful scouting trip - no view!

An unsuccessful scouting trip – The heck with a view, we had trouble finding the car!

So much for visualizing the photo.

Turret Arch – Visualizing the shot

This time, I pointed to a photo of an arch through an arch, I said to Jeff, “Let’s shoot this one!”. Our book said this was a 4 diamond shot, looking through North Window to Turret Arch. In fine print, it mentioned the park may limit access to this location. There is only one way to find out.

Inside North Window, I quickly discerned an issue. One cannot walk back far enough from the arch to capture both arches in the shot. There are precipitous drops on each side of the arch.

After scrambling up the arch, and noticing a precipitous drop on either side. I wondered, how the heck did they get that photo?

After scrambling up the arch, and noticing a precipitous drop on either side, I wondered, how the heck did they get that photo?

I am not easily discouraged. If someone got the photo, there much be a place to shoot. Scrambling up the wall behind the arch, I found it. This is the shot I wanted, with better light of course!

Turret Arch viewed through North Window Arch

Turret Arch viewed through North Window Arch

However, I also discovered a few more issues. High on a ledge, I wondered how I would get the gear up?  Secondly, how would I get Jeff (who is terrified of heights) up to this location?  And then how would we do all this in the dark, before sunrise?

Here’s that perfect location:

Kas in perfect location after a precarious scramble up this wall

Kas in the perfect photo location after a precarious scramble up this wall

Conclusion – This was a photo we would have to skip.


The making of a great photo is not a simple click. Let us know if our photos look even better, now that you know what goes on behind the scenes?

As always, “it’s all about the light” and the location!