Just like in most things, sometimes you do best when you trust your gut. Here’s my story:

We’ve been up since 4:45am and driving for over 8 hours through winding mountain roads, and finally, we arrived at Badlands National Park. It is hot with not a cloud in the sky. Somehow, 96 degrees here in South Dakota seems so much hotter than Scottsdale.

Too early to check into our lodge room and too hot for a hike, we drive through the park (with the AC cranked) to scout our a sunset shoot location. After another 2 hours in the car, we’ve identified two awesome view points. We’ll make the final decision based on whether or not there are clouds in the sky.

Sunset is late at 8:24pm, so there is time to enjoy an early dinner. At 6:30pm the sun disappears behind a cloud bank which is darkening rapidly. A storm is brewing. The sky is dark, and the wind is blowing so much dust its feels like a Haboob. The rain drops start and a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky.  Thunder cracks almost immediately. The storm is very close. We look at each other.

Dark and stormy skies, lightning soon followed

The weather radar shows the storm cells are building around us. As much as we might want to photograph a storm (the clouds can be wow factor in a photo), this one looks dangerous.  Furthermore, the cloud bank seemingly goes on forever. There is no chance of the sunlight breaking through (with no light there isn’t much of a photo, because, you know, it’s all about the light). Hot, dusty and tired, Jeff is grateful to have an excuse not to go out and shoot. I give in to his suggestion to open a bottle of wine and  relax. After all, we are on vacation.

At 7:30pm I notice the sky is brightening in the distance. My gut tells me that shooting after this storm could be amazing, and I don’t want to miss it.  There’s still time to scramble to a view point. Through some unhealthy marital discussion, I convince Jeff we should take a chance and go out.

As I walk out the cabin front door, the wind gusts again and I get a face full of dust. As far as I can see to the west, there are clouds. Sunset was not meant to be.  I apologize to Jeff and give in to another glass of wine.

Sitting out on our cabin back porch sipping wine we watched the storm clouds…. At 8:05, the rocks behind us begin to light up. I give Jeff that look, grab my camera and run across the road for a shot. Sure enough, at about 8:15 the sun breaks through. It is gorgeous. The rocks light up even better than I could have hoped.  Unfortunately, there is not enough time to drive to a view point. I am kicking myself knowing that our selected location would have lit up in an amazing way. An award winner is lost…..

The clouds lit up as did the rocks, if only we’d made it back to that amazing viewpoint.

Just imagine the colors on the other side of these peaks… and the sky behind us was also amazing. Opportunity lost…

We make the most of it, but I make Jeff swear that next time we will trust my gut.

Remember it is all about the light and light after a storm can be especially amazing.