Always Stop

2004-11-27 Windmill in Moonlight Final 4-15-2008 750Windmill in Moonlight

This is the first “good” image that I created after a 30 year absence from photography.  It was photographed in 2004 using my new Canon Digital Rebel with its amazing 6mp sensor!  Waaaaaay back then digital was not accepted in fine art circles, but I felt differently about it’s ability and potential.

I had just dropped my friend off in Nebraska and was heading home when I came across this sight.  It was a magnificent scene with the snow covered ground being illuminated by the near-full moon, and with a delicate fog hovering over the valley.

I wanted to stop, but it was late, I was tired and it was cold.  So I drove on.

But after a minute I remembered a promise that I had recently made to myself; I would never again pass by a shot.  If I kept going, those conditions and that opportunity would be lost forever, and so I turned around.

Hiking back through the snow, I was rewarded with an unbelievable scene…and then my battery died.  I took out another and soon it was lifeless too.  It was so cold that my batteries lost their strength and I would have to warm them up with my body just to get a few more shots.

The lighting was also a challenge, the moon was so bright that to properly expose the foreground, the sky washed out.  Properly exposing the sky left the valley in darkness.  My solution was to shoot one exposure for the foreground, another for the sky and later combine the two halves in Photoshop (using cut and paste, and not HDR).

The result was  “Windmill in Moonlight” and a great experience that reinforced my commitment to always stop.

People often say to me “This picture reminds me of ….” (I’m not going to say which artist or which image).  Back then I was flattered by such a comparison, but today I find it embarrassing.

That will be topic of my next blog.


13 Responses to “Always Stop”

  • James Says:

    Yep, this is my favourite shot of yours. Composition is fantastic. I have wondered many times how you achieved this shot.

  • Cole Says:

    Thanks James, it was a lot of luck and a little persistence.

  • Bill McMyne Says:

    Ahhh…Moonlight Hernandez, NM 1941, Ansel Adams…great photographers see alike.

  • Cole Thompson Says:

    You nailed it Bill! I’ll explain in my next blog why I’m uncomfortable with that comparison.

  • Bill McMyne Says:

    Hmmm..if I may. Your composition has the moon off center..unusual…Adams is a bit off center but not as much…Adams is all have the diagonal light going down and away to the right off the windmill. Adams has no reall focal point…you have the windmill. Can’t wait to hear your observations.

  • Bill Vaccaro Says:

    Amen to that, brother!

  • Cole Thompson Says:

    Are you guys ganging up on me? No fair, two against one!

  • Gerry Toler Says:

    Comparison to that other guy was my second or third thought when I first saw “Windmill”. However, there is no comparison, or copy, in my hard headed mind. Cole and that other guy can each stand alone. Well… maybe Cole had seen the other moonlight image!
    REgardless, “Windmill” looks great on my wall.

  • Shaun Says:

    On the camera side, the sensor that was in the original Rebel seems to have been pretty special, I recently reprocessed some of my early digital work shot at Tahawus with the original Rebel, and was very impressed with the quality of the images, especially how the color rendered. Superb image Cole.

  • Cole Says:

    I’ve always been fascinated by some lower megapixel shots of mine that seem super sharp. And there have been times when I have a high megapixel shot that seems less sharp.

    I refer to it as “apparent sharpness” and it seems also to have something to do with contrast.

    It also reminds us that we do not need to have the very best equipment to create great images.


  • Dana Says:

    Another gem to store in my camera bag! Thanks for the reminder to NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE W/OUT THE CAMERA, let alone pass by the shot!!!

  • digital cameras photography Says:

    Hi. I must just say I like your blog very much. I’m trying to be a good photographer and wonder if its possible to be professional relying only in digital photography?

  • The Story Behind “Diptych, Touch the Earth, Touch the Sky” Part 1 – Always Stop Says:

    […] lesson from one of my favorite photographers, Cole Thompson, who wrote a great blog about it here.  Please check it out if you have the chance, with my apologies to Cole for appropriating the […]

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