Several years ago, I was driving down an old dusty road in rural Idaho when I happened to glance out my rear-view mirror and saw a little waterfall. I parked the car and hiked over to where I had seen the little stream. All of the sudden, the trail lead to the top of the cliff overlooking the most beautiful waterfall I had ever seen. It was a photographer's dream!
I searched everywhere for a place that I could get around to the side or down to the bottom of the cliff so that I could get a decent angle. Nothing. There is a forty foot (12 meter) cliff with a rapid river flowing underneath. I forgot about the waterfall, thinking it was impossible to get a good shot of without a helicopter.
Last week, I was going to bed and something inside me wanted to go back and conquer that photo that I thought was impossible. So, I woke up at 3AM and drove 2 hours to get to the waterfall. When I arrived, it was the same old story. Cliff. Raging river. No decent angle.
So, I strapped on my Clik Elite camera bag and started scaling down the rocky cliff to the bottom. Scary? Yes. But I made it.
Upon reaching the bottom, I carried my bag above my head and crossed the stream to a little island. The bottom of the creek was muddy and I was wet up to my chest. I had three more little streams to cross before I finally got to a fairly decent angle on the waterfall.
I stood there covered in dust and mud in my jeans that were soaking wet. Oh, and did I mention that it was 45 degrees (7.2 degrees celsius) outside? Then, I snapped a couple shots before hoofing it out of the pit of despair.
The photo of the waterfall that I took was fine, but not perfect. I am going back tomorrow morning at 3 AM again and I'm determined to capture this photo in perfect lighting.
My point in writing this article is that, unlike portrait photography or macro or pretty much anything else, landscape photography often means getting muddy, bloody, and sweaty. If you really want to capture that 5-star landscape, hike up your skirt and get out there.