Birth Of A Day

Birth Of A Day

  • Fall Morning Mist Sterling Lake Harriman State Park New York

Don’t Ignore Your Photography Instincts

Properly planning a photo shoot can mean the difference between an amazing result and a mediocre one. There is nothing worse than arriving at a location just after the best light has happened. So what do you do when your photography instincts want to override a well thought out plan? Good question. It is a question that might be answered by another one… How many times have your instincts been right? Maybe there are times when a plan should be scrapped and you should follow an impulse.

Here is a recent example. I planned to shoot the fall colors along a favorite creek in New York. All week, as I stared at a map, my attention kept being drawn somewhere else, Sterling Lake in Sterling State Forest. I’ve hiked and shot at this lake before and was never happy with the results so why even consider wasting a perfectly good fall morning here?

On the morning of the shoot I was out the door at 5am to drive 20 minutes for a 7:30 sunrise. Way too early so I had plenty of time to kill. When I got to the proverbial fork in the road (this one was actually real), I took the fork towards Sterling Lake. It was a good decision.


Even at 5:30 AM it was still very dark, clear with a light mist on the lake. Why not use the opportunity to practice a little night photography? Surprisingly, there were more visible stars than I expected being so close to New York City. Full disclosure: The shooting star in this image actually appeared in the sky, just not when I was taking this photograph.

Night On Sterling Lake by Richard Lewis


Shooting Star Over Sterling Lake by Richard Lewis


As daybreak started to light the landscape, the mist became intensely beautiful and with a glimpse of the fall colors on the mountains as the backdrop.

Sterling Lake Evergreen by Richard Lewis 2-17


Harriman State Park

Early Light On Sterling Lake by Richard Lewis 2017


Sterling Lake Harriman State Park

Through The Mist by Richard Lewis 2017


After the sun rose, the mist hung around for a while obscuring some distracting homes along the shore and floating around the hills.

Fall Morning Mist Sterling Lake Harriman State Park New York

Fall Morning Mist by Richard Lewis

My instincts lead me to a see the story of spectacular daybreak. One I would have missed wandering around the thick forest where the creek is located. What about that plan? The light was still pretty good so I decided to head to the creek. The colors were nice in the woods but the creek, usually flowing in cascades, was virtually dry.

Making a plan is always a good idea, especially when you are photographing once in a lifetime places or areas you don’t often get to. However, when that little voice of photographic instinct pops into your head, you should at least give it a listen.


2017-11-11T08:51:18+00:00November 10th, 2017|18 Comments


  1. daveblinder November 10, 2017 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    Terrific misty images Rich.

    I agree with you completely Rich. Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and photographers can go awry. We must adapt and trust our instincts.

    • Rich Lewis November 11, 2017 at 5:23 am - Reply

      Thanks Dave. I think that when you are out there a lot like we are, those instincts start to get refined. The hard part is learning to trust them.

  2. jane palmer November 10, 2017 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    Looks like you have a pretty smart little inner voice!! Just beautiful images, all of them so different in such gorgeous light!! Thank you for sharing your gift with us!

    • Rich Lewis November 11, 2017 at 5:18 am - Reply

      Thanks Jane. Once in a while all the magic lines up and you get to experience a morning like this one.

  3. Kathleen A DiTanna November 10, 2017 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    These images are gorgeous! Makes me want to learn how to shoot landscapes!

    • Rich Lewis November 11, 2017 at 5:07 am - Reply

      Thanks Kathy. You know I can help you with that. 🙂

  4. Karen Johnson November 10, 2017 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Great advice!

    • Rich Lewis November 11, 2017 at 5:06 am - Reply

      Thanks Karen. I’m glad you liked this.

  5. Mike Pillows November 11, 2017 at 8:15 am - Reply

    That lil voice has haunted and guided me for most of my life. It seemed to change once I got serious about my photography and I now do embrace it. Just as your images and backstory continue to guide and open my eyes to what is beautiful in this world!!!

    • Rich Lewis November 11, 2017 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mike. I love how we tend to inspire each other on this journey. As you said the more serious we get, the more important it is to pay attention to that little voice.

  6. Sandra Rosenberger November 11, 2017 at 11:23 am - Reply

    These photographs fill me with awe.

    • Rich Lewis November 11, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the compliment. I really appreciate it.

  7. Stephen M Rulli November 12, 2017 at 6:30 am - Reply

    Love your work Rich and all of your locations. I am lazy about long term planning and usually take off on spur of the moment decisions. Sometimes that works quite well for local areas. While in Banff, Canada this past summer I ventured out to catch a sunrise at a nearby wilderness lake at 5 AM. Well the day was heavily overcast but I did manage to see a huge elk feeding a couple of feet off the road as I was driving. It was very dark but he was illuminated by my headlights about 20′ from me. I did manage to fire off a couple of handheld shots through the windshield. They were not focused very well due to the slow shutter speed but it was a nice surprise for an unplanned shoot.

    • Rich Lewis November 12, 2017 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Thanks Steve. I appreciate the comment. There is something to be said about shooting at the spur of the moment. It doesn’t guarantee results but sometimes you can discover some interesting surprises.

  8. Ralph Berglund November 14, 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Wonderful work. What a dull world it would be without mist and fall foliage and stars and silhouetted trees and …. BTW, i used to have a little problem with the voice but the meds are helping me with it.

    • Rich Lewis November 14, 2017 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ralph. I could not agree with you more. What a world we get when the mist is doing its thing. Maybe you want to share some of those meds.

  9. denisebushphoto November 16, 2017 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Great advice beautifully illustrated! I agree a plan is good but at the same time we need to be open for the unexpected. A mantra I play over and over is this … ‘never pass up a sure thing for a maybe’.

    • Rich Lewis November 18, 2017 at 4:50 am - Reply

      Well said Denise, Thanks!

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