Some years ago I was returning home from kayaking in northern California with my wife Vivian and friend Grant. Part of our route included a shortcut through an area called Little Shasta Valley, north of Mount Shasta. I knew that there was a picturesque church not far off our route, and I persuaded my companions to allow a slight detour so that I could perhaps photograph it.
As we got closer to the church, the sky to the south was filled with brooding clouds, and the landscape we were driving though was lit by brilliant late afternoon sun. When we arrived at the church, I saw that it was all I had hoped it would be, and that the atmospheric conditions were cooperating wonderfully. We piled out of the van and I started getting my photo gear ready.
At the time I had been using a 4x5 view camera for a year or so, and it was my camera of choice at the time. Here is a picture of it:
Photographing with such a camera is more finicky than working with a modern digital camera. I set it up and started trying to frame and focus on the church, a tedious process. My partners’ interest wore thin quickly, so they said they’d start walking and I could pick them up when done.
I eventually got everything set just as the clouds formed a perfect backdrop for the brightly lit front of the church. I exposed a couple negatives and put my stuff away. Driving off, I found Vivian and Grant exploring an interesting cemetery about a half mile down the road. I picked them up and we continued on our way.
After returning home, I developed the negatives. I had underexposed the film, and the negatives also had a bunch of very small blemishes. Fortunately I was able to scan the film and correct those problems, resulting in the image at the top of the page, one of the most striking I have ever made. Sometimes you just get lucky!