Two nights ago I found myself running through an Oklahoma prairie laughing in a race against the setting sun with my three kids scampering to catch up. I have enjoyed the pleasure of this situation many times before in various locations. It always gets me stoked and leads me to say, “Thanks, God!”
My family and I had just spent a few days in Breckenridge, Colorado with other family members for a late-summer fling, and we were headed back home to Amarillo. When I say “we” I mean the kids and I. That morning we dropped Piper off at the Denver Airport so she could catch a flight to Houston for robotic surgery training. I clicked “Home” as the destination on my Waze app as we left the airport, and we were off and running. I was surprised that it routed me through eastern Colorado instead of heading me through Colorado Springs. I quickly warmed up to the idea since I had never traveled out that way and I love seeing new places.
We made steady progress toward Texas, but we were not setting any land-speed records. I was loving seeing all of the beautiful farm country that I did not even know was out there. We stopped in Kit Carson, Colorado to walk the railroad tracks for a little while, just because we could. We felt great! We stopped at McDonald’s in Lamar, Colorado for dinner and their playscape. We felt nasty.
Thunderstorms had formed way off in the distance, and I was eyeing them with the thought of a sunset photo session in mind. My handy Weather Channel app told me the sunset would happen at 8:40 p.m., so I knew how much time I had to find a good landscape scene. I wanted something more than just crops and the sky. I was looking for some point of interest for the foreground of my photo to complement the beautiful sky and sunset in the background. I was searching for an old barn, a unique tree, a windmill, or anything along those lines that I could easily access from the road.
Sunset was quickly approaching and the storm clouds were growing closer as we thundered on through southern Colorado into the Oklahoma Panhandle. The relatively flat farmland gave way to breaks and bluffs in the landscape where water drains off into the Cimarron River headed eastward. The sunset rays played off the changing topography in magnificent combinations of shadows and light. My search for a good spot to take pictures became more intense as the sun sunk lower and lower. I had been praying for God to show me a good opportunity for a sunset photo session, but I began to wonder if it would happen. I was keeping a close eye on the clock, and at 8:30 (ten minutes before sunset) I decided to take the next turnoff I could find in an effort to at least snap a shot of the setting sun.
I implemented my plan, crossed over some railroad tracks, drove around a plateau that was blocking the sun, and then I saw it. From out of nowhere, in the middle of a scrub brush field stood a windmill and watering tank in front of the setting sun. I pulled off the road and grabbed my camera. Using a camera tripod is important in low light situations for camera stabilization and crisp photos. I went to get it but then realized that it was buried somewhere deep under our luggage. I had to run as the sun was sinking fast and my opportunity was fleeting. I was kicking myself for not planning better by having my tripod handy, but I knew I had to make do with what I had.
I quickly found a cattle trail leading straight for the windmill and took off in that direction. With the kids running behind me, I yelled out, “WATCH FOR SNAKES AND CACTUS!” The thrill of the hunt set in, and as I realized that God had provided me a fun sunset photo opportunity; I laughed out loud. I was running and thanking God. God has done this before. When I ask Him for help finding good shots, the vast majority of the time He comes through with something unique and unexpected. This exact scenario of running to catch a sunset scene that God provided in the nick of time has played out more than a handful of times, and I think He does it just to make me laugh.
My enthusiasm and gratitude for that moment was transferred to the kids, and they let out war whoops that tickled the ears of all animals within a half a mile. We had a big time out there taking pictures, monitoring a red ant bed, throwing rocks, and observing the plants and creatures found in the windmill water tank.
Ellison, Paxton, and London had a big time playing on the prairie.
I want to thank God for being a faithful partner in the adventures of life and landscape photography.