This is one of my favorite photos to show the importance of the right lighting conditions.

This was taken in July, when the sky usually has absoutely no clouds, and landscape photos are minor variations in brown and sage green. But if some clouds manage to get to the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada and block some sunlight here and there, what a difference it makes.

Valleys suddenly appear between ridges that were indistinguishable, shadows of scrub plants add texture, everything that was flat develops depth. (Side note: “indistinguishable” is a helluva word.) There are some boulders in my valley that are only visible at certain times of the day, either when they cast big shadows or a flat face reflects light straight at me. Otherwise, I can’t make them out, even with binoculars.

Photographers always say, light is the key, but it took me ten years to understand what that meant. So, if you are starting out, work to understand that first.