BEHIND THE IMAGE: Brothers' Sorrow

We were only going to be in Glacier for four days, and after three early mornings of cold overcast conditions we were hoping for a break.  Driving along one of the country's most scenic roads with no more than a few car's length of visibility was frustrating to say the least.  No verdant meadows, no streaming waterfalls, no dramatic peaks.  Just white.  These conditions made the pre-planned list of shot locations almost useless.  But that's half the fun, right?

The last day of our trip was forecasted for more of the same, only worse: completely overcast with fog and snow.  I still wanted to give this one pre-visualized location a go - a spot made popular by the likes of Marc Adamus and Ryan Dyar, with epic views of Wynn Mountain.  That meant climbing up a steep hillside, off trail, in the dark, in cold and wet conditions.  Needless to say, my fellow photographers bailed, choosing to forgo what seemed like a pointless venture for some extra ZzZs in a warm cabin.  So I made the trip myself.  After thirty-five minutes or so hiking straight uphill, I reached an area that called out to me, and set out along the ridge with tripod and camera in hand.  My watch said it was 06:15, which meant it was just a couple minutes before "sunrise."  You couldn't tell though; besides a faint bluish glow, it felt more like Armageddon then the dawning of a new day.  The distant mountain was hidden behind the clouds, so I knew the picture would be about a pair of wonderfully weathered and gnarled trees that seemed to fit perfectly with the dramatic clouds and monochromatic light. 

A shower cap kept the lens covered until right before the moment of capture, but it was only a couple of seconds before the exposed lens was covered in rain again.  I clicked off a few different frames, refining the final composition to focus more on the two gnarled trees.  The light never did break through, and I (and my gear) was soaked and chilled by the time I made my way back to the road.

In these adverse conditions I was able to make an image that challenged me mentally and physically as well as creatively.  While I'd still love to witness the more traditional beauty of a fiery sunrise at this location, the real fun for me is in finding the potential in these less obvious landscapes.  As a photographer, you must be flexible and adaptable, and it's in these moments of challenge that we can truly flex our creative muscles.