Stillness. The kind that sticks with you, even months later, haunting you when you dare to look back and recollect. There was something about the entire experience of watching the sunrise at Glacier National Park over Piegan Mountain that holds a piece of me – and I it – in an embrace that I would not dare release.
As we began our journey up Hidden Lake Trail, the sun had begun to rise over the horizon and cast it’s incredible array of colors across the sky. This image was captured walking toward Hidden Lake – and away from the visitor center along Logan’s Pass.
It was a remarkable thing to behold – the air still remarkably cool for mid August, causing one to see their breath when exhaling and the tranquil sound of running water, ever-present in the background like a noise machine. Despite the fact that the sky was transforming from black to blue with remarkable speed, the moon shone bright and illuminated the wooden path and the ambient environment with an incredible softness that is hard to put into words. When this image was captured, I was alone, as my brother (who came along for the experience) was taking a breather some ways away and out of frame. It was a wonderfully peaceful moment that I am incredibly grateful for and one that I had hoped to capture with this image.
Before arriving in Montana – weeks prior – I had been anxiously watching the weather, hoping for clear skies for our 4 days at Glacier National Park. And, of course, as the week approached there was nothing but rain in the forecast for the entire duration of our trip. I had, however, anticipated on that first morning at the park that, at higher altitudes, and thus colder temperatures, it was at least possible that there might be a brake in the clouds until after the sun came out generating the heat necessary to evaporate the cold dense water that had been locked toward the ground at the base of the mountain range.
So, my brother and I set our alarm for 4 am to begin our journey from Heaven’s Peak Lodge to Logan’s Pass, a journey that could take more than an hour traversing Going to the Sun Road – had one arrived anytime after 10 am but took us only 40 minutes. And as an added bonus, we even got to see a Black Bear hanging out on the road near the Northern Tip of Lake McDonald. I had hoped to get to the area with enough time and testicular fortitude to venture off the path at night and find Triple Falls in time for the sun to peak above Piegan Mountain.
The drive itself was breathtaking. I mean, the drive on any normal day is incredible but, at that hour, it was something special. As we ascended up into the mountains we were enveloped by clouds so dense, it was all one could to do see the lines of the road so as not to fall of into the abyss. But, upon clearing them, we were laid bare to the incredible site of the valley between the mountain range to the northeast (and directly to our left) and that of Clements Mountain. Within this massive valley, huge clouds hugged the mountainsides slowly drifting upward and dissipating into thin air. The white light of a crescent moon reflected off of them and created an incredible abidance of peace and serenity. It took all that I had not to stop and spend 20 minutes shooting this incredible landscape. But, we were fighting the rotation of the earth and thus time itself and I had a plan.
I had scouted Triple Falls on Google Earth and felt somewhat confident as to where to go about finding it. Apparently, the rangers don’t publish it’s whereabouts and there is no path that leads to it so, if you wish to see it, you have to make an adventure of it and find it for yourself – no spoilers here. Also – I’m still working on a massive panorama of triple falls that I’ll post at a later date. However, in searching for the falls, and given the late hour, we came upon an incredible alpine forest and stream trickling from the glacier that we had passed while searching for the falls. At this point, the sun had already arisen and natural light was plentiful, though the clouds were forming rather quickly. While walking along what appeared to be a ranger trail, I stumbled upon this incredible view of the sun peaking its head over Piegan Mountain.
This image is perhaps my favorite image that I have ever captured. It is a 9 frame HDR image captured from -8 to +8 exposures at f11 which allowed me to capture a full range of the light spectrum from the deep shadows within the trees to the incredible NATURAL rays of light. There is no manipulation done to this image – apart from adjusting the white balance to warm the image up a bit to reflect exactly what it looked like to the human eye.
I love this image, not because it is beautiful – and it is but because it places me there, in that moment at that time every time I look at it. And, for me, that’s why I shoot. I shoot to capture something more than simply an image, I shoot to capture a moment in time a moment of sheer stillness.