Crazy Ambitions

OF ALL THE climbs I did while photographing out in Montana the past 4 months 11,214ft Crazy Peak was probably the most memorable and challenging. While it’s not the highest peak in the state, it is the highest in the Crazy Mountain Range and also the highest peak in Montana north of the Beartooth Mountains. It is also the most topographically prominent peak in Montana.
Since the peak is trailess I scouted out some possible routes using my map. The route I chose to reach the summit was, like the name, Crazy. After much climbing and some hair-raising scrambling I finally reached the ridgeline that would eventually lead to the summit. Most of the ridgeline was a knife’s edge, barely a foot wide in places with a mix of scree and loose talus slopes and a 3,000ft+ drop on either side:eek: I ended up having to drop my pack halfway over the ridge (I carried way to much photo gear) because it was throwing my balance off, and I really didn’t want to fall here :biggrin:

This view from the top was my reward. A pika joined me on the summit and I managed to catch him peeking out from the rocks in the foreground. Legend says that Chief Plenty Coups, the last great leader of the mighty Crow tribe, had a vision on the summit that led him throughout his life. The only vision I got was the magnificent and rugged landscape that was laid out before me. The jagged, serrated peaks of the Crazy Mountains surrounded me while far off in the distance the central Montana plains lead to more distant mountain ranges. I wondered how far the human eye would actually be able to see if the world was indeed flat.

On the way back from the summit clouds began to fill the sky and it got darker and darker, much different than the bluebird skies I had earlier that day. I knew I had to get off this exposed ridge before it started to rain. I had some trouble locating my pack on the way back because all of the rocks looked the same. I started to get a bit worried since my pack held lots of valuable photo equipment inside, not to mention it was the only way I had to transport my gear out. I wondered if it was possible that I had somehow missed it or that a mountain goat or other animal kicked it off the side. At last I found it and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

As soon as I made it off the ridgeline it started to rain, talk about getting lucky. I rushed down as fast as I could to find some shelter from the weather, since I had forgotten to grab my rain gear in the tent that morning and fires were not allowed in that area so I would not be able to dry out my clothes back at camp. Finding a good shelter proved to be a difficult task since I was still above treeline. I finally found a small patch of stunted trees and huddled up inside to wait out the rain.

When the rain subsided a few minutes later I crawled out of my shelter and headed back down only to be caught again in the rain, only this time it was worse. With the rain also came some fierce winds and the sounds of thunder crashing overhead. Flashes of lightning filled the sky and sent me straight to the next nearest shelter I could find, a patch of small trees overhanging a small ledge. Inside there was a fairly large den of something, but this being my only option I stuck with it. The temperature dropped considerably and being wet I started to get a bit chilled. I rubbed my hands together to keep warm while waiting. Being in this “survival mode” I felt like I was in an episode of Man vs. Wild.

I’m not sure how long the storm lasted as I drifted off to sleep while waiting. When I woke the storm had passed and the skies were beginning to clear. It was quite late now and I wanted to get back before nightfall. The rest of the hike down was pretty straightforward and I made it back to my campsite before sunset and cooked a nice hot meal and finished drying out before going to work on the sunset.

“A Moment Of Silence” For The Last Day Of Autumn

With Autumn officially coming to an end I thought I would share one of my favorite images from October, titled “A Moment Of Silence”, and the planning that went into this image. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Adirondacks this photograph was taken at Chapel Pond in the Keene Valley on a very calm and peaceful morning. Being very acquainted with this area I knew the composition that I wanted to capture even before I arrived at the pond. This, as you will soon find out, was just the beginning step in the planning phase that ultimately made this image a success..

As part of the process I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris (http://photoephemeris.com/), a very useful program that determines how the light will fall on the land, and realized at that particular time of year the early morning light would be coming in through the valley and effectively sidelighting the pond and hopefully the birch trees along the shore. I also checked weather forecasts leading up to my visit for two reasons: (1.) to be sure the sky would be clear enough for the sunlight to penetrate the valley, and (2.) to make sure wind would not be an issue since I wanted a nice reflection.

The next thing I needed to do was make sure the fall colors at the pond were at their peak. Instead of leaving it to chance I decided to take a drive up to the Keene Valley the day before my scheduled shoot to check on the leaves. I had gone hiking in the area a week before and had an idea of the progression of colors already.

The next morning I awoke and looked outside to see the stars shining like diamonds in the sky. I started my old Jeep and hit the road to make the hour-long drive to the pond and still have enough time to set up before the sun rose over the mountains.

When I got to my destination I was incredibly relieved to see the water reflecting the colors of autumn like a giant mirror.  I quickly unpacked my gear and walked down to the edge of the pond, knowing that the wind could come at any time and ruin this perfect moment. But the wind never came. Just as the sun broke over the mountains some high clouds came in and diffused the light a bit. I ended up using four vertical frames, shot in succession, to create this final image. Hope you like it!:)

“A Moment Of Silence” – TECH SPECS: 1/13 Sec. @ f/8, ISO 200, Polarizer, 4 Vertical Frames Stitched (Click to View Larger)