June 06, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Small pine tree seemingly threatened by looming shadows of larger trees
Way back in the winter of 2004 I got it into my mind that I needed to go searching for an image to enter into the Banff Mountain Photography Competition. This inclination was a response to and inspired by viewing the winning entries from the previous year at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It was one of those “I can do that” moments. Actually, it was more of an “I should do that” moment based on the number of people I witnessed commenting on the images while waiting for the films to begin. A marketing opportunity, if you will.
So one bright, crisp winter morning I set out for Taylor Canyon, one of my favorite winter locations, with the idea of capturing shadows on fresh snow. On sunny, winter, fresh snow days shadows are probably the most compelling subjects and just demand to be photographed. Let me back up and explain a little about Taylor Canyon. The 30 or so mile drive from Almont, Colorado to Taylor Reservoir is a heavily wooded, narrow canyon containing the Taylor River. Because it runs mostly east/west and because the Sun is so far south a photographer can sleep well into the morning and still catch “sunrise” in the canyon around 10:30 am. Maybe that’s why it’s one of my favorite places. A lazy photographer’s dream come true! Another thing you should know about Taylor Canyon is that in the winter there are only a few places to turn around. With snow banks 4 feet high on both sides of the narrow road your backtracking options are pretty limited. Anyway, the canyon being heavily wooded was not really helping me create great shadow photos on this day. The scenes were just too complicated for great compositions. There were too many shadows and too many trees. I had spent several hours hunting for new photos with nothing to show for my efforts. That happens a lot! I had all but given up and was ready to turn around and head home for lunch when I got to the base of the Taylor dam. Knowing I would be able to turn around above the dam, I stopped one more time and climbed the snow bank to check out the river. That’s when I saw it!
On the far side of the river bank (only about 50′ away) was this small pine tree surrounded by fresh deep snow and imposing shadows. The fact that the shadows did not actually fall on the tree itself was luck or a blessing (take your pick). If the shadows had covered the tree the scene would not have the impact it does now. So, I worked the scene from various angles and with a variety of lenses until I ran out of film. But then I saw what I needed to see. Effective composition usually evolves through a variety of attempts and trial and error (mostly error) for me. Scenes get “fine tuned” over time and with some effort. But I’m out of film and I finally have the composition I want. What to do? Not having many other choices, I grab my Nikon 8800 digital “point and shoot” and capture the best composition of the day. While I did get the image I was looking for I’m still disapointed that I wasn’t able to capture it at the highest quality.
A few months later I send the photo to Banff along with a few others and promptly forget about it. That’s actually a good scenario for entering contests. The odds are always against any one image doing well and our sanity will suffer if we “know it’s going to win”. In early June while heading out of town to the Canyonlands I received a call on my cell phone. I was actually amazed it rang on Kebler Pass Road since I usually have no signal there. Anyway, a wonderful woman from Canada was calling to let me know that my photo of “the tree with the shadows” was chosen as the First Place winner but that the file number I used for the title was simply not acceptable. I had to come up with a more appropriate title…now! I searched the vastness of my vocabulary and came up with “Fearless”. She thought it was perfect. Since that time this image has appeared on the Banff website as well as all of their presentations of their film festival winners, National Geographic’s website, and lots of home and office walls.
If there are morals to this story I think they are: 1. keep at it a little longer. 2. always keep a camera available, even if it’s just a “point and shoot”. and 3. Use real titles not file numbers for your photos. I’ll be back next week. Keep smiling.
Keywords: Art, Photography, Technique, Colorado, composition, Landscape, Photo, Photograph, Photographer, snow, The art of photography, winter, Winter
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