How the Art Happens - Fearless

June 05, 2019  •  1 Comment

FearlessFearlessA single small pine tree is threatened by shadows of larger trees nearby captured in this Colorado photograph.


Every winter our search and rescue organization hosts the best films from the Banff Mountain Film Festival. They take over the Center for the Arts and we get to watch some great outdoor-oriented films. Banff also hosts a photography competition and the winning photographs are featured in the programs and on the screen between films. To say that these films and photographs are inspirational would be a huge understatement.

Back in 2005 I attended the two nights of films and was captivated by another photographer's photo of shadows on the snow. Since I live in a snowy environment I was surprised by the fact that I never attempted to use shadows on snow as a subject or to support a subject. I mean, I was really surprised! I was so surprised that I went out the following day with a mission of using shadows on pristine white snow to tell some kind of story. This new idea was going to require some solitude and privacy so I headed up Taylor Canyon. 

I woke to fresh snow and sunshine so some of the elements were already aligned. I just needed a subject and some shadows. Taylor Canyon is one of my very favorite places to explore but, to be candid, I haven't made very many successful photographs up there. It's a bit overwhelming and trying to organize cohesive compositions can be difficult.

I slowly worked my way up the canyon creating images that were not really what I was hoping for. The river and the forests just weren't really speaking to me. Finally, just below the Taylor Dam, the hillside opened up with beautiful, long shadows of the towering pine trees above. This is what I was looking for! But the shadows alone were not telling the full story. That's when I found the little tree. Now I have a story! I was mostly photographing on film back in 2005 and on this particular day I had left the shop without enough. As I worked to refine the composition and lens selection I exhausted my supply. I still had not composed a really strong image so I grabbed my Nikon Coolpix 8800 digital camera I used for a backup and continued to refine my image. The threatening shadows and the singular small tree represent a story that most of us can relate to at some point in our lives.  Once I had the image above, I knew I had what I came for but it was on my digital "point and shoot" camera. (sad face)

I rarely compete in photo competitions but the following year I entered this photo in the Banff Photography Competition since that's where I got the original inspiration. In May I was headed out of town when my cell phone rang. It was Banff calling. I had won first place in the photography competition. There was only one problem. When I submitted the photo I didn't have a title for it so I just used the filename. The woman from Banff said I had to have a title. While driving over Kebler Pass, talking on the phone to a woman from Canada, it hit me. "Fearless" would be the perfect title. She agreed.

"Fearless" has been one of my most successful images and has been featured at Banff and in National Geographic as well as decorating the walls of many homes and offices. Today, this little tree has its own little tree beside it creating a completely different story.




David Bachman(non-registered)
I got as much joy from your story of "Fearless" as I do from your wonderful Photo ... love your work!
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Crested Butte, Colorado photographer, Dusty Demerson creates fine art photography displayed as prints and canvases and provides private photo tours in and around western Colorado.

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