St Mary's Lake
15 trips before I finally caught the right light! This was captured during sunrise at Glacier National Park in Montana.
It was a 2 hour drive to get here from where I lived. I had to leave at 2:30 am to ensure I caught dawn’s first light.
I wanted to capture the incredible color in the clouds that you can see for mere seconds before the sun comes up!
This photograph is very minimally processed. That cotton-candy pink in the clouds and on the mountain is actually what the eye sees… a few times a year... if you’re up there at the crack of dawn!
14 previous trips were utterly wasted in this crusade. Too many clouds... the sun is blocked, and everything is gray, lifeless. Not enough clouds, and there’s nothing to reflect the colors back at you. Any rain, snow or sleet (common in Montana) and the shot’s ruined. Basically.. ANY-thing other than absolute perfect weather conditions... and the shot’s ruined.
It became a game of cat and mouse, or photographer’s roulette, to find the right conditions. The odds were against me, to say the least.
I’ve been fortunate enough for 80% of my life to be outside in the forest and the mountains. I know natural light backwards and forwards. I’ve observed it thousands of times, but never did I have the camera at the right time.
I have wished for this moment for decades. Everything coming together perfectly, being in the right place, at the right time, with the right camera, with the right clouds, the right light, in the right season, etc. I drove a 5 hour round trip for the hope of catching a glimpse of this wild natural beauty, only to be prevented each time, when one or more of these circumstances were off.
This time I woke up around 2am, got in the car and took a mountainous, extremely windy road through Glacier National Park. There’s only 1 road through ... no shortcuts.
I got to this spot just before dawn. I knew the ritual well... set up my camera, tripod, etc., and hoped for the best.
When the light came, it was absolute magic. The sun lit up the mountains like fire, and the light began its descent down the rock face inch by inch.
I had only minutes to catch this rare breath in eternity. With these odds, experience dictated I’d likely never see this again.
There were a lot of clouds out in the still of the night before. As I drove towards this spot, I kept looking up in dread. There was too much cloud cover as I approached this location. There would be no rays of golden or orange beams of light poking through, creating the desired dramatic effect.
I continued to drive. Hoping for that 1 chance in 1000 that as I drove that the cloud cover would thin, and there’d be that perfect cocktail of early morning light peeking through intermittent, dramatic but not-too-dense-clouds that allowed this phenomenon.
And my prayers were met. It came together in a crash of blue mountain lake, fire-colored sky and blue and purplish clouds... EXACTLY as I’d dared to hope for... all these years!
It had taken decades of trial and error– “error” being the operative word here. But the heavens finally aligned... literally.
This illusion in my mind came true and I got my shot to show the world the fierce beauty of home, the majesty of Glacier National Park.
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