Wyoming Wildlife Photo Contest
Wyoming Wildlife 2010 Photo Contest, Scenic/Pictorial First Place: The Boars Tusk, Sweetwater County, Wyoming. Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, Mamiya-Sekor 110mm, Fuji Velvia
So last night upon returning home from our third Haiti team meeting I checked the mail and was surprised to find the new issue of Wyoming Wildlife already. Back in November a few images were submitted to their 2010 Annual Photo Competition and while not exactly having forgotten about it, it had wandered to the back of the mind. Opening the magazine I found one of the images won first place in the Scenic/Pictorial category. Pretty tickled, thinking back to making the image...
In October 2009 we'd been planning a backpacking trip to the Wind River Mountains over a September birthday but at the last minute had to scrub it due to work. A month later feeling the need to get out my wife suggested a couple car camping nights instead. Remembering a year prior a fellow photographer in Wyoming provided a tip on the Red Desert. A look at the map showed it was easily attainable in the 48 hour window.
By the end of that night I was curled up in the back of the Trib parked somewhere in the dark, and at least hoped - close to the Boars Tusk- my target for sunrise. The Boars Tusk is an eroded remnant of a volcanic neck composed of lamproite and located in the middle of Killpecker Creek Valley, 25 miles north of Rock Springs in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. Rising like a monument from a 6 mile wide otherwise flat valley, it was called on an earlier Hayden Survey map "The Sentinel," and also referred to at one point as "Rock Point." No matter what you call it, it's the biggest thing around and what I was hoping to catch for first light.
5:45 the next morning. Once again the alarm on the iPhone didn't go off and it was much later than planned. Falling out of the back door of the car scrambling to get shoes on, splashing water on the face, then climbing in the driver's seat and bouncing back up the terrible "road" clunked up the night before. Glancing east showed there was a little time before the sun broke the horizon but not much.
Not sure what to look for… not exactly a lot of road signs in the middle of the Sweetwater County desert and you need to keep your eyes peeled. According to the map we're looking for a right turn not more than a half mile from camp. Straining to see anything that resembled a road through the brush but seeing only a faint, soft-sand double track disappearing up an incline, no signage of any kind... pass it up searching for something more promising.
Well, turns out that was it. 15 minutes/a few miles later finally turning around, deciding to take a chance. The Subaru heaves and groans through deep sand but makes it, cresting the burm to a leveler, firmer double track where the Boars Tusk penetrates the horizon what looks about 2 miles ahead. It's getting lighter and the Subaru thumps and scrapes against the high center of deep double track. Scanning the remaining road in the distance my heart sinks as I realized it only worsens; deep ruts of soft sand vanishing into the scrub with a prominent strip of stout, Wyoming earth between them, sure to high center if not careful. The rear view mirror shows an eastern horizon igniting and I know what it means. Had I driven all this way for nothing? A classic case of so close yet so far. My head runs through what could have - should have - been done differently - better.
Risking getting hopelessly stuck in the middle of nowhere hours by foot from anything even remotely resembling help - I bring the car to a halt, open the door and climb into sweet morning breeze. Walking to the next rise and watching the sun's first rays ignite the Boars Tusk - a dark, purple and blue sky behind amplifying the gorgeous reds and oranges leaping from the distant rock flanks... I make a point of burning the image into my mind while it lasts - my camera back in the car 10 yards away. Oh well, at least I saw it and was this close.
Like so many western sunrises, as the earth rotates and finally allows the sun to clear the last obstacle on the horizon, only a few brief moments of clear sky permit unobstructed glory igniting everything in its path before climbing just a bit higher and disappearing again behind the strip of clouds. I watch my shot happen before my eyes, empty handed but smiling. Once the cloud bank engulfed the upward traveling sun, gray spread over the desert again and there I was. I heard birds, smelled the morning, felt the breeze… it was utter peace. I turned and looked at the car and remember thinking, "man, I hope I didn't push in too far in… I hope I don't get stuck now. How am I gonna get out of here anyway? Do I have to back out the mile of double track I just came down?… I looked back at the Boars Tusk, now a muted rust with diffused light, and noticed the sky anew. The gentle angle of the cobalt blue, morning cloud front tapering perfectly to the tip of the Tusk, and wow, what gorgeous pinks lay beyond… my eyes dropped to the scrub before me noticing how the muted, autumn golds and greens played off that sky…
Finally decided to get my camera out and make a few frames any way - just because. It wasn't the shot I had in mind the whole drive up but it sure was unfolding into its own beauty. And it's still, after all, Wyoming's Red Desert. Open a fresh roll of Velvia, load the 120 back on the RZ, spot and incident meter with my Sekonic L-758DR, mount the RZ on the tripod, screw in the M-up release. Thunk. Click. Done.
I thought I knew what I was shooting for. As it turns out, circumstances dictated otherwise. God provided the perfect scene, then placed me in the perfect position to capture it. He provided the light, the camera, the film, the eyes, whatever little creativity I posess, the health, the car, the time… as well as everything else necessary to make this image. Romans 1:20 says, "for since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Amen to that, and to God be the glory.
Keywords: "Wyoming Wildlife" "Photo Contest" "Boars Tusk" "Red Desert" "Mamiya RZ67" "Medium Format" film "landscape photography" "Sweetwater County", http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post
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