Sometimes Intuition Wins The Day

Broken Top Spring Sunrise (191035LNND8)

The morning before I took this image I had been down near the Deschutes River photographing sunrise. As I waited for the light I turned to see a full setting moon sink to the horizon. It was big and partially obscured by clouds. It was pretty dramatic.

When I returned home I began to research and plan a moonset photograph from the top of Tumalo Mountain. I would snowshoe up before dawn and capture the setting moon between Mount Bachelor and South Sister Mountains with wisps of clouds in front of the moon.

The next morning I was up at 3 am and on my way up the mountain. I arrived at Dutchman snow park at 4:30 am. The spring snow was soft and post-holing was unavoidable. I stopped to rest frequently. As I struggled up the mountain I had one eye on my watch and one on the full moon.

I expected clouds but I saw none as I looked up between the ponderosa pines. The going became more difficult and my expectations of reaching the ‘right’ spot in the ‘right’ conditions faded quickly. Maybe there was a better photograph waiting elsewhere? After another frustrating 10 minutes of sinking up to my knees every third step, I convinced myself to turn tail and hike down. I would instead hike the flat hard pack out into Dutchman Flat.

I walked out to the middle of the flat. In a semicircle from left to right Mount Bachelor, South Sister, Middle Sister, the tip of North Sister, and Broken Top Mountains were faintly visible in the predawn light. Clouds slowly moved in from the Southwest. At the same time ground fog began to appear all around me. 

Sometimes following your intuition can pay off. The longer I stood there watching the sky the more confident I was I had made the right decision despite my self loathing for giving up the summit effort.

My original mountain top composition would have been from a viewpoint level with the mountain peaks. It would be different from the Flat. I was now well below and looking across a wide flat snowfield and a bit upward. A wide angle would capture all the mountains but would render them very small and with way too much white space between the camera and mountains.

I elected to isolate a single mountain using a telephoto lens. After a few minutes it became clear which of the mountains would be the best subject, Broken Top. The clouds began to build, the fog began to rise, and the sun began to paint the clouds pink.

The craggy, semi-circle, rimmed peak of Broken Top stood in stark contrast against the pink cloud background. The ground fog partially obscured the stand of trees that block the lower slope of the mountain.

As I stood there I watched the cloud formation and sky color change minute by minute. The yellowness of the rising sun began to light up the East facing slope of the mountain. Lost in moment I took photo after photo on auto pilot. I was jolted back to the present when I caught a skate skier in my distant peripheral vision. He slowed, looked at me, then looked up towards the mountains. He nodded and skied on.

Photo Settings:

Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 130mm, 0.6 second exposure at f/14 & ISO 100

Thanks for reading about my photo adventures.



Broken Top Spring Sunrise (191035LNND8) Photographic Prints

This photograph is available as a Limited Edition print on my web site. It is available as a fine art framed metal print or an acrylic overlay paper print. A maximum of 250 prints will be made.

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