Contemplating Time

Tree Skeleton and Crescent Moon, Twin Peaks Wilderness, Utah

I’d long been drawn to this tree and photographed it on more than a few occasions before making this image. The shape of this dead tree arrests my eye every time I hike in the vicinity of Lake Blanche. On this night it was like a beacon.

 Situated north of Lake Blanche, on the edge of a large block of resistant stone forming the terrace into which lakes Lillian, Florence, and Blanche are carved, among polished ribs of rock, the setting is perfect for capturing this dead tree cleanly against the western sky. On this night, two nights after the new moon, a waxing crescent moon was setting into a clear electric blue twilight and lining up quite nicely with the tree.

I had just left Lake Blanche where I had stayed till sunset’s bitter end, when the landscape could only be photographed in silhouette. I started towards the trailhead and was almost immediately stopped. The scene materializing before me reminded me of an image in my mind of a lone sculpted tree set against a crescent moon.

I dropped my pack, and worked quickly to set up my tripod. I changed lenses, from the wide angle I’d been working with, to a telephoto lens. Next, I dialed in my exposure, knowing that I needed to keep my shutter speed to one second or less in order to avoid blur from celestial movement. I had almost no time to spare as the light in the sky was quickly dying.  I made several exposures while fine-tuning my composition by physically moving my camera position.

As I made my way down to the trailhead in the dark, I wondered how many hundreds of years it took this tree to reach such stately proportions. This once mighty tree has left behind a monument with extraordinary character, a visual legacy of its noble life.

This monument is a marker of time somewhat closer to mind than the lives of mountains or moons, and when set against the Earth’s cosmic timepiece, endlessly marking days, a deeper layer of meaning is achieved. The two symbols together move the image toward the iconic, the archetypal.

Lone Peak from the Pfeifferhorn

Lone Peak from the Pfeifferhorn, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah

Fractured granite on the Pfeifferhorn summit frames the scene to the west, towards South Thunder Mountain and Lone Peak.  From this vantage point the Wasatch looks more like the Sierra Nevada, with the high headwall of Hogum Fork blocking any view of civilization a mere eight miles west. Beams of light through broken clouds add to the drama on a mid-August afternoon atop the third highest summit in Salt Lake County.

This image was originally captured on 35mm Fujichrome Velvia in 1998. Wow, I can’t believe it was that long ago!? I’ve always liked the content of this image, but the weak color of this color transparency kept me from doing anything with it, back in the day when I had cibachrome prints made from my slides at the lab, and I was still years away from publishing anything on the internet.

With the advent of the digital dark room I can give new life to images like this, images that have a certain something that keeps them out of the trash bin, but not enough interest to make it into a portfolio, often by conversion to black and white.  The lack of any bright colors and the high contrast light (tamed at capture with a Singh Ray grad ND filter) made black and white conversion the obvious choice.  After the initial black and white conversion I used Photoshop layer masks to lighten the foreground rock and darken the sky to give this image some oomph.  

MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE GALLERY

NATURAL DETAILS

WINTER LANDSCAPE GALLERY

PANORAMA GALLERY