My next attempt at getting my feet under me with this whole “I want to take pictures good and do other stuff good too” project was to head up into our local mountain range, the Wasatch, a place that’s always been in my comfort zone. I figured that some low-hanging fruit would be the area around Lake Blanche, frozen over this time of year, but surrounded by photogenic terrain. Since it’s about a 3.5-mile hike with almost 3000′ of elevation gain, and I wanted to be there by sunrise, I left the trailhead a little before 6 AM. In my head, my primary target was to get some early morning glow on a peak called the Sundial, a unique and easily recognizable ridge that extends from the main divide between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons towards Lake Blanche. Made sense at the time.
Once getting up close to the lake I realized that I had not quite given myself the amount of time I wanted to explore for a spot to set up, and with the sun starting to illuminate the highest peaks I did a quick setup and started shooting whatever struck my eye. Somewhat counter intuitive to my reason for hiking up this chilly piece of the Wasatch, I mostly started shooting away from the cirque and back towards the Salt Lake Valley (which has been immersed in a think inversion fog layer) and opposite the opposite ridgeline. Especially striking to me was a small patch of pines (including a large dead one), one of which stood in stark relief with the reddish background. If I could go back now, I’d probably head over closer to that dead tree and revolve the whole morning around it. Maybe a lesson for next time. At least I didn’t over and under expose 80% of my pictures like my first time out. This ended up being my favorite of these tree shots:
I shifted my attention over to Dromedary Peak, which dominates the view to the Southeast, and was really starting to be bathed in sunlight. I struggled to frame the picture, and started up with my near frantic behavior from last week, plowing from spot to spot looking for the greener grass. I never ended up being particularly happy with any of them, and had a constant feeling of selling the scene short. That, and my constant preoccupation with including the moon in the background (a fool’s errand with the equipment at hand and my inexperience) left a dissatisfied taste in my mouth. Of the 80 or so pictures I took, this ended up being the one I like most:
Of course, all these pictures were supposed to be just killing time as I waited for the sun to rise up high enough to put the Sundial in the spotlight. So I waited. And waited… and waited…. Until finally the sun popped over the ridge. Blindingly. Straight into the sightline towards Sundial. Apparently I didn’t take into account that the other times I had hiked this trail in the early morning it had been mid-summer, not mid-winter, and the more southerly heliopath had created a situation where I needed to be in a much different location to get a suitable picture. Another lesson learned, I packed up and headed home. Here’s an earlier shot of the Sundial before the sun came up:
I’m thinking that for my next time out, I’m going to focus on something a bit smaller scale, like one of the many streams in the Wasatch, and try to dial in some basics before tackling the larger vistas again.