"Encore" - Foreword

9/21/2022

     Why people often associate gray skies with sadness and depression baffles me. My soul is singing on this cloudy morning and I feel completely at peace. Wandering around this small grove of aspen trees, blanketed in fresh snow and fallen leaves, watching the fog slowly clear from the powdery, white mountains above, there is nowhere else I’d rather be.

     This is probably the tenth time that I have come up to this particular spot this season. I have returned here on several evenings and almost every morning just in the last week. Revisiting certain places is something I do often, as I find that with changing conditions and lighting, it’s nearly impossible to feel like I have photographed everything I can in a single visit. And even more importantly, I don't think it’s possible to experience a place entirely–the smells, sounds, nuances, feelings–in a single visit either.

"Winter's Caress"

     Today, this grove of colorful aspen trees is remarkably beautiful, and an abundance of new scenes have been created by the recent snowstorm. Everywhere I look, there is something that catches my eye. So much so that it is difficult to focus on the composition I am currently dialing in.

     I am especially grateful for this fall season. Not only has the colorful show been phenomenal and long lasting, the weather has been very dynamic and varied as well. Compared to the last few years that have been strangely hot, dry, and sunny, this season has reminded me of how fall should be. For a while there I was getting worried that I would never get to experience a fall season anything like this again.

     My attention returns to the scene before me: an endless sea of fallen aspen leaves lying on the fresh snow. An extravaganza of color. I have never seen anything like it, and I can’t stop trying out different compositions as I zoom in and out, having trouble deciding how much of it I should include or exclude. But the lighting is soft and constant, causing me no rush and giving me plenty of time to study and experiment.

"Extravaganza"

     After an hour or so, feeling content, I bring my focus back to eye level, towards the trees around me that are also beautiful. The last few days of snow have caused them to drop more leaves, but there are still many red, yellow, and orange leaves dangling from their branches. I love seeing the aspens like this, almost entirely naked, revealing their elegant shapes made up of pale, scraggly arms and fingers.

     As the sun comes up and the clouds clear, different parts of the grove are illuminated in unique ways. I continue to make photographs of the changing scenery all around me for several hours, until finally feeling like I no longer need to. I could stay up here all day photographing different things if I wanted, but I am ready to put the camera away and have a few private, undocumented moments between myself and the trees.

     I bask in the silence that fresh snow and sub-zero temperatures create, dampening all sound and deterring the crowds. I have been here alone all morning, and even though I am just a stone’s throw away from a popular canyon road, not a single other car has driven past. I have been the only disturbance to the quietude, and I have done my best to remain unnoticed.

"Summoned"

     I take a few intentional, deep breaths of the crisp mountain air, trying to absorb the stillness and silence so that I may somehow carry it back with me. I am reluctant to drive home, returning to the busy, noisy, and hurried city that I live in. But I am also looking forward to seeing my family, who were all still sleeping soundly when I left early this morning, and sit next to the fireplace as I drink a warm mug of coffee.

     This will be the last time I can come up here before the season ends. Tomorrow I have to head to the desert to give a private workshop for the next few days. I know that this scenery will no longer be here when I return. Its only trace will be left in the photographs I have made this morning. I’m also aware that it’s very possible that–at least for a very long time–this may be the last fall like this. Despite the rising temperatures, longer droughts, and larger fires that have been killing these trees off, at this moment, everything feels normal in the world. Today has been yet another sacred gift from nature.

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