Zenfolio | Sublime Light Landscape Photography | The Story Behind the Photo (that I did not take): Denali

The Story Behind the Photo (that I did not take): Denali

March 21, 2017  •  Leave a Comment


I was fortunate to spend two weeks in Denali last summer (2016), mostly camping: 3 nights at Savage River, 8 nights at Wonder Lake.  Wonder Lake Campground (CG) can only be reached by an 88-mile bus ride into the park.  It's about as close to "end-of-the-road" as you can get.  The wonderful thing about Wonder Lake CG (yes, that was a pun) is that if Denali is out, it looms huge over the campground, even though it is about 25 miles away.


Unfortunately, Denali was not out (it was hidden by clouds) much during my trip.  Denali got epic, and I do mean epic, rain during my stay.   It rained about half the time...not half the days, but half the time.  While I stayed warm and dry (due to impeccable preparations), the rain created all sorts of trouble, including a landslide that took out the road and cut-off Wonder Lake CG, and then later made access to and from the CG difficult.  The buses, instead of running about 6x per day, ran just once in the morning, and once in the late afternoon.  During that time, if you missed the bus, you really "missed the bus", and your walk would be a minimum of 20 miles.  Because of the weather, before my last morning, I had seen Denali out only 2 or 3 times.


While camping, I often wake up several times during the night.  Sometimes I use those opportunities to see if the stars are out.  If they are, sometimes I will get up at, say, 2 am to shoot the Milky Way.  On my last morning at Wonder Lake, I woke about 4 am, and noticed this blue glow outside of the tent.  That is usually a good indication that the sky is clear, and the glow suggested that Denali was out.  I opened the tent door and I could see that Denali was out, and it was truly spectacular.   I grabbed my camera gear and hiked about 1/2 mile to an overlook that I had discovered a couple of days earlier.  I shot the mountain in pre-dawn light in all of its glory, which was a lot of glory.  


Denali pre-dawn, about 4:30 am


About 5:30 am I headed back to the CG to strike camp and to catch the 6am bus, the only bus out that morning. My next chance would be about 4 pm.  As I was taking down my tent, the sun rose and bathed the mountain in a beautiful red glow.  It was amazing.  I debated grabbing my camera and going back to take more photos.  However, I was pretty sure I would miss the bus if I did that.  After two weeks in Denali, even though I had a GREAT time, I was ready to go.  So I caught probably the best light show in history that occurred while someone took down their tent and struck camp.  As my beautiful wife likes to say "enjoy it with your eyeballs" (instead of photographing it).  I took her advice.  That amazing light show now exists solely in my mind.




PS: I will have my Denali photos up later in 2017.  I'm way, way behind on processing photos.  


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