Oxbow Bend Sunrise

Fully erect tripods are flung over shoulders as grey-bearded men run random routes.

Vertical view, framed-by-trees view, super-wide-angle to crop to letterbox view.

That was the chaos in the parking lot far below me. You can just make it out if you look to the far right of the bending river. That’s where everyone takes “the shot” from.

I looked at the slopes behind me for inspiration.

Wading through waist-high grass, claiming stupid bumpy hills. Checking my angles every five minutes while romanticizing the minutiae. Then the ridge ended. Nature deciding where my tripod should sit. Truth be told, I could envision a superior viewpoint 150ft higher and 60 yards father into an area free of solid mass. Otherwise know as a valley.

Location scouted, I mark my spot on the hill with rocks, sticks, footprints. And leave. I’ll come back tomorrow morning.

You need to be up at 4 to understand what it’s like to experience the magic of morning around here.

The smell is magical.

The danger of having your ass handed to you by a bear is legit.

The light is majestic.

Actually that’s a lie. It’s fucking dark at 4am.

I drive past the parking lot photographers, and stop in the black to hike blindly up my hill, following guesswork and vague silhouettes of identical trees.

With tripod set steady in makeshift divots, I cross my fingers, toes, legs, and anything else I have in the hope that I’ll get magic light.

I once danced a jig in Arches National Park because of that kind of light.

I can hear them now, down by the river. Fleece jackets grazing velcro grass, tripods falling into mud, someone telling the guy in the red jacket to get the **** out of his shot.

You could bottle tranquility like this.

Then everybody shuts their mouths, and a chorus of crickets belts out the same song they sing every day.

And the light. It was beyond epic. I couldn’t begin to describe it. So I won’t. I was there. You weren’t.

Then, as it always does, the light passes its angle of greatest effect and silence sucks up the sounds of work. Everyone stares at the rapidly hardening light – imperceptible to most, disappointing to the few. And they’re gone, as are their SUVs. Off to scan for moose or bears or whatever subject lies unchecked on their trophy list.