When I was 18 years old, I found photography. Maybe photography found me.
My graduation gift from high school was a Nikon FM — a mechanical SLR camera from the late 1970s. Because it lacked a brain of any kind, I had to tell it to do everything, and that was the joy of it. I would take two shots of the same thing as much as I could: f/3.2 for the first one, f/22 for the second one. Then I’d play with shutter speeds. Two shots of the same thing became four. And so on.
My first test subjects in the summer of 1997 were Colorado’s wildflowers. I was always in the mountains at that age, if not every weekend, then at least every other weekend, and from late June to early August, the meadows of the Rockies were exploding with color.
This past weekend, Hailey and I and our four-month-old daughter Varenna drove to Steamboat Springs to celebrate the Fourth of July. As we climbed Rabbit Ears Pass, our little girl became antsy — mouth clenched, gutteral “uhhhs” emanating from her throat, kicks to the side of the sunshade on her car seat … OK, we get the point Varenna. You want to be held. You want out. Can’t blame you.
Near the crest of the pass, there is a turn off U.S. 40 where a flat and massive meadow opens to the north, forming a brilliant green apron beneath Rabbit Ears Peak. We pulled off onto the dirt road and bounced along to Dumont Lake, a serene and idyllic lake that has recently been tarnished by beetle-killed pine trees. The wildflowers, however, remain profuse and stunning, with columbine, paintbrush, lupine and glacier lilies decorating the meadows with purple, red, blue and yellow.
Our stop was only 45 minutes, but it gave Renna a break from her carseat and allowed me some time to compose these wildflower shots. Getting a pretty wildflower shot isn’t hard. Getting an original one is. On that account, I don’t know that I got one, but it was a lot of fun trying.
Soon the sky grew dark, the wind kicked up and thunder rolled over the hills beneath the lake. We buckled our little girl back into her seat and drove into the rain…