What makes an image timeless? What makes a photo so profound that it pulls you into a moment and creates a feeling that wasn't there before? How do you create a truly powerful and wholly memorable image?
The search for answers to these questions has been pivotal in my photography journey, and to be honest, I don't think I fully know yet.What I've learned so far is that it's often the images that are made with care and intention, not just taken. As my photographic style has shifted more toward documentary, I find myself taking a lot of pictures. Shooting moments along a journey to document the memories and share it in a way that feels atmospheric and immersive, helping the viewer feel like they were along for the journey in their own way.
Along the way, I try to make photographs as well. The process of making photographs is different. It can still be spontaneous, but less so. Sometimes it comes from a prior inspiration to create something specific. Other times, it still happens in the moment as your creative vision is inspired by the world around you. But almost always, at least in my case, it involves collaboration.
On our way to Iceberg Lake, Peyton and I were going over a shared creative vision to make a photograph of someone jumping off of an iceberg into the frigid, blue waters of this magnificent alpine paradise. As we made our way towards the lake, we had ample opportunity to get our minds in the right place as we wandered through glorious alpine meadows, filled with wildflowers awaiting the glow of the morning sun.
Off to the right of the trail, some movement in the brush caught our eye. Among the thickets about 150 yards away, a massive Grizzly Bear foraged for breakfast. It was the perfect distance so that we were not in danger but we were close enough to watch in awe. Peyton had been praying to see one for the whole trip. And here it was.
At the lake, it was time to see if we could bring our vision to life. And that meant a few things. First, Peyton had to prepare his mind and body for what would be some of the coldest water either of us had ever swam in, which is saying something. We also had to go over compositions and find the one we liked best. With those two things out of the way, it was time to give it a go. As I saw watched Peyton walk out to that Iceberg, I was grinning from ear to ear, knowing that this was going to be something special.
This is truly one of my favorite images I've ever shot. It feels like the encapsulation of everything I love about summer in the mountains. Warm, glowing sunshine, cold alpine swims in crystal blue water, and incredible friendship.
When it comes to making a photo that feels timeless, I think it's incredibly important to craft the image in such a way that it can tell a story all on it's own. I love sharing my work in sets, a bunch of photos together that all work in tandem to build a story. A lot of those photos wouldn't make sense without the context of the others in the set.
But most of my favorites, like this one, are the images where I can be completely immersed in the memory, and tell the full story in just one frame. To create images like this one, and use all the other "taken" photos from a trip to provide even deeper context is how I believe photographic storytelling can be the most powerful, and the feeling of achieving that perfectly is the rare feling that keeps me coming back over and over again.
Of course, I had to take a turn jumping off the iceberg as well:
After a very smoky summit climb the next day, our time in Glacier came to a close. What a glorious adventure it had been. A time to let our hearts and souls unwind in the grandeur of creation, a place that genuinely feels like fantasy. I wouldn't have been surprised if we'd seen a dragon or something, but a grizzly bear would have to do.
For all those reading, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go immerse yourself in this place for a while. It will change you in all the best ways.