As I’ve already mentioned in my previous post, last Saturday’s trip onto the Mendenhall was phenomenal. It was incredibly visually stimulating, and one would suspect that I might have returned with a variety of extremely satisfying images. In actuality, it has been difficult to find a single scenic photo that suits my taste. There is little doubt that I have high standards for the photographs I’m willing to share, but in spite of that, there has never been any guarantee that the photos deemed to exemplify my ideal presentation of the landscape will make much of an impact with viewers. It can be quite discouraging to think that after the struggle to meet my own expectations, the product I have to offer may fall flat with its intended audience.
That is why it has been such a relief to me on the occasions in which I’ve turned my photography over to God. When I’m following His direction, I don’t have to worry about what viewers will take away from my photographs, and I don’t even have to worry so much what I will think about them. I trust God to accomplish his plan through me when I have surrendered myself to Him.
Aware of the company we were keeping, Corey and I made no attempt to hide our grievances against hiking to the end of West Glacier Trail with healthy piles of gear in our packs. We also reminisced about the days we used to run up and down the trail for high school cross-country practice, and perhaps those youthful experiences are precisely why the trip feels like such a slog all these years later. The trail was a complete mess after the morning’s rain, which was much heavier and more persistent than had been forecast. I, for one, was tempering my expectations with the help of continued scattered showers, despite the anticipation of fresh snow crowning all the surrounding peaks for the first time this year.
The views over the Mendenhall Glacier toward Mt. Bullard, Suicide Basin, Mt. Wrather, and the Mendenhall Towers opened up before us as we crested the last treacherous rocks on the side of Mt. McGinnis, slick with mosses and residual rainwater. This vista had been my destination on many winter hikes, and Corey recalled how, when he was a kid, the ice had been but a stone’s throw away. On the contrary, after our sweaty ascent, we would climb down…three hundred feet? It could be even more. The volume of melted glacial ice that has been swallowed, unnoticed, by the Pacific Ocean staggers the mind.
Even as we began out trek across the ice, the weather was refusing to show her hand (a sign of wondrous potential to any landscape photographer), but before we became too concerned with what the sky would bring, we located some ice features that warranted a high degree of enthusiasm on their own. Corey didn’t waste any time dropping into the icy playground, and I got right to work behind the lens. One thing led to another, including both downpours and sun-breaks, and I eventually stood over my bag, chilled to the bone, fingers numb, trying to swap the lenses on my camera as the light bathed alpine colors on the mountainsides.
The next few hours were a battle between a growing, nausea inducing, headache and the utterly sublime surroundings. I shifted gears to a more responsive style of photography, which is my preference in any case. We didn’t travel as great a distance as I had originally planned, and I climbed up off the ice while Corey was still doing some exploring. As I was waiting in a huddle, reaching out to trip the shutter every so often, the clouds turned their colors and then faded. In classic fashion for Corey and me, the hike back to the car was lit by my iPhone flashlight, our two headlamps with either completely or mostly dead batteries. Shrugging off our packs at the trail-head initiated some relief that would last until the soreness set in overnight.
The whole ordeal (which was actually a blessing) brings to mind the Calvin and Hobbes strips where Calvin’s dad is engaging in his bike riding activities. He inevitably suffers some series of destructive misfortunes and comes home a tangle of cuts, bruises, and chain grease…hoping it’s not long before he gets a chance to do it again…or grumbling that he never will. I would be lying if I said there’s no chance of me passing on an opportunity or two, but it’s only a matter of time before I put my body back to work at bringing me to where the payoff places everything into perspective.
As Corey and I pedaled briskly over the Herbert River Trail (one of the best/easiest rides in town), the last light of day was gradually lifting up from the river, to the glacier, to the tops of the mountains, and finally into the clouds. In the end, we missed most of it, catching only glimpses through the trees. Fortunately that didn’t keep either of us from being awed by features of the landscape. The upper Herbert River, where it is withing view of the Herbert Glacier, is a familiar site to many Juneau residents, and yet each day, in each season, brings its own unique twist. I for one, will never have had my fill of it.
I’ve remarked to friends a couple of times in the last few weeks that I find it possible to appreciate the way Juneau’s wilderness almost always seems to be holding something back. Predominantly the result of foul weather (if there really is such a thing), the pieces are rarely aligned. Peak fall color or summer flowers, colorful light, time free of other obligations, and a break in the clouds all come and go on their own, very seldom showing up at your door together. What if it was easy? What if you could say, “On such and such day, I will go out and camp for a week,” without fearing the potential for the rains to come and wash away all your best laid plans? I think it would be too easy, and I think it would be just a little bit harder to picture spending the rest of my life here.
I finally made my first submission of images for review to Alaska Stock the other day. It was a step something like five years in the making, and I chose a set of images I made with Corey back in 2009. At this point, all I can say is that I hope they accept some of them. Otherwise it’s back to the drawing board.
On another note, I briefly saw a forecast promising some partly sunny skies again this weekend. Perhaps I’ll be granted an opportunity to make some new images.
Three or four cool, sunny days and we’ve already met our quota for the month before we made it halfway through. It’s been quite a relief after the August we endured here in Juneau. Just like my entries here on he journal, all photographic activities have been taking a backseat to teaching these last few weeks. I just have to be grateful for my classroom’s wall full of huge sun-facing windows, but over the weekend, I did get to embark on my first “official” stock photography self-assignment. The best part was getting to combine that with quality time for my wife and I on a gorgeous morning.