“There is freedom in admitting that you don't know something, as that allows for a new learning experience to emerge.”
This thought was on my mind as I set out on a quintessential trip into the Sierra to capture an image I have envisioned for years. The location would be 13,000’ just below Mt. Whitney and somewhat difficult to access. I hadn’t hiked the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek for years and wondered if could still even get to Iceberg Lake in a day! I’m powerful on the uphill thanks to cycling the past few years, but coming up on 67, some of my agility to move fluidly through mixed terrain has been gracefully surrendered to the things of youth and I’m not what I used to be in the mountains. Reflecting and celebrating my youthful talents in the backcountry led to thoughts of needing to be safer in older years and then thoughts about the descent through the Ledges. Could I get down safely? It became evident to me in the lower part of the Mountaineer’s Route while climbing the Ledges that I would have to stop short of my objective for that day and camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake.There were other thoughts of trepidation, such as would my camera work as I expected?
A bit out onto the frozen lake, I found what looked to be the right spot for the Milky Way and set my alarm for 3 am.
My good friend and mentor, Galen Rowell, believed in a mantra, “luck and success always favored those who are prepared”. So true in this case, I had packed well and felt prepared. Even so, the operation of my tripod didn’t work as planned. My tripod head was locked onto my larger beefier tripod. I thought I’d had a good idea, but of course when I got to the Lake, my idea failed. Fortunately, I could make adjustments to the tripod.
We all know the various methods about where to focus for the Milky Way, but it’s difficult in the night, and I had misplaced my strong reading glasses. Then an idea about focusing dawned on my foggy brains at 3 am. Why not make several images focused on slightly different distances from the apparent optimum point in manual focus? It worked beautifully! You can take the images back to your computer and quickly find the best focus. More energy goes to the “right-side” of my brains.
The idea of the capture all came together. This shooting session was important to me as it was truly a once-in-lifetime chance. I hiked to this location 50 years ago, but being here this time I knew that I would not be making the hike again. I even wound up asking around for another party to go down the Ledges with in case I felt the need a rope!