This is my favorite shot for 2013.
Havasupai in Autumn
To be honest I don't put a lot of thought into the process but rather go with a completely visceral response and then work my way back and see if I can explain it intellectually. I find this image to be a bit complex and perhaps why I'm drawn to it. It also is rich in emotion for me. The minute I shot it, I knew it was my favorite.
I'm in love with the color. These shades of Autumn's last hurrah, the golds, siennas, ochres and umbers in a delicately stippled watercolor scene. It was early morning and I was in a hurry to make Navajo Falls as the steam off the warm waterfalls were colliding with the very crisp Autumn morning air and I wanted to capture that steamy, floating mist coming off the spectacular falls before it warmed up.
As I walked up this trail, a couple of backpackers were ahead of me and I saw this scene and fell in love with it. I knew I couldn't pass up the fleeting atmospherics going down at the falls and kept walking. Often, I've had to make choices like this. I thought I'd revisit this trail on the way back from the morning shoot. Several hours later, I hiked back down and found the exact spot. Actually, the sun had now come out and I loved the color intensity that much more and the new angle of the sun made for some great back lighting. The scene had so much more warmth in it than earlier as the sun now filters through the golden leaves. As I was shooting another couple of backpackers stood respectfully out of my shot and of course I wanted them "in" so I waved them on and into my favorite shot they walked.
The image conveys a sense of "going home". An adventure taken, spectacular landscapes surrounding warm and inviting colors of a season's end. Life happening. Adding the human element in my landscapes was a new, fun and exciting direction this year. The trees and foliage lean one way and the backpackers lean the other and it seems to create a sense of contrast and movement.
My goal is to get the best image I can technically, a process that is ever evolving. Proper exposure, well framed, composed with the best natural light being a priority. I want the image to evoke an emotion, tug at my heart and hopefully tug at the viewers as well. Create a sense of curiosity, wonder and communication. The words of Jack Dykinga always run through my mind at this point as he would say, "What do you want to say?" I want the viewer to know how much I loved being there at that very moment and want it to show. I love a sentimental moment caught in time. I'm not interested in the iconic, I want it personal.
Havasupai was probably just turning past peak with the fall colors but I love this time. I love the forest floors covered in multicolor leaves. I find the mix of color among some bare trees to be poetic and dramatic, a season caught in transition. In this case, as the backpackers make their way back to the Supai village, a worn path presents and creates this amazing lead in. The rocks on the right imply the sublte "S" curve of the trail and the backpackers complete that curve. The canopy of color frames the upper image and the backpackers perfect contrasting colors give a sense of scale, movement and story.
When I see this image, I'm instantly back there. The cold crisp air, the smell, the sounds the soft sandy ground and sense that you are far from home. Emotionally, it was a sense of completion. I'd wanted to see Havasupai colored with Autumn for a long time. A sense of achievement in planning and executing a trip in and out of Havasupai at such a beautiful time with no major injuries. My last time here, I hiked in and broke two toes. Having the right gear for the very chilly nights and mornings and for the most part being at the right places at the right times. I was tired, dirty and ready to go home and I kept thinking about this image I had on my camera. Next time, I think I'll try to stay longer but given the time constraints I came home with some fun shots. I already have some great ideas for when I return.
Favorite image of 2012