I just learned that Backpacker Magazine chose the picture below as the winner in their "Adventure Travel" photo contest.
I have mixed feelings about this shot. Above all else, I'm proud of it and really like the contrasts between the pillowy snow above, the chunky rock, and the silky water. But behind all that is tragedy. The story: I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with my wife, Gloria, and a friend who had come down to California from Tacoma. On the second day of a five-day trip, we were walking through the Desolation Wilderness (west of Lake Tahoe), swatting mosquitoes and feeling a little broken down, not quite trail hardened. And then we saw this cave where the creek had carved a tunnel through a snowbank. I suppose it's fortunate that I was going old school that trip and brought my Mamiya 7II medium format camera loaded with Kodak Portra film. Nothing else would have preserved the huge dynamic range of the scene quite like print film. So I plunged into the cave with a tripod and 43mm lens on the camera and worked the scene, shooting low angles, high angles, looking down one direction, down the other. Had a hard time protecting the camera from dripping water and I was always conscious of how slippery the rocks were. I took this shot as I was exiting the cave and turned around for one last look. The exposure time was about five seconds. I knew this was probably the best of the best and in a stupor of self-satisfaction I stepped outside the cave and promptly lost my footing on a wet rock. I dove into the creek which was deeper than it looked and could feel my body being swept downstream. I managed to jab the tripod into the creek bottom and stand up. The first thing I looked at was the camera. The lens had smashed on a rock and the body was soaked to the point of being inoperable. And then I looked up to see a group of hikers staring down at me flabbergasted as if they couldn't figure out whether to help me out of the water or laugh. They did neither.
I had to go the rest of the trip without taking pictures and I was miserable.
But at least I got this picture . . .