Ancient Bristlecone Pines – Redux

As I write this, I’m in route to photograph the ancient bristlecone pine forest. That’s right, I’m headed to the White Mountains of south-central California for some night photography. After a month-long delay due to the smoke from the California wildfires, I’m finally getting back in the saddle and I’m off on another photography adventure. Giddy up!

The skies look clear in the area where I’m headed so I don’t expect the wildfires to affect me this time around. The temperatures are also much more reasonable than they were a month ago. In short, it was a good decision to delay my trip. The only thing standing in my way is…well, me.

I tossed and turned in bed last night thinking about all the possibilities on this trip. My mind raced with questions. Will I get the rental SUV I need in Las Vegas? Will I have enough batteries to do the shoots I have planned? Will the flights be on time? Will the holiday weekend affect my trip? Will the campground be full when I get there? Will the pain in my right foot be a problem? Will I get the shots I want? Will I get ANY shots? So many questions, so much uncertainty. As I laid in bed about two hours before my alarm was to go off, I thought, “two hours of sleep…is it really worth it? Maybe I should just stay awake all night.” My brain churned in the dark of my bedroom. “Why do I do this to myself?” I thought. I swear, life would be so much easier if I could just flip a switch to turn off my brain. If only. But my brain continued. Why would I leave the comfort of my house and my world just to go on a solo journey to spend time with 4000-thousand-years-old trees and the Milky Way at 10,000 ft? Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay home? No one is making me do this. It is a self-imposed act of lunacy! I even reached a point where my brain said, “eff this, I’m not going.”

Right about that time, however, I reminded my brain why I do these trips. Surprisingly, it’s not about getting a photograph. It’s not about showing off a beautiful image when I get back. The occasional ooo’s and ahh’s are not enough to go through this. No, it’s really about me. It’s about me learning about me. What am I capable of doing? Can I get out there and test my limits? And what are they? What will I learn about myself, my planet, my universe? I don’t know the answers yet, but they will reveal themselves when they are ready. I know they will. They always do. The answers may be sublime. They may be profound. Whatever the case, I need to get out there to find them. They won’t reveal themselves to me from the comfort of my chair or the shelter of my house. The answers are out there somewhere. When I get back, I promise to share them, but one thing is for sure: they will be my answers, not yours. For your answers, you’ll have to go out and find them for yourself. Good luck to both of us!!

Here is an image of a bristlecone pine from a trip to the White Mountains several years ago. In case you don’t know, the circles in the sky are star circles due to the earth’s rotation during a long exposure. I don’t do a lot of star trail images these days, but the bristlecone pines are a fantastic subject for them. Wish me luck this week!


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