created ‘Ancient One’ in early January of
1998. This ancient Whitebark Pine grows on the rim of
a cinder cone that rests at the base of Mt. Bachelor,
in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. My primary reason
for photographing this volcanic landscape was to capture
an image of the Three Sisters Mountains (please see
‘Faith, Hope and Charity’) for a 9 foot
back lit mural a national corporation had commissioned
me to create. While scouting for that image, I spotted
this Whitebark Pine from afar. It was like a beacon
drawing me to the crater rim.
I’ve been captivated by ancient trees for a long
time. The most beautifully sculpted Whitebark Pine specimens
grow on mountain ridges buffeted by the most intense
wind and weather imaginable. This location gets so much
wind that the snow has a difficult time sticking to
the ridge, as witnessed by the rock you see at the base
of the tree.
In winter, I access many of my subjects on cross country
skis. After spotting this tree, I skied to the crater
rim and circled it, observing its exquisite character
from every angle. I soon observed something that got
me very excited. The most beautiful view of the tree
also faced west with no obstruction to the horizon.
This meant, during the last hour of daylight the tree
would take on a dramatic glow.
After examining the tree, I was immediately drawn to
another Whitebark Pine growing horizontally across the
hillside with a spectacular view of the Three Sisters
and Broken Top Mountain. This was just the image I was
looking for to complete the mural project. This image
later became my limited edition print titled, ‘The
Ancient Ones.’ After finding other wonderful subjects,
I decided to come back another day when the conditions
would provide more snow and ice on the trees. I skied
down the mountain in the dark, anticipating the great
images to come.
Over the next week I watched the weather closely, and
finally saw the conditions I was looking for. My excitement
level was high. As I climbed with 35 pounds on my back,
my lungs protested the thin,15 degree air. Still, I
arrived at the top with plenty of time to spare and
began setting up my equipment. This was it! I had to
focus on my primary goal first, that being the mural
image. The conditions were perfect. I waited for what
seemed like an eternity for the light to begin coloring
the scene with alpenglow pinks and purples. When the
time was right I began exposing film, knowing I only
had a couple of minutes to work. Success!
When I was finished I looked up the hill to my right
and saw this spectacular alpenglow lighting up the ancient
Whitebark Pine. I grabbed my camera and literally ran
up the hill scrambling to get set up. I had to back
up with my torso resting on the trunk of another tree
to get the composition I wanted. I completely surrendered
to my instincts. There was no time for any other way.
At this moment, I created ‘Ancient One.’
Within 2 minutes the color in the sky was fading and
I stopped photographing.
With a huge smile on my face and a warm feeling in my
heart, I skied down the mountain anticipating the results
of this special day.