ome of my most memorable images have come as a result
of friends and family sharing their recent experiences
in Nature with me. My cousin Clark Jackson had been
hiking on this ridge in July of 1998 and called me to
exclaim, “I saw the best wildflowers ever up there!”
A couple of days later, my girlfriend Marj Hoye and
I explored Coffin Mountain. After a steep climb, I began
photographing a moderate display of flowers just below
the summit, while Marj climbed to the top. When she
returned, I questioned her about flowers. She said she
saw very few. We decided to leave. As we drove home,
I was feeling puzzled by the conditions that didn’t
seem to match up with my cousin’s experience.
So, two days later I returned prepared to spend the
night. I worked my way up the mountain in the afternoon
heat, taking two photographs and then heading for the
top. I chose a different route than Marj had taken earlier.
This proved to be the difference. As I approached the
ridge top, I was greeted by a stunning stand of Beargrass,
Indian Paintbrush and Penstemon. I observed them from
various angles and then took several photographs.
The ridge line of Coffin Mountain faces west, positioning
it perfectly to catch the last warm glow of daylight.
I envisioned how it would look just before and after
sunset. That’s when I knew I had to find just
the right composition to maximize this potential. I
walked north along the ridge and eventually came to
the elements that would become ‘Twilight Fire.’
I worked the composition until everything felt perfect.
The sun slowly dropped in the west. Just when the scene
lit up with the warm golden glow of the hour, the sun
went behind a thin haze cloud. Would it glow brightly
enough when it reappeared in clear blue? Would there
be time before it dropped below the horizon? Is 2 minutes
Finally the sun cleared the haze, but just before I
started exposing film, the wind began to blow! With
my 2 second exposure, I had to wait. Finally, just before
the sun set, I was able to create ‘Twilight Fire.’
After completing my images, I stopped to admire Mt.
Jefferson and the beauty spread before me. Evening twilight
turned to dusk as I prepared my bed. Just before I fell
asleep, I was startled my the sound of hooves thrashing
the ground near me. Evidently deer had drawn close and
become startled by my presence. I spent a restless night
braced against the cold. The next morning I awoke to
a crescent moon hanging over Mt. Jefferson and the very
first color of daylight. Rolling over, I fell back into
a deep restful sleep, content with my success.
The following summer, I returned to Coffin Mountain
two days from the date that I had created 'Twilight
Fire.' Not only were there no flowers, there was
a huge snow bank where the flowers had been! Timing