High-Sierra-Pioneer-Basin-sunset

Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the Pioneer Basin, Sierra Nevada mountains, California, on July 11th, 2014

When you think about what drives you you can come to some pretty funny conclusions. Like photography, for example. Did I really just drag my weary ass 10 miles over thousands of feet of elevation change just to press a button and record a few pixels? Why, I surely did! But of course it’s so much more than that, because it’s not really about the pixels, it’s about the experience. It’s about standing in that place and breathing in its timeless nature and rugged beauty. And it’s about finding the right spot to plant your two feet to capture an image that evokes the essence of what you feel in that moment. And that’s the real driver.

Which hopefully helps explain why after hiking deep into the Pioneer Basin in the John Muir Wilderness to seek a good location for sunset I decided to turn around and descend the 1.5 miles and 500 feet I had just ascended, 45-pounds of backpack fighting me the whole way. Weary I was, but the upper basin just wasn’t holding the views I was looking for. So I re-slung my pack about my shoulders and fought off the mosquitoes as I trudged back down to the lower basin, soaking my shoes in the process as I trod through rainstorm-sodden grass.

But those sort of discomforts are minimal, ephemeral, and are always eclipsed by the wonder and joy the backcountry instills in me. I found this stream channel leading into colloquially-known Mud Lake and knew it was the prime spot to watch the sunset unfold. But rather than an intense show of color, the clouds only light up with pockets of light. And in fact, the most interesting, evocative, and moody moment happened after sunset when the deep blue-hour tones helped the distant mountains glow in their purple majesty.

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