When a cold snap came to Lone Pine in January 2023, I knew there was potential for a stunning photograph. Most landscape photographers won’t bother getting out of bed for sunrise unless there is the promise of clouds in the sky. However, having spent years photographing the Alabama Hills and studying the light in the area, I knew that a magical kind of light sometimes occurs on clear, cold mornings about 35 minutes before sunrise. In these moments, true alpenglow (sunlight reflected off of ice particles in the atmosphere) bathes the entire Eastern Sierra in a stunning magenta glow.
During that cold week in late January, I woke early each morning to make the hike to the elegant Mobius Arch, hoping to see alpenglow cast across the landscape. The first few mornings of my attempts did not yield strong images. But on this particular day, I finally got the conditions I was looking for. When I arrived at the trailhead some 45 minutes before sunrise, diffuse orange light was already spreading out across the eastern sky. I hustled to the arch, setting up my equipment just as the oranges were replaced by rich pink hues. The landscape began to glow with warm radiance, while the sky above the mountains held onto a deep purplish blue.
This spectacular light and color contrast only lasted for a minute or two before the colors faded and the light on the arch became dull. With such a short window, there was very little time to think. So on this morning when the critical moment arrived, I began operating on instinct alone. I created a series of compositions with Mobius Arch framing the mountains behind. And though the images were beautiful, they were all missing something. My gut told me I needed to go wider to showcase the grandeur of a scene brought together by rare and beautiful light.
I quickly put on my wide angle lens and peered through the viewfinder. This was it, the final piece of the puzzle that revealed how the scene was meant to be captured. With my blood pumping and a smile stretching across my face, I triggered my shutter, capturing the entirety of Mobius Arch framing stunning Lone Pine Peak, both aglow in the early morning light.