One of my all-time favorite photographic memories and experiences. It’s September 25, 1991.
I woke late. After sunrise. Like 15 min late at 6:30am. I’m staying at the Heather Bed Inn,(actually working for them to photograph their brochure images), at the bottom of Maroon Creek Road across from Aspen Highlands base. Bags and tripod slam in the back seat. I hop in my Subaru Wagon. I drive like a wild up the narrow access road to arrive at parking lot above the old campground only to find the lake lined by 50-75 people. Yep a bus load of amateurs on a guided photographic excursion.
The only place left to gain a vantage point was on a skinny ridge of a rock piercing the surface about four maybe five feet off shore. I jumped with two camera bags and tripod out to the narrowest of perches on the rock’s knife edge. Landed it perfect. I would stay perched there an hour--captivated and mesmerized.
It was cloudy, gray and the sunrise was closed out. No light gracing the peak or Alpen Glow filling the valley surrounding Maroon Lake. By 7:15 am the bus load had packed up and left except one other photographer and I. He gamble along the shore line and I held my place on the knife edge--firm. Film in camera; 20mm lens for 35mm kit and 55mm lens for medium format kit; camera on tripod; tripod in water; extra roles of film in jacket pockets – 3 rolls of 35mm and 4 rolls of 60X70mm for backup. Nothing happening. Just taking it. Exposure and composition perfect. Wait.
Wait for something-not knowing what exactly. Then around 7:25 or maybe 7:27am. I can’t remember for sure--it happened. The cloud cover opened to the east over the Continental Divide and the sun peaked through. The cloud cover just above the peaks moved almost on cue directed by a greatest of conductors. The underbelly of the clouds over North and South Maroon Peaks illuminated a bright red. The light bounced, lit and filled the tree lined valley with a brilliantly golden warm alpen glow.
Working two cameras – one medium format Pentax and the other 35mm Nikon. Roll one Medium done. Flip between portrait and landscape as the light rolls and mood changes. Roll two in. Set the Pentax in bag pull the Nikon. Blast through 36 frames of Fuji Velvia ISO 50. Change roll. Pick up Pentax put Nikon in bag. Shoot 12 frames. Change film. Pick up Nikon; set Pentax in Dompke shoulder bag one last time. Seven maybe ten minutes passed. It could have been an hour. Time stood still. The rush. The exhilaration. The senses on high alert. The sensations filling my body head to toe having witnessed a post sunrise solar flare arcing and lighting clouds on cue. The moment was remarkable- no it was extraordinary. Exhausted.
The results were a set of images over a hundred of which fifty or sixty were remarkable and extraordinary. The most notable standard and measure given any one photo from a shoot of a subject when culling for archiving and publication.
I would return twenty if not thirty more times to the very same spot over the next thirty years never to witness a sunrise like this one. Never would I witness one like it again. It was a One-Off a dream come true my first year working the field!