The challenge of a vision

The challenge of a vision

There are many times when as a photographer I find myself truly challenged to capture a place. This week on the Dalton Highway in Alaska, also known as the “Haul Road,” I was faced with such a challenge. In the middle of August last year, while driving the Haul Road to Coldfoot to begin my position as Artist-in-Residence for Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, I saw something that gave me a feeling of potential. Just north of No Name Creek, about a half hour north of the Yukon River, I saw rolling fields upon fields of burnt forest, carpeted with fireweed. Now, the fireweed was done blooming for the season and had begun to cotton, but I imagined what it would be like at full bloom. In my mind’s eye, rolling fields of pink scattered with stumps of black, burnt trees lay out before me. I promised myself I would return and photograph that vision.

As it turns out, imagining the vision is not the same as fulfilling it. I found the rolling fields of pink as I had hoped to, but they could not be photographed that way. Once down in the fields of fireweed, with the flowers coming up to my waist amidst the knee-high fallen dead trees, that perspective of rolling hills was lost. The fields became flat, leaving me only with the immediate fireweed patch to work with. There were no high vantage points along the road, and no shoulder to park on for a higher perspective. This part of the 415 mile mostly gravel and dirt road was merely an island of dirt that dropped into wilderness. So I looked for those opportunities that at least gave me the opportunity to capture a glimpse of the depth of these fields that often stretched for miles from the road.

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