Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top Rock

Trekking the jagged and often desolate high country, a master of the landscape finds challenge and renewal

Labels: Locations

This Article Features Photo Zoom

With mountains ranging from 7,500 to 14,265 feet, the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area in Colorado is full of Top Rock photo opportunities. In this image, the distinctive peak of Snowmass Mountain at 14,092 feet is seen in the distance.
Siren Song
The view atop the White Mountains stirs your soul. You stand on the long, curving ridgeline, picking out the seven peaks you know by name that rise above 13,000 feet.

You feel the drama in the magical evening light. Everything is in balance: the warm glow from the evening west, the dead-still air. But in the lull, tension: A major cold front is coming.

Underexposing the film a 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 stop, as always, you’ll have the lab push-process it a 1⁄2 stop to heighten the contrast and brilliance.

You work steadily through one 4x5 setup after another, seduced by the siren song of magical light.

Time forgotten, you work feverishly. The sun touches Mt. Whitney, sharp against the golden sky. You should have packed up earlier. Too late—hiking down 8,000 vertical feet in the dark is nuts.

“There are those times you have to stay right with it, like mountain climbers do,” says Muench. “Stay in it. Stay overnight if you have to! Your reward is the changing of the guard from dusk to dawn. Go back down in the middle of the morning. Stay up another day. Sometimes that becomes the challenge—what to do—and when you meet that challenge, your reward is often a photograph you’d never imagined at all.”

A Lifetime Of Meccas
Like Johnny Cash belting out his classic, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Muench rattles off the names of peaks as if they were his own children: Whitney, Langley, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Fremont, Appalachia, Uncompahgre, Tindall, Mt. Sill, Humboldt, Wheeler Peak, Needle Peak. Oh, he’s been everywhere. “The names are like baggage I carry around with me,” says Muench. “Peaks and passes feel like individual personalities.”

And what glorious baggage. Muench’s litany of Top Rock locations speaks to a singular religion: the common spirit that lives in the high places.


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