A Rocky Tale by Graham Osborne

It was a rare winter morning. I had been waiting three days for Mt Robson to shed it’s shroud, but this morning revealed the mountain in vivid clarity. I worked the headwaters of the Fraser River, looking for a good reflecting pool to frame the iconic Rocky Mountain peak. Just before first light, I settled on a lovely, tranquil pool, with the mountain perfectly balanced against converging side valleys.

A delicate valley cloud formed in the centre of the image, glowing magenta in first light. The air had a clarity that comes only in winter. The mountain was so sharply defined, it felt as if it was right in front of me.

As I framed the image on the ground glass of my large format 4×5 camera, I rested my cheek awkwardly against my tripod for a moment, but it was so cold that my cheek immediately froze to the black metal. I quickly tried to warm the tripod with ungloved hands, but even those threatened to join my cheek in a now even more awkward predicament. Slowly my cheek released, but not without sacrificing a small patch of skin to the frosty aluminum. No matter. Time was short and the light was changing quickly.

I fired off four or five frames at $6 a piece, bracketing the exposure on the temperamental transparency film to make sure I captured the glorious image unfolding in front of me perfectly.

Moments later, light flooded into my pool and the drama of the scene was over. I fired off a few more frames, but then I noticed a sudden wall of clouds surging in from the southwest. Within minutes, the cloudless scene was eclipsed in a dour grey. It was all over. A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed an approaching storm front, virtually unannounced.

Within minutes, heavy snow had turned into blizzard conditions. I picked up the pace and got back to my Jeep in a virtual white out. As I turned south, I was forced to crawl at just a few kilometres per hour, the side of the road barely discernible. I leaned forward over the steering wheel, white-knuckled, straining to see a way forward.

Five hours later, I limped into Clearwater, relieved that the epic storm run was over, and well cheered by the narrow window of light I had been given to record such a sublime morning.

On Assignment for The Nature Trust of BC

Graham Osborne — an award-winning professional nature photographer and biologist — has been quietly, patiently, persistently working to capture the majesty of nature through his lens. From his very first photo nearly 40 years ago, this scientists turned photographer became a champion of The Nature Trust of BC. He has traveled to our conservation properties, left nothing but footprints, and captured images of the light and landscapes that remind us of why we do the work we do.