Pine Tree, Cliff, Sunset, Platte Clove … Was made on an autumn afternoon several moments before the sun fully set. It was late September; warm, atmospheric and hazy. Normally in the mountains, haze softens visibility and reduces the sense of distance one gets in a landscape picture. Many people use a UV (haze reducing) filter on their camera to reduce this effect, especially with color film. Black and white film suffers from similar effects.
When I arrived at this high place near Huckleberry Ledge on the eastern end of the Platte Clove, I sensed that the reduced visibility and "heavy" air could become elements of great drama as the sun set behind the mountains in the southwest. I set up my 8x10 view camera with a wide angle 210 mm lens and no filter and waited. The magnificent wind-sculpted red pine below me sat motionless (to my great relief) as the moment to expose a single sheet of expensive large format film drew closer.
Without warning, the sun dropped in the southwestern sky touching the tops of the nearby peaks and piercing through the shadows between their summits. Within a few seconds, this alignment of peaks and setting sunlight created amazing diffused shafts of light which emerged like beacons through the thick atmosphere. My cliff-top perch was instantly ignited by a clean, hard, white light, and I stood there in a single shaft of setting sun feeling its warmth and power as it faded. I quickly loaded one film holder into the camera but managed to expose only a single sheet of 8x10 inch Kodak TMax 100 black and white film. Before I could re-insert the dark slide, remove the holder and flip it over for another exposure, the light was gone. It was as though someone had thrown a great switch in the sky. The light shafts disappeared faster than they had appeared and the scene became dark and solemn. I packed to begin the hike out hoping that my quick exposure calculations were correct since I was certain this image would be significant.