• ELISABETH BRENTANO

THE NAME SAYS IT ALL


When some friends nabbed core permits for the Enchantments and asked if I wanted to go, I immediately said yes. Permits are not easy to come by, and I knew I might have to wait years for the chance to do this again. We counted down the days until we got deep into Washington's Stuart range, and though I had been backpacking in Wyoming and Idaho in the weeks leading up to this, I knew this would be the highlight of my summer camping trips.

The Enchantments boast spectacular mountain views and offer you a range of alpine lakes to shoot (or swim in, if you're ballsy enough), but last week, nearby wildfires transformed the landscape into something that looked like it was straight out of Lord of the Rings. The midday skies were an indescribable shade of dusty red, and and at a few points the smell of smoke was almost unbearable. The winds kicked up at night, yet most mornings were fairly clear. We had a few resident mountain goats near our camp, and though I had seen them before in Montana, zipping open my tent and finding one munching on the grass ten feet away was a very new experience for me. And no, I didn't pee there, though I'm sure some other previous campers might have. Never heard about mountain goats and their love affair with urine? Read more here.

I brought my full camera kit, but this wasn't one of those trips where I fired away. Lately I’ve been finding more inspiration with the little details of the places I photograph, and even though my video skills are a bit shaky, it’s been pushing me to do more on a creative level. On our first morning I was looking for a composition at Colchuck Lake, and after finding a foreground I liked, I turned around to grab my 16-35mm. It was then that I noticed a dragonfly perched on a log floating in the water, which was far more fascinating than any mountain landscape in front of me. The movement from its wings created tiny ripples on the glassy surface of the lake, which was reflecting the pink clouds above. Sunrise at Colchuck would happen again. This would not. I was able to pop my 70-200mm on and switch back to my wide to shoot both, but if I had to choose between the two, I would have skipped the photo I came for and gone for the fleeting moment. After I fired off about a dozen shots of the dragonfly, it took a few more steps up the log and flew off.