High in the Sawtooth Mountains, we pick our way down talus, occasionally stopping to rappel a steep portion of the gully. Visions of hot dinner and steaming beverages, laughter and sleeping bags, swapped stories of rocky ascents, moments of try hard, summit celebrations, and dreams for the days to come driving us forward. I hang back to capitalize on the evening light, and as I reach the mellow trail by the lakeshore, I spot the headlamps of my climbing partners already returning to camp. Dusk falling, I watch as they shed layers and head straight for the frigid and revitalizing waters of the lake. On the frosty shores of the Pacific, a wise friend once told me, “You’ll never regret jumping in.” Those words have yet to let me down, and I was cheered to see my friends embracing the same mantra. On a technical level, this image was a result of experimentation. A lens laid low along the lake, a long exposure, a relaxation of form and literal documentation in favor of a feeling, a color, and the promise of mystery in the creation as much as in the product. What the camera captured was closer to what I felt than what my eye could see; for that reason, this image has particular significance to me. On a more existential level, this image represented an experiment in living as much as it did in photographic technique. This was one of the last images I took that summer, and in many ways, it was infused with all that defined those months. It was a summer of mountains and western winds, pine and sagebrush, old friends and new skills, a sense of exploration and childlike wonder, a playfulness that belied the serious terrain covered and the trails and mountains traversed. Through it all, water was a constant connector of good people and places. When I think back to that summer, I often remember this image and that feeling of experimentation with good healthy living in the mountains, where nature provided all that we needed, and where we always said “yes” to jumping in.
Photographer Forest Woodward chases lakeside light and westward winds to capture this photo deep in the Sawtooth Mountains.