Grizzly Canyon Glow
Illuminating a cluster of snow-stacked pine trees within Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. This photograph was created via a 105 second exposure, utilizing aerial light painting via a drone and powerful headlamp.
To capture this image, I utilized a powerful headlamp strapped to the bottom of a drone positioned directly above the trees. With the headlamp angled slightly outward (not perfectly straight down), it allows me to toggle the drone controls left and right, to rotate the drone left and right in the air, thus painting light onto a small group of trees for 20-30 seconds. After painting one group of trees, I move onto the next. I'm never precisely aware of the exact spots I'm hitting, or with how much light. However, throughout my career of shooting complex exposures with natural lighting or artificial lighting, I have a good idea of where to start. Typically, I can come pretty close to the perfect exposure within the first few tries, and each setting is important, especially exposure length. I need the exposure to be long enough that I can fly around and illuminate each section of trees, yet without overexposing one area of the image.
There's roughly a 20 minute period, where this twilight light is perfect. Also, drones don't like to operate in the cold, so there are many tricks and tips I've learned to hopefully avoid crashing the drones and having to search for it in the snow. This particular image was two years in the making. From first scouting potential landscape compositions, then returning to shoot this location in 2020 at sunrise, in the summer of 2020 I imagined this concept...illuminating this grouping of trees with the epic backdrop of Mt. Superior.
In 2021 I kept my eyes on the weather, but perfect conditions and my schedule didn't line up. Fast forward to December of 2022. Little Cottonwood Canyon had received a ton of snow early on in the season, and there was a huge storm that was clearing. With little wind (rare in the mountains with big storms), the trees within the frame were stacked with snow (just what I needed, and was waiting for). Loading up my pack with all the heavy gear, I ventured up into the mountains of Alta before sunset to position myself, and hope the conditions were right.
There were some skin tracks in the foreground of the shot that forced me to frame this composition differently, but I'm very proud of it. Over the course of three nights, I returned, battling the freezing cold temperatures, and waiting for storm clouds to clear. From crashed drones and searching for them in the snow, to hunkering down in pain do to extremely cold temperatures affecting my spine and rib cage that was compressed with a heavy pack, I'd hike 100 yards at a time through the snow behind the frame to stay warm. A couple of the nights I was literally in tears. The first night I thought I was skunked, the clouds were socked in and wouldn't clear. However these clouds created a beautifully surreal scene with the town of Alta and Salt Lake City visible. The light pollution illuminated the clouds that still had a little snowfall within them. I'm really grateful I decided to change my exposure and framing to capture this image. Sometimes I'm so hellbent on one specific idea, it's easy to miss moments like these, moments you probably couldn't recreate without dozens of attempts or years. The next night I returned to capture my ideal framing and was completely skunked, didn't even shoot a single frame, just waited for hours in the cold hoping it would clear. And finally, on the third night I was able to capture "Grizzly Night". Regardless, both images I'm proud to showcase.
To say the least, there's a lot of expertise, planning, effort, and execution that goes into creating and capturing imagery like this. Stoked to share this with y'all!
This is a limited edition of 100 pieces. Limited edition pieces are assigned a fixed edition number that doesn't change. The first piece printed is assigned no. 1, and consecutively numbered until the last piece in the edition is sold (regardless of print size or artwork style). The pieces will never be printed again upon edition completion.
- Larger Sizes Available (60"plus): Quote Required
- Triptych Pieces (3x Panels): Quote Required
- Free shipping within contiguous U.S. on artwork pieces up to 60" x 40" *excluding merchandise.
- In stock, ready to ship
- Inventory on the way