By Julie Anne Davies
Cresting the slope and jumping into his first turn, the familiar cool of white gold dusting his chin, quickly shifting his weight to begin the next turn… another moment gone forever—absorbed by the unknowable number of turns he has made in his lifetime. Does this one turn, captured clumsily as I turned and saw him coming matter more than any other now that it is frozen in time? Or has this image, this one turn, become a representation of moments? Of a life well lived? Of a dance between a man and nature, beautifully executed on an untouched mountain slope. This is why I love photography. To freeze and share the moments we may never actually single out, but the ones that perhaps have the ability to represent an integral part of our ‘story’.
My entire life has been spent in the mountains, and yet not once has a familiar landscape looked the same to me. Light is everything. Light changes everything. Shadows appear and you suddenly see a line, a route, a definition in the topography you have never before noticed. Over the years as a photographer, you learn to play with light, play with shadows, learn it’s subtle intricacies. But never is light’s ability to surprise, entice or inspire as powerful to me as it is in the mountains. Minute to minute, your surroundings morph, leaving you struggling to capture fleeting moments, gone as quickly as they come. This image, taken in the Selkirk Mountains during a week of cloud and heavy snow came suddenly, when for only a moment the sun graced my comrades as we climbed up to a high col late in the afternoon.
In a land of stark, almost blinding white, where the only sound is that of heels clicking, deep breaths of your mountain playmates as they trudge slowly upward and a slight hint of the earth’s breath in a frigid gentle breeze, shadows take on an eerie life like identity. They come and go, sometimes larger than life, often leading your way, sometimes tucking in behind you, always depending upon the subtlety of your angle as you weave your way upward to your destination. This photo, taken crossing the Durrand Glacier in the Northern Selkirks, suggests an opposite sensation from the one so often experienced in the mountains. The shadows are large, for a moment making you overly aware of your presence, like you are maybe, just maybe a force to be reckoned with out there – on that vast, empty glacier. You crest the hill begin to curve your body and skis to the right, now facing the sun, her rays taking the early morning sting out of your cheeks. Your shadow retreats, tucking it’s tail and riding behind you. You are now once again in line with the familiar sensation that comes with being in the mountains – that you are small. Very small, and very insignificant in this glorious land of ice and snow.
Four skiers, four lines. Simple. Right? If that’s all it is and there’s little more to it, why do these images etch their way into our psyche and have the ability to make many of us begin to salivate at their very site? These tracks are loaded. Loaded with emotion for those of us who know the secret. Those who can feel, to the depths of their core, the full body lightness of being as we float, bounce after bounce, waist deep in powder, chest deep in adrenaline, mind deep in thought s of how we could never, ever live without this drug. Four lines. Art upon a blank white canvas.
Five minutes ahead of the second group, I was able to look back, stop for a moment and capture this image, which felt then, as it does now, like a mirage of sorts—silhouettes traveling through a vast land, one that could just as easily have been the Sahara, or perhaps even the moon. Otherworldly. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. One where I suddenly understood why I long for these open spaces. Because in the open wild my inner environment becomes completely in sync with my outer environment and my thoughts become an open slate of possibilities about life, about adventure, about our place in this world.
How significant everything is, yet how completely insignificant at the same time. It can be extremely challenging for even the strongest among us to retain this sense of understanding or clarity once back in the daily grind. This image helps to bring me back to that clean mental canvas. Never will I stop seeking out the wilds of this world or sharing, through imagery, the magic to be found there.