Low clouds and fog fill the caldera at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. This is the third image from my Artist-in-Residency...

To Live Is To Fly

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Low clouds and fog fill the caldera at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

This is the third image from my Artist-in-Residency appointment at Crater Lake National Park in October of 2014.

Taken from the very top of Hillman Peak, this panorama is a shot that I was determined to get during my residency. No matter how busy the park had gotten, I always found myself alone up here and seemingly.. alone in the whole park. It's by far one of the best and least visited views of the lake.

My two week stay was dominated by clear blue skies. And while the weather was beautiful for swinging in a hammock, relaxing, and taking in the view, it left me unfulfilled in terms of my photographic desires. Time and time again I would make the hike to the top of Hillman Peak with my gear (including camping gear because I never knew if I was going to spend the night up there) and get shut down by any kind of desirable light or conditions. I'm not complaining. I mean, how could I complain about getting to watch sunset after sunset from this vantage? The fact that I had two whole weeks to do as I pleased, away from responsibilities, in a place as magical as Crater Lake is something that I will always be extremely grateful for. This experience would have never happened if I didn't have the support of my friends and family, the encouragement from the photography community, and of course the honor of being selected by the National Park Service to be one of four artists brought into the program. I'm a pretty lucky guy sometimes.

But that's not to say there wasn't frustration. I was, after all, expected to produce art during my stay. I had never had expectations around my art put upon me until then. Not only did I want to produce art that fell in line with the program's focus, but I also wanted to produce pieces that originated more from my love for photography and nature... something personal to me and something that I could use to convey the wonder and appreciation that I feel for life in nature.

That brings me to this night. I made the steep climb to the top of Hillman Peak for the eigth time with not a cloud in sight in my shooting direction. My expectations for a shot I would like were pretty low. But I got there early enough to relax, let the sweat dry from my brow, feel the breeze blow through my shirt, and witness the shadows fall across the lake once again. I had a wall of clouds to the west, and so the chance of nice light hitting the rim was nonexistent. And there I sat, frequently looking back to see if there would be a break in that wall of clouds, but it was not to be. The minutes passed and those clouds drew closer. Soon enough, they were at my back and I watched them spill over the rim into the caldera. I was enveloped in the quickly moving atmosphere and it was the first time during my residency that everything I had been waiting for bubbled to the surface. Maybe not the light that I was expecting.. but what I wanted was to feel alive. Not relaxed.. but ALIVE. All of those frustrations were whisked away by the elements and I shot away with a huge smile on my face. The excitement of living filled me to the brim and I couldn't help but let out a 'wooooooo!' at the top of my lungs. The sound echoed through the park and I have no doubt that if you were standing on the rim of Crater Lake on October 14th, 2014 that you heard it. But up here in the fog with my camera and my goosebumps.. I was the only man on earth.

This shot epitomizes so much about my personal experience during the residency. It might not be a shot that fits within the program focus, but it's the crown jewel of my stay. I hope that you can experience a little of what I felt when looking at this photo. Photo © copyright by TJ Thorne.

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