Pic of the Week 5/20/22
“Baker Peak Wichita Mountains”
Location: Cooperton, OK
Date taken: 4/23/22
My eyes were focused almost stinging from the intensity of my stare. I carefully watched as patches of light traveled up the nearby hill and veered off course on the other side of the mountain. I swung my head around to get a better look at the sun. A small puffy gray cloud began creeping its way temporarily hiding the sun. I turned my head back around and fixed my gaze on the globular splash of light gliding its way up the mountain. “Almost there!” I thought to myself. I exhaled a breath and held it in to steady myself in anticipation of the light. My camera was poised, and I was ready to capture. Once again, the light deviated from the mountain summit and the breath I held in escaped my lips. I turned back to see the clouds growing thicker—there wouldn’t be too many more chances to get the shot.
After the nightmare wind that was our previous photo shoot, I was hoping to get out under more dynamic conditions. This time, I had the whole Saturday afternoon to scout and capture photos. Thunderstorms were forecast for later in the afternoon and early evening and that made me think this would be a great opportunity to capture some of my favorite type of landscape light. Patchy light, as I refer to it, are small pockets of sunlight peeking behind intermittent cloud cover. These can create great “spotlights” over certain parts of the landscape. It also happens to work very well with mountains or canyons. The mixture of dark and bright creates a lot of contrast and depth to these kinds of scenes. So after work, Ashlee and I ventured out to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in search of the elusive “patchy light”.
Since mountains were going to be main subject, I decided to head over to the extreme far western edge of the refuge to photograph some of the more interesting peaks in the dappled sunlight. This area is unfortunately closed off as it is the protected north wilderness of the refuge, but there are some private ranch roads that bump right up to the base of the mountains. One of my favorite peaks is a conical shaped summit named Baker Peak. This infamous mountain the is location of supposed Private Baker’s stand against (up to 70) Indian warriors. The lone army scout was separated and was spotted by a group of warriors and was forced to retreat up Baker Peak and into a rock crevice to provide protection. Baker Peak also makes up the southern end of the valley known as Cutthroat Gap between Mt Haley and Baker Peak. Here an Indian massacre occurred in 1833 when Osage warriors attacked a Kiowa village filled with mostly women and children. My good buddy Steve Pemberton has some excellent videos on these stories of Baker Peak. You can check them out here and here.
Now standing in the shadow of Baker Peak, I waited for the sun to highlight the summit of the mountain. We must’ve spent a solid hour in this one location watching the light move up and down the mountain. This image is a time-stack composite showing the best of the light throughout the sequence. This is comprised of six different images stacked together to create the dynamic light I was looking for. Eventually, light did reach the summit although it was slightly diffuse and not as sharp as I wanted. Despite the light bringing out fantastic color, I knew that the final image was going to be a black and white. This image reminds me of Ansel Adams’ “Winter Sunrise Sierra Nevada” photo. Granted, his is much better, but there are some parallels. Although I don’t have a horse, I do have some cows grazing in fantastic patchy light. And sure, my mountain isn’t as impressive as the Sierra mountain range but for southern Oklahoma I think the image is just as magical. This day would prove to be quite fruitful in our photography pursuits. We intercepted a few storms and ended up with a glorious sunset, but I’ll save those for future blog entries.