Like all days behind the lens, we chase good light. So on this particular morning, we started in the dark and freezing temperatures in search of that sunrise glow. It was the end of a big storm cycle that had dropped several feet of snow on the Tahoe area. We had hoped for blue skies and beautiful early morning light, but the clouds had other plans. We waited on top of this line on Donner Summit for more than an hour waiting for a break in the clouds. But sunrise came and went, with no break in the weather. It was getting cold and we were all questioning if anything would come together.
If anyone can pull off a long, cold wait like that, it’s Amie Engerbretson, who was born and raised in Truckee and is the daughter of famed ski photographer and cinematographer Jeff Engerbretson. Since graduating from college, Amie’s had a successful ski career and has been featured on the cover of various publications, including Backcountry magazine, and appeared in major ski movies like those from Warren Miller Entertainment.
In moments like this, standing on top of a mountain waiting for a short break in the clouds to ski and photograph a line, you have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, which means strapped in, boots tightened. When it’s go time, there’s only once chance at first tracks and maybe the only chance of sunlight that day.
While Amie waited on top of the line, I waited with my camera ready. My mind was racing: Is this the best perspective? Composition set? Don’t forget to take your lens cap off. Camera on? Settings correct? Enough battery life? Enough space on memory card? Will the light last long enough? I can’t feel my hands.
Thankfully Amie and our team were all disciplined pros who knew we had to be patient and stay warm enough to capture the light that would (hopefully!) come our way. After over an hour of waiting, we got lucky and scored a spotlight of sun. Amie zipped down the mountain to make a beautiful turn before the sunlight moved on. It was a brief break in the clouds, but it was just enough to nail this shot.
Through our perseverance and ability to adapt on the fly, we had one of the best photography sessions of my season with some of the most stunning morning light. It’s a good reminder to surround yourself with good people and put yourself in positions to get lucky. I’m grateful for days like these and always looking for more of them. Here’s to 2022!
Check out the Backcountry Magazine issue here.