Above and Beyond

Holy City of the Wichitas

Holy City of the Wichitas

Tree, creek, cedar forest, Wichita Mountains

Tree, creek, cedar forest, Wichita Mountains

Dead trees, Charon Gardens Wilderness, Wichita Mountains

Dead trees, Charon Gardens Wilderness, Wichita Mountains

Richard Barron and granite formation, Wichita Mountains

Richard Barron and granite formation, Wichita Mountains

Richard Barron, Charon Gardens Wilderness

Richard Barron, Charon Gardens Wilderness

Cedar forest, Wichita Mountains

Cedar forest, Wichita Mountains

My trip to the Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge introduced me to the concept of a “photo safari.” I am not sure whether Richard Barron used that term or not, but it became lodged in my brain shortly thereafter. It is, put simply, a trip that is taken solely for the purpose of finding photos. The Wichitas was certainly a spectacular place to start.

The biggest challenge of this adventure in early January of 2014 was not operating the camera or lens, figuring out which aperture or ISO setting to use, or where to point the camera to get a great photo. It was surviving the adventure itself. Lots of hiking was involved, in places that were either icy or filled with prickly pear or both. Looking back, I realize how incredibly dangerous it was going hiking in this self-titled wilderness. One wrong step and it would have been an emergency helicopter flight the hell out of there.

We also had to survive powerful wind gusts and icy temperatures. But the trip was so well worth it that I never thought about complaining. Bison, ice floes, wild cactus, immense boulders, exhausting climbs, wind turbines, and breath-taking vistas were the order of the day. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

These are by no means the most striking images from the trip, but I found them in a folder and realized I hadn’t posted a few of them anywhere before. I used a Tamron 18-200mm lens the entire day and was pleased with the results, though today I’d probably shoot with something different. But who’s keeping score? On safari, you do the best you can and just and enjoy the ride.

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