Stars over Cannon Mountain

I shot this photo just before packing up my camera and gear and hiking downhill in the dark and snow to my car parked across the street from Cannon Mountain. It’s a thirty second exposure of stars, lights from cars moving through Franconia Notch, and groomers and other equipment on the slopes of the ski area.

I spent the week leading up to the yearly fireworks and torchlight parade at Cannon Mountain stressing out. I’m an expert at planning photography trips and at the last minute, often in the car at the trailhead, finding a way to back out and go home. I’m especially good at this when the trip involves hiking in the dark in the woods - understandable but still frustrating for me. When I lived in Montana I justified this by not wanting to get eaten by a grizzly bear or hurt myself miles from the car. But the fear and anxiety has carried over to New England, the much less scary woods, and short hikes like this one.

I’d seen some footage shot from this spot last winter so I knew that it would be a great place to watch the parade and fireworks and the weather was perfect - a clear night, no moon, and not super cold. I skied at Cannon during the day, looking over my shoulder on the lifts at the ridgeline I’d be hiking and trying to get myself psyched up to walk barely a mile from my car into the woods. It sounds pathetic when writing this out but I really was very stressed.

Once the lifts stopped, I changed from ski boots into hiking boots and told myself that I’d hike up in the daylight, watch the sunset, and see how I felt. I bumped into a few other people and their dogs in the woods and just kept pushing myself to the next view point as it got darker and colder. I finally found myself with half an hour to go until the torchlight parade in the pitch black on top of the mountain and was surprised that it really wasn’t a big deal.

Of course, since I’d succeeded at getting myself into the woods I managed to fail at shooting the timelapse. I spent the thirty minutes that I had to spare shooting a timelapse of the groomers cruising the trails at Cannon and ended up with some very dark frames. I opened up my aperture and forgot that changing aperture requires refocusing. So I have a great timelapse of the parade and fireworks that is completely out of focus. It might look ok on Instagram but I will definitely have to try again next year.