Published: October 2011
The Moment  Peter Essick
Stormy Weather When Peter Essick was in college, he wrote a letter to Ansel Adams. In it he asked the famous photographer to review his portfolio and perhaps offer a comment or two on his work. Usually fan mail goes unanswered, but Essick got a reply. "He invited me to come visit him at his house in Carmel," remembers Essick, who took Adams up on his invitation. Essick echoes his mentor's style in this issue through a series of black-and-white photographs of the California wilderness. Together these images represent something of a tribute, says Essick: "It's a tip of the hat to Ansel's aesthetic." —Catherine Zuckerman

Behind the Lens

That storm looks intense. Why did you want to photograph it?

Most people visit the Ansel Adams Wilderness only in summer. We were there in February, and I wanted to show what this place is like during that harsh time of year. Conditions were rough when I skied over to these lodgepole pines. Winds were gusting over 50 miles an hour, and visibility was minimal. I think the wild nature of the area really comes through in this image.

What was it like working in all that snow and wind?

I had hired two experienced guides to help me with the logistics of getting out to the remote wilderness in winter. It was very cold for California, about zero degrees Fahrenheit, and our shelter was a snow cave. We dug it ourselves. It had a small entrance; the inside was just big enough for us to lie down. During the snowstorm we took turns shoveling through the night, making sure fresh air was coming in. Skiing was also tricky, particularly around areas where the avalanche risk was high. Going into this trip, I thought I was a pretty good skier, albeit a little rusty, but four feet of snow plus a 40-pound backpack turned me into a novice.