15th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World
Into Darkness, Into Desperation

Stranded at the top of Mount Liberty, unprepared, in total darkness and in freezing cold conditions, my friend and I made a desperate move to turn the flash on my camera and capture this image, with the prayer for anybody who might see the bright light as a signal. Nobody came. This image is my haunting reminder of a moment of true fear. A moment where my life felt at stake. Where my life felt as if it may fall into the hands of nature I just viewed as gorgeous an hour ago. It would now kill me. But after taking this image, we both trudged on. One step at a time, down the endlessly unforbidding rocky hills. My friend dislocated his knee twice. I could barely stand. But we kept going for five miles. And we made it to the bottom, close to midnight, to the blinding lights of the rescuers flashlights. Not only has this image altered my outlook on the fragility of life, it has also given me a view of the resilience of life. This image could have been my final one, but for some reason, somehow, it wasn't. And I am truly grateful. If these tall, towering, infinite trees can't take me down, then nothing can.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 11.2017
Date Uploaded: 11.2017
Photo Location: White Mountains (mount liberty), New Hampshire, United States of America
Copyright: © Justin Kaminuma