Nothing compares to the first snowfall in Autumn, particularly when it coincides with fall colors. I always try to get out for the first sunrise or sunset after the first significant snowfall of the season. This year, in Flagstaff we got about two inches of snow that fell overnight in October. I got up early the next morning and drove up to Sunset Crater on the east side of the San Francisco Peaks to try to catch sunrise from Lockett Meadow. But there were ongoing snow squalls and visibility was low, and as I started driving up the steep narrow forest road that leads to the Meadow, it was nearly a whiteout and the road was quite slick with about 6 inches of fresh snow and ice. So I reluctantly turned back, figuring my life was not worth a photo. Instead, I changed my plans and drove up the road to the ski area on the west side of the peaks in hopes that things would clear out for sunset. The low clouds held on through the afternoon, but I did manage to catch a couple minutes of intense red light just before sunset as the sun briefly dipped below the cloud deck. As I hiked back along the Arizona Trail, I noticed this fern and thought that it might make a terrific composition in early morning light; so I vowed to return for sunrise.
When I hiked back to my favorite fern, the morning light was shining through the aspen forest, and the fern was perfectly back lit. Much to my delight, a couple aspen leaves–one red and one yellow–fell overnight and landed in the snow in perfect synchronicity. It almost looked like someone had planted them, but the lack of footprints argued against that idea. I think it was just meant to be; nature acted as the supreme artist and arranged the shot for me in a magical way. The first snow of the year was once again a memorable experience!