Breckenridge Troll Adventure

Officially called Isak Heartstone, this 15′ wooden sculpture was created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, a renowned creator known for making troll installations around the world. Dambo creates each troll uniquely based on materials available and local culture. This troll is depecticed building stone cairns (rock piles), a feature often found on high-altitude trails in the local area.

The Adventure to the Troll

To be fair, it is usually not a good idea to go out into the woods by yourself, in the middle of the night, on icy ground, in an area you have never been before, just to try and get a shot of something that everyone else shoots during the daylight. But no risk, no reward right?

Sony A7III – Rokinon FE14M-E 14mm F2.8 – ISO 64000 – 30 Second Exposure

So it seems I made a right when I should have made a left and ended up on the wrong side of the Wellington Trail. Since directions said it should only be a 10-minute walk, and I gave myself extra time because of the gear I was carrying, I still thought something was wrong after being on the trail well over 30 minutes. I found myself at the end of the trail next to some houses and now needed to get back to my car. Fortunately, there was a good cell signal and I was able to walk 3/4 of a mile on sidewalk back to my starting point.  I re-read the directions and saw that I was supposed to take the trail on the left, so I headed back….sure enough there was even a sign that read “This way to Troll” – DOH!.

20 minutes into the 10 minute hike and I hit the end of the trail even though I am standing only a few feet from another “This way to Troll” sign. It’s pitch black, 30 degrees out, and I see no sign of a giant troll. I decided to get some shots of the stars with the trees. It’s not the best time of year for capturing the Milky Way, but I am not going to let a good shot, and a LOT of hiking, stop me.

Sony A7III – Rokinon FE14M-E 14mm F2.8 – ISO 64000 – 30 Second Exposure
Hit the trees for a moment with my flashlight

After getting a few good images, I grab my gear and start heading back. Just about 50′ away I see the trail curve around a large rock pile, so I walk closer and sure enough there loomed Isak Heartstone in all of his wooden glory.

Lit from two angles with LumeCube lights

The temperature is dropping quickly and I know a storm is approaching, I’m hauling 40lbs of gear at 10,000′ above sea level, so I am breathing heavy, but also want to get as many different shots as possible. The first set I did with two LumeCube lights. While I liked the shot, it was really hard to get the look I wanted as I really needed a longer exposure to show the stars in the sky, and the LumeCubes, on their lowest setting, was still too much.

Yongnuo YN216 LED light

To help with the lighting, I pulled out a Yongnuo YN216 LED light, cranked down the power output to its lowest setting, and the color temp to the warmest setting.

Then, during the 30-second exposure, I turned the light on for 1 second pointed at a large rock pile across from the sculpture to bounce light onto it and got exactly what I was looking for.

I really like the YN216 because it has adjustable color temperature, a wide range of output settings, runs off standard Sony NPF batteries, and only costs around $70.

Light bounced from rock pile
Closer shot with bounced light

The shots captured, I head back to the car. Again, the “10-minute hike” drags out to 30 minutes since I am carrying a lot of gear. I unload and head out. A few minutes later I stop to get a bottle of water as the first little snowflakes begin to fall.

Within 20 minutes, the worst blizzard I have ever driven through hits the mountain passes. Only minutes behind me, they end up closing the roads for over four hours due to worsening conditions. An hour into the drive back, I had to slow to 25mph because of icy road conditions. But, I finally made it back with the shots that I wanted to get.

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