Alone in Photo

Strictly speaking, ‘alone in photo’ is a way of winning a bike race, or at least that’s my sense of its proper derivation. A breakaway rider has vanquished all foes, so that, coming down the homestretch, through the fan-choked barriers, he or she can sit up, pump arms, scream, smile and enjoy the victory in complete possession of the spotlight.

I, myself, have never experienced a true ‘alone in photo’ moment. I’m what’s known as ‘pack fodder’ or on the bike a ‘water carrier,’ or even just ‘some guy.’ Really, it’s as ‘some guy’ that I shine, a role I inhabit authentically and completely.

Nonetheless I get what I think of as ‘alone in photo’ moments from time to time, even if there is no press to record my small triumphs.

Maybe you have this happen to you, too. You’re on the front of a line of friends mountain biking. The trail is that quick, slithery kind that rewards your best riding with a roller-coaster thrill, and the pressure of the riders behind you pushes you faster and faster, not to get caught. You are “ripping” it, in full shred mode, and at the bottom where the trail intersects another and serves as a de facto finish line to this impromptu jolt of flow, you skid to a stop and laugh out loud, alone, momentarily, in a photo no one’s taking.

Or, you spend an hour snowshoeing up the steeps of a mountain with your skis on your back, reaching the top drenched in sweat, and then hurrying to swap your snow shoes for ski boots, just before you lose feeling in your hands. The sun is just then rising, and the groomed powder is glowing with possibility. You push off and let gravity undo your hard work and instantly a grin cracks your face.

“Is this really happening?” you think. It is. This is you, alone in photo.

I’m appealing to the more epic shit that’s happened to me in the outdoors, but ‘alone in photo’ moments don’t need to be like that. They might just pop up while walking in the woods. Maybe you see an owl or watch a hawk swoop down to grab a rabbit, or see a fox cross the trail ahead. It’s just any moment where circumstance unexpectedly coalesces around something magic and you can’t help smiling, because, even without a crowd to witness it, you’ve won.