Creating a magazine cover is perhaps the most collaborative thing we do each month. From deciding what the cover story will be to discussing cover concepts to fine-tuning an image and choosing the right words and typefaces, it’s definitely a team effort among writers, editors, designers, photographers and the publisher.

But when your cover necessitates an outdoor photo, there’s another member of your creative team, and unfortunately, she doesn’t care about your schedule or your deadlines. She’s Mother Nature.

Such was the case with this month’s cover. We first began discussing concepts in mid-April and knew we wanted an image that said “hiking.” Since this was for our June issue, we needed it also to say “summer.” But we were still wearing winter coats to work.

We wanted leaves. And there weren’t any. We waited. We watched buds on trees stubbornly refuse to open, as photo editor Tim Johnson diligently continued to scout possible locations. He spent days tromping around some of the area’s most picturesque natural areas, “trying to imagine what they’d look like green,” he says. But Mother Nature wouldn’t cooperate. “This year, everything seemed to be about two weeks behind schedule,” Johnson says, “and it’s not like we could hold the magazine and wait.”

Tim even Googled “Central Ohio waterfalls,” thinking if the trees wouldn’t bloom, then maybe we needed to consider a different dramatic natural element for the cover.

Finally, in the first week of May, things started to look promising. Grass was growing and the smaller bushes and understory were green and blossoming. With less than a week before the issue was set to ship to the printer, we had to commit. Tim had a few ideas from his scouting missions and photos to show us his vision. We all agreed on a wonderful, relatively unknown location, a 3-acre pocket park in Dublin that hid a gorgeous ravine and the dramatic Indian Run Falls. We wanted a person in the photo to help convey the action of hiking and being outdoors. Tim mentioned that he’d walked with a group from Experience Columbus at Highbanks and that one of the women had the right look—fit and outdoorsy.

He reached out to Hannah Henthorne, manager of convention services at Experience Columbus, who happily agreed to be the model for our cover photo. They arranged to meet at Indian Run Falls at 7 p.m. on a Thursday, exactly a week before the magazine shipped to the printer. But it appeared Mother Nature might have the last laugh.

“Driving out to Dublin, it’s pouring rain the whole way,” says Tim. “I’m thinking, ‘This is going to be a disaster.’”

But just before 7 p.m., the rain stopped. The sky remained just overcast enough to diffuse the light and keep harsh shadows at bay. And Hannah, our new best friend, was patient and confident enough to hike and pose through an hour’s worth of photos.

In the end, we had a number of cover-worthy shots, which we stared at, dissected and discussed, eliminating one and then another until we agreed on the one best option—the cover you now hold in your hand.

We hope you’ll agree that it looks like a June scene and that Hannah and the Indian Run Falls ravine inspire you to get out and find a trail of your own.

Eric Lyttle