I bought a new truck a few weeks ago. Well, new to me – I don’t have the money to buy a brand new one, and if I did I still would hate to take that depreciation hit the minute I drive it off the lot, so I always buy cars at least a year old. Anyway, it’s the most fun four-wheeled vehicle I’ve ever owned, and to prove it I took a 950 mile weekend photo jaunt – Thursday and Friday on my own, and Saturday on a roundabout way to pick up my kids from Bible camp.
After roaming all the way to the South Dakota border (and past it by several feet before dipping back into Best Dakota), I rolled into Medora later than I’d hoped. It was at least 10:30 local time, and I didn’t feel like setting up a tent only to take it down a few hours later. My plan was to wake up before sunrise and enter the South Unit of the national park, so the best option seemed to be just sleeping in the truck. I had already folded the back seats down, so I stacked all my gear on one side, inflated my air mattress on the other (I’d reserved a campsite with electricity), plugged in a cheap little fan I’d bought at Walmart in Dickinson to combat the heat and humidity, and dozed off.
Not only am I pleased to report that I slept like a baby in the new ride, but I also woke up before sunrise without the aid of an alarm. I let the air out of the mattress, hopped into the front, and entered the park just in time for the sun to come up. I hiked down to the Little Missouri and got this:
Steam on the water, rays streaming from the sun, and loads of color all around. I couldn’t have started the day better. Didn’t even have too many mosquitoes at that time of the morning, either!
I made the park loop, but nothing really caught my eye – except some elk you’ll see another time – so it was time to head back to the campground for a shower, into town for some bacon and eggs, then off to roam the North and South Units and the National Grasslands in between. I’ve been tied up with multiple gigs lately that have involved 12+ hour days, so I haven’t sorted through them all yet…but I have loads of photos to share as time allows.
It’s been longer than I can remember since I’ve been out to capture a sunrise. It’s about time to start doing that more often, and yesterday was a new beginning for me. I was initially discouraged since the sky was mostly covered with dense clouds, but the horizon held some promise. I stopped for a cappuccino at B&J and headed east. This is what I found developing.
Even though there was a mere sliver of clear sky on the horizon, it was doing its work to difract beautiful red, pink, and orange colors on the clouds above. I set up shop and waited for the drama to start…
Although the purple and red sunrise photo was enough to make my day a success, I hung around a little bit to see what would happen before the sun climbed past the available window. I was not disappointed. The blazing orange sky that resulted was nothing short of breathtaking. The ripple of low clouds between the sun and me became a perfect reflector for the fiery hues.
Looks like rolling fire, doesn’t it? This is the most dramatic part of a sunrise and also the most fleeting. I’ve seen photos of this pop up all over Facebook, rightly so. The intensity was amazing.
After a couple of minutes of this, the colors began to wane and I headed back to town satisfied. This was a fantastic way to start getting back into the swing of things. I’m going through my selection of GPS waypoints and other notes to recall suitable foreground objects for sunrise silhouettes, and as the sky cooperates I hope to bring more sunrises home with me.
I don’t know about you, but I’m loving the fact that the sun is coming up earlier in my day. You’d think I’d be trying to capture as many of those photons as possible on the sensors of my cameras, but life’s been a little too busy for that lately. I hope to be able to acquire some photograhic gems at some point in the near future. All work and no play, they say…
I thought I’d start off the morning with an early Seinfeld reference. One of the greatest things about this time of year is the brilliant colors at sunrise and sunset. This winter certainly has not disappointed in that regard. We’ve had our share of cloudy mornings but also some brilliant sunrises and sunsets! The trick is to be ready to capture them when they occur.
This is my 22,000th photo through my newest camera. The subject is something that has drawn my eye every time I pass it on I-94 near Sweet Briar. Over the extended weekend I decided to venture out at sunrise and, since I’ve photographed all the obvious stuff in Bismarck-Mandan ad nauseum, I needed to travel a little further and get this shot from my photographic “bucket list.”
This is an old police/security vehicle sitting alongside a little gravel road along the interstate highway. While it has a reflective Air Force Security logo sticker on the door, I don’t think that’s original. The car is not directly accessible from there; one has to hit a couple of gravel roads to find it. That’s easily accomplished with a little GPS or Google Earth.
The clouds mostly obscured the sunrise until the sun had come up quite a ways. That actually provided a nice photo opportunity of the car, since I didn’t have to deal with any blazing highlights or deep shadows. Clouds are a great natural diffuser of light. I turned around to capture the sun poking through, although I didn’t care much for the power lines (see yesterday’s post).
Once the golden cast of the sunrise faded, some nice dramatic blues remained. That allowed me one more angle before moving on. People sometimes ask me how I have time to grab all the photos I post on here from day to day. The answer is, quite simply: I don’t. I maximize the photo opportunities that I do get, and then post the photos over time. One photo trip can sometimes provide a week’s worth of blog material if it’s a productive one. In this case, yes, I did find some other fun stuff…and yes, it will have to be posted later. 🙂
Saturday morning, while working on something else that I’ll likely post in the next day or two, I noticed that the sky behind me was doing something really cool. Yes, I was out at sunrise and pointing my camera the other way – more on that later. The clouds had obscured the rising sun for the most part, but once it began to poke through I took notice. Sadly, there were power lines in the way of an otherwise nice sunrise landscape shot.
I went ahead and maneuvered closer to the power lines to include them, since I certainly wasn’t in a good position to avoid them. In this case I they actually provide a nice bit of geometry to the shot. While not ideal, they do lead the eye toward the horizon and the rising sun.
Certainly not ideal, but not a total throwaway shot, either. Since I do freelance industrial photography and an advocate for North Dakota’s energy industry, I’m somewhat sympathetic to lines like these anyway. Now, about the photographic subject that had me facing away from the dramatic sunrise…well, that’ll have to wait a day or two.
My friend Ken and I were out bouncing my truck around the back roads and trails in search of a couple of old farmsteads to explore with our cameras. As usual, many other opportunities presented themselves along the way. Case in point: this lovely vista along a section line road just after sunrise.
There’s so much color in the sky around sunrise and sunset, adding a special touch to an otherwise unremarkable scene. Everything takes on such a unique vibrance during that Golden Hour light, and it’s great when that happens with something photogenic nearby…and a great friend to share the experience.
I alluded earlier to a hike I took before sunrise with my friend Matt in order to get some nice sunrise photos. The skies were clear when we departed, but by the time we’d hiked up the hill to the blockhouses of Fort Lincoln there was very little clear sky available. Nevertheless, the sun came through for us as it maximized the sliver of unobstructed sky to the east, beaming color through in dramatic fashion.
After grabbing shots from several different angles, I decided to do an abbreviated time lapse. Since I had other things going on, I was not prepared to get the entire sunrise, but I could see that the sun was going to emerge through another slender gap in the clouds. I hastily set up for it and, although it’s short, I thought it looked pretty decent when looped a couple of times:
Between the photos and this short little time lapse, not to mention great company, rolling out of bed at 5:30 in the morning was well worth it. I think I’ll sleep in tomorrow, though…it’s been a long week!
I celebrated the weekend by hiking up to the blockhouses at Fort Lincoln with a friend and our cameras. We took off at 6am and got there just before the sunrise, which was a case of perfect timing. While the sky was perfectly clear upon departure, clouds filled most of the sky by the time of our arrival at the top of the hill.
As the color began to fill the sky, we began exploring all the angles to get the best view of the remaining sliver of clear sky as well as those photogenic old forts. As the different elements of sunlight, color, photography, and friendship began to converge, we got some really cool shots from a variety of locations. Then, as quickly as it came, the dramatic effects of the sunrise left behind the advancing clouds and it was time to hike back to the truck and head home.