This is the darkest part of the year. Most of the holiday lights have come down. Earth hasn’t moved too far off the Winter Solstice so the days are painfully short. I leave for work in the dark and return home in the dark. Luckily I work next to a window so I get to appreciate daylight from my desk chair!
Don’t let this fool you – it isn’t all bad to have these dark days. In fact, in some ways darkness makes the world better! Fireworks need the darkness for best effect. Campfire stories hold much more interest (and more s’mores!) at midnight. Night owls in the city flock to the flickering neon signs. On a bigger scale, Broadway and Las Vegas owe their existences to their blazing light shows!
Outside of town the darkness welcomes a host of treats. The night sky fills with stars, begging for a road trip and a blanket. Fireflies drift to and fro as kids of all ages chase them about. And in the higher altitudes come the most amazing treat of all – the Aurora Borealis. On the coldest winter nights they dazzle the sky with veils of green and red, mesmerizing visitors from across the globe.
On a more personal level, the short days make me appreciate the twilight hours around sunrise and sunset. The lower sun angles create a more vibrant range of colors that seem to freeze in the cold sky. Or maybe it’s the Earth begging the sun to stick around a bit longer. I’m OK with either of those scenarios. In any case, the twilight is a magical time where the world hovers between fantasy and reality. Details are more difficult to recognize, allowing the imagination to fill them in. And that’s where the fun begins! With that in mind, please enjoy “Morning Mountain Colors”, the photo of the week.
A loud sequence of beeps wakes me up a few hours before sunrise. Ten minutes later it repeats. I lift the sheet and cold air rushes into my warm cocoon. A few splashes of water and I remember why I set the alarm. I grab snacks, put on a few extra base layers and fill my gear bag. The car warms to the idea of sliding back and forth on the dark mountain road, climbing to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turning south I reach the overlook an hour before sunrise.
Using the dome light in the car I pull together my camera gear, snack bag and coffee cup. I pull on my gloves and enter the darkness outside. The tiny beam from my flashlight guides me to a clearing along the edge of the overlook. The black soup of the sky is lightening ever so slightly, and I start making out rough outlines in the distance. My fingers feel their way to the knobs of my tripod and extend the legs while I continue to scan the horizon. A little less darkness. Mounting my camera, I hope that I still have my favorite lens attached. A sip of coffee and a blueberry muffin perk me up as the sky lightens.
A red glow appears in the distance. Sunrise is on its way, but the sky has a colorful introduction in store. Bands of clouds line up along the horizon, splitting the sky into stripes of red and purple. The scene below is breathtaking. A smooth sea of fog lies in the valley, with mountain ridges slicing into it from either side. A tall ridge in the distance casts a scenic silhouette against the warm tones of the sky.
Behind the camera I compose an array of images, both horizontal and vertical. I use long shutter speeds to collect light beyond what my eye can see, glimpsing some interesting colors on my LCD screen as the images are stored in memory. The clouds thicken and close together just as the sun approaches the horizon. I may have missed the sunrise but the twilight was stunning to witness.
“Morning Mountain Colors” captures the twilight experience quite well. The lines of the mountains relate well with the lines of clouds above. The hazy aura reflects the challenge of processing details. And the twinkles of light in the distance remind me of the magic that the twilight holds if we look hard enough to find it.
Do you like what you see? Great! Share this with your friends and return next week for another photograph. In the meantime, please visit my website to buy “Morning Mountain Colors” at a 25% discount!! No coupon code is required – discount is applied automatically until January 21st!