Magic Moments

January 27, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer.

Cape Neddick, Maine
I love a good sunrise; watching one makes for a great start to the day.

Photographing one is even better.

Of course you never know exactly what you're going to get. Even when the conditions look prime for a riot of color it may not come. Conversely, the sky can fool you; something special happens even though it seemed unlikely.

I've spent dozens upon dozens of early mornings along the Atlantic Coast in northern New England waiting for the sun to come up. There, the best shooting is anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes before sunrise when the colors are most intense. The cap usually goes back on my lens when the sun peeks up over the horizon. By then the color temperature of the light has changed and the sky has begun to wash out.

Just because I'm finished shooting doesn't mean it's time to make a quick exit.

Some magic moments are captured with the camera; others I simply appreciate as an observer. I linger a little while at the shore as the sun begins to climb, listening to the sea and the buoys and the lobster boats. 

SerenitySerenityAs the day dawned on this humid, late-summer morning, the saturated air was completely still - transforming the tidal pool into a lovely looking glass.

Atlantic Ocean
Rye, New Hampshire
Grand Teton National Park is another place where I've logged many early morning hours, though most of the time the orientation for these sunrise shoots is reversed. Here I usually face west with the brightening sky behind me, which might seem counterintuitive. 

Admittedly, multiple colors in the opposite horizon at sunrise is a big ask. It probably isn't going to happen. So why point the lens in the "wrong" direction?

The Tetons, of course! 

They look their very best in the early morning. There's no haze (unless it's fire season). It's typically calmer then - even in windy Wyoming. If the conditions are conducive, there might be spectacular low bands of fog. Most important? That beautiful pre-sunrise phenomenon known as alpenglow. That's the main reason to look to the west. 

Great ExpectationsGreat ExpectationsThe minutes just before the sun clears the opposite horizon: lovely anticipation.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Though I'm primarily interested in the colors and quality of light which occur before the sun makes its appearance, the show isn't over after the alpenglow fades. A second act follows.

The moment when the tips of the tallest peaks receive the first light of the day is remarkable. Grand Teton is first. Then Mount Owen. Middle Teton. Mount Moran. One by one they brighten. The light washes downward until one of the most dramatic and immediately recognizable mountain ranges on earth is completely illuminated and almost seems to glow. Magical? You bet. It's an awe-inspiring thing to watch. 

Sunrise shoots require early starts (really early in the middle of the summer). It's pitch black. It's often cold. And yet I can't think of a better way to start the day.


Sunkissed Grand Teton National ParkSunkissedMount Moran and the surrounding peaks glow with the first light of the day.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming



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