Tag Archives: Sunrise

O’er Hill and Dale to Haines

Dearest Reader,

What I am about to recount is greater in grandeur than I ever suspected when I packed up everything I owned into one vehicle and left Fairbanks, Alaska to move to Hoonah. I found the road from Fairbanks to Haines was filled with wildlife, mountains, signs of spring, joy-inducing beauty, and adventure if I sought it. Herein lies the account of my travels.

Of the Aurora Borealis, I cannot speak more highly of its beauty and grace. From my perch above Castner Glacier, just south of Delta Junction, Alaska, I watched the blues and gold of the sunset fade away. Clear skies danced with twinkling stars, and a brilliant full moon hung in the sky; it was nearly to bright to look at. From my ridge post, I looked far up the valley to the illuminated peaks of the Alaska Range. Directly in front of me, the looming face of the glacier was hidden in the shadow of the valley. Its ice was banded with layers of sediment and polished clean by the winds which occasionally blow violently down the valley. Fortunately, on this night there was not even a breath of wind. Eventually the aurora built to such proportions that it arched over the full glacier. It danced in pinks in green that must have released many positive endorphins inside of me, for I felt very calm and at peace.

Kluane Lake in the Yukon Territory is an enchanting valley of ice. The morning after I arrived, I stood on the ice in the pre-dawn to watch the sunrise. Surrounded by high mountains on each side, the sun takes a long time to break the plane of the mountains. Slowly the mountains to the west were lit in an ethereal orange light until the sun broke the ragged edges of the mountains to the east.  At that point the light turned white and the day had begun. At the southern extremes of Kluane Lake I found many big-horn sheep. Although none of them had the large, signature curls of a mature ram, it was fun to watch the kids and ewes feed along the mountainside. A wildlife bonus was watching the crossing of two coyotes across the center of the lake. They were dwarfed by the magnitude of the mountains.

Along Kluane National Park I surprised to see the first signs of spring in the Taiga. Willows were opening their fuzzy buds, and even small rivers were beginning to open and trickle through the snow.  I met the most enchanting little bird along the waters of a fast moving river. An American Dipper was feeding for fish from along a small ice flow. It dipped and bobbed its butt in the signature dance move of the small bird.

From the river bottoms of Kluane National Park I climbed into the enchanting winter-wonderland of Haines Pass, at about 3,500 feet. Up there, tyrannical winter was still in full control with only a few inklings that spring had a foothold. Much like the high arctic,most large trees were relegated to river bottoms out of the wind. Although prime habitat for the all-white Willow Ptarmigan, I saw only a few. Snow accumulation, to my best estimate, was around 6 or 7 feet in the pass. I was fortunate the road was cleared and the day so beautiful! The mountains landscape was truly more than I expected, and I say without pause that its beauty was intoxicating!

I descended to Haines, Alaska where it was evident that Spring was fortifying itself for a full on attack on Winter in the highlands. In Haines, the rivers flowed with vigor, and the mountains accented them by reflecting vigorously from the shimmering surface. I found that Haines in the night was  perhaps even more beautiful than in the daytime. Jutting mountains stuck up from behind the city and lit by a full moon it was truly a sight to behold. Seeing as this was the first time I have seen Haines, this will likely be how I always remember it!

Well, dearest Reader, I hope you have enjoyed the account of my trip from Fairbanks to Haines. I do hope you have the opportunity to partake in it someday and extend upon the numerous opportunities of which I have only scratched the surface. The images below may also help tell the story as they are set chronologically from my departure to my arrival.


A New Southeasterner

On That Misty, Minnesota Morn

“August in Minnesota” has a connotation to it for those who have lived here long enough. Hot, sticky, humid days boost electricity bills as air-conditioners stay on full time to beat the heat.  A result of the moist conditions  is heavily dewed grass in the mornings. I stepped outside and thick fog hung in the air. It was 7:00 AM, and the sun was beginning to burn through the mist with some filtered reds and oranges. A large moon hung high in the sky, and my truck passed under it on my way to our land in Butler, Minnesota.  Pulling up, I unlocked the gate and pushed it open. Dew hung heavy on the grass and bejeweled thousands of spider webs across the 30 acre pasture. In a few moments I had my camera in hand as I passed through the knee high grass.

Many of us have a location that we’ve visited many times, and a stop there brings back many important memories for us. For these spots, there are peak experiences when conditions or moments are at their best. This sweaty, August morning was one of those for me. The foggy sunrise catalyzed the transformation of the scene from dewy, shadowed pasture to a hot, new day. As it did so I tried to capture the beauty of the morning dew on the webs and flowers that it encrusted in shiny droplets. Some of the spider webs had drops so large and heavy that they reflected the world over-and-over while dragging their grass pylons down around them with their collective weight.  I feared a slight wind would cause them to drop off before I was done.

The sun rose higher and I turned my meandering around; I was headed south but turned to heading north. I passed along the edge of the grassland and sank below a small rise. As I came over the top hill my eye caught movement and then the body of a deer. The deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was a small fawn accompanied by its mother. Somehow I had caught the attention of the fawn only, and the mother continued to graze. His curiosity got them best of him, and he started to walk towards to me. I stood post-like with camera clicking. By the time the fawn was satisfied that something wasn’t-quite-right he stood 10 yards away. The mother had moved silently up the hill and stood about 20 yards away to contemplate me too. Finally she stomped a foot, snorted, and brought her offspring into the shelter of the woods.

My conclusion to you is this : every day is a new day, and you can only go enjoy what you go to see. If you have a favorite spot, I challenge you to go experience that location when it is at its best.

Misty Sunrise and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)
The sunrise begins to pierce through the mist, and illuminated this ditchful of black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta)
Spider Web Dewdrop Reflections
The large dew drops on this spider web performed the function of thousands of magnifying glasses. Each water drop magnified within itself the unfolding sunrise beyond.
Spider Web Dew in the Sunrise
The collected dew on this spider was was so heavy that the grass bent under its weight. Already the sun was high in the sky and drying the landscape out.
Meadow Goat's Bear (Tragopogon pratensis) and Dew
A Meadow Goat’s Beard (Tragopogon pratensis) holds on to dew drops in the morning.
Honey Bee in Flight
A honey bee flies up to sip on the nectar of mullen (Verbascum thapsus) flowers. The honey bees on our land are a great asset for pollination!
Dew covered dragonfly
This dragonfly was too cold and wet to escape, so he perched waiting for the sun’s warmth.
Monarch Catipillar (Danaus plexippus)
A monarch caterpillar clings on to a milkweed.
Orb-weaver Spider
These orb weaver spiders were very common in the pasture. Although I did not capture it in this image, they weave an incredible zig-zag patterns into their web called a stabilimentum. The patterns reflect UV light and are thought to attract prey.

Photographic Reflection : The Morning After Hurricane Sandy

Hello Readers!

I am incorporating a bit different aspect to my blog and will be periodically be taking some of the photos from the ‘past’ (before the creation of this blog) and writing about them; you will know if it’s one of these photos because I will start each entry with “Photographic Reflection”.  These photos are not just unstructured, random selections, but are moments in time which hold tremendous significance for me. There are stories behind the photos which cannot be portrayed just from 1000 words worth of pixels (using the old adage) and I’m hoping to take them into a third dimension. If I’ve done my job these entries will serve as an insight into my senses and perception of the moment the image was captured, and will securely place these moments in my oral/narrative past.

October 30, 2013 marked the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which was the second hurricane I experienced during my three years of living in Maine. It differed a lot from Hurricane Irene which rolled through in 2010. Hurricane Sandy brought sustained 50 mile-per-hour winds to the Northeast coast and winds gusting to 64 miles-per-hours pushed up towering waves which broke upon the granite coast of Maine. During my visits to Dire Point, Pine Point and Cape Elizabeth leading up to the storm the waves continued to grow larger and the evening grew darker. By the time night had fallen the weather buoys outside of the Portland Harbor were reading wave heights of 18 feet or more. It was interesting staying in the house that night. As the winds howled outside the house felt close but comfortable. Each buffet on the window brought a sense of security – false or not – because every time a tree resisted the urge to let Sandy tip it over the more confident you felt it would continue to prevail in the next onslaught. I went to sleep that night knowing the next morning would not be like one I had ever seen.

When I woke up an hour before sunrise I cracked open the shades and took a short evaluation of the trees outside my window. Aside from the smaller limbs down and a covering of leaves on the ground our yard trees seemed to be in pretty good shape. I got out of bed and grabbed my camera; it was my intention to head out and document the wanton destruction of Mother Nature’s daughter, Sandy. As I drove along Black Point Road towards Two Lights State Park I could not really perceive anything wrong with the world. Power lines were not tangled, there were few injured trees, flood surge was not present and all houses were intact. To emphasize this feeling of assurance that we had gone through the worst of it mostly unscathed, overhead the sky broke and turned yellow, lit by a low-lying sun just cresting the horizon. Somehow out of the suppression of the clouds there was a sunrise. I almost stopped the truck there, but quickly realized the sooner I made it to Two Lights the better. So onward I went, not seeing a single person on the streets and still seeing no damage.

When I reached the coast an ocean breeze was still pushing at about 15 miles per hour. The tide was going out at the time and the rolling waves from last nights chaos were crashing in long periods on the coast, still towering from 6 to 9 feet. Although the waves were incredible to behold, it was the sunrise, spread in front of me, which was the most powerful. On both sides of the sun the dark clouds of Sandy were still present, however, right then I was experiencing the true calm after the storm. The waves broke on the rocks in millions of diamonds illuminated by the warm, yellow light of the sun. The spray produced was pushed by the wind into your face and it smelled of new ocean. I truly attest that the water smelled different than any other day and the tremendous mixing of the waters the night before had somehow changed the waters and how they reacted with the nose.

Sunrise after Hurricane Sandy
Sunrise after Hurricane Sandy

I sat and watched the sunrise for a long time. The speed that Sandy still moved created a dynamically shifting set of lighting and angles in which to watch the landscape. I moved closer and closer to the water edge until every wave that crashed in front of me sent a soaking spray over me and my camera; I realized quickly how important it was to cover my camera. As I crouched in the rocks the frothy waters would boil over my feet and recede again before being renewed by each new wave. After a short period I moved away from my post at the waters edge and perched 15 feet above the water. In another 10 minutes Sandy had regained control of her domain and again the sky was gray and flat. The waves still crashed, but as they broke in the flat light you would never they had been diamonds just moments before.

Sunrise after Hurricane Sandy 2
Sunrise after Hurricane Sandy 2

The sunrise after Hurricane Sandy may stand out as the most incredible sunrise I will ever experience. This moment I feel was reserved for me alone. I was alone when the sunrise started and was unperturbed by any human as the sun wrestled with the Storm. I only saw one other person on the coast that day, and as far as I know the pictures you see here are the only proof of the beauty of that morning.

Below is a short video of several sequences of timelapse from the morning. I couldn’t dedicate my camera to taking more than short bursts of images because the spray was constantly getting on the lens. Not to mention I needed to aim it in other directions to capture as much as possible! So, if you watch the video below keep that in mind. It’s very short and the waves never look as big actually were.

Thanks for reading everyone! I hope you enjoyed the look into the past as much as I enjoyed writing about this. I hope to continue these reflection pieces from time to time.