Three Sunrises

A couple of weeks ago I ran up to Utah, to spend time shooting and exploring during winter.  I was hoping for a nice blanket of snow, one that would accentuate the red rocks and glow with the rising sun.  I was hoping for clouds, just enough to catch the morning light.  I was hoping for quiet, for room to breath and watch and listen.  I was probably hoping for a lot.  I was hoping for a lot.  I knew it.  Mother Nature knew it.  Utah knew it.  

And they both delivered.

I had a plan.  Catch sunrise, all four mornings, no excuses, no sleeping in.  The first morning the plan was to watch the sun rise at Bryce Canyon National Park.  So I got up, early, checked the weather.  And the weather app on my phone stared back at me – ten degrees below zero at Bryce.  No excuses.  I drove into the park, pulled on my coat, mounted my camera on the tripod, and crunched off through the snow.  Walked the rim.  Watched my breath float in front of me. Touched the ice in my mustache with my touch.  Bitched quietly to no one.  Planted my tripod, resolved against the cold.  Looked around.  No one in sight.  No people.  None.  And I watched the sun rise, watched the sky set afire, watched the golden glow of the first rays of the sun drift and sift and work their way into the canyon at my feet.

The next morning, Capitol Reef National Park.  I had it in my head that I wanted to watch the sun rise at the Temple Of The Sun near Cathedral Valley which lay about seventeen miles down a bumpy winding dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  So I plunged into the dark, driving slowly, watching for random free range cows, wondering how anywhere could be so dark, drove for at least forty-five minutes until I found the turn to the Temple, turned and drove a bit more and, again, pulled on my coat and headed off, working my way up a small rise, planted my tripod like a triumphant explorer claiming new ground, and watched the sun rise. 

I watched the valley fill with light, watched the light change from waking purple to morning blue then orange and yellow and red, watched it kiss the Temple Of The Sun good morning, watched its first rays wake the earth, watched.  Watched it alone, only the company of my beating heart and deep breath to share it with me.

The third sunrise was a bust, plain and simple.  But three in a row would be too much to ask for.  Wouldn’t it?

The fourth morning would be spent at Dead Horse Point State Park.  Another early wake-up, another cup of crappy hotel room coffee, then another, then another drive through the dark.  I was sure my luck would run out at the popular spot, that my good fortune of solitude and silence would end.  But, as I pulled into the parking area, I was (pleasantly) surprised.  I was the only person.  Again.  I told myself, this won’t last, the photographer may be there first but others will surely follow.  So I staked out a spot, set up my tripod, and waited for the sun to rise.  Listened to the wind slip through the canyon below.  Hoped for the clouds to break enough to let the sun through.  

As I waited I walked over to one of my favorite subjects, a twisted juniper tree, said hello again, took a few shots, looked around.

Then the sun started to peek over the horizon and forced itself through a break in the clouds and started to fill the canyonlands with light.

And once again I was treated to sunrise, a thing of beauty, a waking of the earth, that was handcrafted and shaped by Mother Earth and Utah for me, only to be seen by me, a reward for lost sleep and miles logged and no excuses…

If you’d like to see more of my work, my online portfolio (where my work can be purchased) is here.  I post photos daily on Facebook, share my photography journey on Twitter (@KSchafferPhoto), and share iPhone pics from the road and around the house on Instagram (kschafferphoto).


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