Tatshenshini-Alsek Dawn Prelude

Belt of Venus in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park

Winter light in the sub-Arctic and Arctic regions of the world has a character different from summer light; it is often softer and more subtle. This photo ranks as one of the prettiest sunrises I have ever seen. It was taken north bound on the Haines Highway near Chilkat Pass in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. There was much that appealed to me in this landscape as I traveled home from my yearly trip to Haines, Alaska to photograph bald eagles. My car came to an abrupt stop to record the event.

First, in the wintertime, snow-covered mountains reflect the building predawn light even before the first rays of the sun illuminate the mountain tops with alpenglow.  Consequently, the mountains appears to glow, which separates them from the darker background sky. This brings the mountains forward in the photo and adds some depth.

Second, above the remnants of the gunmetal blue night sky low to the horizon, is a band of pink and magenta-hues known to meteorologists as the Belt of Venus. It forms as the warm light of the sun passes through the atmosphere. The delicate pastels are sublime and worthy of a painting. However, the warm colors belie the otherwise cold, sub-zero conditions.

Third, the clear weather was accompanied by high upper level winds. The cirrus/lenticular clouds over the mountains are like cotton candy stretched thin. The curved clouds are indicative of obstructions to the straight-line winds, like those presented by the mountainous terrain. I particularly like how the white clouds stand out against the pastels. Last, the leading line of the dark, winding road provides a contrast to the light surroundings and anchors the image.

This alpine area begs to be explored further. The remoteness and lack of amenities makes it difficult for overnight stays, especially in harsh winter conditions. But, with enough intestinal fortitude, I know a day trip or two next year would pay off with many unique landscape opportunities.

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